AP Psychology Essay Questions

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AP Psychology Essay Questions

    AP Psychology Essay Prompts and

     Scoring Rubrics

    The enclosed document includes an essay prompt for each unit in AP Psychology and a corresponding scoring rubric. The purpose of this activity is to increase the students’ awareness of how AP exam readers grade from a rubric. Emphasis is placed on the definition of terms and the application of those terms. Units include:

    Introduction to Psychology


    Sensation and Perception



     Nature and Nurture of Behavior

    Developing Person

    Thinking, Language, and Intelligence

    States of Consciousness

     Motivation and Emotion


    Stress and Health

    Psychological Disorders


    Social Psychology

AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 1

Unit: Introduction to Psychology

     Describe the different perspectives from which psychologists examine behavior

    and mental processes, and explain their complementarity. Your answer should include:



     Behavior Genetics






Note: The application portion on the rubrics may include a variety of answers. This is

    simply an example of possible answers. The perspectives have more than one


Term Definition Application

    Neuroscience The study of how the neurological system affects It is complementary to evolutionary

    such things as emotions, memories, and sensory because the structures and functions

    experiences. of the brain that promote survival are

    the most likely to develop.

    Evolutionary The study of the natural selection of some traits It is complementary to the behavioral

    that promotes genetic survival. perspective because some behaviors

    may enhance the chance to survival.

    Behavior Genetics The study of how much our psychological traits It is complementary to the cognitive

    are attributed to our genetic make-up or as a process because our thinking,

    result of environmental influences. language, and intelligence may be the

    result of our ability to adapt to our


    Psychodynamic The study of how unconscious drives and It is complementary to the behavioral

    conflicts may influence our lives perspective in the investigation of

    how much of our behavior is below

    our awareness level.

    Behavioral The study of how we learn from the environment It is complementary to the social-

    around us. cultural perspectives in the

    investigation of how differing

    situations can influence our behavior.

    Cognitive The study of how we encode, process, and store It is complementary to the

    information. neuroscience perspective because our

    cognitive ability is dependent on our

    brain function.

    Sociocultural The study of how behavior and thinking can vary It is complementary to the behavior

    across socio-cultural situations. genetics perspective because pro-

    social behaviors may influence the

    genetics of one culture as opposed to


    AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 2

Unit: Psychobiology

Identify the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, and describe the sensory and motor

    functions of the cortex. Your answer should include the description and function of the


     Frontal lobe

     Parietal lobe

     Occipital lobe

     Temporal lobe


Lobes Description Function

    Frontal Located behind the forehead and is known The fontal lobe is

    especially for the arch-shaped region at the responsible for higher order

    back of the frontal lobe known as the motor thinking and the motor

    cortex. cortex controls voluntary


    Parietal Located on the top of the head and is known The sensory cortex in the

    especially for the sensory cortex which is parietal lobe is responsible

    parallel to the motor cortex and located at the for registering and

    front of the parietal lobe. processing body sensations.

    Occipital Located at the back of the head and includes The visual cortex receives

    the visual cortex. and begins processing

    visual information.

    Temporal Located roughly above the ears and includes The auditory areas receives

    the auditory areas. and begins the processing of

    auditory information.

AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 3

Unit: Sensation and Perception

     Discuss the different levels of visual information processing and the value of

    parallel processing. Your answer should include:

     Feature detection

     Color constancy

     Parallel processing


Term Definition Application

    Feature detection Neurons that receive information to Feature detection neurons

    specific features such as edges, pass the information on to

    angles, movements, etc. more complex neuron

    systems which integrate the

    information into a visual


    Color Constancy Perceiving familiar objects as having The experience of color not

    consistent color even in situations only depends on the

    where the wavelengths reflected by wavelength information but

    the object are altered. the surrounding context. It

    demonstrates that our

    experience of color comes

    not just from the object but

    from everything around it as


    Parallel processing The processing of several pieces of The brain divides a visual

    information by integrating the work scene into subdimensions

    of different perceptual systems, but works on each aspect

    which work in parallel. simultaneously to produce

    an integrated perception.

AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 4

Unit: Memory

     Describe the capacity and duration of long-term memory, and discuss the

    biological changes that may underlie memory formation and storage. Your answer

    should include:

     The definition of long-term memory

     The capacity and duration of long-term memory


     Long-term potentiation

     Activity of the amygdale


Term Definition Application

    Long-term memory Relatively permanent and Necessary for the storage of

    limitless storehouse of the information for future use.

    memory system.

    Hippocampus Part of the brain where explicit Explicit memories of

    memories for facts and names, images, and events

    episodes are processed and fed are laid down via a this

    to other brain regions for structure in the limbic

    storage. system.

    Long-term potentiation An increase in a synapse’s Prolonged strengthening of

    firing potential after brief, rapid neural firing provides a

    stimulation. Believed to be a neural basis for learning and

    neural basis for leaning and remembering associations.


    Activity of the amygdala Structure of the brain which Emotionally arousing

    processes emotion and boosts events will help make

    the activity in the brain’s stronger and more reliable

    memory-forming areas. memories. However,

    prolonged stress can

    corrode neural connections.

AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 5

Unit: Learning

     Explain the importance of Pavlov’s work, and describe how it might apply to an

    understanding of human health and well-being. Your answer should include:

     The concept of associative learning

     The importance of classical conditioning in adaptation

     The importance of classical conditioning in objective study of behavior


Term Description Application

    Associative learning Learning that happens when Staying away from settings

    certain events occur or things associated with a

    together. certain unwanted behaviors

    may increase a person’s


    Adaptation Learning based on prior Associative learning can

    experiences. assist an individual in

    adaptation to their

    environment as well as

    identifying elements of

    behavior to master their


    Objective study of behavior Scientific model which Classical conditioning

    included no subjective terminology provided the

    judgments for explaining elementary building blocks

    behavior in understanding more

    complex behaviors.

AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 6

Unit: Nature and Nurture of Behavior

     Explain how the peer group and culture influence child development. Your

    answer should include:

     “selection effect”

     Parent vs. Peer Influence

     Cultural Norms


Term Definition Application

    “selection effect” Seeking out peers with similar Because children tend to

    attitudes and interests. select peers with similar

    attitudes and interests

    initially, there may be a

    greater opportunity for peer

    influence once the

    commonality has been


    Parent vs. peer influence Parents have more input when Parents are important in the

    it comes to education, formation of basic values

    responsibility, religion, etc. and standards of conduct.

    Peers have more influence in Peers are important because

    cooperative and social the child learns how to

    activities. cooperate and interact with

    follow peers.

    Cultural Norms Rules for accepted and Knowing the appropriate

    expected behavior, that is behaviors in a particular

    shared by a large group of culture free people of that

    people. culture from fear of

    embarrassment or insult and

    precludes awkward


AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 7

Unit: Developing Person

     Describe the early development of a self-concept and discuss possible effects of

    different parenting styles on children. Your answer should include:


     Authoritarian parenting style

     Permissive parenting style

     Authoritative parenting style


Term Definition Application

    Self-concept The sense of one’s own identity A child’s major social

    and personal worth. achievement is a positive

    sense of self.

    Authoritarian Parenting Parenting style that imposes Children with authoritarian

    rules and expects parents tend to be more

    unquestioning obedience. rigid in self-acceptance and

    the acceptance of others.

    Permissive Parenting Parenting style in which the Children with permissive

    parents submit to their parents tend to be more

    children’s desires, make few immature with little impulse

    demands, and use little control.


    Authoritative Parenting Parenting style that is both Children with the highest

    demanding and yet responsive. self-esteem, self-reliance,

    The parents set and enforce and social competence tend

    rules but encourage open to have authoritative

    discussion and allow parents.

    exceptions when making the


AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 8

    Unit: Thinking, Language, and Intelligence

     Discuss how we use trial and error, algorithms, heuristics, and insight to solve

    problems and how confirmation bias and fixation can interfere with effective problem



Term Definition Application

Trial and error Willingness to try a variety of The trial and error method

    possibilities in problem solving until may be used to solve a

    success is achieved. problem when no clear-cut

    solution is favored or

    several possibilities are

    tried until the very best

    solution is chosen.

    Algorithms A step by step procedure use to solve Although all the steps may

    problems. be labor intensive, this

    problem solving method

    guarantees a solution.

    Heuristics Simple strategy used to solve Heuristics are more error-

    problems prone than algorithms, but

    can be used with trail &

    error to hit upon the answer.

    Insight Sudden flashes of inspiration. Sometimes the problem-

    solving strategy is not

    obvious to us, but the

    suddenly all the pieces

    come together and a

    solution develops.

    Confirmation Bias The search for information to The reluctance to seek and

    confirms our individual ideas. consider information that

    might disprove one’s beliefs

    could interfere with

    effective problem solving

    Fixation The inability to see a problem from a The reluctance to see a

    fresh perspective. problem from a different

    perspective will also

    interfere with effective

    problem solving.

AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 9

Unit: States of Consciousness

     Describe the physiological and psychological effects of depressants, stimulants,

    and hallucinogens and drug dependence.


Term Definition Physiological Effects Psychological Effects

    Depressants Drugs that calm neural Slows the sympathetic Slows the brain activity

    activity and slow body nervous system activity that controls judgment

    functions. including slurred and inhibitions. Alcohol

    speech, and performance makes us more

    deterioration. aggressive or helpful or

    self-disclosing if the

    tendencies are already

    present. Disrupts

    memory processing.

    Stimulants Drugs that excite neural Speeds up the body Energy and self-

    activity and arouse body functions such as heart confidence rise, which

    functions. rate and breathing. accounts for why people

    use it as a mood

    enhancer or to improve

    athletic performance.

    However when the drug

    stimulation ends,

    fatigue, headaches,

    irritability, and

    depression may occur.

    Hallucinogens Drugs that distort Amplifies the body’s As the hallucinogenic

    perceptions and evoke sensitivity to colors, experience peaks,

    sensory images in the sounds, tastes, and people frequently feel

    absence of sensory smells. separated from their

    input. bodies and experience

    dreamlike scenes as

    though they were real

    so real that users may

    become panic-stricken

    or harm themselves.

    Drug dependence Continued use of a In the drug’s absence When the drugs become

    psychoactive drugs the user may feel an important part of the

    which produces physical pain and user’s life as a way of

    neuroadaptation intense cravings. relieving negative

    emotions or as other

    coping mechanisms.

AP PSYC Essay Prompts & Scoring 2007 10

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