AP Psychology Practice Test: Language & Cognition

Our AP Psychology Cognition practice test covers thinking, language, memory, problem solving, and creativity. It consists of 21 multiple choice quiz questions for your AP exam review. Answers and detailed explanations are included.


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Question 1
After suffering a brain injury in a car accident, Russell cannot form new memories. He can, however, remember his life experiences before the accident. Russell’s memory problem most clearly illustrates:

A
Repression
B
Retroactive interference
C
Source amnesia
D
Intentional forgetting
E
Encoding failure
Question 1 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). Encoding failure refers to the brain’s occasional inability to create a memory link. This happen for a number of reasons, with trauma being the most common cause. An encoding failure prevents the brain from creating and storing new memories.
Question 2
On the first day of her new job, Jess is introduced to eight new coworkers. Moments later, she can only remember the names of the first three and last two coworkers. Her experience illustrates what memory-based psychological concept?

A
Overwhelmed encoding
B
Source amnesia
C
The spacing effect
D
The next-in-line effect
E
Serial position effect
Question 2 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). The serial position effect is the tendency of a person to recall the first and last items in a series more easily than the middle items in a series.
Question 3
In attempting to find and purchase high-quality makeup products, Carla reminds herself that the most expensive brands are the best. Carla’s self-reminder illustrates the use of:

A
An algorithm
B
Cognitive dissonance
C
A heuristic
D
The framing effect
E
Functional fixedness
Question 3 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). A heuristic is a mental shortcut that helps us make decisions and judgments quickly and efficiently. However, the efficiency of a heuristic comes at a cost as they are also prone to errors.
Question 4
Which of the following is an example of a 2-year-old Sophia’s overextension in language?

A
Misspelling words
B
Mispronouncing words
C
Saying “doggie” for every animal with four legs and a tail
D
Saying “feed you” when meaning “feed me”
E
Saying “I seed” for past tense instead of “I saw”
Question 4 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Overextension is the usage of a categorical term, like “doggie,” to describe everything similar to the object being described. In this case, Sophia is extending the concept of “dog” to include animals that do not fit in the “dog” category.
Question 5
What is the highest need on Maslow’s hierarchy?

A
Belongingness needs
B
Physiological needs
C
Esteem Needs
D
Safety and security
E
Self-actualization
Question 5 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from lowest to highest (base to top of pyramid): physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization.
Question 6
Dora is organizing a fundraiser for her school’s Health Club. She plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to a charitable organization focused on a world health problem. She is deciding between a foundation focused on increasing the accessibility of AIDS medication and an organization focused on malaria prevention and treatment. Believing that it is more prevalent than malaria, she chose AIDS. It turns out that Dora is wrong: fewer people have AIDS than malaria, but she has heard more about AIDS in her lifetime so she believes she can think of more stories pertaining to that disease. What was Dora using when reasoning about the frequency of these two diseases?

A
Availability heuristic
B
Cognitive dissonance
C
Complex heuristic
D
Confirmation bias
E
Representative heuristic
Question 6 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). To make frequency judgments, people often rely on how easily examples of a particular thing come to mind. In this case, Dora has heard more about AIDS than malaria in her life and examples about this disease were more available in her mind, so she judged it to be more frequent.
Question 7
What are phonemes?

A
Gaps between speech sounds that indicate word boundaries
B
Measurement units of acoustic energy
C
Syllables
D
The smallest meaningful units of sound in speech
E
The smallest structural units of sound in speech
Question 7 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). Phonemes are the smallest structural units of sound, regardless of meaning. Morphemes, on the other hand, are the smallest meaningful units of sound.
Question 8
Who developed the hypothesis of linguistic determinism? That is, that language patterns play a dominant role in shaping a person’s thoughts and behavior.

A
Freud
B
Gardner
C
Somerville
D
Sternberg
E
Whorf
Question 8 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). The Whorf hypothesis holds that language patterns play a dominant role in shaping thoughts and behavior.
Question 9
A robin is judged to be a better example of a bird than some others, a parrot or flamingo, for example. Therefore, a robin would be considered a(n) _______ of birds.

A
Ideal
B
Imprint
C
Prototype
D
Reciprocal
E
Representative heuristic
Question 9 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). A robin is considered the prototypical bird because it possesses most features that are held by most birds.
Question 10
On Monday, the meteorologist forecast a 20% chance of rain, so Jose took his umbrella to work. On Wednesday, the meteorologist reported an 80% chance of sunshine, so Jose left his umbrella at home. Jose’s behavior illustrates what psychological concept?

A
Belief perseverance
B
Confirmation bias
C
Framing effect
D
Overconfidence
E
Representative heuristic
Question 10 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Changes in the framing of a scenario can influence decisions. In this case, Jose responded favorably to both forecasts, but his decision was different based on the framing of the forecast. The chance of rain is the same in both forecasts, but because of the wording used by the meteorologist, Jose decided differently in each case. This is an example of the framing effect.
Question 11
The correlation between scores obtained on two halves of a single test yields information about the test’s:

A
Central tendency of scores
B
Frequency distribution of scores
C
Reliability
D
Standard error of measurement
E
Validity
Question 11 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Reliability is a measure of the ability to replicate the test in subsequent administrations. Reliability is often determined by a correlation coefficient. The closer the correlation coefficient is to −1 or 1, the more reliable the test is.
Question 12
Which linguist is most closely associated with the concept of universal grammar? He famously challenged behaviorist accounts of language acquisition.

A
Broca
B
Chomsky
C
Lorenz
D
Wernicke
E
Whorf
Question 12 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Noam Chomsky used the term, ”universal grammar” to describe the innate language rules he suggested explain language learning.
Question 13
In order to determine if someone has just said “bark” or “park,” you have to discriminate the initial sound, or:

A
Morpheme
B
Phoneme
C
Syllable
D
Phonic
E
Differentiated emphasis
Question 13 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). A phoneme is the smallest structural unit of speech. This means that it is the smallest unit of speech that affects what word you hear. Phonemes may not possess meaning on their own, unlike morphemes, which represent the smallest unit of meaningful sound.
Question 14
Bill uses a “rule of thumb” when solving a maze quickly on an iPad app. He is using:

A
An algorithm
B
A mental representation
C
A mental set
D
A heuristic
E
A shortcut
Question 14 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Bill’s rule of thumb is a heuristic, which helps him reach a solution efficiently. Heuristics are distinguished from the less efficient (but more accurate) algorithms. Heuristics are commonly thought of as “shortcuts.”
Question 15
People tend to seek out and find more convincing evidence that is consistent with an already-held view. This pattern, which can lead one astray, is known as what?

A
Actor-observer effect
B
Confirmation bias
C
Fundamental attribution error
D
Hindsight bias
E
Self-serving bias
Question 15 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). In a confirmation bias, we seek out information that confirms our pre-held beliefs and ignore information that misaligns with those beliefs.
Question 16
Which of the following is considered to be a possible cause of the misinformation effect?

A
Inadequate encoding
B
Interference
C
Priming
D
Proactive interference
E
Source confusion
Question 16 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). If an individual fails to discriminate whether a fact was part of an original event or part of a subsequent discussion, he or she might be experiencing confusion about the source of the event. This source confusion then leads to an inability to accurately describe the original event in question.
Question 17
You would be more likely to agree to a surgery with a 50% success rate than a 50% failure rate. What psychological concept illustrates this concept?

A
Algorithms
B
Confirmation bias
C
Framing effect
D
Hindsight bias
E
Representative heuristic
Question 17 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Framing effects describe how the phrasing of a problem influences the decision that is reached. In this case, even though the outcome is the same, framing the surgery in a positive light using the word “success” results in a more agreeable surgery than the same surgery described as failing 50% of the time.
Question 18
If you ask most Americans where they were when they learned about the 9/11 attack, you will likely hear a vivid, detailed recollection. This is an example of a somewhat controversial phenomenon called:

A
Encoding specificity
B
Flashbulb memory
C
Intentional memory creation
D
Shock-induced selective attention
E
The Stroop effect
Question 18 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Some psychologists have hypothesized that the detail of flashbulb memories are the result of a different brain system for emotional events, but others argue that many of the details are inaccurate and the ability to easily recall these events is more a result of retelling the story with some level of consistency over time (rehearsal) instead.
Question 19
Interference theory and decay theory are contrasting ideas to explain what memory process?

A
Dreaming
B
Encoding errors
C
Forgetting
D
Mental imagery
E
Prosopagnosia
Question 19 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). These are the two most prominent explanations of forgetting. Decay theory suggests that memories are forgotten with mere passage of time, while interference theory suggests that memories are only forgotten when displaced by new memories.
Question 20
Kelly is studying for her AP Psychology exam and knows that she is more likely to retain more information if she studies for two hours a day for fifteen days than if she studies six hours a day for five days. While either way, she is contributing 30 hours to studying, her idea that studying two hours a day instead of six hours a day is based on evidence for what memory concept?

A
Consistent exposure theory
B
Constancy effect
C
Cramming effect
D
Practice effect
E
Spacing effect
Question 20 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). The spacing effect holds that information is learned more easily when it is repeatedly encountered across a span of time when compared with cramming a lot of information into a shorter period of time. Repeatedly encountering information across a span of time is more effective for long term retention where as cramming information into a short period of time is more effective for short term recall.
Question 21
Mary scores at the 87th percentile. In testing, this means:

A
87 percent of those taking the test were above her
B
87 percent of those taking the test were equal to or below her
C
13 percent of those taking the test were equal to her
D
13 percent of those taking the test were below her
E
She has met the cognitive label for an intellectual disability
Question 21 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Mary’s score in the 87th percentile means that 87 percent of those taking the test were equal to or below her.
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