Reading Sample Questions—Level 4

Item Types: (1) Applying concepts in the passage to new situations; (2) Recognizing the main idea of a paragraph; (3) Locating explicit details; (4) Inferring the meaning of words or phrases; (5) Inferring style, tone, intended audience

Read the passage about psychology.

Social Influence

Of the many influences on human behavior, social influences are the most pervasive. The main influence on people is people. When we hear the term social influence, most of us think of deliberate attempts of someone to persuade us to alter our actions or change our opinions. The television commercial comes to mind. But many of the most important forms of social influence are unintentional, and some of the effects we humans have on one another occur by virtue of the simple fact that we are in each other's physical presence.

In 1898 a psychologist named Triplett made an interesting observation. In looking over speed records of bicycle racers, he noticed that better speed records were obtained when cyclists raced against each other than when they raced against the clock. This observation led Triplett to perform the first controlled laboratory experiment ever conducted in social psychology. He instructed children to turn a wheel as fast as possible for a certain period of time. Sometimes two children worked at the same time in the same room, each with his own wheel; at other times, they worked alone. The results confirmed his theory: Children worked faster in coaction, that is, when another child doing the same thing was present, than when they worked alone.

Soon after Triplett's experiment on coaction, it was discovered that the mere presence of a passive spectator (an audience rather than a coactor) was sufficient to facilitate performance. This was discovered accidentally in an experiment on muscular effort and fatigue by Meumann (1904), who found that subjects lifted a weight faster and farther whenever the psychologist was in the room. Later experiments have confirmed this audience effect.

It appears that coaction and audience effects in humans are caused by the individual's "cognitive" concerns about competition and the evaluation of performance that others will make. We learn as we grow up that others praise or criticize, reward or punish our performances, and this raises our drive level when we perform before others. Thus, even the early studies of coaction found that if all elements of competition are removed, coaction effects are reduced or eliminated. Similarly, audience effects are a function of the subject's interpretation of how much he is being evaluated.

Adapted from Ernest R. Hilgard, Richard C. Atkinson, and Rita L. Atkinson, Introduction to Psychology. ©1975 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

1. Which of the following would be an example of the coaction effect?
empty box A. A woman works harder when her boss is in the room than when she is alone.
empty box B. Bob's two children finish their homework faster when he is watching them than when he is not.
checked box C. Players on the team work harder when they exercise together than when they each exercise alone.
empty box D. Joe and his two friends work more slowly when they are together than when each is alone.

2. What is the main idea of the last paragraph?
empty box A. How people grow up determines their adult behavior.
checked box B. Competition and evaluation increase the coaction and audience effects.
empty box C. People praise and criticize children as they grow up.
empty box D. Competition and evaluation are not related to the coaction and audience effects.

3. According to the passage, Triplett's experiment of 1898
checked box A. supported his theory of coaction effect.
empty box B. challenged his theory of coaction effect.
empty box C. showed that cyclists race harder against each other than against the clock.
empty box D. showed the connection between coaction effect and audience effect.

4. As it is used in the passage, what does the highlighted phrase "comes to mind" mean?
empty box A. Is a problem
empty box B. Affects our thinking
empty box C. Creates confusion
checked box D. Is an example

5. Where would you most likely find this passage?
empty box A. In a business letter
empty box B. In an instructional manual
checked box C. In a college textbook
empty box D. In a book review