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A Flashcard Strategy to Help Students Prepare for Three Types of Multiple-Choice Questions Commonly Found on Introductory Psychology Tests Drew C. Appleby, PhD Professor Emeritus of Psychology Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis [email protected]

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A Flashcard Strategy to Help Students Prepare for Three Types of Multiple-Choice Questions Commonly Found on Introductory Psychology TestsDrew C. Appleby, PhDProfessor Emeritus of PsychologyIndiana University-Purdue University [email protected]


Multiple-choice Types of Multiple-Choice Questions Commonly Found on Introductory Psychology Testsquestions can be written to test students’ mastery of course content and their critical thinking skills (Appleby, 2008). The following three thinking skills are commonly emphasized in introductory psychology classes and are derived from Anderson and Krathwohl’s (2001) revision of Bloom, Englehart, Furst, and Krathwohl’s (1956) taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives.

  • to rememberpsychological terms, concepts, theories, and methods in an accurate manner;

  • to understandinformation that has been remembered accurately; and

  • to applyunderstood information to real-life situations involving behaviors and mental processes related to this information.


I will use the term negative reinforcement as an example of an important term because it is
I will use the term Types of Multiple-Choice Questions Commonly Found on Introductory Psychology Testsnegative reinforcementas an example of an important term because it is

  • a concept contained in all introductory psychology textbooks,

  • a challenging term for students to comprehend,

  • a difficult term to differentiate from other terms (e.g., positive reinforcement, punishment by withdrawal, and punishment by application), and

  • often the subject of multiple-choice questions in introductory psychology exams.

    The following slide contains the definition of negative reinforcement that appears in many introductory psychology textbooks.


Negative reinforcement Types of Multiple-Choice Questions Commonly Found on Introductory Psychology Testsoccurs when aversive or unpleasant events are taken away after the performance of a behavior.


The following three slides contain multiple-choice questions about negative reinforcement that require students to remember, to understand, and to apply this term.


Which of the following best describes negative reinforcement

Which of the following best describes negative reinforcement?

Pleasant or enjoyable events are presented after the performance of a behavior.

Aversive or unpleasant events are presented after the performance of a behavior.

Pleasant or enjoyable events are taken away after the performance of a behavior.

Aversive or unpleasant events are taken away after the performance of a behavior.


Reinforcement takes place when a response leads to the of something bad

_____ reinforcement takes place when a response leads to the _____ of something bad.

Positive, removal

Negative, removal

Positive, presentation

Negative, presentation


Positive reinforcement negative reinforcement punishment by application punishment by withdrawal

Jason experiences nicotine withdrawal symptoms (e.g., a slight headache) after he has not smoked a cigarette for 20 minutes. When he smokes another cigarette, this symptom disappears, but then reoccurs 20 minutes later when he must smoke still another cigarette to make his headache go away again. Which of the following operant conditioning terms best explains why Jason continues to smoke, even though he knows nonsmokers live an average of 10 years longer than smokers?

positive reinforcement

negative reinforcement

punishment by application

punishment by withdrawal


Although the subject of all three of these questions is negative reinforcement, each question requires a student to use a different critical thinking skill.


The first question requires the ability to negative reinforcement, each question requires a student to use a different critical thinking skill. remember information accurately because the correct answer is the exact, word-for-word definition of negative reinforcement taken directly from the textbook.Which of the following best describes negative reinforcement?

Pleasant or enjoyable events are presented after the performance of a behavior.

Aversive or unpleasant events are presented after the performance of a behavior.

Pleasant or enjoyable events are taken away after the performance of a behavior.

Aversive or unpleasant events are taken away after the performance of a behavior.


Positive removal negative removal positive presentation negative presentation

The second question requires the ability to negative reinforcement, each question requires a student to use a different critical thinking skill. understand information that has been accurately remembered because the student must be able to recognize a definition of negative reinforcement when it is composed of different words than the definition in the textbook._____ reinforcement occurs when a response leads to the _____ of something bad.

Positive, removal

Negative, removal

Positive, presentation

Negative, presentation


Positive reinforcement negative reinforcement punishment by application punishment by withdrawal1

The third question requires the ability to negative reinforcement, each question requires a student to use a different critical thinking skill. apply understood information in a real-life situation that involves behaviors and mental processes that relate to negative reinforcement.Jason experiences nicotine withdrawal symptoms (e.g., a slight headache) after he has not smoked a cigarette for 20 minutes. When he smokes another cigarette, this symptom disappears, but then reoccurs 20 minutes later when he must smoke still another cigarette to make his headache go away again. Which of the following operant conditioning terms best explains why Jason continues to smoke, even though he knows nonsmokers live an average of 10 years longer than smokers?

positive reinforcement

negative reinforcement

punishment by application

punishment by withdrawal


The remaining slides in this presentation describe a study strategy designed to enable students to prepare for and answer these three types of questions correctly.


Step 1
Step #1 strategy designed to enable students to prepare for and answer these three types of questions correctly.

  • Purchase a pack of 4x6 cards.

  • Write each of the bold-faced terms that appear in the chapter you are about to read on one side of a card.

  • Keep your cards in the order of the terms as they appear in your book.


Step 2
Step #2 strategy designed to enable students to prepare for and answer these three types of questions correctly.

  • Begin to read your book, and stop when you encounter the bold-face term you have written on your first card.

  • Let us pretend that the bold-face term written on your first card is negative reinforcement.

  • Follow the directions on the following slides.


Negative reinforcement

Negative Reinforcement strategy designed to enable students to prepare for and answer these three types of questions correctly.

(This is what one side of your card should look like.)


Copy the definition of the term word-for-word from your textbook on to the top of the other side of your flash card. Negative reinforcement occurs when aversive or unpleasant events are taken away after the performance of a behavior.Practice this definition by turning the card over to the term side, trying to recall its word-for-word definition, and then turning the card to the definition side to see if you remembered it. Repeat this process until you can recall the definition accurately. This procedure will enable you to know and to practice this definition so you can remember it accurately in the future when you are asked to recognize it in its original form on a multiple-choice question.


After you have successfully memorized the definition from the textbook, the next step is to create your own definition that contains as few words as possible from the textbook’s definition, and then write this under the textbook’s definition.Negative reinforcement occurs when something bad is removed after a person or animal responds in a certain way.Creating your own definition will help you move from simply memorizing the textbook’s definition to actually being able to understand the meaning of the term. After you master this definition with the procedure described on the previous slide, you will own the definition of this term, rather than just borrowing it from your textbook’s author.


After you have produced your own definition of the term, it is now time for you to invent an original example of how you have experienced this term in your own life. My dog loves to have her ears scratched, and when she wants me to do this, she scratches my arm with her sharp little claws until I start scratching her ears. I now understand that my dog has been negatively reinforcing me for scratching her ears because she stops doing something I don’t like (i.e., scratching my arm) when I do what she wants me to do (i.e., scratch her ears). My dog has used negative reinforcement to operantly condition me to scratch her ears because every time she jumps up on the couch next to me, I start scratching her ears so she doesn’t scratch my arm.Creating this example will help you apply your understanding of a term to a real-life situation that is relevant and meaningful to you.


The other side of your card should now look like the next slide

The other side of your card is now time for you to invent an original example of how you have experienced this term in your own life. should now look like the next slide.


Negative reinforcement occurs when aversive or unpleasant events are taken away after the performance of a behavior. Negative reinforcement happens when something bad is removed after a person or animal responds in a certain way. My dog loves to have her ears scratched, and when she wants me to do this, she scratches my arm with her sharp little claws until I start scratching her ears. I now understand that my dog has been negatively reinforcing me for scratching her ears because she stops doing something I don’t like (i.e., scratching my arm) when I do what she wants me to do (i.e., scratch her ears). My dog has used negative reinforcement to operantly condition me to scratch her ears because every time she jumps up on the couch next to me, I start scratching her ears so I can avoid having my arm scratched.


Now let us revisit our three original multiple-choice questions to see if the strategy described in this presentation has helped you answer these questions more successfully than when you first saw them.


Which of the following best describes negative reinforcement1

Which of the following best describes negative reinforcement?

Pleasant or enjoyable events are presented after the performance of a behavior.

Aversive or unpleasant events are presented after the performance of a behavior.

Pleasant or enjoyable events are taken away after the performance of a behavior.

Aversive or unpleasant events are taken away after the performance of a behavior.


Reinforcement takes place when a response leads to the of something bad1

_____ reinforcement takes place when a response leads to the _____ of something bad.

Positive, removal

Negative, removal

Positive, presentation

Negative, presentation


Positive reinforcement negative reinforcement punishment by application punishment by withdrawal2

Jason experiences nicotine withdrawal symptoms (e.g., a slight headache) after he has not smoked a cigarette for 20 minutes. When he smokes another cigarette, this symptom disappears, but then reoccurs 20 minutes later when he must smoke still another cigarette to make his headache go away again. Which of the following operant conditioning terms best explains why Jason continues to smoke, even though he knows nonsmokers live an average of 10 years longer than smokers?

positive reinforcement

negative reinforcement

punishment by application

punishment by withdrawal


No study technique is perfect, and you will encounter some multiple-choice questions that require critical thinking skills other than remembering, understanding, and applying. However, these are the three skills most often emphasized in introductory psychology classes, so using the technique described in this presentation will provide you with a strategy that will prepare you for the majority of the multiple-choice questions you will encounter on your tests.

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I have two more recommendations that can help you learn the information you will need for multiple-choice tests. The first is based on the results of more than a century of psychological research on how humans learn and the second is technology-based.


Recommendation #1 information you will need for multiple-choice tests. The first is based on the results of more than a century of psychological research on how humans learn and the second is technology-based.The distributed practice effect,which refers to the benefits of spreading out study sessions over time,is one of the most reliable findings in the science of learning. If both Rosa and Steve spend 4 hours studying the same material, Rosa will retain the material longer than Steve if she distributes her practice by studying 1 hour a day for 4 days and he crams all 4 of his study hours in one long study marathon the night before the test.


To take advantage of the distributed practice effect, it is important to know that your job is not over when you have completed your flashcards and practiced them once. To learn the information they contain most successfully, you must use your cards as a practice teston a number of occasions separated by intervals of time. The longer the intervals between your practice tests, the longer you will retain the information you are trying to learn. This is particularly important if you need to retain information for a cumulative final exam.


Recommendation #2 important to know that your job is not over when you have completed your flashcards and practiced them once. To learn the information they contain most successfully, you must use your cards as a You can create paper flashcards as I have previously suggested or you can create them digitally with the three online flashcard apps that appear on the following slide. The advantages of these apps is that they are low-cost or free, they are mobile (you can download them to your iPad, iPhone, iPod, or Android and study wherever and whenever you want), they are social (you can share your flashcards with your classmates and instructor), and one of them (StudyBlue) even enables you to benefit from the distributed practice effect by texting you “study reminders” to begin short practice tests you have scheduled to maximize your learning.


Quizlet important to know that your job is not over when you have completed your flashcards and practiced them once. To learn the information they contain most successfully, you must use your cards as a http://quizlet.comStudyBluehttp://www.studyblue.comFlashCardMachine http://www.flashcardmachine.com


References important to know that your job is not over when you have completed your flashcards and practiced them once. To learn the information they contain most successfully, you must use your cards as a

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning,

teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational

objectives. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Appleby, D. C. (2008). A cognitive taxonomy of multiple-choice questions. In L.

T. Benjamin (Ed.), Favorite activities for the teaching of psychology (pp.

119-123). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bloom, B. S., Englehart, M. D., Furst, E. J., & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956).

Taxonomy of educational objectives: Cognitive domain. New York: McKay.


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