Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior Section: Content Category 9A

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Understanding social structure

Social structure organizes all human societies. Elements of social structure include social institutions and culture. These elements are linked in a variety of ways and shape our experiences and interactions with others―a process that is reciprocal.

The content in this category provides a foundation for understanding social structure and the various forms of interactions within and among societies. It includes theoretical approaches to studying society and social groups, specific social institutions relevant to student preparation for medical school, and the construct of culture.

Topic Level Key:

The abbreviations found in parentheses indicate the course(s) in which undergraduate students at many colleges and universities learn about the topics and associated subtopics. The course abbreviations are:

PSY: one semester of introductory psychology 
SOC: one semester of introductory sociology 
BIO: two-semester sequence of introductory biology

Please note topics that appear on multiple content lists will be treated differently. Questions will focus on the topics as they are described in the narrative for the content category.

Theoretical Approaches (SOC)

  • Microsociology vs. macrosociology

  • Functionalism

  • Conflict theory

  • Symbolic interactionism

  • Social constructionism

  • Exchange-rational choice

  • Feminist theory

Social Institutions (SOC)

  • Education

    • Hidden curriculum

    • Teacher expectancy

    • Educational segregation and stratification

  • Family (PSY, SOC)

    • Forms of kinship (SOC)

    • Diversity in family forms

    • Marriage and divorce

    • Violence in the family (e.g., child abuse, elder abuse, spousal abuse) (SOC)

  • Religion

    • Religiosity

    • Types of religious organizations (e.g., churches, sects, cults)

    • Religion and social change (e.g., modernization, secularization, fundamentalism)

  • Government and economy

    • Power and authority

    • Comparative economic and political systems

    • Division of labor

  • Health and medicine

    • Medicalization

    • The sick role

    • Delivery of health care

    • Illness experience

    • Social epidemiology

Culture (PSY, SOC)

  • Elements of culture (e.g., beliefs, language, rituals, symbols, values)

  • Material vs. symbolic culture (SOC)

  • Culture lag (SOC)

  • Culture shock (SOC)

  • Assimilation (SOC)

  • Multiculturalism (SOC)

  • Subcultures and countercultures (SOC)

  • Mass media and popular culture (SOC)

  • Evolution and human culture (PSY, BIO)

  • Transmission and diffusion (SOC)

Additional Review: Khan Academy MCAT® Collection Tutorials

To support your studies, see the following video tutorials below from the Khan Academy MCAT Collection. The videos and associated questions were created by the Khan Academy in collaboration with the AAMC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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