ACT Reading Practice Test 96: SOCIAL SCIENCE

DIRECTIONS: Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary.


SOCIAL SCIENCE: This passage is adapted from the article "Reviving the Lost Art of Naming the World" by Carol Kaesuk Yoon (©2009 by The New York Times Company).

Despite the field of taxonomy's now blatant
modernity, with practitioners using DNA sequences,
sophisticated evolutionary theory and supercomputers
to order and name all of life, jobs for taxonomists con-
5tinue to be in steady decline. The natural history collec-
tions crucial to the work are tossed.

Outside taxonomy, no one is much up in arms
about this, but perhaps we should be, because the order-
ing and naming of life is no esoteric science. The past
10few decades have seen a stream of studies that show
that sorting and naming the natural world is a universal,
deep-seated and fundamental human activity, one we
cannot afford to lose because it is essential to under-
standing the living world, and our place in it.

15Anthropologists were the first to recognize that
taxonomy might be more than the science officially
founded by Carl Lim1aeus, the Swedish botanist, in the
1700s. Studying how nonscientists order and name life,
creating what are called folk taxonomies, anthropolo-
20gists began to realize that when people across the globe
were creating ordered groups and giving names to what
lived around them, they followed highly stereotyped
patterns, appearing unconsciously to follow a set of
unwritten rules. Not that conformity to rules was at first
25obvious to anthropologists who were instead under-
standably dazzled by the variety in folk taxonomies.
The Ilongots, for example, a people of the Philippines,
name gorgeous wild orchids after human body parts.
There bloom the thighs, there fingernails, yonder
30elbows and thumbs. The Rofaifo people of New Guinea
classify the cassowary, a giant bird complete. with req-
uisite feathers and qeak, as a mammal In fact, there
seemed, at first glance, to be little room even for agree-
ment among people, let alone a set of universally fol-
35lowed rules. More recently, however, deep underlying
similarities have begun to become apparent.

Cecil Brown, an anthropologist who has studied
folk taxonomies in 188 languages, has found that
people recognize the same basic categories repeatedly,
40including fish, birds, snakes, mammals, "wugs" (mean-
ing worms and insects), trees, vines, herbs and bushes.

Dr. Brown's finding would be considerably less
interesting if these categories were clear-cut depictions
of reality that must inevitably be recognized. But tree
45and bush are hardly that, since there is no way to define
a tree versus a bush. The two categories grade insensi-
bly into one another. Wugs, likewise, are neither an
evolutionarily nor ecologically nor otherwise cohesive
group. Still, people repeatedly recognize and name
50these oddities.

Likewise, people consistently use two-word epi-
thets to designate specific organisms within a larger
group of organisms; despite there being an infinitude of
potentially more logical methods.It is so familiar that it
55is bard to notice. In English, among the oaks, we distin-
guish the pin oak, among bears, grizzly bears. When
Mayan Indians, familiar with the wild piglike creature
known as peccaries; encountered Spaniards' pigs, they
dubbed them? "village peccaries." We use two-part
60names for ourselves as well: Sally Smith or Li Wen.
Even scientists are bound by this practice, insisting on
Latin binomials for species.

There appears to be such a profound unconscious
agreement that people will even concur on which exact
65words make the best names for particular organisms.
Brent Berlin, an ethnobiologist at the University of
Georgia, discovered this 'When he read. 50 pairs of
names, each consisting of one bird and one fish name,
to a group of 100 undergraduates, and asked them to
70identify which was which. The names had been ran-
domly, chosen from the language of Peru's Huambisa
people, to which the students had had no previous
exposure. With such a large sample size--there were
5,000 choices being made--the students should have
75scored 50 percent or very close to it if they were blindly
guessing. Instead, they identified the bird and fish
names correctly 58 percent of the time, significantly
more often than expected for random guessing. Some-
how they were often able to intuit the names birdiness
80or fishiness.

Some researchers hypothesize that there might be
a specific part of the brain that is devoted to the doing
of taxonomy. Without the power to order and name life,
a person simply does not know how to live in the
85world, how to understand it. How to tell the carrot from
the cat-which to grate and which to pet? To order and
name life is to have a sense of the world around, and, as
a result, what one's place is in it.

1. The primary function of the statement in lines 35-36 is to:

A. signal a shift in the direction of the discussion.
B. summarize the main idea of the third paragraph (lines 15-36).
C. define a new anthropological term.
D. anticipate and refute a counterargument.

2. Which of the following hypotheses does the passage introduce but not elaborate on

F. A particular part of the brain might be devoted to the ordering and naming of life.
G. Taxonomy might be more than the science founded by Linnaeus.
H. Basic ways of categorizing organisms might be similar across cultures.
J. Prior to Linnaeus's taxonomy, animals might have been categorized based on how they moved

3. The main idea of the second paragraph (lines 7-14) is that:

A. surveys have shown that the number of taxonomy experts has declined in the past few decades.
B. natural history collections should be preserved and made accessible.
C. taxonomy is no esoteric science because it is so widely studied.
D. we should be concerned about the state of taxon-omy because it is vital to all of us.

4. The passage refers to the Ilongots and the Rofaifo people primarily to:

F. provide examples of some variances that anthro-pologists observed in taxonomies.
G. illustrate that categories such as bird and mammal are common in taxonomies.
H. support the claim that anthropologists were the first to recognize the importance of taxonomy.
J. expose the underlying similarities among the tax-onomies of different cultures.

5. As it is used in the passage, the term wugs most nearly refers to:

A. an oddity recognized in only a few cultures' taxonomies.
B. species that are usually named with more than two-word labels.
C. a noncohesive group consisting of worms and insects.
D. miscellaneous species that Linnaeus couldn't fit in another category.

6. According to the・ passage; using two-word labels to name organisms is a practice that:

F. was introduced by Linnaeus.
G. has been abandoned by taxonomists.
H. is common across cultures.
J. was initiated by anthropologists.

7. The passage draws which of the following conclusions based on Berlin's experiment?

A. Random guessing yields a correct answer at least 58 percent of the time.
B. Languages share recognizable and somewhat simi-lar characteristics in names of organisms.
C. Bird and fish names can't be identified more than 50 percent of the time in most languages.
D. Most of the words in the language of Peru 's Huambisa people are similar to English words.

8. The first paragraph indicates that the number of taxon-omy jobs has decreased despite:

F. recent discoveries of numerous unnamed species.
G. technological advances in the field of taxonomy.
H. the need to correct longstanding errors in Linnaeus's work.
J. anthropologists' interest in collaborating with taxonomist

9. It can most reasonably be inferred from the passage that the author regards natural history collections as being:

A. not worth the expense of maintaining.
B. outdated and therefore ready to be tossed.
C. essential for the work of taxonomists.
D. crucial to Berlin's ethnobiology research.

10. The passage most strongly suggests that one of the rea-sons Berlin chose the language of Peru's Huambisa people for use in his experiment was that:

F. the language doesn't use a binomial system to name organisms.
G. his test subjects wouldn't have been exposed to the language.
H. the language has roughly the same number of words for birds as it does for fish.
J. his test subjects would be able to learn the language quickly.