Glossary of Psychology words

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The ability to direct one's thinking, adapt to one's circumstances, and learn from one's experiences.
Mental age
Found by ratio of child's mental age divided by physical age to determine if child is developing normally.
Ratio IQ
A statistic obtained by dividing a person's mental age by the person's physical age then multiplying it by 100
Deviation IQ
A statistic obtained by dividing a person's test score by the average test score of people in same age group then multiplying it by 100
factor analysis
A statistical technique that explains a large number of correlations in terms of a small number of underlying factors.
two-factor theory of intelligence
Spearman’s theory suggesting that every task requires a combination of a general ability (which he called g) and skills that are specific to the task (which he called s).
Confirmation factor theory analysis
Mathematical technique which showed spearman and thurstone were both right in their own way.
fluid intelligence
The ability to see abstract relationships and draw logical inferences.
crystallized intelligence
The ability to retain and use knowledge that was acquired through experience.
A person of normal intelligence who has an extraordinary ability.
A person of low intelligence who has an extraordinary ability.
emotional intelligence
The ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance reasoning.
fraternal twins
(also called dizygotic twins) Twins who develop from two different eggs that were fertilized by two different sperm (see identical twins).
identical twins
(also called monozygotic twins) Twins who develop from the splitting of a single egg that was fertilized by a single sperm (see fraternal twins).
heritability coefficient
A statistic (commonly denoted as h2) that describes the proportion of the difference between people’s scores that can be explained by differences in their genes.
shared environment
Those environmental factors that are experienced by all relevant members of a household (see nonshared environment).
nonshared environment
Those environmental factors that are not experienced by all relevant members of a household (see shared environment).
A system for communicating with others using signals that are combined according to rules of grammar and to convey meaning.
A set of rules that specify how the units of language can be combined to produce meaningful messages.
The smallest unit of sound that is recognizable as speech rather than as random noise.
phonological rules
A set of rules that indicate how phonemes can be combined to produce speech sounds.
The smallest meaningful units of language.
morphological rules
A set of rules that indicate how morphemes can be combined to form words.
syntactical rules
A set of rules that indicate how words can be combined to form phrases and sentences.
deep structure
The meaning of a sentence.
surface structure
How a sentence is worded.
fast mapping
The fact that children can map a word onto an underlying concept after only a single exposure.
telegraphic speech
Speech that is devoid of function morphemes and consists mostly of content words.
nativist theory
The view that language development is best explained as an innate, biological capacity.
language acquisition device (LAD)
A collection of processes that facilitate language learning.
genetic dysphasia
A syndrome characterized by an inability to learn the grammatical structure of language despite having otherwise normal intelligence.
Difficulty in producing or comprehending language.
linguistic relativity hypothesis
The proposal that language shapes the nature of thought.
A mental representation that groups or categorizes shared features of related objects, events, or other stimuli.
family resemblance theory
Members of a category have features that appear to be characteristic of category members but may not be possessed by every member.
The “best” or “most typical” member of a category.
exemplar theory
A theory of categorization that argues that we make category judgments by comparing a new instance with stored memories for other instances of the category.
category-specific deficit
A neurological syndrome that is characterized by an inability to recognize objects that belong to a particular category though the ability to recognize objects outside the category is undisturbed.
rational choice theory
The classical view that we make decisions by determining how likely something is to happen, judging the value of the outcome, and then multiplying the two.
availability bias
Items that are more readily available in memory are judged as having occurred more frequently.
A fast and efficient strategy that may facilitate decision making but does not guarantee that a solution will be reached.
A well-defined sequence of procedures or rules that guarantees a solution to a problem.
conjunction fallacy
When people think that two events are more likely to occur together than either individual event.
representativeness heuristic
A mental shortcut that involves making a probability judgment by comparing an object or event to a prototype of the object or event.
framing effects
When people give different answers to the same problem depending on how the problem is phrased (or framed).
sunk-cost fallacy
A framing effect in which people make decisions about a current situation based on what they have previously invested in the situation.
prospect theory
Proposes that people choose to take on risk when evaluating potential losses and avoid risks when evaluating potential gains.
frequency format hypothesis
The proposal that our minds evolved to notice how frequently things occur, not how likely they are to occur.
means-ends analysis
A process of searching for the means or steps to reduce differences between the current situation and the desired goal.
analogical problem solving
Solving a problem by finding a similar problem with a known solution and applying that solution to the current problem.
functional fixedness
The tendency to perceive the functions of objects as fixed.
A mental activity that consists of organizing information or beliefs into a series of steps to reach conclusions.
practical reasoning
Figuring out what to do, or reasoning directed toward action.
theoretical reasoning
Reasoning directed toward arriving at a belief.
belief bias
People’s judgments about whether to accept conclusions depend more on how believable the conclusions are than on whether the arguments are logically valid.
syllogistic reasoning
Determining whether a conclusion follows from two statements that are assumed to be true.
developmental psychology
The study of continuity and change across the life span.
A fertilized egg that contains chromosomes from both a sperm and an egg.
germinal stage
The 2-week period of prenatal development that begins at conception.
embryonic stage
The period of prenatal development that lasts from the second week until about the eighth week.
fetal stage
The period of prenatal development that lasts from the ninth week until birth.
The formation of a fatty sheath around the axons of a neuron.
Agents that damage the process of development, such as drugs and viruses.
fetal alcohol syndrome
A developmental disorder that stems from heavy alcohol use by the mother during pregnancy.
The stage of development that begins at birth and lasts between 18 and 24 months.
motor development
The emergence of the ability to execute physical action.
Specific patterns of motor response that are triggered by specific patterns of sensory stimulation.
cephalocaudal rule
The “top-to-bottom” rule that describes the tendency for motor skills to emerge in sequence from the head to the feet.
proximodistal rule
The “inside-to-outside” rule that describes the tendency for motor skills to emerge in sequence from the center to the periphery.
cognitive development
The emergence of the ability to think and understand.
sensorimotor stage
A stage of development that begins at birth and lasts through infancy in which infants acquire information about the world by sensing it and moving around within it.
Theories about or models of the way the world works.
The process by which infants apply their schemas in novel situations.
The process by which infants revise their schemas in light of new information.
object permanence
The idea that objects continue to exist even when they are not visible.
The stage of development that begins at about 18 to 24 months and lasts until adolescence.
preoperational stage
The stage of development that begins at about 2 years and ends at about 6 years, in which children have a preliminary understanding of the physical world.
concrete operational stage
The stage of development that begins at about 6 years and ends at about 11 years, in which children learn how various actions or “operations” can affect or transform “concrete” objects.
formal operational stage
The stage of development that begins around the age of 11 and lasts through adulthood, in which children can solve nonphysical problems.
The failure to understand that the world appears differently to different observers.
theory of mind
The idea that human behavior is guided by mental representations.
The emotional bond that forms between newborns and their primary caregivers.
strange situation
A behavioral test developed by Mary Ainsworth that is used to determine a child’s attachment style.
internal working model of relationships
A set of beliefs about the self, the primary care-giver, and the relationship between them.
Characteristic patterns of emotional reactivity.
preconventional stage
A stage of moral development in which the morality of an action is primarily determined by its consequences for the actor.
conventional stage
A stage of moral development in which the morality of an action is primarily determined by the extent to which it conforms to social rules.
postconventional stage
A stage of moral development at which the morality of an action is determined by a set of general principles that reflect core values.
The period of development that begins with the onset of sexual maturity (about 11 to 14 years of age) and lasts until the beginning of adulthood (about 18 to 21 years of age).
The bodily changes associated with sexual maturity.
primary sex characteristics
Bodily structures that are directly involved in reproduction.
secondary sex characteristics
Bodily structures that are directly involved in reproduction.
The stage of development that begins around 18 to 21 years and ends at death.
An individual’s characteristic style of behaving, thinking, and feeling.
A series of answers to a questionnaire that asks people to indicate the extent to which sets of statements or adjectives accurately describe their own behavior or mental state.
projective techniques
A standard series of ambiguous stimuli designed to elicit unique responses that reveal inner aspects of an individual’s personality.
Rorschach Inkblot Test
A projective personality test in which individual interpretations of the meaning of a set of unstructured ink-blots are analyzed to identify a respondent’s inner feelings and interpret his or her personality structure.
Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)
A projective personality test in which respondents reveal underlying motives, concerns, and the way they see the social world through the stories they make up about ambiguous pictures of people.
A relatively stable disposition to behave in a particular and consistent way.
Big Five
The traits of the five-factor model: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience, and extraversion.
psychodynamic approach
An approach that regards personality as formed by needs, strivings, and desires, largely operating outside of awareness—motives that can also produce emotional disorders.
dynamic unconscious
An active system encompassing a lifetime of hidden memories, the person’s deepest instincts and desires, and the person’s inner struggle to control these forces.
The part of the mind containing the drives present at birth; it is the source of our bodily needs, wants, desires, and impulses, particularly our sexual and aggressive drives.
The component of personality, developed through contact with the external world, that enables us to deal with life’s practical demands.
The mental system that reflects the internalization of cultural rules, mainly learned as parents exercise their authority.
defense mechanisms
Unconscious coping mechanisms that reduce anxiety generated by threats from unacceptable impulses.
A defense mechanism that involves supplying a reasonable-sounding explanation for unacceptable feelings and behavior to conceal (mostly from oneself) one’s underlying motives or feelings.
reaction formation
A defense mechanism that involves unconsciously replacing threatening inner wishes and fantasies with an exaggerated version of their opposite.
A defense mechanism that involves attributing one’s own threatening feelings, motives, or impulses to another person or group.
A defense mechanism in which the ego deals with internal conflict and perceived threat by reverting to an immature behavior or earlier stage of development.
A defense mechanism that involves shifting unacceptable wishes or drives to a neutral or less-threatening alternative.
A defense mechanism that helps deal with feelings of threat and anxiety by enabling us unconsciously to take on the characteristics of another person who seems more powerful or better able to cope.
A defense mechanism that involves channeling unacceptable sexual or aggressive drives into socially acceptable and culturally enhancing activities.
psychosexual stages
Distinct early life stages through which personality is formed as children experience sexual pleasures from specific body areas and caregivers redirect or interfere with those pleasures.
A phenomenon in which a person’s pleasure-seeking drives become psychologically stuck, or arrested, at a particular psychosexual stage.
oral stage
The first psychosexual stage, in which experience centers on the pleasures and frustrations associated with the mouth, sucking, and being fed.
anal stage
The second psychosexual stage, which is dominated by the pleasures and frustrations associated with the anus, retention and expulsion of feces and urine, and toilet training.
phallic stage
The third psychosexual stage, during which experience is dominated by the pleasure, conflict, and frustration associated with the phallic-genital region as well as powerful incestuous feelings of love, hate, jealousy, and conflict.
Oedipus conflict
A developmental experience in which a child’s conflicting feelings toward the opposite-sex parent are (usually) resolved by identifying with the same-sex parent.
latency stage
The fourth psychosexual stage, in which the primary focus is on the further development of intellectual, creative, interpersonal, and athletic skills.
genital stage
The final psychosexual stage, a time for the coming together of the mature adult personality with a capacity to love, work, and relate to others in a mutually satisfying and reciprocal manner.
self-actualizing tendency
The human motive toward realizing our inner potential.
existential approach
A school of thought that regards personality as governed by an individual’s ongoing choices and decisions in the context of the realities of life and death.
social cognitive approach
An approach that views personality in terms of how the person thinks about the situations encountered in daily life and behaves in response to them.
person-situation controversy
The question of whether behavior is caused more by personality or by situational factors.
personal constructs
Dimensions people use in making sense of their experiences.
outcome expectancies
A person’s assumptions about the likely consequences of a future behavior.
locus of control
A person’s tendency to perceive the control of rewards as internal to the self or external in the environment.
A person’s explicit knowledge of his or her own behaviors, traits, and other personal characteristics.
The tendency to seek evidence to confirm the self-concept.
The extent to which an individual likes, values, and accepts the self.
self-serving bias
People’s tendency to take credit for their successes but downplay responsibility for their failures.
A trait that reflects a grandiose view of the self combined with a tendency to seek admiration from and exploit others.
social psychology
The study of the causes and consequences of sociality.
Behavior whose purpose is to harm another.
frustration-aggression hypothesis
A principle stating that animals aggress only when their goals are thwarted.
Behavior by two or more individuals that leads to mutual benefit.
A collection of people who have something in common that distinguishes them from others.
A positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their group membership.
Positive or negative behavior toward another person based on their group membership.
A phenomenon that occurs when immersion in a group causes people to become less aware of their individual values.
diffusion of responsibility
The tendency for individuals to feel diminished responsibility for their actions when they are surrounded by others who are acting the same way.
Behavior that benefits another without benefiting oneself.
kin selection
The process by which evolution selects for individuals who cooperate with their relatives.
reciprocal altruism
Behavior that benefits another with the expectation that those benefits will be returned in the future.
mere exposure effect
The tendency for liking to increase with the frequency of exposure.
passionate love
An experience involving feelings of euphoria, intimacy, and intense sexual attraction.
companionate love
An experience involving affection, trust, and concern for a partner’s well-being.
social exchange
The hypothesis that people remain in relationships only as long as they perceive a favorable ratio of costs to benefits.
comparison level
The cost-benefit ratio that people believe they deserve or could attain in another relationship.
A state of affairs in which the cost-benefit ratios of two partners are roughly equal.
social influence
The ability to control another person’s behavior.
A customary standard for behavior that is widely shared by members of a culture.
normative influence
A phenomenon that occurs when another person’s behavior provides information about what is appropriate.
norm of reciprocity
The unwritten rule that people should benefit those who have benefited them.
door-in-the-face technique
A strategy that uses reciprocating concessions to influence behavior.
The tendency to do what others do simply because others are doing it.
The tendency to do what powerful people tell us to do.
An enduring positive or negative evaluation of an object or event.
An enduring piece of knowledge about an object or event.
informational influence
A phenomenon that occurs when a person’s behavior provides information about what is good or right.
A phenomenon that occurs when a person’s attitudes or beliefs are influenced by a communication from another person.
systematic persuasion
The process by which attitudes or beliefs are changed by appeals to reason.
heuristic persuasion
The process by which attitudes or beliefs are changed by appeals to habit or emotion.
foot-in-the-door technique
A technique that involves a small request followed by a larger request.
cognitive dissonance
An unpleasant state that arises when a person recognizes the inconsistency of his or her actions, attitudes, or beliefs.
social cognition
The processes by which people come to understand others.
The process by which people draw inferences about others based on their knowledge of the categories to which others belong.
perceptual confirmation
A phenomenon that occurs when observers perceive what they expect to perceive.
self-fulfilling prophecy
The tendency for people to cause what they expect to see.
The tendency for people who are faced with disconfirming evidence to modify their stereotypes rather than abandon them.
An inference about the cause of a person’s behavior.
correspondence bias
The tendency to make a dispositional attribution even when a person’s behavior was caused by the situation.
actor-observer effect
The tendency to make situational attributions for our own behaviors while making dispositional attributions for the identical behavior of others.
medical model
The conceptualization of psychological disorders as diseases that, like physical diseases, have biological causes, defined symptoms, and possible cures.
(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [Fourth Edition, Text Revision]) A classification system that describes the features used to diagnose each recognized mental disorder and indicates how the disorder can be distinguished from other, similar problems.
The co-occurrence of two or more disorders in a single individual.
diathesis-stress model
Suggests that a person may be predisposed for a mental disorder that remains unexpressed until triggered by stress.
anxiety disorder
The class of mental disorder in which anxiety is the predominant feature.
generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
A disorder characterized by chronic excessive worry accompanied by three or more of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, concentration problems, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance.
phobic disorders
Disorders characterized by marked, persistent, and excessive fear and avoidance of specific objects, activities, or situations.
specific phobia
A disorder that involves an irrational fear of a particular object or situation that markedly interferes with an individual’s ability to function.
social phobia
A disorder that involves an irrational fear of being publicly humiliated or embarrassed.
preparedness theory
The idea that people are instinctively predisposed toward certain fears.
panic disorder
A disorder characterized by the sudden occurrence of multiple psychological and physiological symptoms that contribute to a feeling of stark terror.
An extreme fear of venturing into public places.
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
A disorder in which repetitive, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) designed to fend off those thoughts interfere significantly with an individual’s functioning.
mood disorders
Mental disorders that have mood disturbance as their predominant feature.
major depressive disorder
A disorder characterized by a severely depressed mood that lasts 2 weeks or more and is accompanied by feelings of worthlessness and lack of pleasure, lethargy, and sleep and appetite disturbances.
A disorder that involves the same symptoms as in depression, only less severe, but the symptoms last longer, persisting for at least 2 years.
double depression
A moderately depressed mood that persists for at least 2 years and is punctuated by periods of major depression.
seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Depression that involves recurrent depressive episodes in a seasonal pattern.
helplessness theory
The idea that individuals who are prone to depression automatically attribute negative experiences to causes that are internal (i.e., their own fault), stable (i.e., unlikely to change), and global (i.e., widespread).
bipolar disorder
An unstable emotional condition characterized by cycles of abnormal, persistent high mood (mania) and low mood (depression).
dissociative disorder
A condition in which normal cognitive processes are severely disjointed and fragmented, creating significant disruptions in memory, awareness, or personality that can vary in length from a matter of minutes to many years.
dissociative identity disorder (DID)
The presence within an individual of two or more distinct identities that at different times take control of the individual’s behavior.
dissociative amnesia
The sudden loss of memory for significant personal information.
dissociative fugue
The sudden loss of memory for one’s personal history, accompanied by an abrupt departure from home and the assumption of a new identity.
A disorder characterized by the profound disruption of basic psychological processes; a distorted perception of reality; altered or blunted emotion; and disturbances in thought, motivation, and behavior.
A patently false belief system, often bizarre and grandiose, that is maintained in spite of its irrationality.
A false perceptual experience that has a compelling sense of being real despite the absence of external stimulation.
disorganized speech
A severe disruption of verbal communication in which ideas shift rapidly and incoherently from one to another unrelated topic.
grossly disorganized behavior
Behavior that is inappropriate for the situation or ineffective in attaining goals, often with specific motor disturbances.
catatonic behavior
A marked decrease in all movement or an increase in muscular rigidity and overactivity.
negative symptoms
Emotional and social withdrawal; apathy; poverty of speech; and other indications of the absence or insufficiency of normal behavior, motivation, and emotion.
dopamine hypothesis
The idea that schizophrenia involves an excess of dopamine activity.
personality disorders
Disorder characterized by deeply ingrained, inflexible patterns of thinking, feeling, or relating to others or controlling impulses that cause distress or impaired functioning.
antisocial personality disorder (APD)
A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.
eclectic psychotherapy
Treatment that draws on techniques from different forms of therapy, depending on the client and the problem.
An interaction between a therapist and someone suffering from a psychological problem, with the goal of providing support or relief from the problem.
psychodynamic psychotherapies
A general approach to treatment that explores childhood events and encourages individuals to develop insight into their psychological problems.
A reluctance to cooperate with treatment for fear of confronting unpleasant unconscious material.
An event that occurs in psychoanalysis when the analyst begins to assume a major significance in the client’s life and the client reacts to the analyst based on unconscious childhood fantasies.
interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
A form of psychotherapy that focuses on helping clients improve current relationships.
behavior therapy
A type of therapy that assumes that disordered behavior is learned and that symptom relief is achieved through changing overt maladaptive behaviors into more constructive behaviors.
token economy
A form of behavior therapy in which clients are given “tokens” for desired behaviors, which they can later trade for rewards.
exposure therapy
An approach to treatment that involves confronting an emotion-arousing stimulus directly and repeatedly, ultimately leading to a decrease in the emotional response.
systematic desensitization
A procedure in which a client relaxes all the muscles of his or her body while imagining being in increasingly frightening situations.
cognitive therapy
A form of psychotherapy that involves helping a client identify and correct any distorted thinking about self, others, or the world.
cognitive restructuring
A therapeutic approach that teaches clients to question the automatic beliefs, assumptions, and predictions that often lead to negative emotions and to replace negative thinking with more realistic and positive beliefs.
mindfulness mediation
A form of cognitive therapy that teaches an individual to be fully present in each moment; to be aware of his or her thoughts, feelings, and sensations; and to detect symptoms before they become a problem.
cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
A blend of cognitive and behavioral therapeutic strategies.
person-centered therapy
An approach to therapy that assumes all individuals have a tendency toward growth and that this growth can be facilitated by acceptance and genuine reactions from the therapist.
Gestalt therapy
An existentialist approach to treatment with the goal of helping the client become aware of his or her thoughts, behaviors, experiences, and feelings and to “own” or take responsibility for them.
group therapy
Therapy in which multiple participants (who often do not know one another at the outset) work on their individual problems in a group atmosphere.
antipsychotic drugs
Medications that are used to treat schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders.
The study of drug effects on psychological states and symptoms.
antianxiety medications
Drugs that help reduce a person’s experience of fear or anxiety.
A class of drugs that help lift people’s mood.
electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
A treatment that involves inducing a mild seizure by delivering an electrical shock to the brain.
transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
A treatment that involves placing a powerful pulsed magnet over a person’s scalp, which alters neuronal activity in the brain.
A therapy that involves repeated exposure to bright light.
Surgical destruction of specific brain areas.
An inert substance or procedure that has been applied with the expectation that a healing response will be produced.
iatrogenic illness
A disorder or symptom that occurs as a result of a medical or psychotherapeutic treatment.
Specific events or chronic pressures that place demands on a person or threaten the person’s well-being.
The physical and psychological response to internal or external stressors.
health psychology
The subfield of psychology concerned with ways psychological factors influence the causes and treatment of physical illness and the maintenance of health.
chronic stressor
A source of stress that occurs continuously or repeatedly.
fight-or-flight response
An emotional and physiological reaction to an emergency that increases readiness for action.
general adaptation syndrome (GAS)
A three-stage physiological response that appears regardless of the stressor that is encountered.
immune system
A complex response system that protects the body from bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances.
White blood cells that produce antibodies that fight infection.
Type A behavior pattern
The tendency toward easily aroused hostility, impatience, a sense of time urgency, and competitive achievement strivings.
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
A disorder characterized by chronic physiological arousal, recurrent unwanted thoughts or images of the trauma, and avoidance of things that call the traumatic event to mind.
A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion created by long-term involvement in an emotionally demanding situation and accompanied by lowered performance and motivation.
repressive coping
Avoiding situations or thoughts that are reminders of a stressor and maintaining an artificially positive viewpoint.
rational coping
Facing a stressor and working to overcome it.
Finding a new or creative way to think about a stressor that reduces its threat.
stress inoculation training (SIT)
A therapy that helps people to cope with stressful situations by developing positive ways to think about the situation.
relaxation therapy
A technique for reducing tension by consciously relaxing muscles of the body.
relaxation response
A condition of reduced muscle tension, cortical activity, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
The use of an external monitoring device to obtain information about a bodily function and possibly gain control over that function.
social support
The aid gained through interacting with others.
psychosomatic illness
An interaction between mind and body that can produce illness.
somatoform disorders
The set of psychological disorders in which the person displays physical symptoms not fully explained by a general medical condition.
A psychological disorder in which a person is preoccupied with minor symptoms and develops an exaggerated belief that the symptoms signify a life-threatening illness.
somatization disorder
A psychological disorder involving combinations of multiple physical complaints with no medical explanation.
conversion disorder
A disorder characterized by apparently debilitating physical symptoms that appear to be voluntary—but that the person experiences as involuntary.
sick role
A socially recognized set of rights and obligations linked with illness.
The exercise of voluntary control over the self to bring the self into line with preferred standards.

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