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Open University DSE212 - Glossary Part 1


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Access consciousness
The kind of consciousness we have that involves accessing information from different kinds of mental process. Our verbal reporting on mental processes involves access consciousness.
ACID profile
Refers to the observed deficit in arithmetic, coding, information (general knowledge) and digit span (short-term memory) that is associated with dyslexia by some researchers.
Acquired dyslexia
A form of dyslexia which is acquired as the result of neurological damage.
Action potential
A brief and sudden change in electrical voltage in a cell and the means by which information is transmitted by neurons.
Actor/observer effect
The tendency to favour external attributions for our own behaviour, while favouring internal explanations for others' behaviour.
The inability to recognise objects despite normal sensory input.
Alphabetic decoding strategy
An analytical approach to identifying written words by translating letters and letter-strings ('graphemes') into the sounds that they represent ('phonemes').
Anal stage
Second main stage of psychosexual development where the focus is on the anal area and the primary source of pleasure is the retention and elimination of faeces.
Androgen insensitivity syndrome
Medical syndrome affecting 1 in 20,000 of those born with an XY genetic make-up and affecting the typical male/female bodily appearance. Symptoms include infertility and external genitalia that can range from completely male to completely female. Those with the syndrome may be raised as either male or female.
Anxiety and anguish resulting from inner conflict.
Describes the inability to generate names for people or objects, typically as a result of a brain injury
This is a condition in which the patient is unable to recognize and deal with his or her own disease, illness or impairment.
To make something one's own.
Artificial stimuli
Stimuli devised by the experimenter in order to have no intrinsic meaning. Ecological validity The extent to which a study reflects naturally occurring or everyday situations.
This is a condition in which the patient is seemingly unable to recognize his or her own body or perhaps even that he or she has a body.
A strong, ongoing emotional bond between two people.
Attachment theory
Bowlby's theory that children have a drive to feel secure by forming an emotional bond with a primary care giver.
A selection process that operates between what is sensed and what is perceived.
Attention conspicuity
The likelihood that an object will draw attention to itself.
Attentional spotlight
A metaphor for allocation of attention. Whatever falls within the attentional spotlight receives relatively more processing.
Attentional tunnelling
Occurs when attention is 'tunnelled' onto a relatively narrow region, and anything happening outside that region is likely to receive little or no processing.
A combination of our beliefs (cognitions) and feelings, and thought to be an influence on our behaviour.
Properties of things that are reflected in the structure of concepts.
The explanations we arrive at to account for the causes of our own behaviour (and its outcomes) and other people's behaviour (and its outcomes).
Existentialist term for conscious awareness of the reality of our existence (e.g. that existence is impermanent and individuals have both responsibility and freedom to choose).
Automatic processes
Those mental processes that cannot be consciously controlled.
The idea of schematic processing as an automatic process, happening without any awareness or conscious control on our part.
A state in which the individual has no awareness or voluntary control of his or her behaviour.
The process of making a skill 'automatic', so that performance no longer needs conscious monitoring. (If fully automatized, a task can be carried out with no interference to another task being performed simultaneously.)
Autonomic nervous system
Part of the nervous system which is responsible for exerting action on the internal environment, for example through smooth muscle.
Availability heuristic
Refers to the practice of making judgements on the basis of examples or instances that are accessible to the cognitive system/ decision-maker. Examples may come to mind more easily if they are more memorable or easier to construct.
Behaviour modification
A technique of changing behaviour by means of positive reinforcement.
The tradition that advocates that psychology should be a science of behaviour, without reference to mental states that cannot be observed.
A condition in which those affected seem to experience a kind of blindness without actually being blind. Patients appear to perceive stimuli but generally believe they have not perceived anything in a region of their visual field.
Bottleneck theory of attention
Theory that suggests a 'bottleneck' in the attentional system such that only a small amount of the available sensory information can pass through.
Bottom-up information
Information about the world that flows 'up' from the senses.
Brain lateralization
Structural or functional asymmetry in the brain.
The extent to which a person knows about the accuracy of their own judgements.
Cardiac muscle
Muscle in the wall of the heart which is responsible for its activity.
Case study
An in-depth study of a single participant often focusing on atypical psychological functioning
Category learning
The learning that occurs when people come to understand that certain objects or entities belong together in particular categories Hypothesis A suggested explanation for a set of observations that may or may not turn out to be supported.
A basic building block of an organism.
Cell body
The cell body is the part of a neuron that contains the nucleus, amongst other things.
Central nervous system
The brain and spinalcord.
A type of receptive field of ganglion cells in the visual system, such that light falling on the centre of the receptive field excites the cell and light falling on the surround inhibits it.
A part of the brain (situated underneath the rear cerebral cortex) involved with motor and balance functions, and recently shown to be involved in the automatization of many cognitive skills.
Cerebral cortex
The outer layer of the brain.
Cerebral lateralization
Refers to the asymmetries found in many brain structures and functions, and/or the developmental processes by which these differences between the left and right sides of the brain usually emerge.
The structure within which genes are located.
Classical conditioning
Learning arising from a pairing of two events outside the control of the animal.
Seen in memory recall when participants recall the items in clusters according to category or some other dimension.
Cognitive behaviour therapy
Involves observing the therapist 'modelling' the desired behavioural response to a situation, and the individual trying to copy that response and receiving feedback on their attempt. This behavioural rehearsal is repeated until the behaviour has been mastered.
Cognitive bias
An information processing bias that is thought to be caused by the way the cognitive system works.
Cognitive miser model
A view of the social perceiver as someone who uses as little processing capacity as possible and thus is limited to seeing things in terms of assumptions and expectations.
Cognitive neuropsychology
Attempts to gain insight into cognitive processes by studying the effects of brain trauma (lesion, disease, etc).
Cognitive neuroscience
A field of study that considers how cognitive processes can be implemented in the brain.
Cognitive therapy
Involves working with a therapist who highlights maladaptive beliefs that an individual may have about their situation. The individual is retrained to monitor their own thoughts, recognize when their thoughts are based on emotion rather than reality, reject biased cognitions and learn to change whatever beliefs have caused them to distort their interpretation of reality.
Cohort differences
Differences that occur between different groups because of changes in external factors across time (e.g. improvements in state education).
Comparative approach
The study of different species of animal in order to establish general and specific features of behaviour.
Ideas that are structured in terms of attributes and refer to categories in the world.
Conditional reflex
A reflex triggered by a conditional stimulus.
Conditional response (CR)
A response that is triggered by a conditional stimulus.
Conditional stimulus (CS)
A stimulus, the power of which depends upon its pairing with an unconditional stimulus.
A type of receptor cell specialized to detect light.
Congenital word blindness
The term used by Hinshelwood in 1917 to describe dyslexia-like difficulties in children.
Connectionist model
A type of computer model that contains simple units that are connected to each other in a network structure.
Conscious perception
The conscious awareness of some aspect(s) of the environment as a result of the integration of filtered sensory information with stored knowledge.
Constructive alternativism
Term used by Kelly to signify that any event or experience can be construed in an infinite variety of ways.
Constructivist theory of perception
The notion that perception is 'built' from incomplete sensory data with the aid of stored knowledge.
Content analysis
A procedure used to represent qualitative data (i.e. language and its meaning) in quantitative (numerical) form.
The process by which an individual challenges the meanings being constructed, or actions accomplished, by another speaker.
An arrangement between two events.
Contingency management
An alternative term to 'behaviour modification therapy', used to describe a behavioural intervention that is based on principles of operant conditioning.
Connections between experiences at one point in life and behaviour at some later time.
Action that is exerted in the interests of regulation.
Controlled processes
Those mental processes over which we can exert conscious control.
Corpus callosum
A thick tract of neurons connecting the two hemispheres of the human brain, which enables the two sides of the brain to 'talk' to each other.
Covariation model
This model proposes that we make sense of current behaviour by considering information, from past and present, relating to its consistency, distinctiveness and consensus.
Cross-sectional design
A research design that compares the performance of different age groups.
intelligence Abilities that are the product of experience (e.g. vocabulary, general knowledge).
Culturally specific
Something that is relevant to one specific culture.
Declarative memory
A subsystem of memory concerned with knowing that, this being either episodic or semantic memory.
Defence mechanisms
Largely unconscious processes for avoiding inner conflict and the anxiety this creates.
Definition by exclusion
A definition that identifies a person as having a condition if there is no other known reason that can account for their symptoms.
Demand characteristics
Features of a psychological method that lead people to respond in particular, constrained ways.
A neuron or part of a neuron that is sensitive to events in the world, such as touch or tissue damage.
An approach that assumes that a particular outcome is fixed and inevitable.
Developmental contexualism
An approach to studying development by examining the interactions between the person and their environmental and historical contexts.
Developmental dyslexia
Refers to a congenital condition that results in a primary difficulty in learning to read and write.
The changes that occur within cells during development, such that they come to serve particular roles
Used to refer to variables that lend themselves to measurement on a continuous scale (e.g. height is dimensional, but eye colour is not).
Direct access
A type of retrieval that is effortless and occurs automatically without searching in memory.
Direct perception
Perception without the need for integration with stored knowledge.
In cognitive psychology, a piece of text or speech consisting of related sentences.
Discourse (Social Psychology)
In discursive psychology discourse is the spoken or written matter by which a particular object is constructed.
The ways of thinking and talking about issues currently available in our culture - that is, the processes by which people construct meanings.
Discrepancy definitions
A definition that identifies a person as having a condition by virtue of a perceived discrepancy between potential and actual ability.
Discrete presentation
The presentation of test items one at a time. None of the other test stimuli are visible at the same time.
A response made in the presence of one stimulus and a lack of response made in the presence of another.
The ability to refer to events and items that are not currently perceived.
Double dissociation
Different patients display converse patterns of deficit within memory function or other cognitive domains. This can yield important insights when linked to damage in different areas of the brain.
Dream analysis
Interpreting the latent content from the manifest content of a dream (e.g. by 'working through' the distortions created by condensation, displacement, dramatization/ symbolization and secondary elaboration).
A philosophical perspective that draws an absolute distinction between the brain and mind,
Dual-task studies
Studies that look at how different pairs of tasks interact when a participant attempts to perform both tasks of the pair at the same time.
Dynamic interactionism
Used to describe the multiple interactions that can occur between different variables and different levels of explanation.
A negative mood.
A collection of misplaced cells.
Effect size
How strongly two variables are associated. Often assessed by a beta coefficient, which can range from -1 to 1.
Effort after meaning
The attempt by listeners and readers to understand the meaning of discourse.
The reality-testing, perceptual aspect of the self which Freud called the 'I' (das Ich) which is also focused on integrating the different aspects of self.
Ego identity
Erikson's term for a secure feeling of who and what one is. It suggests the psychosocial nature of identity.
Elaborative rehearsal
The process of thinking about information to be remembered in terms of its meaning and associations to other stored material.
Refers to the way development is 'rooted' in multiple contexts.
Indicates that we live in and through our bodies and that we simultaneously experience our bodies physically and biologically as well as socially and psychologically.
Emergent property
A property exhibited by a combination of components, which is not evident when looking at the propertyes of the individual components alone.
Encoding processes
Used to code the information acquired through the senses and to enter it into the memory system.
Encoding specificity principle
The notion that retrieval of information from memory depends on an overlap or matching of the cues that are available at retrieval with those registered at encoding.
A process through which people adopt specific cultural practices and act in accordance with cultural norms.
Endogenous system
The direction of responses (for example, the allocation of attention) by internal processes (motivation, intentions, etc).
A chemical that has an influence on another chemical.
episodic memory
A subsystem of longterm memory concerned with personal episodes or events which include information about the place and the time in which they were acquired.
A study of the socially shared knowledge of rules, roles and conduct, that individuals draw upon to analyse, understand and act in everyday life.
The study of behaviour in its natural setting.
Event schema/script
A mental structure that contains knowledge about social situations and activities.
The effect that a neuron has on a neighbouring cell such that the second cell is more likely to exhibit action potentials.
Exogenous system
The direction of responses (for example, the allocation of attention) by external factors (salient stimuli, etc).
The links that occur between two or more environmental settings, where at least one of these settings is inhabited by the developing individual in question.
Experimental method
The most commonly used psychological method. It examines causal relationships between variables by controlling factors that may affect the results.
Experimental social psychology
A perspective that frames its questions about social phenomena so that they can be studied using experimental methods.
External influences
Potential influences on development that are not part of the individual, such as the immediate context, culture or history.
causes Factors that motivate behaviour and that are located in the actor's environment.
Reference to the object of interest in a scene, as opposed to the 'ground'.
Refers to an overemphasis in later life on the characteristics or satisfactions associated with a particular phase of psychosexual development.
Flow experience
Term used by Csikszentmihalyi to refer to the experience of total involvement in an activity enjoyed for its own sake.
Fluent aphasia
An inability to produce meaningful speech despite being coherent.
Fluid intelligence
Abilities that reflect efficient information processing (e.g. speed of processing).
Free association
A technique in psychoanalysis in which patients are encouraged to express freely everything that comes into mind.
Free recall
A memory recall task in which participants can recall the items in any order they wish.
Freudian slip
An accidental action or utterance which expresses unconscious motivation (in Freud's original German fehlleistung, literally 'faulty achievement', but translated as 'parapraxis' in the standard edition of Freud).
The idea that changes occur in people and their behaviour because they serve a new and adaptive function.
attribution error The tendency, when explaining the behaviour of other people, to favour internal rather than external attributions.
A generic term for egg cells of the female and sperm cells of the male.
Ganglion cell
A type of cell in the visual system, part of the route conveying information from receptors in the eye to the brain.
Garden path sentences
Ambiguous sentences in which the structure that is usually selected first is incorrect.
Genetic epistemology
Coined by Piaget, this phrase refers to the study of intelligence as a form of adaptation to one's environment.
The collection of all of the genes within the cell of a given individual.
Gestalt psychology
A branch of psychology that emphasises the importance of identifying whole objects within a scene as an essential part of perception.
Reference to the background, made up of all parts of the scene (apart from the figure), and against which the figure is set.
One half of the upper part of the brain.
Highly unsaturated fatty acids
Lipid molecules which make up 20 per cent of the brain's dry weight, and are crucial for normal brain development and function.
The tendency of certain parameters of the body to remain nearly constant and action to be taken when they deviate from their normal values.
relationship A relationship between people of equal status and/or power.
A chemical that is secreted into the blood at one location, is transported in the blood, and effects action at a distant site.
A theoretical construct which refers to the conscious, decisionmaking part of a person's self-concept.
The aspect of the psyche Freud called the 'It' (das Es) focused on pleasure from the satisfaction (in reality or fantasy) of biological needs.
Identity crisis
A period in which some young people find it impossible to make commitments to adult roles and many experience some difficulty.
Identity diffusion
Period in which young people are neither exploring social roles nor committed to a consistent set of values and goals.
Identity foreclosure
Period in which young people commit themselves to identities without having explored other options.
Incidental learning
Learning that occurs in the absence of explicit instructions to learn when an experimenter presents a set of items for later memory testing.
Indirect access
A type of retrieval that involves deliberate and conscious searching in memory.
Induction problem
The problem that arises because our past experiences do not serve as a totally reliable guide to our future experiences.
Information processing
Information is assumed to be received via the senses, further processed or transformed, and then used to guide action and behaviour.
Information processing approach
An approach that likens cognitive processes (attention, perception etc) to the workings of a computer: moving, storing, transforming information.
People who belong to the group to which we consider we belong.
The effect that a neuron has on a neighbouring cell such that the second cell is less likely to exhibit action potentials.
Instrumental conditioning
A form of conditioning in which the outcome depends on the animal's behaviour.
Intentional learning
Learning that occurs when an experimenter has specifically told participants that their memory for presented items will be tested Generation effect An effect in which participants are more likely to remember the items that they generated in a word association test than items they simply read.
Internal influences
Potential influences on development that are part of the individual, such as physical or psychological variables.
Internal working model
A set of expectations for how oneself and another person will relate to each other. According to attachment theory, this is established during childhood and affects later adult relationships.
Internal/dispositional causes
Factors that motivate behaviour and that are located 'within' the actor (e.g. personality, mood, ability).
Interpretative repertoire
The sum of different discourses, and the ways that they can be combined or mixed together, which the individual has at their disposal to construct subject positions.
To incorporate the characteristics of another person into one's own self-image, during the development of one's own identity.
Klinefelter's syndrome
Medical syndrome affecting 1 in 500 males, in which the typical male chromosomal complement - XY - is replaced by XXY. Accompanying features are unusually tall stature, enlarged breasts, infertility and problems such as diabetes.
Language design
features Properties that characterise language.
Lateral geniculate nucleus
A part of the visual system that is a collection of cell bodies of neurons.
Law of effect
A law that states that responses having Favourable consequences will be learned.
The acquisition of new knowledge or skills.
Damage to a region of the brain, for example in an accident or in surgery.
correspondences The associations between individual letters, and the sounds that those letters can make in a given language.
Levels of processing
theory The theory that the retention of material in memory is dependent on how deeply it is processed at encoding.
A mental dictionary that contains information about individual words.
Psychosexual energy.
Limited-capacity central processor
A hypothetical construct used to explain why it is not possible to process all incoming information simultaneously.
localization of function
The theoretical approach that assumes that particular areas of the brain play a key role in functions such as motor control, perception, memory, emotion, etc.
Locus of causality
The location of the cause of behaviour (internal or external), or the location of the cause of outcomes of behaviour like success or failure.
Logographic strategy
A holistic approach to identifying written words via their overall visual appearance, sometimes also referred to as 'sight word reading'.
The patterns of environmental systems that characterize any given culture or society.
Magnocellular visual system
A visual sub-system specialized for processing information that changes very rapidly over time, characterized by large cells with fast responses. (Strictly, this refers to a specific sub-cortical pathway from retina to primary visual cortex, but it can also include further cortical areas to which these cells project.)
rehearsal The process of memorising by simply repeating information without any further processing.
Matched control group
A control group that has been matched to the participants in the experimental group on various key characteristics.
A theoretical construct which refers to knowledge about oneself, and is suggested to be another part of the selfconcept which can reflect the views of others.
Memory span
The number of items that can be repeated back in the correct order just after a list of items has been presented in a memory experiment.
Two or more environmental microsystems inhabited by the same person.
An individuals representation of another person's representation, or of their own process of reflection.
The social, symbolic and physical characteristics of a person's immediate environment.
Minimal groups
Groups set up in Social Identity Theory research to identify the minimum conditions necessary for group identities to form Social categories The division of people on the basis of characteristics, such as gender, 'race', nationality, class, occupation, religion, etc., that have differential power and status.
Misinformation effect
An effect in which later information influences the accuracy of memory for earlier information
A technique or strategy that will increase the memorability of material to be remembered, such as adding meaningful associations or bizarre images.
Individuals with exceptional memory skills, typically exploited for performance
consciousness The kind of consciousness we have that involves monitoring one's own actions and mental states, and allows one to take action as a consequence.
An active process in which young people search for the identity to which they want to be committed. Identity achievement Young people have experienced and resolved their adolescent identity crisis by going through a period of moratorium.
Motivated tactician
A model of the social perceiver as having multiple cognitive strategies to choose from, based on goals, motives and needs.
A tendency to engage in a particular type of behaviour, such as feeding.
Motivational bias
An information processing bias that is thought to be caused by the perceiver's goals or needs.
Motor cortex
The part of the cerebral cortex which is responsible for organizing motor control.
Motor neuron
A type of neuron that is specialized to convey information from the central nervous system to muscles.
Multiple-resource theories of attention
Theories that suggest that different pools of resources are available for different types of tasks as opposed to all tasks drawing on a single central pool of resources.
Multisensory teaching
A technique that involves teaching children via the simultaneous stimulation of as many senses as possible.
This is the view that consciousness may not be a natural phenomenon amenable to the methods of science.
Natural categories
Categories that occur naturally and are not invented or devised by the experimenter.
Natural sampling
The idea that in everyday life, people acquire information in particular ways that may be different from those in which information is presented to them by experimenters.
Negative reinforcement
Something that is terminated by behaviour and where the frequency of this behaviour increases.
A group of analysts who emigrated from Europe to the USA and who emphasize the significance of socialcultural contexts in understanding the individual.
A collection of neurons in the peripheral nervous system, rather like a cable made of a number of electrical wires.
Nervous system
The collection of cells in the body, such as neurons, that handles and processes information.
Neural system
A combination of neurons that serve a particular role.
A type of cell that forms part of the nervous system and which is specialized for processing information.
Neuropsychological approaches
These study brain function by examining damaged brains, the structure of the brain and neural activity.
A field of study that considers the workings of the brain.
A chemical that is released from a neuron and influences a neighbouring cell.
Neutral stimulus (NS)
A stimulus that evokes no particular response.
Non-fluent aphasia
An inability to produce connected, coherent speech.
Nonsense syllables
Pronounceable, but meaningless material, such as the consonantvowel- consonant trigrams VOX and BUC, used in memory experiments.
The component of the cell body of a neuron that contains the genetic material.
Object relations
A British approach to psychoanalysis which emphasizes the need for contact with others rather than instinctual needs as the driving force in human behaviour.
Oedipal conflict
Oedipal conflict arises during the phallic phase when a boy comes unconsciously to regard his father as rival for his mother's affection.
A behaviour freely emitted by an animal which can be reinforced (e.g. lever-pressing). Positive reinforcement Something that follows a behaviour and increases the probability that the behaviour will occur in the future
Operant conditioning
A variety of instrumental conditioning that traditionally has been studied in a Skinner box.
Optic nerve
The collection of neurons that convey information from the eye to the brain.
Optimal reproductive
style Characteristics and behaviours that are most likely to result in producing children/ descendants.
Optimistic bias
Occurs when people are more optimistic than objective statistics warrant.
Oral stage
First stage of psychosexual development where the focus is on the mouth and pleasure from sucking and/or biting.
Orienting tasks
Task instructions designed to influence the processing performed on material to be remembered, such as words.
Orthographic strategy
The approach skilled readers use to identify written words, employing both alphabetic and logographic strategies a well as their existing knowledge of grammatical forms and similar words.
technique A specific multisensory technique for teaching reading.
People who do not belong to our group.
Parental investment
The amount of energy and effort required to produce and rear offspring.
Peak experience
A specific state of consciousness characterized by a sense of delight, wholeness, meaningfulness and abundant energy.
Penis envy
Freud's controversial and contested notion that the crucial issue in the psychosexual development of a girl is the realization that she has no penis.
Perceived risk
The level of risk that an individual believes they are exposed to.
The end result of the processing and modification of sensory information by the internal cognitive processes of the individual.
Perceptual compromise
The influence of the whole of a figure on attempts to make judgements about any part of it.
Perceptual hypotheses
Stages in an iterative process of combining incomplete sensory information with stored knowledge to arrive at a hypothesis (best guess) of what the individual is perceiving.
Perceptual salience
One aspect of the perceptual field is particularly significant for the perceiver, and thus attracts more attention than other aspects.
Peripheral nervous system
The part of the nervous system that is outside the brain and spinal cord
Person schema
A mental structure that contains knowledge about types of people at the level of personality traits.
Personal constructs
Term used by Kelly to refer to the bipolar discriminations underlying the ways in which a person makes sense of his/her world.
Person-centred counselling
A psychotherapeutic approach, originated by Rogers, involving unconditional regard but no interpretations, aimed at encouraging clients to explore and become aware of their feelings.

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