Vocabulary

Ablation
Surgical removal of brain tissue.
Accommodation
Changing one's beliefs about the world and how it works in light of new experience.
Action potential
A transient all-or-nothing electrical current that is conducted down the axon when the membrane potential reaches the threshold of excitation.
Adoption study
A behavior genetic research method that involves comparison of adopted children to their adoptive and biological parents.
Afferent nerves
Nerves that carry messages to the brain or spinal cord.
Agnosias
Due to damage of Wernicke’s area. An inability to recognize objects, words, or faces.
Ambulatory assessment
An overarching term to describe methodologies that assess the behavior, physiology, experience, and environments of humans in naturalistic settings.
Anchoring
The bias to be affected by an initial anchor, even if the anchor is arbitrary, and to insufficiently adjust our judgments away from that anchor.
Anterograde amnesia
Inability to form new memories for facts and events after the onset of amnesia.
Aphasia
Due to damage of the Broca’s area. An inability to produce or understand words.
Appraisal structure
The set of appraisals that bring about an emotion.
Appraisal theories
Evaluations that relate what is happening in the environment to people’s values, goals, and beliefs. Appraisal theories of emotion contend that emotions are caused by patterns of appraisals, such as whether an event furthers or hinders a goal and whether an event can be coped with.
Arcuate fasciculus
A fiber tract that connects Wernicke’s and Broca’s speech areas.
Autobiographical memory
Memory for the events of one’s life.
Autonomic nervous system
A part of the peripheral nervous system that connects to glands and smooth muscles. Consists of sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions.
Awareness
A conscious experience or the capability of having conscious experiences, which is distinct from self-awareness, the conscious understanding of one’s own existence and individuality.
Awe
An emotion associated with profound, moving experiences. Awe comes about when people encounter an event that is vast (far from normal experience) but that can be accommodated in existing knowledge.
Axial plane
See “horizontal plane.”
Axon
Part of the neuron that extends off the soma, splitting several times to connect with other neurons; main output of the neuron.
Balancing between goals
Shifting between a focal goal and other goals or temptations by putting less effort into the focal goal—usually with the intention of coming back to the focal goal at a later point in time.
Basal ganglia
Subcortical structures of the cerebral hemispheres involved in voluntary movement.
Basic-level category
The neutral, preferred category for a given object, at an intermediate level of specificity.
Behavioral genetics
The empirical science of how genes and environments combine to generate behavior.
Behaviorism
The study of behavior.
Biases
The systematic and predictable mistakes that influence the judgment of even very talented human beings.
Binocular advantage
Benefits from having two eyes as opposed to a single eye.
Blocking
In classical conditioning, the finding that no conditioning occurs to a stimulus if it is combined with a previously conditioned stimulus during conditioning trials. Suggests that information, surprise value, or prediction error is important in conditioning.
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC): a measure of the percentage of alcohol found in a person’s blood. This measure is typically the standard used to determine the extent to which a person is intoxicated, as in the case of being too impaired to drive a vehicle.
Bounded awareness
The systematic ways in which we fail to notice obvious and important information that is available to us.
Bounded ethicality
The systematic ways in which our ethics are limited in ways we are not even aware of ourselves.
Bounded rationality
Model of human behavior that suggests that humans try to make rational decisions but are bounded due to cognitive limitations.
Bounded self-interest
The systematic and predictable ways in which we care about the outcomes of others.
Bounded willpower
The tendency to place greater weight on present concerns rather than future concerns.
Brain stem
The “trunk” of the brain comprised of the medulla, pons, midbrain, and diencephalon.
Broca’s area
An area in the frontal lobe of the left hemisphere. Implicated in language production.
Callosotomy
Surgical procedure in which the corpus callosum is severed (used to control severe epilepsy).
Cartesian catastrophe
The idea that mental processes taking place outside conscious awareness are impossible.
Case study
A thorough study of a patient (or a few patients) with naturally occurring lesions.
Categorize
To sort or arrange different items into classes or categories.
Category
A set of entities that are equivalent in some way. Usually the items are similar to one another.
Cause-and-effect
Related to whether we say one variable is causing changes in the other variable, versus other variables that may be related to these two variables.
Cell membrane
A bi-lipid layer of molecules that separates the cell from the surrounding extracellular fluid.
Central sulcus
The major fissure that divides the frontal and the parietal lobes.
Cerebellum
The distinctive structure at the back of the brain, Latin for “small brain.”
Cerebellum
A nervous system structure behind and below the cerebrum. Controls motor movement coordination, balance, equilibrium, and muscle tone.
Cerebral cortex
The outermost gray matter of the cerebrum; the distinctive convolutions characteristic of the mammalian brain.
Cerebral hemispheres
The cerebral cortex, underlying white matter, and subcortical structures.
Cerebrum
Usually refers to the cerebral cortex and associated white matter, but in some texts includes the subcortical structures.
Cerebrum
Consists of left and right hemispheres that sit at the top of the nervous system and engages in a variety of higher-order functions.
Chills
A feeling of goosebumps, usually on the arms, scalp, and neck, that is often experienced during moments of awe.
Chunk
The process of grouping information together using our knowledge.
Cingulate gyrus
A medial cortical portion of the nervous tissue that is a part of the limbic system.
Circadian Rhythm
Circadian Rhythm: The physiological sleep-wake cycle. It is influenced by exposure to sunlight as well as daily schedule and activity. Biologically, it includes changes in body temperature, blood pressure and blood sugar.
Classical conditioning
The procedure in which an initially neutral stimulus (the conditioned stimulus, or CS) is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (or US). The result is that the conditioned stimulus begins to elicit a conditioned response (CR). Classical conditioning is nowadays considered important as both a behavioral phenomenon and as a method to study simple associative learning. Same as Pavlovian conditioning.
Classical conditioning
Describes stimulus-stimulus associative learning.
Cochlea
Snail-shell-shaped organ that transduces mechanical vibrations into neural signals.
Cognitive psychology
The study of mental processes.
Commitment
The sense that a goal is both valuable and attainable
Computerized axial tomography
A noninvasive brain-scanning procedure that uses X-ray absorption around the head.
Concept
The mental representation of a category.
Conditioned aversions and preferences
Likes and dislikes developed through associations with pleasurable or unpleasurable sensations.
Conditioned compensatory response
In classical conditioning, a conditioned response that opposes, rather than is the same as, the unconditioned response. It functions to reduce the strength of the unconditioned response. Often seen in conditioning when drugs are used as unconditioned stimuli.
Conditioned response (CR)
The response that is elicited by the conditioned stimulus after classical conditioning has taken place.
Conditioned stimulus (CS)
An initially neutral stimulus (like a bell, light, or tone) that elicits a conditioned response after it has been associated with an unconditioned stimulus.
Cones
Photoreceptors that operate in lighted environments and can encode fine visual details. There are three different kinds (S or blue, M or green and L or red) that are each sensitive to slightly different types of light. Combined, these three types of cones allow you to have color vision.
Confidence interval
An interval of plausible values for a population parameter; the interval of values within the margin of error of a statistic.
Confounds
Factors that undermine the ability to draw causal inferences from an experiment.
Confusion
An emotion associated with conflicting and contrary information, such as when people appraise an event as unfamiliar and as hard to understand. Confusion motivates people to work through the perplexing information and thus fosters deeper learning.
Conscious
Having knowledge of something external or internal to oneself; being aware of and responding to one’s surroundings.
Conscious experience
The first-person perspective of a mental event, such as feeling some sensory input, a memory, an idea, an emotion, a mood, or a continuous temporal sequence of happenings.
Conscious goal activation
When a person is fully aware of contextual influences and resulting goal-directed behavior.
Consciousness
Awareness of ourselves and our environment.
Consciousness
Consciousness: the awareness or deliberate perception of a stimulus
Consolidation
Process by which a memory trace is stabilized and transformed into a more durable form.
Consolidation
The process occurring after encoding that is believed to stabilize memory traces.
Contemplative science
A research area concerned with understanding how contemplative practices such as meditation can affect individuals, including changes in their behavior, their emotional reactivity, their cognitive abilities, and their brains. Contemplative science also seeks insights into conscious experience that can be gained from first-person observations by individuals who have gained extraordinary expertise in introspection.
Context
Stimuli that are in the background whenever learning occurs. For instance, the Skinner box or room in which learning takes place is the classic example of a context. However, “context” can also be provided by internal stimuli, such as the sensory effects of drugs (e.g., being under the influence of alcohol has stimulus properties that provide a context) and mood states (e.g., being happy or sad). It can also be provided by a specific period in time—the passage of time is sometimes said to change the “temporal context.”
Contralateral
Literally “opposite side”; used to refer to the fact that the two hemispheres of the brain process sensory information and motor commands for the opposite side of the body (e.g., the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body).
Contrast
Relative difference in the amount and type of light coming from two nearby locations.
Contrast gain
Process where the sensitivity of your visual system can be tuned to be most sensitive to the levels of contrast that are most prevalent in the environment.
Converging evidence
Similar findings reported from multiple studies using different methods.
Coping potential
People's beliefs about their ability to handle challenges.
Coronal plane
A slice that runs from head to foot; brain slices in this plane are similar to slices of a loaf of bread, with the eyes being the front of the loaf.
Correlation
Measures the association between two variables, or how they go together.
Cue overload principle
The principle stating that the more memories that are associated to a particular retrieval cue, the less effective the cue will be in prompting retrieval of any one memory.
Cues
Cues: a stimulus that has a particular significance to the perceiver (e.g., a sight or a sound that has special relevance to the person who saw or heard it)
Daily Diary method
A methodology where participants complete a questionnaire about their thoughts, feelings, and behavior of the day at the end of the day.
Dark adaptation
Process that allows you to become sensitive to very small levels of light, so that you can actually see in the near-absence of light.
Day reconstruction method (DRM)
A methodology where participants describe their experiences and behavior of a given day retrospectively upon a systematic reconstruction on the following day.
Decay
The fading of memories with the passage of time.
Declarative memory
Conscious memories for facts and events.
Deliberative phase
The first of the two basic stages of self-regulation in which individuals decide which of many potential goals to pursue at a given point in time.
Dendrite
Part of a neuron that extends away from the cell body and is the main input to the neuron.
Dependent variable
The variable the researcher measures but does not manipulate in an experiment.
Depressants
Depressants: a class of drugs that slow down the body’s physiological and mental processes.
Dichotic listening
An experimental task in which two messages are presented to different ears.
Diffuse optical imaging (DOI)
A neuroimaging technique that infers brain activity by measuring changes in light as it is passed through the skull and surface of the brain.
Diffusion
The force on molecules to move from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration.
Discriminative stimulus
In operant conditioning, a stimulus that signals whether the response will be reinforced. It is said to “set the occasion” for the operant response.
Dissociation
Dissociation: the heightened focus on one stimulus or thought such that many other things around you are ignored; a disconnect between one’s awareness of their environment and the one object the person is focusing on
Dissociative amnesia
Loss of autobiographical memories from a period in the past in the absence of brain injury or disease.
Distinctiveness
The principle that unusual events (in a context of similar events) will be recalled and recognized better than uniform (nondistinctive) events.
Distractor task
A task that is designed to make a person think about something unrelated to an impending decision.
Distribution
The pattern of variation in data.
Divided attention
The ability to flexibly allocate attentional resources between two or more concurrent tasks.
Ecological momentary assessment
An overarching term to describe methodologies that repeatedly sample participants’ real-world experiences, behavior, and physiology in real time.
Ecological validity
The degree to which a study finding has been obtained under conditions that are typical for what happens in everyday life.
Ectoderm
The outermost layer of a developing fetus.
EEG
(Electroencephalography) The recording of the brain’s electrical activity over a period of time by placing electrodes on the scalp.
Efferent nerves
Nerves that carry messages from the brain to glands and organs in the periphery.
Ego-depletion
The exhaustion of physiological and/or psychological resources following the completion of effortful self-control tasks, which subsequently leads to reduction in the capacity to exert more self-control.
Electroencephalography
A technique that is used to measure gross electrical activity of the brain by placing electrodes on the scalp.
Electroencephalography (EEG)
A neuroimaging technique that measures electrical brain activity via multiple electrodes on the scalp.
Electronically activated recorder, or EAR
A methodology where participants wear a small, portable audio recorder that intermittently records snippets of ambient sounds around them.
Electrostatic pressure
The force on two ions with similar charge to repel each other; the force of two ions with opposite charge to attract to one another.
Empiricism
The belief that knowledge comes from experience.
Encoding
The pact of putting information into memory.
Encoding
Process by which information gets into memory.
Encoding
The initial experience of perceiving and learning events.
Encoding specificity principle
The hypothesis that a retrieval cue will be effective to the extent that information encoded from the cue overlaps or matches information in the engram or memory trace.
Engrams
A term indicating the change in the nervous system representing an event; also, memory trace.
Episodic memory
Memory for events in a particular time and place.
Eugenics
The practice of selective breeding to promote desired traits.
Euphoria
Euphoria: an intense feeling of pleasure, excitement or happiness.
Eureka experience
When a creative product enters consciousness.
A physiological measure of large electrical change in the brain produced by sensory stimulation or motor responses.
Excitatory postsynaptic potentials
A depolarizing postsynaptic current that causes the membrane potential to become more positive and move towards the threshold of excitation.
Exemplar
An example in memory that is labeled as being in a particular category.
Experience-sampling method
A methodology where participants report on their momentary thoughts, feelings, and behaviors at different points in time over the course of a day.
Experimenter expectations
When the experimenter’s expectations influence the outcome of a study.
External validity
The degree to which a finding generalizes from the specific sample and context of a study to some larger population and broader settings.
Extinction
Decrease in the strength of a learned behavior that occurs when the conditioned stimulus is presented without the unconditioned stimulus (in classical conditioning) or when the behavior is no longer reinforced (in instrumental conditioning). The term describes both the procedure (the US or reinforcer is no longer presented) as well as the result of the procedure (the learned response declines). Behaviors that have been reduced in strength through extinction are said to be “extinguished.”
Extrinsic motivation
Motivation stemming from the benefits associated with achieving a goal such as obtaining a monetary reward.
Facial expressions
Part of the expressive component of emotions, facial expressions of emotion communicate inner feelings to others.
Fear conditioning
A type of classical or Pavlovian conditioning in which the conditioned stimulus (CS) is associated with an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US), such as a foot shock. As a consequence of learning, the CS comes to evoke fear. The phenomenon is thought to be involved in the development of anxiety disorders in humans.
First-person perspective
Observations made by individuals about their own conscious experiences, also known as introspection or a subjective point of view. Phenomenology refers to the description and investigation of such observations.
Flashbulb memory
A highly detailed and vivid memory of an emotionally significant event.
Flashbulb memory
Vivid personal memories of receiving the news of some momentous (and usually emotional) event.
Flexible Correction Model
Flexible Correction Model: the ability for people to correct or change their beliefs and evaluations if they believe these judgments have been biased (e.g., if someone realizes they only thought their day was great because it was sunny, they may revise their evaluation of the day to account for this “biasing” influence of the weather)
Forebrain
A part of the nervous system that contains the cerebral hemispheres, thalamus, and hypothalamus.
Fornix
(plural form, fornices) A nerve fiber tract that connects the hippocampus to mammillary bodies.
Framing
The bias to be systematically affected by the way in which information is presented, while holding the objective information constant.
Frontal lobe
The front most (anterior) part of the cerebrum; anterior to the central sulcus and responsible for motor output and planning, language, judgment, and decision-making.
Frontal lobe
The most forward region (close to forehead) of the cerebral hemispheres.
Full-cycle psychology
A scientific approach whereby researchers start with an observational field study to identify an effect in the real world, follow up with laboratory experimentation to verify the effect and isolate the causal mechanisms, and return to field research to corroborate their experimental findings.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging
(or fMRI) A noninvasive brain-imaging technique that registers changes in blood flow in the brain during a given task (also see magnetic resonance imaging).
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): A neuroimaging technique that infers brain activity by measuring changes in oxygen levels in the blood.
Functionalism
A school of American psychology that focused on the utility of consciousness.
F​unctionalist theories of emotion
Theories of emotion that emphasize the adaptive role of an emotion in handling common problems throughout evolutionary history.
Generalizability
Related to whether the results from the sample can be generalized to a larger population.
Generalize
Generalizing, in science, refers to the ability to arrive at broad conclusions based on a smaller sample of observations. For these conclusions to be true the sample should accurately represent the larger population from which it is drawn.
Gestalt psychology
An attempt to study the unity of experience.
Globus pallidus
A nucleus of the basal ganglia.
Goal
The cognitive representation of a desired state (outcome).
Goal-directed behavior
Instrumental behavior that is influenced by the animal’s knowledge of the association between the behavior and its consequence and the current value of the consequence. Sensitive to the reinforcer devaluation effect.
Gray matter
The outer grayish regions of the brain comprised of the neurons’ cell bodies.
Gray matter
Composes the bark or the cortex of the cerebrum and consists of the cell bodies of the neurons (see also white matter).
Gustation
The action of tasting; the ability to taste.
Gyri
(plural) Folds between sulci in the cortex.
Gyrus
A fold between sulci in the cortex.
Gyrus
(plural form, gyri) A bulge that is raised between or among fissures of the convoluted brain.
Habit
Instrumental behavior that occurs automatically in the presence of a stimulus and is no longer influenced by the animal’s knowledge of the value of the reinforcer. Insensitive to the reinforcer devaluation effect.
Habituation
Occurs when the response to a stimulus decreases with exposure.
Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens: substances that, when ingested, alter a person’s perceptions, often by creating hallucinations that are not real or distorting their perceptions of time.
Heritability coefficient
An easily misinterpreted statistical construct that purports to measure the role of genetics in the explanation of differences among individuals.
Heuristics
cognitive (or thinking) strategies that simplify decision making by using mental short-cuts
Highlighting a goal
Prioritizing a focal goal over other goals or temptations by putting more effort into the focal goal.
Hippocampus
(plural form, hippocampi) A nucleus inside (medial) the temporal lobe implicated in learning and memory.
Homo habilis
A human ancestor, handy man, that lived two million years ago.
Homo sapiens
Modern man, the only surviving form of the genus Homo.
Horizontal plane
A slice that runs horizontally through a standing person (i.e., parallel to the floor); slices of brain in this plane divide the top and bottom parts of the brain; this plane is similar to slicing a hamburger bun.
Hypnosis
Hypnosis: the state of consciousness whereby a person is highly responsive to the suggestions of another; this state usually involves a dissociation with one’s environment and an intense focus on a single stimulus, which is usually accompanied by a sense of relaxation
Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy: The use of hypnotic techniques such as relaxation and suggestion to help engineer desirable change such as lower pain or quitting smoking.
Hypothalamus
Part of the diencephalon. Regulates biological drives with pituitary gland.
Immunocytochemistry
A method of staining tissue including the brain, using antibodies.
Impasse-driven learning
An approach to instruction that motivates active learning by having learners work through perplexing barriers.
Implemental phase
The second of the two basic stages of self-regulation in which individuals plan specific actions related to their selected goal.
Implicit Associations Test
Implicit Associations Test (IAT): A computer reaction time test that measures a person’s automatic associations with concepts. For instance, the IAT could be used to measure how quickly a person makes positive or negative evaluations of members of various ethnic groups.
Implicit learning
Occurs when we acquire information without intent that we cannot easily express.
Implicit memory
A type of long-term memory that does not require conscious thought to encode. It's the type of memory one makes without intent.
Inattentional blindness
The failure to notice a fully visible object when attention is devoted to something else.
Incidental learning
Any type of learning that happens without the intention to learn.
Independent variable
The variable the researcher manipulates and controls in an experiment.
Individual differences
Ways in which people differ in terms of their behavior, emotion, cognition, and development.
Inhibitory postsynaptic potentials
A hyperpolarizing postsynaptic current that causes the membrane potential to become more negative and move away from the threshold of excitation.
Instrumental conditioning
Process in which animals learn about the relationship between their behaviors and their consequences. Also known as operant conditioning.
Intentional learning
Any type of learning that happens when motivated by intention.
Interaural differences
Differences (usually in time or intensity) between the two ears.
Interest
An emotion associated with curiosity and intrigue, interest motivates engaging with new things and learning more about them. It is one of the earliest emotions to develop and a resource for intrinsically motivated learning across the life span.
Interference
Other memories get in the way of retrieving a desired memory
Internal validity
The degree to which a cause-effect relationship between two variables has been unambiguously established.
Intrinsic motivation
Motivation stemming from the benefits associated with the process of pursuing a goal such as having a fulfilling experience.
Intrinsically motivated learning
Learning that is “for its own sake”—such as learning motivated by curiosity and wonder—instead of learning to gain rewards or social approval.
Introspection
A method of focusing on internal processes.
Ion channels
Proteins that span the cell membrane, forming channels that specific ions can flow through between the intracellular and extracellular space.
Ionotropic receptor
Ion channel that opens to allow ions to permeate the cell membrane under specific conditions, such as the presence of a neurotransmitter or a specific membrane potential.
Jet Lag
Jet Lag: The state of being fatigued and/or having difficulty adjusting to a new time zone after traveling a long distance (across multiple time zones).
Knowledge emotion​s
A family of emotions associated with learning, reflecting, and exploring. These emotions come about when unexpected and unfamiliar events happen in the environment. Broadly speaking, they motivate people to explore unfamiliar things, which builds knowledge and expertise over the long run.
Lateral geniculate nucleus
(or LGN) A nucleus in the thalamus that is innervated by the optic nerves and sends signals to the visual cortex in the occipital lobe.
Lateral inhibition
A signal produced by a neuron aimed at suppressing the response of nearby neurons.
Lateral sulcus
The major fissure that delineates the temporal lobe below the frontal and the parietal lobes.
Lateralized
To the side; used to refer to the fact that specific functions may reside primarily in one hemisphere or the other (e.g., for the majority individuals, the left hemisphere is most responsible for language).
Law of effect
The idea that instrumental or operant responses are influenced by their effects. Responses that are followed by a pleasant state of affairs will be strengthened and those that are followed by discomfort will be weakened. Nowadays, the term refers to the idea that operant or instrumental behaviors are lawfully controlled by their consequences.
Lesion
A region in the brain that suffered damage through injury, disease, or medical intervention.
Lesion studies
A surgical method in which a part of the animal brain is removed to study its effects on behavior or function.
Limbic system
Includes the subcortical structures of the amygdala and hippocampal formation as well as some cortical structures; responsible for aversion and gratification.
Limbic system
A loosely defined network of nuclei in the brain involved with learning and emotion.
Limited capacity
The notion that humans have limited mental resources that can be used at a given time.
Linguistic inquiry and word count
A quantitative text analysis methodology that automatically extracts grammatical and psychological information from a text by counting word frequencies.
Lived day analysis
A methodology where a research team follows an individual around with a video camera to objectively document a person’s daily life as it is lived.
Longitudinal study
A study that follows the same group of individuals over time.
Magnetic resonance imaging
Or MRI is a brain imaging noninvasive technique that uses magnetic energy to generate brain images (also see fMRI).
Magnification factor
Cortical space projected by an area of sensory input (e.g., mm of cortex per degree of visual field).
Margin of error
The expected amount of random variation in a statistic; often defined for 95% confidence level.
Medial temporal lobes
Inner region of the temporal lobes that includes the hippocampus.
Medulla oblongata
An area just above the spinal cord that processes breathing, digestion, heart and blood vessel function, swallowing, and sneezing.
Melatonin
Melatonin: A hormone associated with increased drowsiness and sleep.
Memory traces
A term indicating the change in the nervous system representing an event.
Mere-exposure effects
The result of developing a more positive attitude towards a stimulus after repeated instances of mere exposure to it.
Metabolite
A substance necessary for a living organism to maintain life.
Metacognition
Describes the knowledge and skills people have in monitoring and controlling their own learning and memory.
Mindfulness
Mindfulness: a state of heightened focus on the thoughts passing through one’s head, as well as a more controlled evaluation of those thoughts (e.g., do you reject or support the thoughts you’re having?)
Misinformation effect
When erroneous information occurring after an event is remembered as having been part of the original event.
Mnemonic devices
A strategy for remembering large amounts of information, usually involving imaging events occurring on a journey or with some other set of memorized cues.
Motivation
The psychological driving force that enables action in the course of goal pursuit.
Motor cortex
Region of the frontal lobe responsible for voluntary movement; the motor cortex has a contralateral representation of the human body.
Myelin
Fatty tissue, produced by glial cells (see module, “Neurons”) that insulates the axons of the neurons; myelin is necessary for normal conduction of electrical impulses among neurons.
Myelin sheath
Substance around the axon of a neuron that serves as insulation to allow the action potential to conduct rapidly toward the terminal buttons.
Neural crest
A set of primordial neurons that migrate outside the neural tube and give rise to sensory and autonomic neurons in the peripheral nervous system.
Neural impulse
An electro-chemical signal that enables neurons to communicate.
Neural induction
A process that causes the formation of the neural tube.
Neuroblasts
Brain progenitor cells that asymmetrically divide into other neuroblasts or nerve cells.
Neuroepithelium
The lining of the neural tube.
Neurotransmitters
Chemical substance released by the presynaptic terminal button that acts on the postsynaptic cell.
Nomenclature
Naming conventions.
Nonassociative learning
Occurs when a single repeated exposure leads to a change in behavior.
Nonconscious goal activation
When activation occurs outside a person’s awareness, such that the person is unaware of the reasons behind her goal-directed thoughts and behaviors.
Nucleus
Collection of nerve cells found in the brain which typically serve a specific function.
Observational learning
Learning by observing the behavior of others.
Occipital lobe
The back part of the cerebrum, which houses the visual areas.
Occipital lobe
The back most (posterior) part of the cerebrum; involved in vision.
Olfaction
The sense of smell; the action of smelling; the ability to smell.
Omnivore
A person or animal that is able to survive by eating a wide range of foods from plant or animal origin.
O​penness to experience
One of the five major factors of personality, this trait is associated with higher curiosity, creativity, emotional breadth, and open-mindedness. People high in openness to experience are more likely to experience interest and awe.
Operant
A behavior that is controlled by its consequences. The simplest example is the rat’s lever-pressing, which is controlled by the presentation of the reinforcer.
Operant conditioning
Describes stimulus-response associative learning.
Operant conditioning
See instrumental conditioning.
Operational definitions
How researchers specifically measure a concept.
Opponent Process Theory
Theory of color vision that assumes there are four different basic colors, organized into two pairs (red/green and blue/yellow) and proposes that colors in the world are encoded in terms of the opponency (or difference) between the colors in each pair. There is an additional black/white pair responsible for coding light contrast.
Orthonasal olfaction
Perceiving scents/smells introduced via the nostrils.
Overconfident
The bias to have greater confidence in your judgment than is warranted based on a rational assessment.
Parameter
A numerical result summarizing a population (e.g., mean, proportion).
Parasympathetic nervous system
A division of the autonomic nervous system that is slower than its counterpart—that is, the sympathetic nervous system—and works in opposition to it. Generally engaged in “rest and digest” functions.
Parietal lobe
The part of the cerebrum between the frontal and occipital lobes; involved in bodily sensations, visual attention, and integrating the senses.
Parietal lobe
An area of the cerebrum just behind the central sulcus that is engaged with somatosensory and gustatory sensation.
Participant demand
When participants behave in a way that they think the experimenter wants them to behave.
Pavlovian conditioning
See classical conditioning.
Perceptual learning
Occurs when aspects of our perception changes as a function of experience.
Photoactivation
A photochemical reaction that occurs when light hits photoreceptors, producing a neural signal.
Phrenology
A now-discredited field of brain study, popular in the first half of the 19th century that correlated bumps and indentations of the skull with specific functions of the brain.
Pinna
Visible part of the outer ear.
Placebo effect
When receiving special treatment or something new affects human behavior.
Pons
A bridge that connects the cerebral cortex with the medulla, and reciprocally transfers information back and forth between the brain and the spinal cord.
Population
A larger collection of individuals that we would like to generalize our results to.
Positron Emission Tomography
(or PET) An invasive procedure that captures brain images with positron emissions from the brain after the individual has been injected with radio-labeled isotopes.
Positron emission tomography (PET)
A neuroimaging technique that measures brain activity by detecting the presence of a radioactive substance in the brain that is initially injected into the bloodstream and then pulled in by active brain tissue.
Practitioner-Scholar Model
A model of training of professional psychologists that emphasizes clinical practice.
Prediction error
When the outcome of a conditioning trial is different from that which is predicted by the conditioned stimuli that are present on the trial (i.e., when the US is surprising). Prediction error is necessary to create Pavlovian conditioning (and associative learning generally). As learning occurs over repeated conditioning trials, the conditioned stimulus increasingly predicts the unconditioned stimulus, and prediction error declines. Conditioning works to correct or reduce prediction error.
Preparedness
The idea that an organism’s evolutionary history can make it easy to learn a particular association. Because of preparedness, you are more likely to associate the taste of tequila, and not the circumstances surrounding drinking it, with getting sick. Similarly, humans are more likely to associate images of spiders and snakes than flowers and mushrooms with aversive outcomes like shocks.
Prevention focus
One of two self-regulatory orientations emphasizing safety, responsibility, and security needs, and viewing goals as “oughts.” This self-regulatory focus seeks to avoid losses (the presence of negatives) and approach non-losses (the absence of negatives).
Primary Motor Cortex
A strip of cortex just in front of the central sulcus that is involved with motor control.
Primary Somatosensory Cortex
A strip of cerebral tissue just behind the central sulcus engaged in sensory reception of bodily sensations.
Primary visual cortex (V1)
Brain region located in the occipital cortex (toward the back of the head) responsible for processing basic visual information like the detection, thickness, and orientation of simple lines, color, and small-scale motion.
Priming
Priming: the activation of certain thoughts or feelings that make them easier to think of and act upon
Progress
The perception of reducing the discrepancy between one’s current state and one’s desired state in goal pursuit.
Promotion focus
One of two self-regulatory orientations emphasizing hopes, accomplishments, and advancement needs, and viewing goals as “ideals.” This self-regulatory focus seeks to approach gains (the presence of positives) and avoid non-gains (the absence of positives).
Psychological essentialism
The belief that members of a category have an unseen property that causes them to be in the category and to have the properties associated with it.
Psychophysics
Study of the relationships between physical stimuli and the perception of those stimuli.
Punisher
A stimulus that decreases the strength of an operant behavior when it is made a consequence of the behavior.
P-value
The probability of observing a particular outcome in a sample, or more extreme, under a conjecture about the larger population or process.
Quantitative genetics
Scientific and mathematical methods for inferring genetic and environmental processes based on the degree of genetic and environmental similarity among organisms.
Quantitative law of effect
A mathematical rule that states that the effectiveness of a reinforcer at strengthening an operant response depends on the amount of reinforcement earned for all alternative behaviors. A reinforcer is less effective if there is a lot of reinforcement in the environment for other behaviors.
Quasi-experimental design
An experiment that does not require random assignment to conditions.
Random assignment
Assigning participants to receive different conditions of an experiment by chance.
Random assignment
Using a probability-based method to divide a sample into treatment groups.
Random sampling
Using a probability-based method to select a subset of individuals for the sample from the population.
Realism
A point of view that emphasizes the importance of the senses in providing knowledge of the external world.
Recoding
The ubiquitous process during learning of taking information in one form and converting it to another form, usually one more easily remembered.
Reinforcer
Any consequence of a behavior that strengthens the behavior or increases the likelihood that it will be performed it again.
Reinforcer devaluation effect
The finding that an animal will stop performing an instrumental response that once led to a reinforcer if the reinforcer is separately made aversive or undesirable.
Renewal effect
Recovery of an extinguished response that occurs when the context is changed after extinction. Especially strong when the change of context involves return to the context in which conditioning originally occurred. Can occur after extinction in either classical or instrumental conditioning.
Resting membrane potential
The voltage inside the cell relative to the voltage outside the cell while the cell is a rest (approximately -70 mV).
Retrieval
The process of accessing stored information.
Retrieval
Process by which information is accessed from memory and utilized.
Retroactive interference
The phenomenon whereby events that occur after some particular event of interest will usually cause forgetting of the original event.
Retrograde amnesia
Inability to retrieve memories for facts and events acquired before the onset of amnesia.
Retronasal olfaction
Perceiving scents/smells introduced via the mouth/palate.
Rods
Photoreceptors that are very sensitive to light and are mostly responsible for night vision.
Rostrocaudal
A front-back plane used to identify anatomical structures in the body and the brain.
Sagittal plane
A slice that runs vertically from front to back; slices of brain in this plane divide the left and right side of the brain; this plane is similar to slicing a baked potato lengthwise.
Sample
The collection of individuals on which we collect data.
Scientist-practitioner model
A model of training of professional psychologists that emphasizes the development of both research and clinical skills.
Selective attention
The ability to select certain stimuli in the environment to process, while ignoring distracting information.
Self-control
The capacity to control impulses, emotions, desires, and actions in order to resist a temptation and adhere to a valued goal.
Self-regulation
The processes through which individuals alter their emotions, desires, and actions in the course of pursuing a goal.
Semantic memory
The more or less permanent store of knowledge that people have.
Sensitization
Occurs when the response to a stimulus increases with exposure
Shadowing
A task in which the individual is asked to repeat an auditory message as it is presented.
Social Learning Theory
The theory that people can learn new responses and behaviors by observing the behavior of others.
Social models
Authorities that are the targets for observation and who model behaviors.
Sodium-potassium pump
An ion channel that uses the neuron’s energy (adenosine triphosphate, ATP) to pump three Na+ ions outside the cell in exchange for bringing two K+ ions inside the cell.
Soma
Cell body of a neuron that contains the nucleus and genetic information, and directs protein synthesis.
Somatic nervous system
A part of the peripheral nervous system that uses cranial and spinal nerves in volitional actions.
Somatosensory (body sensations) cortex
The region of the parietal lobe responsible for bodily sensations; the somatosensory cortex has a contralateral representation of the human body.
Spatial resolution
A term that refers to how small the elements of an image are; high spatial resolution means the device or technique can resolve very small elements; in neuroscience it describes how small of a structure in the brain can be imaged.
Spina bifida
A developmental disease of the spinal cord, where the neural tube does not close caudally.
Spines
Protrusions on the dendrite of a neuron that form synapses with terminal buttons of the presynaptic axon.
Split-brain patient
A patient who has had most or all of his or her corpus callosum severed.
Spontaneous recovery
Recovery of an extinguished response that occurs with the passage of time after extinction. Can occur after extinction in either classical or instrumental conditioning.
Statistic
A numerical result computed from a sample (e.g., mean, proportion).
Statistical significance
A result is statistically significant if it is unlikely to arise by chance alone.
Stimulants
Stimulants: a class of drugs that speed up the body’s physiological and mental processes.
Stimulus control
When an operant behavior is controlled by a stimulus that precedes it.
Storage
The stage in the learning/memory process that bridges encoding and retrieval; the persistence of memory over time.
Structuralism
A school of American psychology that sought to describe the elements of conscious experience.
Subcortical
Structures that lie beneath the cerebral cortex, but above the brain stem.
Subliminal perception
The ability to process information for meaning when the individual is not consciously aware of that information.
Sulci
(plural) Grooves separating folds of the cortex.
Sulcus
(plural form, sulci) The crevices or fissures formed by convolutions in the brain.
Sulcus
A groove separating folds of the cortex.
Surprise
An emotion rooted in expectancy violation that orients people toward the unexpected event.
Sympathetic nervous system
A division of the autonomic nervous system, that is faster than its counterpart that is the parasympathetic nervous system and works in opposition to it. Generally engaged in “fight or flight” functions.
Synapse
Junction between the presynaptic terminal button of one neuron and the dendrite, axon, or soma of another postsynaptic neuron.
Synaptic gap
Also known as the synaptic cleft; the small space between the presynaptic terminal button and the postsynaptic dendritic spine, axon, or soma.
Synaptic vesicles
Groups of neurotransmitters packaged together and located within the terminal button.
Synesthesia
The blending of two or more sensory experiences, or the automatic activation of a secondary (indirect) sensory experience due to certain aspects of the primary (direct) sensory stimulation.
System 1
Our intuitive decision-making system, which is typically fast, automatic, effortless, implicit, and emotional.
System 2
Our more deliberative decision-making system, which is slower, conscious, effortful, explicit, and logical.
Taste aversion learning
The phenomenon in which a taste is paired with sickness, and this causes the organism to reject—and dislike—that taste in the future.
Temporal lobe
The part of the cerebrum in front of (anterior to) the occipital lobe and below the lateral fissure; involved in vision, auditory processing, memory, and integrating vision and audition.
Temporal lobe
An area of the cerebrum that lies below the lateral sulcus; it contains auditory and olfactory (smell) projection regions.
Temporal resolution
A term that refers to how small a unit of time can be measured; high temporal resolution means capable of resolving very small units of time; in neuroscience it describes how precisely in time a process can be measured in the brain.
Temporally graded ​​retrograde amnesia
Inability to retrieve memories from just prior to the onset of amnesia with intact memory for more remote events.
Terminal button
The part of the end of the axon that form synapses with postsynaptic dendrite, axon, or soma.
Thalamus
A part of the diencephalon that works as a gateway for incoming and outgoing information.
Third-person perspective
Observations made by individuals in a way that can be independently confirmed by other individuals so as to lead to general, objective understanding. With respect to consciousness, third-person perspectives make use of behavioral and neural measures related to conscious experiences.
Threshold of excitation
Specific membrane potential that the neuron must reach to initiate an action potential.
Tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon
The inability to pull a word from memory even though there is the sensation that that word is available.
Trait curiosity
Stable individual-differences in how easily and how often people become curious.
Trance States
Trance: a state of consciousness characterized by the experience of “out-of-body possession,” or an acute dissociation between one’s self and the current, physical environment surrounding them.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)
A neuroscience technique that passes mild electrical current directly through a brain area by placing small electrodes on the skull.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
A neuroscience technique whereby a brief magnetic pulse is applied to the head that temporarily induces a weak electrical current that interferes with ongoing activity.
Transduction
A process in which physical energy converts into neural energy.
Transfer-appropriate processing
A principle that states that memory performance is superior when a test taps the same cognitive processes as the original encoding activity.
Transverse plane
See “horizontal plane.”
Trichromacy theory
Theory that proposes that all of your color perception is fundamentally based on the combination of three (not two, not four) different color signals.
Twin studies
A behavior genetic research method that involves comparison of the similarity of identical (monozygotic; MZ) and fraternal (dizygotic; DZ) twins.
Tympanic membrane
Ear drum, which separates the outer ear from the middle ear.
Typicality
The difference in “goodness” of category members, ranging from the most typical (the prototype) to borderline members.
Unconditioned response (UR)
In classical conditioning, an innate response that is elicited by a stimulus before (or in the absence of) conditioning.
Unconditioned stimulus (US)
In classical conditioning, the stimulus that elicits the response before conditioning occurs.
Unconscious
Not conscious; the part of the mind that affects behavior though it is inaccessible to the conscious mind.
Vestibulo-ocular reflex
Coordination of motion information with visual information that allows you to maintain your gaze on an object while you move.
Vicarious reinforcement
Learning that occurs by observing the reinforcement or punishment of another person.
Visual hemifield
The half of visual space (what we see) on one side of fixation (where we are looking); the left hemisphere is responsible for the right visual hemifield, and the right hemisphere is responsible for the left visual hemifield.
Wernicke’s area
A language area in the temporal lobe where linguistic information is comprehended (Also see Broca’s area).
What pathway
Pathway of neural processing in the brain that is responsible for your ability to recognize what is around you.
Where-and-How pathway
Pathway of neural processing in the brain that is responsible for you knowing where things are in the world and how to interact with them.
White coat hypertension
A phenomenon in which patients exhibit elevated blood pressure in the hospital or doctor’s office but not in their everyday lives.
White matter
The inner whitish regions of the cerebrum comprised of the myelinated axons of neurons in the cerebral cortex.
White matter
Regions of the nervous system that represent the axons of the nerve cells; whitish in color because of myelination of the nerve cells.
Working memory
Short transitory memory processed in the hippocampus.
Working memory
The form of memory we use to hold onto information temporarily, usually for the purposes of manipulation.