Vocabulary

Ablation
Surgical removal of brain tissue.
Acceptance and commitment therapy
A therapeutic approach designed to foster nonjudgmental observation of one’s own mental processes.
Adaptation
The fact that after people first react to good or bad events, sometimes in a strong way, their feelings and reactions tend to dampen down over time and they return toward their original level of subjective well-being.
Adaptations
Evolved solutions to problems that historically contributed to reproductive success.
Adherence
In health, it is the ability of a patient to maintain a health behavior prescribed by a physician. This might include taking medication as prescribed, exercising more, or eating less high-fat food.
Adoption study
A behavior genetic research method that involves comparison of adopted children to their adoptive and biological parents.
Affect
Feelings that can be described in terms of two dimensions, the dimensions of arousal and valence (Figure 2). For example, high arousal positive states refer to excitement, elation, and enthusiasm. Low arousal positive states refer to calm, peacefulness, and relaxation. Whereas “actual affect” refers to the states that people actually feel, “ideal affect” refers to the states that people ideally want to feel.
Affective forecasting
Predicting how one will feel in the future after some event or decision.
Afferent nerves
Nerves that carry messages to the brain or spinal cord.
Age identity
How old or young people feel compared to their chronological age; after early adulthood, most people feel younger than their chronological age.
Agender
An individual who may have no gender or may describe themselves as having a neutral gender.
Agnosias
Due to damage of Wernicke’s area. An inability to recognize objects, words, or faces.
Agonists
A drug that increases or enhances a neurotransmitter’s effect.
Agoraphobia
A sort of anxiety disorder distinguished by feelings that a place is uncomfortable or may be unsafe because it is significantly open or crowded.
Agreeableness
A personality trait that reflects a person’s tendency to be compassionate, cooperative, warm, and caring to others. People low in agreeableness tend to be rude, hostile, and to pursue their own interests over those of others.
Alogia
A reduction in the amount of speech and/or increased pausing before the initiation of speech.
Ambivalent sexism
A concept of gender attitudes that encompasses both positive and negative qualities.
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.
Anhedonia
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities one previously found enjoyable or rewarding.
Anhedonia/amotivation
A reduction in the drive or ability to take the steps or engage in actions necessary to obtain the potentially positive outcome.
Antagonist
A drug that blocks a neurotransmitter’s effect.
Antisocial
A pervasive pattern of disregard and violation of the rights of others. These behaviors may be aggressive or destructive and may involve breaking laws or rules, deceit or theft.
Anxiety
A mood state characterized by negative affect, muscle tension, and physical arousal in which a person apprehensively anticipates future danger or misfortune.
Aphasia
Due to damage of the Broca’s area. An inability to produce or understand words.
Arcuate fasciculus
A fiber tract that connects Wernicke’s and Broca’s speech areas.
Attitude
A psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor.
Attributional style
The tendency by which a person infers the cause or meaning of behaviors or events.
Audience design
Constructing utterances to suit the audience’s knowledge.
Authoritative
A parenting style characterized by high (but reasonable) expectations for children’s behavior, good communication, warmth and nurturance, and the use of reasoning (rather than coercion) as preferred responses to children’s misbehavior.
Autobiographical memory
Memory for the events of one’s life.
Autobiographical narratives
A qualitative research method used to understand characteristics and life themes that an individual considers to uniquely distinguish him- or herself from others.
Autobiographical reasoning
The ability, typically developed in adolescence, to derive substantive conclusions about the self from analyzing one’s own personal experiences.
Automatic
A behavior or process has one or more of the following features: unintentional, uncontrollable, occurring outside of conscious awareness, and cognitively efficient.
Automatic bias
Automatic biases are unintended, immediate, and irresistible.
Automatic thoughts
Thoughts that occur spontaneously; often used to describe problematic thoughts that maintain mental disorders.
Autonomic nervous system
A part of the peripheral nervous system that connects to glands and smooth muscles. Consists of sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions.
Availability heuristic
A heuristic in which the frequency or likelihood of an event is evaluated based on how easily instances of it come to mind.
Average life expectancy
Mean number of years that 50% of people in a specific birth cohort are expected to survive. This is typically calculated from birth but is also sometimes re-calculated for people who have already reached a particular age (e.g., 65).
Aversive racism
Aversive racism is unexamined racial bias that the person does not intend and would reject, but that avoids inter-racial contact.
Avoidant
A pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation.
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.
Axial plane
See “horizontal plane.”
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.
Behavioral genetics
The empirical science of how genes and environments combine to generate behavior.
Behavioral medicine
A field similar to health psychology that integrates psychological factors (e.g., emotion, behavior, cognition, and social factors) in the treatment of disease. This applied field includes clinical areas of study, such as occupational therapy, hypnosis, rehabilitation or medicine, and preventative medicine.
Benevolent sexism
The “positive” element of ambivalent sexism, which recognizes that women are perceived as needing to be protected, supported, and adored by men.
Biases
The systematic and predictable mistakes that influence the judgment of even very talented human beings.
Big Five
Five, broad general traits that are included in many prominent models of personality. The five traits are neuroticism (those high on this trait are prone to feeling sad, worried, anxious, and dissatisfied with themselves), extraversion (high scorers are friendly, assertive, outgoing, cheerful, and energetic), openness to experience (those high on this trait are tolerant, intellectually curious, imaginative, and artistic), agreeableness (high scorers are polite, considerate, cooperative, honest, and trusting), and conscientiousness (those high on this trait are responsible, cautious, organized, disciplined, and achievement-oriented).
Big Five
A broad taxonomy of personality trait domains repeatedly derived from studies of trait ratings in adulthood and encompassing the categories of (1) extraversion vs. introversion, (2) neuroticism vs. emotional stability, (3) agreeable vs. disagreeableness, (4) conscientiousness vs. nonconscientiousness, and (5) openness to experience vs. conventionality. By late childhood and early adolescence, people’s self-attributions of personality traits, as well as the trait attributions made about them by others, show patterns of intercorrelations that confirm with the five-factor structure obtained in studies of adults.
Bigender
An individual who identifies as two genders.
Binary
The idea that gender has two separate and distinct categories (male and female) and that a person must be either one or the other.
Binocular advantage
Benefits from having two eyes as opposed to a single eye.
Biofeedback
The process by which physiological signals, not normally available to human perception, are transformed into easy-to-understand graphs or numbers. Individuals can then use this information to try to change bodily functioning (e.g., lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension).
Biological vulnerability
A specific genetic and neurobiological factor that might predispose someone to develop anxiety disorders.
Biomedical Model of Health
A reductionist model that posits that ill health is a result of a deviation from normal function, which is explained by the presence of pathogens, injury, or genetic abnormality.
Biopsychosocial Model of Health
An approach to studying health and human function that posits the importance of biological, psychological, and social (or environmental) processes.
Blatant biases
Blatant biases are conscious beliefs, feelings, and behavior that people are perfectly willing to admit, are mostly hostile, and openly favor their own group.
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.
Borderline
A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity.
“Bottom-up” or external causes of happiness
Situational factors outside the person that influence his or her subjective well-being, such as good and bad events and circumstances such as health and wealth.
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.
Catatonia
Behaviors that seem to reflect a reduction in responsiveness to the external environment. This can include holding unusual postures for long periods of time, failing to respond to verbal or motor prompts from another person, or excessive and seemingly purposeless motor activity.
Categorize
To sort or arrange different items into classes or categories.
Central route to persuasion
Persuasion that employs direct, relevant, logical messages.
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.
Chameleon effect
The tendency for individuals to nonconsciously mimic the postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviors of one’s interaction partners.
Chronic disease
A health condition that persists over time, typically for periods longer than three months (e.g., HIV, asthma, diabetes).
Chronic stress
Discrete or related problematic events and conditions which persist over time and result in prolonged activation of the biological and/or psychological stress response (e.g., unemployment, ongoing health difficulties, marital discord).
Chutes and Ladders
A numerical board game that seems to be useful for building numerical knowledge.
Cingulate gyrus
A medial cortical portion of the nervous tissue that is a part of the limbic system.
Cisgender
A term used to describe individuals whose gender matches their biological sex.
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.
Cochlea
Snail-shell-shaped organ that transduces mechanical vibrations into neural signals.
Cognitive bias modification
Using exercises (e.g., computer games) to change problematic thinking habits.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
A family of approaches with the goal of changing the thoughts and behaviors that influence psychopathology.
Cohort
Group of people typically born in the same year or historical period, who share common experiences over time; sometimes called a generation (e.g., Baby Boom Generation).
Commitment
The sense that a goal is both valuable and attainable
Common ground
Information that is shared by people who engage in a conversation.
Comorbidity
Describes a state of having more than one psychological or physical disorder at a given time.
Computerized axial tomography
A noninvasive brain-scanning procedure that uses X-ray absorption around the head.
Concrete operations stage
Piagetian stage between ages 7 and 12 when children can think logically about concrete situations but not engage in systematic scientific reasoning.
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
A learned reaction following classical conditioning, or the process by which an event that automatically elicits a response is repeatedly paired with another neutral stimulus (conditioned stimulus), resulting in the ability of the neutral stimulus to elicit the same response on its own.
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.
Conformity
Changing one’s attitude or behavior to match a perceived social norm.
Confounds
Factors that undermine the ability to draw causal inferences from an experiment.
Conscience
The cognitive, emotional, and social influences that cause young children to create and act consistently with internal standards of conduct.
Conscientiousness
A personality trait that reflects a person’s tendency to be careful, organized, hardworking, and to follow rules.
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.
Conservation problems
Problems pioneered by Piaget in which physical transformation of an object or set of objects changes a perceptually salient dimension but not the quantity that is being asked about.
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.”
Continuous development
Ways in which development occurs in a gradual incremental manner, rather than through sudden jumps.
Continuous distributions
Characteristics can go from low to high, with all different intermediate values possible. One does not simply have the trait or not have it, but can possess varying amounts of it.
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.
Control
Feeling like you have the power to change your environment or behavior if you need or want to.
Converging evidence
Similar findings reported from multiple studies using different methods.
Convoy Model of Social Relations
Theory that proposes that the frequency, types, and reciprocity of social exchanges change with age. These social exchanges impact the health and well-being of the givers and receivers in the convoy.
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.
Cross-sectional studies
Research method that provides information about age group differences; age differences are confounded with cohort differences and effects related to history and time of study.
Crystallized intelligence
Type of intellectual ability that relies on the application of knowledge, experience, and learned information.
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.
Culture
Shared, socially transmitted ideas (e.g., values, beliefs, attitudes) that are reflected in and reinforced by institutions, products, and rituals.
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.
Daily hassles
Irritations in daily life that are not necessarily traumatic, but that cause difficulties and repeated stress.
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.
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.
Delusions
False beliefs that are often fixed, hard to change even in the presence of conflicting information, and often culturally influenced in their content.
Dependent
A pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation.
Dependent variable
The variable the researcher measures but does not manipulate in an experiment.
Depth perception
The ability to actively perceive the distance from oneself of objects in the environment.
Descriptive norm
The perception of what most people do in a given situation.
Developmental intergroup theory
A theory that postulates that adults’ focus on gender leads children to pay attention to gender as a key source of information about themselves and others, to seek out possible gender differences, and to form rigid stereotypes based on gender.
Diagnostic criteria
The specific criteria used to determine whether an individual has a specific type of psychiatric disorder. Commonly used diagnostic criteria are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, 5th Edition (DSM-5) and the Internal Classification of Disorders, Version 9 (ICD-9).
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
A treatment often used for borderline personality disorder that incorporates both cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness elements.
Dialectical worldview
A perspective in DBT that emphasizes the joint importance of change and acceptance.
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.
Directional goals
The motivation to reach a particular outcome or judgment.
Discontinuous development
Discontinuous development
Discrimination
Discrimination is behavior that advantages or disadvantages people merely based on their group membership.
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.
Disorganized behavior
Behavior or dress that is outside the norm for almost all subcultures. This would include odd dress, odd makeup (e.g., lipstick outlining a mouth for 1 inch), or unusual rituals (e.g., repetitive hand gestures).
Disorganized speech
Speech that is difficult to follow, either because answers do not clearly follow questions or because one sentence does not logically follow from another.
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.
Dopamine
A neurotransmitter in the brain that is thought to play an important role in regulating the function of other neurotransmitters.
Drive state
Affective experiences that motivate organisms to fulfill goals that are generally beneficial to their survival and reproduction.
Durability bias
A bias in affective forecasting in which one overestimates for how long one will feel an emotion (positive or negative) after some event.
Early adversity
Single or multiple acute or chronic stressful events, which may be biological or psychological in nature (e.g., poverty, abuse, childhood illness or injury), occurring during childhood and resulting in a biological and/or psychological stress response.
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.
Effortful control
A temperament quality that enables children to be more successful in motivated self-regulation.
Ego
Sigmund Freud’s conception of an executive self in the personality. Akin to this module’s notion of “the I,” Freud imagined the ego as observing outside reality, engaging in rational though, and coping with the competing demands of inner desires and moral standards.
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.
Emotion-focused coping
Coping strategy aimed at reducing the negative emotions associated with a stressful event.
Emotions
Changes in subjective experience, physiological responding, and behavior in response to a meaningful event. Emotions tend to occur on the order of seconds (in contract to moods which may last for days).
Empirical methods
Approaches to inquiry that are tied to actual measurement and observation.
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.
Enzyme
A protein produced by a living organism that allows or helps a chemical reaction to occur.
Enzyme induction
Process through which a drug can enhance the production of an enzyme.
Episodic memory
The ability to learn and retrieve new information or episodes in one’s life.
Episodic memory
Memory for events in a particular time and place.
Error management theory (EMT)
A theory of selection under conditions of uncertainty in which recurrent cost asymmetries of judgment or inference favor the evolution of adaptive cognitive biases that function to minimize the more costly errors.
Ethics
Professional guidelines that offer researchers a template for making decisions that protect research participants from potential harm and that help steer scientists away from conflicts of interest or other situations that might compromise the integrity of their research.
Eureka experience
When a creative product enters consciousness.
Evaluative priming​ task
An implicit attitude task that assesses the extent to which an attitude object is associated with a positive or negative valence by measuring the time it takes a person to label an adjective as good or bad after being presented with an attitude object.
A physiological measure of large electrical change in the brain produced by sensory stimulation or motor responses.
Evolution
Change over time. Is the definition changing?
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.
Explicit attitude
An attitude that is consciously held and can be reported on by the person holding the attitude.
Exposure therapy
A form of intervention in which the patient engages with a problematic (usually feared) situation without avoidance or escape.
External cues
Stimuli in the outside world that serve as triggers for anxiety or as reminders of past traumatic events.
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.”
Extraversion
A personality trait that reflects a person’s tendency to be sociable, outgoing, active, and assertive.
Extrinsic motivation
Motivation stemming from the benefits associated with achieving a goal such as obtaining a monetary reward.
Facets
Broad personality traits can be broken down into narrower facets or aspects of the trait. For example, extraversion has several facets, such as sociability, dominance, risk-taking and so forth.
Factor analysis
A statistical technique for grouping similar things together according to how highly they are associated.
False memories
Memory for an event that never actually occurred, implanted by experimental manipulation or other means.
Family Stress Model
A description of the negative effects of family financial difficulty on child adjustment through the effects of economic stress on parents’ depressed mood, increased marital problems, and poor parenting.
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.
Feelings
A general term used to describe a wide range of states that include emotions, moods, traits and that typically involve changes in subjective experience, physiological responding, and behavior in response to a meaningful event. Emotions typically occur on the order of seconds, whereas moods may last for days, and traits are tendencies to respond a certain way across various situations.
Fight or flight response
A biological reaction to alarming stressors that prepares the body to resist or escape a threat.
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.
Five-Factor Model
Five broad domains or dimensions that are used to describe human personality.
Five-Factor Model
(also called the Big Five) The Five-Factor Model is a widely accepted model of personality traits. Advocates of the model believe that much of the variability in people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can be summarized with five broad traits. These five traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
Fixed action patterns (FAPs)
Sequences of behavior that occur in exactly the same fashion, in exactly the same order, every time they are elicited.
Flashback
Sudden, intense re-experiencing of a previous event, usually trauma-related.
Flashbulb memory
Vivid personal memories of receiving the news of some momentous (and usually emotional) event.
Flat affect
A reduction in the display of emotions through facial expressions, gestures, and speech intonation.
Fluid intelligence
Type of intelligence that relies on the ability to use information processing resources to reason logically and solve novel problems.
Foils
Any member of a lineup (whether live or photograph) other than the suspect.
Foot in the door
Obtaining a small, initial commitment.
Forebrain
A part of the nervous system that contains the cerebral hemispheres, thalamus, and hypothalamus.
Formal operations stage
Piagetian stage starting at age 12 years and continuing for the rest of life, in which adolescents may gain the reasoning powers of educated adults.
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.
Free association
In psychodynamic therapy, a process in which the patient reports all thoughts that come to mind without censorship, and these thoughts are interpreted by the therapist.
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 capacity
The ability to engage in self-care (cook, clean, bathe), work, attend school, and/or engage in social relationships.
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.
G
Short for “general factor” and is often used to be synonymous with intelligence itself.
Gender
The cultural, social, and psychological meanings that are associated with masculinity and femininity.
Gender constancy
The awareness that gender is constant and does not change simply by changing external attributes; develops between 3 and 6 years of age.
Gender discrimination
Differential treatment on the basis of gender.
Gender identity
A person’s psychological sense of being male or female.
Gender roles
The behaviors, attitudes, and personality traits that are designated as either masculine or feminine in a given culture.
Gender schema theory
This theory of how children form their own gender roles argues that children actively organize others’ behavior, activities, and attributes into gender categories or schemas.
Gender schemas
Organized beliefs and expectations about maleness and femaleness that guide children’s thinking about gender.
Gender stereotypes
The beliefs and expectations people hold about the typical characteristics, preferences, and behaviors of men and women.
Genderfluid
An individual who may identify as male, female, both, or neither at different times and in different circumstances.
Genderqueer or gender nonbinary
An umbrella term used to describe a wide range of individuals who do not identify with and/or conform to the gender binary.
Gene Selection Theory
The modern theory of evolution by selection by which differential gene replication is the defining process of evolutionary change.
General Adaptation Syndrome
A three-phase model of stress, which includes a mobilization of physiological resources phase, a coping phase, and an exhaustion phase (i.e., when an organism fails to cope with the stress adequately and depletes its resources).
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.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Excessive worry about everyday things that is at a level that is out of proportion to the specific causes of worry.
Global subjective well-being
Individuals’ perceptions of and satisfaction with their lives as a whole.
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.
Goodness of fit
The match or synchrony between a child’s temperament and characteristics of parental care that contributes to positive or negative personality development. A good “fit” means that parents have accommodated to the child’s temperamental attributes, and this contributes to positive personality growth and better adjustment.
Gradually escalating commitments
A pattern of small, progressively escalating demands is less likely to be rejected than a single large demand made all at once.
Grandiosity
Inflated self-esteem or an exaggerated sense of self-importance and self-worth (e.g., believing one has special powers or superior abilities).
Gray matter
Composes the bark or the cortex of the cerebrum and consists of the cell bodies of the neurons (see also white matter).
Gray matter
The outer grayish regions of the brain comprised of the neurons’ cell bodies.
Gyri
(plural) Folds between sulci in the cortex.
Gyrus
(plural form, gyri) A bulge that is raised between or among fissures of the convoluted brain.
Gyrus
A fold between sulci in the cortex.
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.
Hallucinations
Perceptual experiences that occur even when there is no stimulus in the outside world generating the experiences. They can be auditory, visual, olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), or somatic (touch).
Happiness
The popular word for subjective well-being. Scientists sometimes avoid using this term because it can refer to different things, such as feeling good, being satisfied, or even the causes of high subjective well-being.
Health
According to the World Health Organization, it is a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Health behavior
Any behavior that is related to health—either good or bad.
Hedonic well-being
Component of well-being that refers to emotional experiences, often including measures of positive (e.g., happiness, contentment) and negative affect (e.g., stress, sadness).
Heritability coefficient
An easily misinterpreted statistical construct that purports to measure the role of genetics in the explanation of differences among individuals.
Heterogeneity
Inter-individual and subgroup differences in level and rate of change over time.
Heuristics
cognitive (or thinking) strategies that simplify decision making by using mental short-cuts
Heuristics
A mental shortcut or rule of thumb that reduces complex mental problems to more simple rule-based decisions.
Heuristics
Mental shortcuts that enable people to make decisions and solve problems quickly and efficiently.
HEXACO model
The HEXACO model is an alternative to the Five-Factor Model. The HEXACO model includes six traits, five of which are variants of the traits included in the Big Five (Emotionality [E], Extraversion [X], Agreeableness [A], Conscientiousness [C], and Openness [O]). The sixth factor, Honesty-Humility [H], is unique to this model.
Highlighting a goal
Prioritizing a focal goal over other goals or temptations by putting more effort into the focal goal.
High-stakes testing
Settings in which test scores are used to make important decisions about individuals. For example, test scores may be used to determine which individuals are admitted into a college or graduate school, or who should be hired for a job. Tests also are used in forensic settings to help determine whether a person is competent to stand trial or fits the legal definition of sanity.
Hippocampus
(plural form, hippocampi) A nucleus inside (medial) the temporal lobe implicated in learning and memory.
Histrionic
A pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking.
Homeostasis
The tendency of an organism to maintain a stable state across all the different physiological systems in the body.
Homeostatic set point
An ideal level that the system being regulated must be monitored and compared to.
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.
Honeymoon effect
The tendency for newly married individuals to rate their spouses in an unrealistically positive manner. This represents a specific manifestation of the letter of recommendation effect when applied to ratings made by current romantic partners. Moreover, it illustrates the very important role played by relationship satisfaction in ratings made by romantic partners: As marital satisfaction declines (i.e., when the “honeymoon is over”), this effect disappears.
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.
Hostile sexism
The negative element of ambivalent sexism, which includes the attitudes that women are inferior and incompetent relative to men.
Hostility
An experience or trait with cognitive, behavioral, and emotional components. It often includes cynical thoughts, feelings of emotion, and aggressive behavior.
Hot cognition
The mental processes that are influenced by desires and feelings.
Hypersomnia
Excessive daytime sleepiness, including difficulty staying awake or napping, or prolonged sleep episodes.
Hypothalamus
A portion of the brain involved in a variety of functions, including the secretion of various hormones and the regulation of hunger and sexual arousal.
Hypothalamus
Part of the diencephalon. Regulates biological drives with pituitary gland.
Hypotheses
A logical idea that can be tested.
Identity
Sometimes used synonymously with the term “self,” identity means many different things in psychological science and in other fields (e.g., sociology). In this module, I adopt Erik Erikson’s conception of identity as a developmental task for late adolescence and young adulthood. Forming an identity in adolescence and young adulthood involves exploring alternative roles, values, goals, and relationships and eventually committing to a realistic agenda for life that productively situates a person in the adult world of work and love. In addition, identity formation entails commitments to new social roles and reevaluation of old traits, and importantly, it brings with it a sense of temporal continuity in life, achieved though the construction of an integrative life story.
Immunocytochemistry
A method of staining tissue including the brain, using antibodies.
Impact bias
A bias in affective forecasting in which one overestimates the strength or intensity of emotion one will experience after some event.
Implemental phase
The second of the two basic stages of self-regulation in which individuals plan specific actions related to their selected goal.
Implicit Association Test
Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures relatively automatic biases that favor own group relative to other groups.
Implicit Association Test
An implicit attitude task that assesses a person’s automatic associations between concepts by measuring the response times in pairing the concepts.
Implicit attitude
An attitude that a person cannot verbally or overtly state.
Implicit measures of attitudes
Measures of attitudes in which researchers infer the participant’s attitude rather than having the participant explicitly report it.
Implicit motives
These are goals that are important to a person, but that he/she cannot consciously express. Because the individual cannot verbalize these goals directly, they cannot be easily assessed via self-report. However, they can be measured using projective devices such as the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).
Independent
Two characteristics or traits are separate from one another-- a person can be high on one and low on the other, or vice-versa. Some correlated traits are relatively independent in that although there is a tendency for a person high on one to also be high on the other, this is not always the case.
Independent self
A model or view of the self as distinct from others and as stable across different situations. The goal of the independent self is to express and assert the self, and to influence others. This model of self is prevalent in many individualistic, Western contexts (e.g., the United States, Australia, Western Europe).
Independent variable
The variable the researcher manipulates and controls in an experiment.
Information processing theories
Theories that focus on describing the cognitive processes that underlie thinking at any one age and cognitive growth over time.
Informational influence
Conformity that results from a concern to act in a socially approved manner as determined by how others act.
Ingroup
Group to which a person belongs.
Inhibitory functioning
Ability to focus on a subset of information while suppressing attention to less relevant information.
Instrumental conditioning
Process in which animals learn about the relationship between their behaviors and their consequences. Also known as operant conditioning.
Integrative ​or eclectic psychotherapy​
Also called integrative psychotherapy, this term refers to approaches combining multiple orientations (e.g., CBT with psychoanalytic elements).
Integrative or ​eclectic psychotherapy
Also called integrative psychotherapy, this term refers to approaches combining multiple orientations (e.g., CBT with psychoanalytic elements).
Intelligence
An individual’s cognitive capability. This includes the ability to acquire, process, recall and apply information.
Interaural differences
Differences (usually in time or intensity) between the two ears.
Interdependent self
A model or view of the self as connected to others and as changing in response to different situations. The goal of the interdependent self is to suppress personal preferences and desires, and to adjust to others. This model of self is prevalent in many collectivistic, East Asian contexts (e.g., China, Japan, Korea).
Internal bodily or somatic cues
Physical sensations that serve as triggers for anxiety or as reminders of past traumatic events.
Internal validity
The degree to which a cause-effect relationship between two variables has been unambiguously established.
Interoceptive avoidance
Avoidance of situations or activities that produce sensations of physical arousal similar to those occurring during a panic attack or intense fear response.
Intersexual selection
A process of sexual selection by which evolution (change) occurs as a consequences of the mate preferences of one sex exerting selection pressure on members of the opposite sex.
Intra- and inter-individual differences
Different patterns of development observed within an individual (intra-) or between individuals (inter-).
Intrasexual competition
A process of sexual selection by which members of one sex compete with each other, and the victors gain preferential mating access to members of the opposite sex.
Intrinsic motivation
Motivation stemming from the benefits associated with the process of pursuing a goal such as having a fulfilling experience.
IQ
Short for “intelligence quotient.” This is a score, typically obtained from a widely used measure of intelligence that is meant to rank a person’s intellectual ability against that of others.
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.
Letter of recommendation effect
The general tendency for informants in personality studies to rate others in an unrealistically positive manner. This tendency is due a pervasive bias in personality assessment: In the large majority of published studies, informants are individuals who like the person they are rating (e.g., they often are friends or family members) and, therefore, are motivated to depict them in a socially desirable way. The term reflects a similar tendency for academic letters of recommendation to be overly positive and to present the referent in an unrealistically desirable manner.
Lexical hypothesis
The lexical hypothesis is the idea that the most important differences between people will be encoded in the language that we use to describe people. Therefore, if we want to know which personality traits are most important, we can look to the language that people use to describe themselves and others.
Lexicon
Words and expressions.
Life course theories
Theory of development that highlights the effects of social expectations of age-related life events and social roles; additionally considers the lifelong cumulative effects of membership in specific cohorts and sociocultural subgroups and exposure to historical events.
Life satisfaction
A person reflects on their life and judges to what degree it is going well, by whatever standards that person thinks are most important for a good life.
Life span theories
Theory of development that emphasizes the patterning of lifelong within- and between-person differences in the shape, level, and rate of change trajectories.
Limbic system
A loosely defined network of nuclei in the brain involved with learning and emotion.
Limbic system
Includes the subcortical structures of the amygdala and hippocampal formation as well as some cortical structures; responsible for aversion and gratification.
Linguistic inquiry and word count
A quantitative text analysis methodology that automatically extracts grammatical and psychological information from a text by counting word frequencies.
Linguistic intergroup bias
A tendency for people to characterize positive things about their ingroup using more abstract expressions, but negative things about their outgroups using more abstract expressions.
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 studies
Research method that collects information from individuals at multiple time points over time, allowing researchers to track cohort differences in age-related change to determine cumulative effects of different life experiences.
Longitudinal study
A study that follows the same group of individuals over time.
Lordosis
A physical sexual posture in females that serves as an invitation to mate.
Magnetic resonance imaging
A set of techniques that uses strong magnets to measure either the structure of the brain (e.g., gray matter and white matter) or how the brain functions when a person performs cognitive tasks (e.g., working memory or episodic memory) or other types of tasks.
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).
Medulla oblongata
An area just above the spinal cord that processes breathing, digestion, heart and blood vessel function, swallowing, and sneezing.
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.
Metabolism
Breakdown of substances.
Metabolite
A substance necessary for a living organism to maintain life.
Mind–body connection
The idea that our emotions and thoughts can affect how our body functions.
Mindfulness
A process that reflects a nonjudgmental, yet attentive, mental state.
Mindfulness-based therapy
A form of psychotherapy grounded in mindfulness theory and practice, often involving meditation, yoga, body scan, and other features of mindfulness exercises.
Misinformation effect
A memory error caused by exposure to incorrect information between the original event (e.g., a crime) and later memory test (e.g., an interview, lineup, or day in court).
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.
Mock witnesses
A research subject who plays the part of a witness in a study.
Mood-congruent memory
The tendency to be better able to recall memories that have a mood similar to our current mood.
Motivated skepticism
A form of bias that can result from having a directional goal in which one is skeptical of evidence despite its strength because it goes against what one wants to believe.
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.
Narcissistic
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.
Narrative identity
An internalized and evolving story of the self designed to provide life with some measure of temporal unity and purpose. Beginning in late adolescence, people craft self-defining stories that reconstruct the past and imagine the future to explain how the person came to be the person that he or she is becoming.
Natural selection
Differential reproductive success as a consequence of differences in heritable attributes.
Nature
The genes that children bring with them to life and that influence all aspects of their development.
Need for closure
The desire to come to a decision that will resolve ambiguity and conclude an issue.
Negative feelings
Undesirable and unpleasant feelings that people tend to avoid if they can. Moods and emotions such as depression, anger, and worry are examples.
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 induction
A process that causes the formation of the neural tube.
Neuroblasts
Brain progenitor cells that asymmetrically divide into other neuroblasts or nerve cells.
Neurodevelopmental
Processes that influence how the brain develops either in utero or as the child is growing up.
Neuroepithelium
The lining of the neural tube.
Neuroticism
A personality trait that reflects the tendency to be interpersonally sensitive and the tendency to experience negative emotions like anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger.
Neurotransmitter
A chemical substance produced by a neuron that is used for communication between neurons.
Nomenclature
Naming conventions.
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.
Norm
Assessments are given to a representative sample of a population to determine the range of scores for that population. These “norms” are then used to place an individual who takes that assessment on a range of scores in which he or she is compared to the population at large.
Normative influence
Conformity that results from a concern for what other people think of us.
Numerical magnitudes
The sizes of numbers.
Nurture
The environments, starting with the womb, that influence all aspects of children’s development.
Obedience
Responding to an order or command from a person in a position of authority.
Object permanence task
The Piagetian task in which infants below about 9 months of age fail to search for an object that is removed from their sight and, if not allowed to search immediately for the object, act as if they do not know that it continues to exist.
Observational learning
Learning by observing the behavior of others.
Obsessive-compulsive
A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
A disorder characterized by the desire to engage in certain behaviors excessively or compulsively in hopes of reducing anxiety. Behaviors include things such as cleaning, repeatedly opening and closing doors, hoarding, and obsessing over certain thoughts.
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.
Openness to Experience
A personality trait that reflects a person’s tendency to seek out and to appreciate new things, including thoughts, feelings, values, and experiences.
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
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.
Outgroup
Group to which a person does not belong.
Overconfident
The bias to have greater confidence in your judgment than is warranted based on a rational assessment.
Panic disorder (PD)
A condition marked by regular strong panic attacks, and which may include significant levels of worry about future attacks.
Paranoid
A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent.
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
An area of the cerebrum just behind the central sulcus that is engaged with somatosensory and gustatory sensation.
Parietal lobe
The part of the cerebrum between the frontal and occipital lobes; involved in bodily sensations, visual attention, and integrating the senses.
Participant demand
When participants behave in a way that they think the experimenter wants them to behave.
Pavlovian conditioning
See classical conditioning.
Peripheral route to persuasion
Persuasion that relies on superficial cues that have little to do with logic.
Personality
Enduring predispositions that characterize a person, such as styles of thought, feelings and behavior.
Personality
Characteristic, routine ways of thinking, feeling, and relating to others.
Personality disorders
When personality traits result in significant distress, social impairment, and/or occupational impairment.
Personality traits
Enduring dispositions in behavior that show differences across individuals, and which tend to characterize the person across varying types of situations.
Person-centered therapy
A therapeutic approach focused on creating a supportive environment for self-discovery.
Person-situation debate
The person-situation debate is a historical debate about the relative power of personality traits as compared to situational influences on behavior. The situationist critique, which started the person-situation debate, suggested that people overestimate the extent to which personality traits are consistent across situations.
Pharmacokinetics
The action of a drug through the body, including absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion.
Phonemic awareness
Awareness of the component sounds within words.
Photo spreads
A selection of normally small photographs of faces given to a witness for the purpose of identifying a perpetrator.
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.
Piaget’s theory
Theory that development occurs through a sequence of discontinuous stages: the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational stages.
Pinna
Visible part of the outer ear.
Placebo effect
When receiving special treatment or something new affects human behavior.
Planning fallacy
A cognitive bias in which one underestimates how long it will take to complete a task.
Polypharmacy
The use of many medications.
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.
Positive feelings
Desirable and pleasant feelings. Moods and emotions such as enjoyment and love are examples.
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
A technique that uses radio-labelled ligands to measure the distribution of different neurotransmitter receptors in the brain or to measure how much of a certain type of neurotransmitter is released when a person is given a specific type of drug or does a particularly cognitive task.
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.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
A sense of intense fear, triggered by memories of a past traumatic event, that another traumatic event might occur. PTSD may include feelings of isolation and emotional numbing.
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.
Prejudice
Prejudice is an evaluation or emotion toward people merely based on their group membership.
Preoperational reasoning stage
Period within Piagetian theory from age 2 to 7 years, in which children can represent objects through drawing and language but cannot solve logical reasoning problems, such as the conservation problems.
Preoptic area
A region in the anterior hypothalamus involved in generating and regulating male sexual behavior.
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.
Primed
A process by which a concept or behavior is made more cognitively accessible or likely to occur through the presentation of an associated concept.
Priming
A stimulus presented to a person reminds him or her about other ideas associated with the stimulus.
Problem-focused coping
A set of coping strategies aimed at improving or changing stressful situations.
Processing speed
The speed with which an individual can perceive auditory or visual information and respond to it.
Processing speed
The time it takes individuals to perform cognitive operations (e.g., process information, react to a signal, switch attention from one task to another, find a specific target object in a complex picture).
Progress
The perception of reducing the discrepancy between one’s current state and one’s desired state in goal pursuit.
Projective hypothesis
The theory that when people are confronted with ambiguous stimuli (that is, stimuli that can be interpreted in more than one way), their responses will be influenced by their unconscious thoughts, needs, wishes, and impulses. This, in turn, is based on the Freudian notion of projection, which is the idea that people attribute their own undesirable/unacceptable characteristics to other people or objects.
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).
Psychoactive drugs
A drug that changes mood or the way someone feels.
Psychoanalytic therapy
Sigmund Freud’s therapeutic approach focusing on resolving unconscious conflicts.
Psychodynamic therapy
Treatment applying psychoanalytic principles in a briefer, more individualized format.
Psychological adaptations
Mechanisms of the mind that evolved to solve specific problems of survival or reproduction; conceptualized as information processing devices.
Psychological reactance
A reaction to people, rules, requirements, or offerings that are perceived to limit freedoms.
Psychological vulnerabilities
Influences that our early experiences have on how we view the world.
Psychometric approach
Approach to studying intelligence that examines performance on tests of intellectual functioning.
Psychomotor agitation
Increased motor activity associated with restlessness, including physical actions (e.g., fidgeting, pacing, feet tapping, handwringing).
Psychomotor retardation
A slowing of physical activities in which routine activities (e.g., eating, brushing teeth) are performed in an unusually slow manner.
Psychoneuroimmunology
A field of study examining the relationship among psychology, brain function, and immune function.
Psychopathology
Illnesses or disorders that involve psychological or psychiatric symptoms.
Psychosomatic medicine
An interdisciplinary field of study that focuses on how biological, psychological, and social processes contribute to physiological changes in the body and health over time.
Psychotropic drug
A drug that changes mood or emotion, usually used when talking about drugs prescribed for various mental conditions (depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.).
Punisher
A stimulus that decreases the strength of an operant behavior when it is made a consequence of the behavior.
Qualitative changes
Large, fundamental change, as when a caterpillar changes into a butterfly; stage theories such as Piaget’s posit that each stage reflects qualitative change relative to previous stages.
Quantitative changes
Gradual, incremental change, as in the growth of a pine tree’s girth.
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.
Reappraisal, or ​Cognitive restructuring
The process of identifying, evaluating, and changing maladaptive thoughts in psychotherapy.
Recall
Type of memory task where individuals are asked to remember previously learned information without the help of external cues.
Recoding
The ubiquitous process during learning of taking information in one form and converting it to another form, usually one more easily remembered.
Recognition
Type of memory task where individuals are asked to remember previously learned information with the assistance of cues.
Redemptive narratives
Life stories that affirm the transformation from suffering to an enhanced status or state. In American culture, redemptive life stories are highly prized as models for the good self, as in classic narratives of atonement, upward mobility, liberation, and recovery.
Reference group effect
The tendency of people to base their self-concept on comparisons with others. For example, if your friends tend to be very smart and successful, you may come to see yourself as less intelligent and successful than you actually are. Informants also are prone to these types of effects. For instance, the sibling contrast effect refers to the tendency of parents to exaggerate the true extent of differences between their children.
Reflexivity
The idea that the self reflects back upon itself; that the I (the knower, the subject) encounters the Me (the known, the object). Reflexivity is a fundamental property of human selfhood.
Reinforced response
Following the process of operant conditioning, the strengthening of a response following either the delivery of a desired consequence (positive reinforcement) or escape from an aversive consequence.
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.
Reliablility
The consistency of test scores across repeated assessments. For example, test-retest reliability examines the extent to which scores change over time.
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.
Representativeness heuristic
A heuristic in which the likelihood of an object belonging to a category is evaluated based on the extent to which the object appears similar to one’s mental representation of the category.
Resilience
The ability to “bounce back” from negative situations (e.g., illness, stress) to normal functioning or to simply not show poor outcomes in the face of adversity. In some cases, resilience may lead to better functioning following the negative experience (e.g., post-traumatic growth).
Retrieval
The process of accessing stored information.
Retroactive interference
The phenomenon whereby events that occur after some particular event of interest will usually cause forgetting of the original event.
Reward value
A neuropsychological measure of an outcome’s affective importance to an organism.
Right-wing authoritarianism
Right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) focuses on value conflicts but endorses respect for obedience and authority in the service of group conformity.
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.
SAD performance only
Social anxiety disorder which is limited to certain situations that the sufferer perceives as requiring some type of performance.
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.
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
The hypothesis that the language that people use determines their thoughts.
Satiation
The state of being full to satisfaction and no longer desiring to take on more.
Schema
A mental representation or set of beliefs about something.
Schema
A mental model or representation that organizes the important information about a thing, person, or event (also known as a script).
Schema (plural: schemata)
A memory template, created through repeated exposure to a particular class of objects or events.
Schemas
The gender categories into which, according to gender schema theory, children actively organize others’ behavior, activities, and attributes.
Schizoid
A pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings.
Schizotypal
A pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity for, close relationships as well as perceptual distortions and eccentricities of behavior.
Security of attachment
An infant’s confidence in the sensitivity and responsiveness of a caregiver, especially when he or she is needed. Infants can be securely attached or insecurely attached.
Self as autobiographical author
The sense of the self as a storyteller who reconstructs the past and imagines the future in order to articulate an integrative narrative that provides life with some measure of temporal continuity and purpose.
Self as motivated agent
The sense of the self as an intentional force that strives to achieve goals, plans, values, projects, and the like.
Self as social actor
The sense of the self as an embodied actor whose social performances may be construed in terms of more or less consistent self-ascribed traits and social roles.
Self-categorization theory
Self-categorization theory develops social identity theory’s point that people categorize themselves, along with each other into groups, favoring their own group.
Self-control
The capacity to control impulses, emotions, desires, and actions in order to resist a temptation and adhere to a valued goal.
Self-efficacy
The belief that one can perform adequately in a specific situation.
Self-enhancement bias
The tendency for people to see and/or present themselves in an overly favorable way. This tendency can take two basic forms: defensiveness (when individuals actually believe they are better than they really are) and impression management (when people intentionally distort their responses to try to convince others that they are better than they really are). Informants also can show enhancement biases. The general form of this bias has been called the letter-of-recommendation effect, which is the tendency of informants who like the person they are rating (e.g., friends, relatives, romantic partners) to describe them in an overly favorable way. In the case of newlyweds, this tendency has been termed the honeymoon effect.
Self-esteem
The extent to which a person feels that he or she is worthy and good. The success or failure that the motivated agent experiences in pursuit of valued goals is a strong determinant of self-esteem.
Self-perceptions of aging
An individual’s perceptions of their own aging process; positive perceptions of aging have been shown to be associated with greater longevity and health.
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.
Sensorimotor stage
Period within Piagetian theory from birth to age 2 years, during which children come to represent the enduring reality of objects.
Sex
Biological category of male or female as defined by physical differences in genetic composition and in reproductive anatomy and function.
Sexual harassment
A form of gender discrimination based on unwanted treatment related to sexual behaviors or appearance.
Sexual orientation
Refers to the direction of emotional and erotic attraction toward members of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both sexes.
Sexual selection
The evolution of characteristics because of the mating advantage they give organisms.
​Sexual strategies theory
A comprehensive evolutionary theory of human mating that defines the menu of mating strategies humans pursue (e.g., short-term casual sex, long-term committed mating), the adaptive problems women and men face when pursuing these strategies, and the evolved solutions to these mating problems.
Sibling contrast effect
The tendency of parents to use their perceptions of all of their children as a frame of reference for rating the characteristics of each of them. For example, suppose that a mother has three children; two of these children are very sociable and outgoing, whereas the third is relatively average in sociability. Because of operation of this effect, the mother will rate this third child as less sociable and outgoing than he/she actually is. More generally, this effect causes parents to exaggerate the true extent of differences between their children. This effect represents a specific manifestation of the more general reference group effect when applied to ratings made by parents.
Situation model
A mental representation of an event, object, or situation constructed at the time of comprehending a linguistic description.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
A condition marked by acute fear of social situations which lead to worry and diminished day to day functioning.
Social brain hypothesis
The hypothesis that the human brain has evolved, so that humans can maintain larger ingroups.
Social cognition
The study of how people think about the social world.
Social constructivism
Social constructivism proposes that knowledge is first created and learned within a social context and is then adopted by individuals.
Social dominance orientation
Social dominance orientation (SDO) describes a belief that group hierarchies are inevitable in all societies and even good, to maintain order and stability.
Social identity theory
Social identity theory notes that people categorize each other into groups, favoring their own group.
Social integration
The size of your social network, or number of social roles (e.g., son, sister, student, employee, team member).
Social Learning Theory
The theory that people can learn new responses and behaviors by observing the behavior of others.
Social learning theory
This theory of how children form their own gender roles argues that gender roles are learned through reinforcement, punishment, and modeling.
Social models
Authorities that are the targets for observation and who model behaviors.
Social network
Network of people with whom an individual is closely connected; social networks provide emotional, informational, and material support and offer opportunities for social engagement.
Social networks
Networks of social relationships among individuals through which information can travel.
Social proof
The mental shortcut based on the assumption that, if everyone is doing it, it must be right.
Social referencing
The process by which one individual consults another’s emotional expressions to determine how to evaluate and respond to circumstances that are ambiguous or uncertain.
Social reputation
The traits and social roles that others attribute to an actor. Actors also have their own conceptions of what they imagine their respective social reputations indeed are in the eyes of others.
Social support
The perception or actuality that we have a social network that can help us in times of need and provide us with a variety of useful resources (e.g., advice, love, money).
Social zeitgeber
Zeitgeber is German for “time giver.” Social zeitgebers are environmental cues, such as meal times and interactions with other people, that entrain biological rhythms and thus sleep-wake cycle regularity.
Sociocultural theories
Theory founded in large part by Lev Vygotsky that emphasizes how other people and the attitudes, values, and beliefs of the surrounding culture influence children’s development.
Socioeconomic status (SES)
A person’s economic and social position based on income, education, and occupation.
Socioemotional Selectivity Theory
Theory proposed to explain the reduction of social partners in older adulthood; posits that older adults focus on meeting emotional over information-gathering goals, and adaptively select social partners who meet this need.
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.
Specific vulnerabilities
How our experiences lead us to focus and channel our anxiety.
Spina bifida
A developmental disease of the spinal cord, where the neural tube does not close caudally.
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.
Standardize
Assessments that are given in the exact same manner to all people . With regards to intelligence tests standardized scores are individual scores that are computed to be referenced against normative scores for a population (see “norm”).
Stereotype Content Model
Stereotype Content Model shows that social groups are viewed according to their perceived warmth and competence.
Stereotype threat
The phenomenon in which people are concerned that they will conform to a stereotype or that their performance does conform to that stereotype, especially in instances in which the stereotype is brought to their conscious awareness.
Stereotypes
Stereotype is a belief that characterizes people based merely on their group membership.
Stereotypes
Our general beliefs about the traits or behaviors shared by group of people.
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.
Stress
A pattern of physical and psychological responses in an organism after it perceives a threatening event that disturbs its homeostasis and taxes its abilities to cope with the event.
Stressor
An event or stimulus that induces feelings of stress.
Subcortical
Structures that lie beneath the cerebral cortex, but above the brain stem.
Subjective age
A multidimensional construct that indicates how old (or young) a person feels and into which age group a person categorizes him- or herself
Subjective well-being
The name that scientists give to happiness—thinking and feeling that our lives are going very well.
Subjective well-being scales
Self-report surveys or questionnaires in which participants indicate their levels of subjective well-being, by responding to items with a number that indicates how well off they feel.
Subtle biases
Subtle biases are automatic, ambiguous, and ambivalent, but real in their consequences.
Successful aging
Includes three components: avoiding disease, maintaining high levels of cognitive and physical functioning, and having an actively engaged lifestyle.
Suicidal ideation
Recurring thoughts about suicide, including considering or planning for suicide, or preoccupation with suicide.
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.
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
The tiny space separating neurons.
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.
Syntax
Rules by which words are strung together to form sentences.
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.
Systematic observation
The careful observation of the natural world with the aim of better understanding it. Observations provide the basic data that allow scientists to track, tally, or otherwise organize information about the natural world.
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.
Temperament
Early emerging differences in reactivity and self-regulation, which constitutes a foundation for personality development.
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.
Thalamus
A part of the diencephalon that works as a gateway for incoming and outgoing information.
The Age 5-to-7 Shift
Cognitive and social changes that occur in the early elementary school years that result in the child’s developing a more purposeful, planful, and goal-directed approach to life, setting the stage for the emergence of the self as a motivated agent.
The “I”
The self as knower, the sense of the self as a subject who encounters (knows, works on) itself (the Me).
The “Me”
The self as known, the sense of the self as the object or target of the I’s knowledge and work.
The norm of reciprocity
The normative pressure to repay, in equitable value, what another person has given to us.
The rule of scarcity
People tend to perceive things as more attractive when their availability is limited, or when they stand to lose the opportunity to acquire them on favorable terms.
The triad of trust
We are most vulnerable to persuasion when the source is perceived as an authority, as honest and likable.
Theories
Groups of closely related phenomena or observations.
Theory of mind
Emerging around the age of 4, the child’s understanding that other people have minds in which are located desires and beliefs, and that desires and beliefs, thereby, motivate behavior.
Theory of mind
Children’s growing understanding of the mental states that affect people’s behavior.
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.
Thought-action fusion
The tendency to overestimate the relationship between a thought and an action, such that one mistakenly believes a “bad” thought is the equivalent of a “bad” action.
“Top-down” or internal causes of happiness
The person’s outlook and habitual response tendencies that influence their happiness—for example, their temperament or optimistic outlook on life.
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.
Transgender
A term used to describe individuals whose gender does not match their biological sex.
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.
Trigger features
Specific, sometimes minute, aspects of a situation that activate fixed action patterns.
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.
Type A Behavior
Type A behavior is characterized by impatience, competitiveness, neuroticism, hostility, and anger.
Type B Behavior
Type B behavior reflects the absence of Type A characteristics and is represented by less competitive, aggressive, and hostile behavior patterns.
Unconditional positive regard
In person-centered therapy, an attitude of warmth, empathy and acceptance adopted by the therapist in order to foster feelings of inherent worth in the patient.
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.
Universalism
Universalism proposes that there are single objective standards, independent of culture, in basic domains such as learning, reasoning, and emotion that are a part of all human experience.
Validity
Evidence related to the interpretation and use of test scores. A particularly important type of evidence is criterion validity, which involves the ability of a test to predict theoretically relevant outcomes. For example, a presumed measure of conscientiousness should be related to academic achievement (such as overall grade point average).
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
Regions of the nervous system that represent the axons of the nerve cells; whitish in color because of myelination of the nerve cells.
White matter
The inner whitish regions of the cerebrum comprised of the myelinated axons of neurons in the cerebral cortex.
Working memory
Short transitory memory processed in the hippocampus.
Working memory
The ability to maintain information over a short period of time, such as 30 seconds or less.
Working memory
Memory system that allows for information to be simultaneously stored and utilized or manipulated.