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operational definition

a description of an abstract property in terms of a concrete condition that can be measured


the characteristic of an observation that allows one to draw accurate inferences from it


the tendency for a measure to produce the same result whenever it is used to measure the same thing


the complete collection of participants who might possibly be measured


the partial collection of people who actually were measured in a study

normal distribution

a frequency distribution in which most measurements are concentrated around the mean and fall off toward the tails, and the two sides of the distribution are symmetrical


the "most frequent" measurement in a frequency distribution


the average of the measurements in a frequency distribution


the "middle" measurement of a frequency distribution


the numerical difference between the smallest and largest measurements in a frequency distribution


and observation whose true purpose is hidden from the researcher as well as from the participant


a property whose value can vary or change


the "co-relationship" or pattern of covariation between two variables, each of which has been measured several times

correlation coefficient

a statistical measure of the direction and strength of a correlation, which is signified by the letter r

third-variable problem

the fact that the causal relationship between two variables cannot be inferred from the correlation between them because of the ever-present possibility of a third-variable correlation


a technique for establishing the causal relationship between variables

independent variable

the variable that is manipulated in an experiment

dependent variable

the variable that is measured in a study

control group

one of the two groups of participants created by the manipulation of an independent variable in an experiment that is not exposed to the stimulus being studied


a specific and testable prediction that is usually derived from a theory


cells in the nervous system that communicate with one another to perform information processing tasks


the junction or region between the axon of one neuron and the dendrites or cell body of another

resting potential

the difference in electric charge between the inside and outside of a neuron's cell membrane

action potential

an electrical signal that is conducted along an axon to a synapse

refractory period

the time following an action potential during which a new action potential cannot be initiated


chemicals that transmit information across the synapse to a receiving neuron's dendrites

Central Nervous System (CNS)

the part of the nervous system that is composed of the brain and the spinal cord

Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)

the part of the nervous system that connects the central nervous system to the body's organs and muscles

somatic nervous system

a set of nerves that conveys information into and out of the central nervous system

autonomic nervous system

a set of nerves that carries involuntary and automatic commands that control blood vessels, body organs, and glands. comprised of the Sympathetic (arousing) and Parasympathetic (calming) Nervous Systems

limbic system

a group of forebrain structures including the hypothalamus, the amygdala, and the hippocampus which are involved in motivation, emotion, learning, and memory

pituitary gland

the "master gland" of the body's hormone-producing system, which releases hormones that direct the functions of many other glands in the body

occipital lobe

a region of the cerebral cortex that processes visual information

parietal lobe

a region of the cerebral cortex whose functions include processing information about touch

temporal lobe

a region of the cerebral cortex responsible for hearing and language

frontal lobe

a region of the cerebral cortex that has specialized areas for movement, abstract thinking, planning, memory, and judgement


the unit of hereditary transmission


strands of DNA wound around each other in a double-helix formation


a measure of the variability of behavioral traits among individuals that can be accounted for by genetic factors


the ability to store and retrieve information over time


the process by which we transform what we perceive, think, or feel into enduring memory


the process of maintaining information in memory over time


the process of bringing to mind information that has been previously encoded and stored

elaborative encoding

the process of actively relating new information to knowledge that is already in memory

short-term memory store

a place where non-sensory information is kept for more than a few seconds, but less than a minute


the process of keeping information in short-term memory by mentally repeating it


combining small pieces of information into larger clusters or chunks that more easily held in short-term memory

working memory

active maintenance of information in short-term memory

long-term memory store

a place in which information can be kept for hours, days, weeks, or years

Long-Term Potentiation (LTP)

enhanced neural processing that results from the strengthening of synaptic connections

NMDA receptors

a hippocampal receptor site that influences the flow of information from one neuron to another across the synapse by controlling the initiation of long-term potentiation

retrieval cue

external information that is associated with stored information and helps bring it to mind

state-dependent retrieval

the tendency for information to be better recalled when the person is in the same state during encoding and retrieval

explicit memory

the act of consciously or intentionally retrieving past experiences. includes somatic memory (facts and general knowledge) and episodic memory (personally experienced events)

implicit memory

the influence of past experiences on later behavior and performance, even though people are not trying to recollect them and are not aware that they are remembering them

procedural memory

the gradual acquisition of skills as the result of practice, or "knowing how" to do things


an enhanced ability to think of a stimulus, such as a word or object, as a result of a recent exposure to the stimulus


forgetting what occurs with the passage of time


a failure to retrieve information that is available in memory even though you are trying to produce it


some experience that results in a relatively permanent change in the state of the learner

classical conditioning

when a neutral stimulus evokes a response after being paired with a stimulus that naturally evokes a response

Unconditioned Stimulus (US)

something that reliably produces a naturally occurring reaction in an organism

Unconditioned Response (UR)

a reflexive reaction that reliably elicited by an unconditioned stimulus

Conditioned Stimulus (CS)

a stimulus that is initially neutral and produces no reliable response in an organism

Conditioned Response (CR)

a reaction that resembles an unconditioned response but is produced by a conditioned stimulus


the gradual elimination of a learned response that occurs when the US is no longer presented

spontaneous recovery

the tendency of a learned behavior to recover from extinction after a rest period

operant conditioning

a type of learning in which the consequences of an organism's behavior determine whether it will be repeated in the future

law of effect

the principle that behaviors that are followed by a "satisfying state of affairs" tend to be repeated and those that produce an "unpleasant state of affairs" are less likely to be repeated

positive reinforcement

any stimulus or event that functions to increase the likelihood of the behavior that led to it when something desirable is presented

negative reinforcement

any stimulus or event that functions to increase the likelihood of the behavior that led to it when something undesirable is removed

positive punishment

any stimulus or event that functions to decrease the likelihood of the behavior that led to it when something unpleasant is administered

negative punishment

any stimulus or event that functions to decrease the likelihood of the behavior that led to it when something desirable is removed

Fixed Interval Schedule (FI)

an operant conditioning principle in which reinforcements are presented at fixed time periods, provided that the appropriate response is made

Variable Interval Schedule (VI)

an operant conditioning principle in which behavior is reinforced based on an average time that has expired since the last enforcement

Fixed Ratio Schedule (FR)

an operant conditioning principle in which reinforcement is delivered after a specific number of responses have been made

Variable Ratio Schedule (VR)

an operant conditioning principle in which the delivery of reinforcement is based on a particular average number of responses

latent learning

a condition in which something is learned but it is not manifested as a behavior change until sometime in the future

observational learning

a condition in which learning takes place by watching the actions of others

medical model

the conceptualization of psychological abnormalities as diseases that, like biological disease, have symptoms and causes and possible cures


a classification system that describes the features used to diagnose each recognized mental disorder and indicates how the disorder can be distinguished from other, similar problems


the co-occurrence of two or more disorders in a single individual

diathesis-stress model

suggests that a person may be predisposed for a mental disorder that remains unexpressed until triggered by stress

anxiety disorder

the class of mental disorder in which anxiety is the predominant feature

generalized anxiety disorder

a disorder characterized by chronic or excessive worry accompanied by physical symptoms

phobic disorders

disorders characterized by marker, persistent, and excessive fear and avoidance of specific objects, activities, or situations

preparedness theory

the idea that people are instinctively predisposed toward certain fears

obsessive compulsive disorder

a disorder in which repetitive, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) designed to fend off those thoughts interfere significantly with an individual's functioning

dissociative disorder

a condition in which normal cognitive processes are severely disjointed or fragmented, creating significant disruptions in memory, awareness, or personality that can vary in length

mood disorders

mental disorders that have mood disturbance as their predominant feature

major depressive disorder

a disorder characterized by a severely depressed mood that lasts 2 weeks or more and is accompanied by feelings of worthlessness and lack of pleasure, lethargy, and sleep and appetite disturbances

bipolar disorder

an unstable emotional condition characterized by cycles of abnormal, persistent high mood (mania) and low mood (depression)


a disorder characterized by the profound disruption of basic psychological processes; a distorted perception of reality; altered or blunted emotion; and disturbances in thought, motivation, and behavior


a patently false belief system, often bizarre and grandiose, that is maintained in spite of its irrationality


a false perceptual experience that has a compelling sense of being real despite the absence of external stimulation

negative symptoms

emotional and social withdrawal; apathy; poverty of speech; and other indications of the absence or insufficiency of normal behavior, motivation, and behavior

expressed emotion

emotion over-involvement (intrusiveness) and excessive criticism directed toward the former patient by his or her family

personality disorder

disorder characterized by deeply ingrained, inflexible patterns or thinking, feelings, or relating to others or controlling impulses that cause distress of impaired functioning

antisocial personality disorder

a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood

health psychology

the subfield of psychology concerned with ways psychological factors influence the causes and treatment of physical illness and the maintenance of health

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

a psychological disorder characterized by chronic psychological arousal, recurrent unwanted thoughts or images of the trauma, and avoidance of things that call the trauma to mind


the physical and psychological response to internal or external stressors


specific events that place demands on a person or threaten the person's well-being

chronic stressor

a source of stress that occurs continuously or repeatedly

General Adaptation Syndrom (GAS)

a three-stage physiological response that appears regardless of the stressor that is encountered

fight-or-flight response

an emotional physiological reaction to an emergency that increases readiness for action

type A behavior pattern

the tendency toward easily aroused hostility, impatience, a sense of time urgency, and competitive strivings


a state physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion created by long-term involvement in an emotionally demanding situation and accompanied by lowered performance and motivation

rational coping

facing a stressor and working to overcome it


finding a new or creative way to think about a stressor that reduces its threat

relaxation therapy

a technique for reducing tension by consciously relaxing muscles of the body

relaxation response

a condition of reduced muscle tension, cortical activity, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure


the use of an external monitoring device to obtain information about a bodily function and possible gain control over that function

social support

the aid gained through interacting with others

placebo effect

a clinically significant psychological or physiological response to a therapeutically inert substance or procedure

somatization disorder

a psychological disorder involving combinations of multiple complaints with no medical explanation

conversion disorder

a disorder characterized by apparently debilitating physical symptoms that appear to be voluntary- but that the person experiences as involuntary

somatoform disorder

the set of psychological disorders in which the person displays physical symptoms not fully explained by a general medical condition


a psychological disorder in which a person in preoccupied with minor symptoms and develops an exaggerated belief that the symptoms signify a life-threatening illness


behavior whose purpose is to harm another


behavior that benefits another without benefitting oneself

reciprocal altruism

behavior that benefits another with the exception that those benefits will be returned in the future

prejudice/ discrimination

a positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their group membership


a phenomenon that occurs when immersion in a group causes people to become less aware of their individual values

social loafing

the tendency for people to expend less effort when in a group than alone

bystander intervention

the act of helping strangers in an emergency situation

diffusion of responsibility

the tendency for individuals to feel diminished responsibility for their actions when they are surrounded by others who are acting the same way

mere exposure effect

the tendency for liking to increase with the frequency of exposure

social exchange

the hypothesis that people remain in relationships only as long as they perceive a favorable ratio of costs to benefits

social influence

the control of one person's behavior by another

observational learning

learning that occurs when one person observes another person being rewarded or punished


a customary standard for behavior that is widely shared by members of a culture

normative influence

a phenomenon whereby one person's behavior is influenced by another person's behavior because the latter provides information about what is appropriate

norm of reciprocity

the norm that people should benefit from those who have benefitted from them


an enduring positive or negative evaluation of an object or event


an enduring pieve of knowledge about an object or event


the process by which people draw inferences about others based on their knowledge of the categories to which others belong

self-fulfilling prophecy

a phenomenon whereby observers bring about what they expect to observe

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