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absolute threshold

the minimum stimulation needed to detect a stimulus 50 percent of the time


in Piaget's theory, refers to changing an existing schema to incorporate new information that cannot be assimilated

acetylcholine (Ach)

neurotransmitter that enables learning and memory and also triggers muscle contraction

achievement motivation

a desire for significant accomplishment; for mastery of things, people, or ideas; and for attaining a high standard

achievement tests

measure a person's current knowledge

acoustic encoding

the processing of information into memory according to its sound


refers to the initial stage of conditioning in which the new response is established and gradually strengthened

action potential

a neural impulse generated by the movement of positively charged atoms in and out of channels in the axon's membrane

active listening

a nondirective technique of person-centered therapy, in which the listener echoes, restates, clarifies, but does not interpret, client's remarks


refers to the sharpness of vision

adaptation-level phenomenon

refers to our tendency to judge things relative to our prior experience


a compulsive craving for a drug despite adverse consequences and withdrawal symptoms


refers to the life stage from puberty to independent adulthood, denoted physically by a growth spurt and maturation of primary and secondary sex characteristics, cognitively by the onset of formal operational thought, and socially by the formation of identity

adrenal glands

produce epinephrine and norepinephrine, hormones that prepare the body to deal with emergencies or stress

aerobic exercise

any sustained activity such as running, swimming, or cycling that promotes heart and lung fitness and may help alleviate depression and anxiety


any physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt or destroy


a methodical, logical procedure that, while sometimes slow, guarantees success

Alpha waves

are the relatively slow brain waves characteristic of an awake, relaxed state


is unselfish regard for the welfare of others

Alzheimer's disease

a progressive and irreversible brain disorder caused by deterioration of neurons that produce acetylcholine. It is characterized by a gradual loss of memory, reasoning, language, and finally, physical functioning


the loss of memory


a type of stimulant and, as such speed up body functions and neural activity


part of the limbic system and influences the emotions of fear and aggression

Anorexia nervosa

an eating disorder, most common in adolescent females, in which a person restricts food intake to become significantly underweight and yet still feels fat

antisocial personality disorder

a personality disorder in which the person is aggressive, ruthless, and shows no sign of a conscience that would inhibit wrongdoing

anxiety disorders

involve distressing, persistent anxiety or maladaptive behaviors that reduce anxiety


an impairment of language as a result of damage to any of several cortical areas, including Broca's area and Wernicke's area

applied research

scientific study that aims to solve practical problems

aptitude tests

designed to predict future performance. They measure your capacity to learn new information, rather than measuring what you already know.

artificial intelligence (AI)

the science of designing and programming computers do to "intelligent" things and to simulate human thought process


in Piaget's theory, refers to interpreting a new experience in terms of an existing schema

association areas

located throughout the cortex, involved in higher mental functions, such as learning, remembering, and abstract thinking

associative learning

organisms learn that certain events occur together. Two variations of associative learning are classical conditioning and operant conditioning


is an emotional tie with another person, shown in young children by their seeking closeness to a caregiver and showing distress on separation

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

a psychological disorder characterized by one or more of three symptoms: extreme in attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity


personal beliefs and feelings that may predispose a person to respond in particular ways to objects, people, and events

attribution theory

deals with our casual explanations of behavior


refers to the sense of hearing


a disorder that appears in childhood and is marked by deficiencies in communication, social interaction, and theory of mind

automatic processing

refers to our unconscious encoding of incidental information such as space, time, and frequency, and of well -learned information

autonomic nervous system

the division of the peripheral nervous system that controls the glands and the muscles of internal organs and thereby controls internal functioning; it regulates the automatic behaviors necessary for survival

availability heuristic

based on estimating the probability of certain events in terms of how readily they come to mind

aversive conditioning

a form of counter conditioning in which an unpleasant state becomes associated with an unwanted behavior


of a neuron is the extension that sends impulses to other nerve cells or to muscles or glands

babbling stage

stage of speech development, which begins at 3 to 4 months, is characterized by the spontaneous utterance of speech sounds.


depressants, sometimes used to induce sleep or reduce anxiety

Basal metabolic rate

the body's base rate of energy expenditure when resting

basic research

pure science that aims to increase psychology's scientific knowledge base rather than to solve practical problems

basic trust

a sense that the world is predictable and trustworthy - a concept that infants form if their needs are met by responsive care giving

behavioral medicine

the interdisciplinary field that applies behavioral and medical knowledge to the treatment of disease and the promotion of health

behavior genetics

is the study of genetic and environmental influences on behavior


the view that psychology should be an objective science that studies only observable behaviors without reference to mental processes

behavior therapy

therapy that applies principles of operant or classical conditioning to the elimination of problem behaviors

belief bias

the tendency for a person's preexisting beliefs to distort his or her logical reasoning

belief perseverance

the tendency for people to cling to a particular belief even after the information that led to the formation of the belief is discredited

binocular cues

depth cues that depend on information from both eyes


refers to a system for electronically recording, amplifying, and feeding back information regarding a subtle physiological state

biological psychology

the study of links between biology and behavior

biological rhythms

periodic fluctuations in our bodies' physiological states, including annual variations in appetite, 90-minute sleep cycles, the 28-day menstrual cycle, an circadian rhythms

biopsychosocial approach

an integrated perspective that focuses on biological, psychological, and social-cultural levels of analysis for a given behavior or mental process


means having two poles, that two opposites qualities

bipolar disorder

the mood disorder in which a person alternates between depression and the euphoria of a manic state

blind spot

the region of the retina where the optic nerve leaves the eye. Because there are no rods or cones in this area, there is no vision here

bottom-up processing

analysis that begins with the sensory receptors and works up to the brain's integration of sensory information


the oldest and innermost region of the brain, is an extension of the spinal cord and is the central core of the brain; its structures direct automatic survival functions

Broca's area

located in the left frontal lobe, is involved in controlling the motor ability to produce speech

Bulimia nervosa

an eating disorder characterized by episodes of overeating followed by vomiting, laxative use, fasting, or excessive exercise

bystander effect

the tendency of a person to be less likely to offer help to someone if there are other people present

Cannon-Bard theory

states that the subjective experience of an emotion occurs at the same time as the body's physical reaction

case study

an observation technique in which one person is studied in great depth, often with the intention of revealing universal principles


emotional release; according to the catharsis hypothesis, by expressing our anger, we can reduce it

central nervous system (CNS)

consists of the brain and spinal cord; it is located at the center, or internal core, of the body


processes sensory input and coordinates movement output and balance

cerebral cortex

a thin intricate covering of interconnected neural cells atop the cerebral hemispheres.


are threadlike structure made of DNA molecules, which contain the genes. In conception, the 23 chromosomes in the egg are paired with the 23 chromosomes in the sperm


the memory technique of organizing material into familiar, meaningful units

circadian rhythm

any regular bodily rhythm such as body temperature and sleep-wakefulness, that follows a 24 hour cycle

classical conditioning

Pavlovian conditioning, a type of learning in which neural stimulus becomes capable of triggering a conditioned response after having become associated with an unconditional stimulus

client-centered therapy

a humanistic therapy developed by Rogers, in which growth and self-awareness are facilitated in an environment that offers genuineness, acceptance, and empathy

clinical psychology

the branch of psychology concerned with the study, assessment, and treatment of people with psychological disorders


the coiled, bony, fluid-filled tube of the inner ear where the transduction of sound waves into neural impulses occurs.

cochlear implant

is an electronic device that converts sounds into electrical signals that stimulate the auditory nerve


thinking, refers to the mental activity associated with processing, understanding, and communicating information

cognitive-behavior therapy

an integrated therapy that focuses on changing self-defeating thinking and unwanted behaviors

cognitive dissonance theory

refers to the theory that we act to reduce the psychological discomfort we experience when our behavior conflicts with what we think and feel, or more generally, when two of our thoughts conflict

cognitive map

a mental picture of one's environment

cognitive therapy

focuses on teaching people new and more adaptive ways of thinking and acting.

collective unconscious

Jung's concept of an inherited unconscious shared by all people and deriving from our species' theory


giving priority to the goals of one's group, and defining one's identity accordingly

color constancy

the perception that familiar objects have consistent color despite changes in illumination that shift the wavelengths they reflect

companionate love

refers to a deep, enduring, affectionate attachment

complementary and alternative medicine

a collection of health care remedies and treatments that have not been accepted by medical science or verified by controlled research trials

computer neural networks

computer circuits that simulate the brain's interconnected nerve cells and perform tasks such as learning to recognize visual patterns


a mental grouping similar objects, events, or people

concrete operational stage

lasting from about ages 6 or 7 to 11, children can think logically about concrete events and objects

conditional stimulus (CS)

an originally neutral stimulus that comes to trigger a CR after association with an unconditioned stimulus

conditioned reinforcers

stimuli that acquire their reinforcing power through their association with primary reinforcers

conditioned response (CR)

the learned response to a previously neutral conditioned stimulus, which results from the acquired association between the CS and US.

conduction hearing loss

refers to the hearing loss that results from damage in the mechanics of the outer or middle ear, which impairs the conduction of sound waves to the cochlea

confirmation bias

an obstacle to problem solving in which people tend to search for information that validates their preconceptions


a perceived incompatibility of actions, goals, or ideas between individuals or groups


the tendency to change one's thinking or behavior to coincide with a group standard


our awareness of ourselves and our environment


the principle that properties such as number, volume, and mass remain constant despite changes in the forms of objects; it is acquired during the concrete operational stage

content validity

a test is the extent to which it samples the behavior that is of interest

continuous reinforcement

the operant procedure of reinforcing the desired response every time it occurs.

control condition

of an experiment is one in which the treatment of interest, or independent variable, is withheld so that comparison to the experimental condition can be made up


a neuromuscular binocular depth cue based on the extent to which the eyes converge, or turn inward, when looking at near or distant objects.


refers to any effort to alleviate stress using emotional, cognitive, or behavioral methods

coronary heart disease

leading cause of death in North America, results from the clogging of the vessels that nourish the heart muscle

corpus callosum

the large band of neural fibers that links the right and left cerebral hemispheres. Without this band of nerve fibers, the two hemispheres could not interact.


a measure of the extent to which two factors vary together, and thus of how well either factors predicts the other

counseling psychology

the branch of psychology that helps people cope with challenges in their daily lives

counter conditioning

a category of behavior therapy in which new responses are classically conditioned to stimuli that elicit unwanted behaviors


refers to an ability to produce novel and valuable ideas


the behavior the test is designed to predict

critical period

limited time shortly after birth during which an organism must be exposed to certain experiences or influences if it is to develop properly

critical thinking

careful reasoning that examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, and assesses conclusions

cross-sectional study

people of different ages compared with one another

crystallized intelligence

refers to those aspects of intellectual ability, such as vocabulary and general knowledge, that reflect accumulated learning


the enduring behaviors, ideas, attitudes, and traditions shared by a large group of people and transmitted from one generation to the next

defense mechanisms

are the ego's methods of unconsciously protecting itself against anxiety by distorting reality


refers to the loss of self-awareness and self-restraint that sometimes occurs in group situations that foster arousal and anonymity

Delta waves

large, slow brain waves associated with deep sleep


false beliefs that often are symptoms of psychotic disorders


of a neuron are the bushy, branching extensions that receive messages from other nerve cells and conduct impulses toward the cell body

dependent variable

of an experiment is the factor being measured by the investigator


psychoactive drugs, such as alcohol, opiates, and barbiturates, that reduce neural activity and slow body functions

depth perception

the ability to see objects in three dimensions although the images that strike the retina are two-dimensional; it allows us to judge distance

developmental psychology

the branch of psychology concerned with physical, cognitive, and social change throughout the life span

difference threshold

the minimum difference between two stimuli that a subject can detect 50 percent of the time


in classical conditioning refers to the ability to distinguish the CS from similar stimuli that do not signal a US.


the defense mechanism in which a sexual or aggressive impulse is shifted to a more acceptable object other than the one that originally aroused the impulse


a split between different levels of consciousness, allowing a person to divide attention between two or more thoughts

dissociative disorders

involves a separation of conscious awareness from one's previous memories, thoughts, and feelings

dissociative identity disorder

a dissociative disorder in which a person exhibits two or more distinct and alternating personalities

d‚j... vu

the false sense that you have already experienced a current situation


is a complex molecules containing the genetic information that makes up the chromosomes

double-blind procedure

an experimental procedure in which neither the experimenter nor the research participants are aware of which condition is in effect

Down Syndrome

a common cause of severe retardation and associated with physical disorders, usually the result of an extra chromosome in the person's genetic makeup


vivid sequences of images, emotions, and thoughts, the most vivid of which occur during REM sleep

drive-reduction theory

attempts to explain behavior as arising from physiological need that creates an aroused tension state (drive) that motivates an organism to satisfy the need


a short name for the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, which provides a widely used system of classifying psychological disorders


the philosophical belief that the mind and body are distinct entities - the mind non-physical, the body physical

echoic memory

the momentary sensory memory of auditory stimuli, lasting about 3 or 4 seconds

eclectic approach

therapists are not locked into form of psychotherapy, but draw on whatever combination seems best suited to a client's needs

Ecstasy (MDMA)

classified as both a (synthetic) stimulant and a mild hallucinogen, produces a short-term euphoria by increasing serotonin levels in the brain

effortful processing

encoding that requires attention and some degree of conscious effort


the conscious division of personality that attempts to mediate between the demands of the id, the superego, and reality

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