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our awareness of ourselves and our environment

biological rhythms

periodic physiological fluctuations

circadian rhythm

the biological clock; regular bodily rhythms (for example, of temperature and wakefulness) that occur on a 24-hour cycle

REM sleep

a recurring sleep stage during which vivid dreams commonly occur. Also known as paradoxical sleep, because the muscles are relaxed (except for minor twitches) but other body systems are active

alpha waves

the relatively slow brain waves of a relaxed, awake state


periodic, natural, reversible loss of consciousness - as distinct from consciousness


false sensory experiences, such as seeing something in the absence of an external visual stimulus

delta waves

the large, slow brain waves associated with deep sleep


recurring problems in falling or staying asleep


a sleep disorder characterized by uncontrollable sleep attacks. The sufferer may lapse directly into REM sleep, often at inopportune times

sleep apnea

a sleep disorder characterized by temporary cessations of breathing during sleep and repeated momentary awakenings

night terrors

a sleep disorder characterized by high arousal and an appearance of being terrified; unlike nightmares, this disorder occurs during Stage 4 sleep, within two or three hours of falling asleep, and are seldom remembered


a sequence of images, emotions, and thoughts passing through a sleeping person's mind

manifest content

according to Freud, the remembered story line of a dream (as distinct from its latent, or hidden, content)

latent content

according to Freud, the underlying meaning of a dream (as distinct from its manifest content). Freud believed that this functioned as a safety valve

REM rebound

the tendency for REM sleep to increase following REM sleep deprivations (created by repeated awakenings during REM sleep)


a social interaction in which one person (the hypnotist) suggests to another (the subject) that certain perceptions, feelings, thoughts, or behaviours will spontaneously occur

posthypnotic suggestion

a suggestion, made during a hypnosis session, to be carried out after the subject is no longer hypnotized; used by some clinicians to help control undesired symptoms and behaviours


a split in consciousness, which allows some thoughts and behaviours to occur simultaneously with others

psychoactive drugs

a chemical substance that alters perceptions and mood


the diminishing effect with regular use of the same dose of a drug, requiring the user to take larger and larger doses before experiencing the drug's effect


the discomfort and distress that follow discontinuing the use of an addictive drugs

physical dependence

a physiological need for a drug, marked by unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued

psychological dependence

a psychological need to use a drug, such as to relieve negative emotions


compulsive drug craving and use


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


drugs that depress the activity of the central nervous system, reducing anxiety but impairing memory and judgment


opium and its derivatives, such as morphine and heroin; they depress neural activity, temporarily lessening pain and anxiety


drugs (such as caffeine, nicotine, and the more powerful amphetamines, concaine and ecstasy) that excite neural activity and speed up body functions


drugs that stimulate neural activity, causing speeded-up body functions and associated energy and mood changes


a powerfully addictive drug that stimulates the central nervous system, with speeded-up body functions and associated energy and mood changes; over time, appears to reduce baseline dopamine levels

ecstasy (MDMA)

a synthetic stimulant and mild hallucinogen. Produces euphoria and social intimacy, but with short-term health risks and longer-term harm to serotonin-producing neurons and to mood and cognition


psychedelic ("mind-manifesting") drugs, such as LSD, that distort perceptions and evoke sensory images in the absence of sensory input


a powerful hallucinogenic drug; also known as acid


the major active ingredient in marijuana; triggers a variety of effects, including mild hallucinations

near-death experience

an altered state of consciousness reported after a close brush with death (such as through cardiac arrest); often similar to drug-induced hallucinations


the presumption that mind and body are two distinct entities that interact


the presumption that mind and body are different aspects of the same thing


a relatively permanent change in an organism's behaviour due to experience

associative learning

learning that certain events occur together. The events may be two stimuli (as in classical conditioning) or a response and its consequences (as in operant conditioning)

classical conditioning

a type of learning in which an organism comes to associate stimuli. A neutral stimulus that signals an unconditioned stimulus (US) begins to produce a response that anticipates and prepares for the unconditioned stimulus. Also called Pavlovian or respondent conditioning


the view that psychology (1) should be an objective science that (2) studies behaviour without reference to mental processes. Most research psychologists today agree with (1) but not with (2)

unconditioned response (UR)

in classical conditioning, the unlearned, naturally occurring response to the unconditioned stimulus (US), such as salivation when food is in the mouth

unconditioned stimulus (US)

in classical conditioning, a stimulus that unconditionally - naturally and automatically - triggers a response

conditioned response (CR)

in classical conditioning, the learned response to a previously neutral (but now conditioned) stimulus (CS)

conditioned stimulus (CS)

in classical conditioning, an originally irrelevant stimulus that, after association with an unconditioned stimulus (US), comes to trigger a conditioned response


the initial stage in classical conditioning; the phase associating a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus so that the neutral stimulus comes to elicit a conditioned response. In operant conditioning, the strengthening of a reinforced response


the diminishing of a conditioned response; occurs in classical conditioning when an unconditioned stimulus (US) does not follow a conditioned stimulus (CS); occurs in operant conditioning when a response is no longer reinforced

spontaneous recovery

the reappearance, after a pause, of an extinguished conditioned response


the tendency, once a response has been conditioned, for stimuli similar to the conditioned stimulus to elicit similar responses


in classical conditioning, the learned ability to distinguish between a conditioned stimulus and stimuli that do not signal an unconditioned stimulus

operant conditioning

a type of learning in which behaviour is strengthened if followed by a reinforcer or diminished if followed by a punisher

respondent behaviour

behaviour that occurs as an automatic response to some stimulus; Skinner's term for behaviour learned through classical conditioning

operant behaviour

behaviour that operates on the environment, producing consequences

law of effect

Thorndike's principle that behaviours followed by favourable consequences become more likely, and that behaviours followed by unfavourable consequences become less likely

operant chamber

a chamber also known as a Skinner box, containing a bar or key that an animal can manipulate to obtain a food or water reinforcer, with attached devices to record the animal's rate of bar pressing or key pecking. Used in operant conditioning research


an operant conditioning procedure in which reinforcers guide behaviour toward closer and closer approximations of the desired behaviour


in operant conditioning, any event that strengthens the behaviour it follows

positive reinforcement

increasing behaviours by presenting positive stimuli, such as food. It is any stimulus that, when presented after a response, strengthens the response

negative reinforcement

increasing behaviours by stopping or reducing negative stimuli, such as shock. It is any stimulus that, when removed after a response, strengthens the response

primary reinforcer

an innately reinforcing stimulus, such as one that satisfies a biological need

conditioned reinforcer

a stimulus that gains its reinforcing power through its association with a primary reinforcer; also known as secondary reinforcer

continuous reinforcement

reinforcing the desired response every time it occurs

partial (intermittent) reinforcement

reinforcing a response only part of the time; results in slower acquisition of a response but much greater resistance to extinction than does continuous reinforcement

fixed-ratio schedule

in operant conditioning, a reinforcement schedule that reinforces a response only after a specified number of responses

variable-ratio schedule

in operant conditioning, a reinforcement schedule that reinforces a response after an unpredictable number of responses

fixed-interval schedule

in operant conditioning, a reinforcement schedule that reinforces a response only after a specified time has elapsed

variable-interval schedule

in operant conditioning, a reinforcement schedule that reinforces a response at unpredictable time intervals


an event that decreases the behaviour that it follows

cognitive map

a mental representation of the layout of one's environment

latent learning

learning that occurs but is not apparent until there is an incentive to demonstrate it

intrinsic motivation

a desire to perform a behaviour for its own sake

extrinsic motivation

a desire to perform a behaviour due to promised rewards or threats of punishment

observational learning

learning by observing others


the process of observing and imitating a specific behaviour

mirror neurons

frontal lobe neurons that fire when performing certain actions or when observing another doing so. It may enable imitation, language learning, and empathy

prosocial behaviour

positive, constructive, helpful behaviour. The opposite of antisocial behaviour


the persistence of learning over time through the storage and retrieval of information

flashbulb memory

a clear memory of an emotionally significant moment or event


the processing of information into the memory system -- for example, by extracting meaning


the retention of encoded information over time


the process of getting information out of memory storage

sensory memory

the immediate, very brief recording of sensory information in the memory system

short-term memory

activated memory that holds a few items briefly, such as the seven digits of a phone number while dialing, before the information is stored or forgotten

long-term memory

the relatively permanent and limitless storehouse of the memory system. Includes knowledge, skills, and experiences

working memory

a newer understanding of short-term memory that involves conscious, active processing of incoming auditory and visual-spatial information, and of information retrieved from long-term memory

automatic processing

unconscious encoding of incidental information, such as space, time, and frequency, and of well-learned information, such as word meanings

effortful processing

encoding that requires attention and conscious effort


the conscious repetition of information, either to maintain it in consciousness or to encode it for storage

spacing effect

the tendency for distributed study or practice to yield better long-term retention that is achieved through massed study or practice

serial position effect

our tendency to recall best the last and first items in a list

visual encoding

the encoding of picture images

acoustic encoding

the encoding of sound, especially the sound of words

semantic encoding

the encoding of meaning, including the meaning of words


mental pictures; a powerful aid to effortful processing, especially when combined with semantic encoding


memory aids, especially those techniques that use vivid imagery and organizational devices


organizing items into familiar, manageable units; often occurs automatically

iconic memory

a momentary sensory memory of visual stimuli; a photographic or picture-image memory lasting no more than a few tenths of a second

echoic memory

a momentary sensory memory of auditory stimuli; if attention is elsewhere, sounds and words can still be recalled within 3 or 4 seconds

long-term potentiation (LTP)

an increase in a synapse's firing potential after brief, rapid stimulation. Believed to be a neural basis for learning and memory


the loss of memory

implicit memory

retention independent of conscious recollection (also called procedural memory)

explicit memory

memory of facts and experiences that one can consciously know and "declare." (also called declarative memory)


a neural centre that is located in the limbic system and helps process explicit memories for storage


a measure of memory in which the person must retrieve information learned earlier, as on a fill-in-the-black test


a measure of memory in which the person need only identify items previously learned, as on a multiple-choice test


a memory measure that assesses the amount of time saved when learning material for a second time


the activation, often unconsciously, of particular associations in memory

deja vu

that eerie sense that "I've experienced this before." Cues from the current situation may subconsciously trigger retrieval of an earlier experience

mood-congruent memory

the tendency to recall experiences that are consistent with one's current good or bad mood

proactive interference

the disruptive effect of prior learning on the recall of new information

retroactive interference

the disruptive effect of new learning on the recall of old information


in psychoanalytic theory, the basic defense mechanism that banishes from consciousness anxiety-arousing thoughts, feelings, and memories

misinformation effect

incorporating misleading information into one's memory of an event

source amnesia

attributing to the wrong source an event we have experienced, heard about, read about, or imagined


the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, and communicating


a mental grouping of similar objects, events, ideas, or people


a mental image or best example of a category


a methodical, logical rule or procedure that guarantees solving a particular problem. Contrasts with the usually speedier -- but also more error-prone -- use of heuristics


a simple thinking strategy that often allows us to make judgments and solve problems efficiently; usually speedier but also more error-prone than algorithms


a sudden and often novel realization of the solution to a problem; it contrasts with strategy-based solutions

confirmation bias

a tendency to search for information that confirms one's preconceptions


the inability to see a problem from a new perspective; an impediment to problem solving

mental set

a tendency to approach a problem in a particular way, often a way that has been successful in the past

functional fixedness

the tendency to think of things only in terms of their usual functions; an impediment to problem solving

representative heuristic

judging the likelihood of things in terms of how well they seem to represent, or match, particular prototypes; may lead one to ignore other relevent information

availability heuristic

estimating the likelihood of events based on their availability in memory; if instances come readily to mind (perhaps because of their vividness), we presume such events are common


the tendency to be more confident than correct -- to overestimate the accuracy of one's beliefs and judgments


the way an issue is posed; how an issue is framed can significantly affect decisions and judgments

belief bias

the tendency for one's preexisting beliefs to distort logical reasoning, sometimes by making invalid conclusions seem valid, or valid conclusions seem invalid

belief perseverance

clinging to one's initial conceptions after the basis on which they were formed has been discredited


our spoken, written, or signed words and the ways we combine them to communicate meaning


in a language, the smallest distinctive sound unit


in a language, the smallest unit that carries meaning; may be a word or a part of a word (such as a prefix)


in a language, a system of rules that enables us to communicate with and understand others


the set of rules by which we derive meaning from morphemes, words, and sentences in a given language; also, the study of meaning


the rules for combining words into grammatically sensible sentences in a given language

babbling stage

beginning at about 4 months, the stage of speech developing in which the infant spontaneously utters various sounds at first unrelated to the household language

one-word stage

the stage in speech development, from about age 1 to 2, during which a child speaks mostly in single words

two-word stage

beginning about age 2, the stage in speech development during which a child speaks mostly two-word statements

telegraphic speech

early speech stage in which a child speaks like a telegram -- "go car" -- using mostly nouns and verbs and omitting auxiliary words

linguistic determinism

Whorf's hypothesis that language determines the way we think

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