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all 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. Matching new items to the prototype provides a quick and easy method for including items in a category (as when comparing feathered creatures to a prototypical bird, such as a robin).


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.


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

confirmation bias

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


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

mental set

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

functional fixedness

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

representativeness 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.

availability heuristic

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.


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

belief bias

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

belief perseverance

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


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

babbling stage

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

telegraphic speech

Whorf's hypothesis that language determines the way we think.

linguistic determinism

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


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

one-word stage

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

two-word stage

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