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Action Potential

The firing of a neuron. Occurs when charge inside neuron becomes more positive than charge outside.


neurotransmitter associated with voluntary movement, sleep and wakefulness. Too little is associated with Alzheimer's


Anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear of leaving one's home.

All or None Law

Either a neuron completely fires completely or it does not fire at all.


Behavior that is unselfish


Part of brain's limbic system that attaches emotional significance to info and mediates both defensive and aggressive behavior.

Anal Stage

Freud's second stage of psychosexual development where the primary sexual focus is on elimination or holding onto feces. The stage is often thought of as representing child's ability to control his or her own world.

Analysis of Variance

Inferential statistical procedure used to compare 2 or more means to see if the difference is not chance (need p<.05 for statistical significance)


Analysis of Variance.


Impairment of ability to communicate either through oral or written discourse as a result of brain damage. Ex. Wernicke's ________ or Broca's __________

Approach-Approach Conflict

conflict presented when 2 opposite but equally appealing choices are available but can not both be obtained.

Approach-Avoidance Conflict

conflict presented when the best positive choice will result in a negative outcome as well as positive.

Optimum Arousal Theory

Theory stating that we are motivated by our innate desire to maintain an personally preferred level of arousal.


Piaget term for incorporating objects, experiences, or info into existing schemas.


The strong bond a child forms with his or her primary caregiver.

Attribution Theory

Theory that argues people look for explanation of behavior, associating either dispositional (internal) explanations or situational (external) explanations


Parenting style focused on excessive rules, rigid belief systems, and the expectation of unquestioned obedience.


Parenting style focused on setting reasonable rules and expectations while encouraging communication and independence.

Autonomic Nervous System

Part of peripheral nervous system that regulates involuntary actions of body (e.g., breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation). Also regulates Fight or Flight Phenomenon.

Availability Heuristic

Rule of thumb stating that info more readily accessible in our memory is more important than info not as easily accessible.

Aversion Therapy

Behavioral treatment where disliked stimuli is paired with a negative behavior in hopes that behavior will change in future to avoid the disliked stimuli.

Avoidance-Avoidance Conflict

Conflict where both possible choices have an equal negative outcome.


Tail-like part of neuron through which info exits cell.

Behavior Modification

Application of behavioral theory to change a specific behavior.

Behavior Therapy

Application of conditioning in treatment of mental illness.


School of psychology founded on premise that behavior is measurable and can be changed through the application of various behavioral principles. DENIES EXISTENCE OF UNCONSCIOUS

Normal Curve

perfect unimodal curve where mean, median, and mode are equal.

Binocular Cues

Visual hints (convergence and retinal disparity) that require both eyes to perceive distance (as opposed to those requiring only one eye)

Broca's Aphasia

Loss of function associated with damage to a specific area of the left frontal lobe, demonstrated by impairment in producing understandable speech.

Castration Anxiety

According to Freud's Stages of Psychosexual Development, fear a boy in phallic stage experiences due to a fear that his father will render him powerless if his father finds out about his attraction toward his mother.


Emotional release associated with expression of unconscious conflicts Freud's idea for releasing anger - not supported by research


main part of neuron where information is processed.

Central Nervous System

brain and spinal cord.

Central Tendency

statistical measures attempting to depict average score in a distribution (includes mean, median, and/or mode)


young child's inability to understand another person's perspective - typical of Piaget's preoperational stage


Part of brain associated with balance, smooth movement, and posture & implicit (also called procedural or nondeclarative) memories

Cerebral Hemispheres

The two halves of the brain (right and left)


Combining info to be remembered into small groups (e.g., a seven chunk phone number such as two groups one of 3 and one of 4) to increase STM

Classical Conditioning

Behavioral technique of pairing a naturally occurring stimulus and response chain with a different stimulus in order to produce a response which is not naturally occurring.

Client Centered Therapy

humanistic therapy based on Carl Roger's beliefs that individual has unlimited capacity for psychological growth and will continue to grow unless barriers are placed in the way.

Coefficient of Determination

Statistic that represents amount of variance accounted for by a correlation.


Process of receiving, processing, storing, and using info.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Treatment involving the combination of theories of learning and those based on the theory that our thoughts control a large portion of our behaviors).

Cognitive Dissonance

Realization of contradictions in one's own attitudes and behaviors that causes discomfort

Cognitive Psychology

Sub-field of psychology associated with information processing and role it plays in emotion, behavior, and physiology.

Cognitive Therapy

Treatment approach based on theory that our thoughts control a large part of our behaviors and emotions. Therefore, changing the way we think can result in positive changes in the way we act and feel.

Collective Unconscious

According to Jung, the content of the unconscious mind that is passed down from generation to generation in all humans.


Physical act resulting from an obsession. Typically done to alleviate the discomfort created by an obsession.

Concrete Operational Stage

According to Piaget - stage of cognitive development where child between ages of 7 and 12 begins thinking more globally and outside of the self but are still deficient in abstract thought.

Conditioned Response

Response in a stimulus-response chain that is not naturally occurring, but has been learned through pairing it with a naturally occurring chain.

Conditioned Stimulus

Stimulus in a stimulus-response chain that is not naturally occurring, but has been learned through pairing with a naturally occurring chain.


Learning. Process of learning new behaviors or responses as a result of their consequences.


Changing your attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, or behaviors in order to be more consistent with others and fit in with the group

Confounding Variable

Any variable not part of research study that has an effect on research results (unintended)


According to Freud, the superego.


Awareness of yourself and world around you.


Understanding, typically achieved in concrete operations that matter remains the same even when the shape changes (i.e., a pound of clay is still a pound of clay whether is is rolled in a ball or pounded flat). Piaget term


Any variable that can not be directly observed but rather is measured through indirect methods. (Examples: intelligence, motivation)

Construct Validity

Validity answers the question of whether or not the measuring device actually measures the theoretical idea under question.

Content Validity

A measurement device's ability to be generalized to the entire content of what is being measured.

Context Dependent Memory

Theory that info learned in a particular situation or place is better remembered when in that same situation or place.

Continuous Reinforcement

The application of reinforcement every time a specific behavior occurs.

Control Group

Group of subjects in experiment that does not receive the independent variable.


Binocular cue to distance referring to fact that the closer an object is, the more inward our eyes need to turn in order to focus

Convergent Thinking

Logical and conventional thought leading to a single answer to a problem.

Conversion Disorder

Somatoform disorder where individual experiences a loss of sensation or function due to a psychological belief (e.g., paralysis, blindness, deafness).

Correlated Sample

Sample data that is related to each other.


Degree to which two or more variables are related to each other. Refers to direction that variables move and does not necessarily represent cause and effect.

Correlation Coefficient

Statistic or number representing the degree to which two or more variables are related. Often abbreviated 'r.' Ex. r= 1.0 or r- -.8


Use of conditioning to eliminate a previously conditioned response. Conditioned stimulus (CS) is repaired with a different unconditioned stimulus (UCS) to eventually elicit a new conditioned response (CR) Ex. Mary Cover Jones

Critical Period

Time frame deemed highly important in developing in a healthy manner; can be physically, emotionally, behaviorally, or cognitively.

Cross Sectional Study

A research study that examines effects of development (maturation) by examining different subjects at various ages at the same time.

Crystallized Intelligence

The part of intelligence which involves acquisition, as opposed to the use, of info- Increases with age


Theory which states that memory fades and/or disappears over time if it is not used or accessed.

Explicit Memory

Part of LTM where factual info is stored, such as math formulas, vocabulary, & life events. Semantic and episodic memories

Deductive Reasoning

Decision making process in which ideas are processed from the general to the specific.

Defense Mechanisms

Freud's term for psychological forces which prevent undesirable or inappropriate impulses from entering consciousness and reduce anxiety


False belief (e.g., believing you are Napoleon, have magical powers, or the false belief that others are 'out to get you.').


Extensions of cell body of a neuron responsible for receiving incoming neurotransmitters.

Dependent Variable

Variable in experiment that is measured; outcome of an experiment.

Descriptive Statistics

The branch of statistics that focuses on describing in numerical format what is happening now within a population.

Developmental Psychology

Area of psychology focused on how children grow psychologically to become who they are as adults.

Difference Threshold

Smallest change in perception which is noticeable at least 50% of the time.


In behavioral theory - learned ability to differentiate between 2 similar objects or situations.

Dispositional Attribution

A behavior explained or interpreted as being caused by internal influences.


A separation from self. Most of us experience this in very mild forms such as when we are driving long distance and lose time or find ourselves day dreaming longer than we thought.

Divergent Thinking

The ability to arrive at multiple solutions to a problem or idea - associated with creativity


Neurotransmitter associated with movement, attention and learning and the brain's pleasure and reward system.

Dopamine Hypothesis

Theory that schizophrenia is caused by an excess amount of dopamine in brain. Research has found that medication to reduce dopamine can reduce the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.

Double Blind Study

Research method in which both subjects and experimenter are unaware to the anticipated results and who is in the experimental group


An internal motivation to fulfill a need or reduce the negative aspects of an unpleasant situation.


The use of medication to treat a mental illness.


In Psychoanalytical theory, the part of the personality which maintains balance between our impulses and our conscience.


The thinking in the preoperational stage of cognitive development where children believe everyone sees the world fro the same perspective as he or she does.

Ellis, Albert

Cognitive Psychologist who developed Rational-Emotive Therapy. (RET or REBT)


Feelings about a situation, person, or objects that involves changes in physiological arousal and cognitions.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

The awareness of and ability to manage one's emotions in a healthy and productive manner.


The transformation of info to be stored in memory.


neurotransmitter involved in pain relief, and feelings of pleasure and contentedness.


neurotransmitter involved in energy and glucose metabolism.

Episodic Memory

Subcategory of Declarative or Explicit memory where info regarding life events are stored.

Escape Conditioning

Operant conditioning based on idea that a behavior is more likely to be repeated if it results in the cessation of a negative event.


Causal relationships of diseases; theories regarding how the specific disease or disorder began.

Experimental Group

In research, group of subjects who receive independent variable.

Experimental Method

Research method using random assignment of subjects and manipulation of variables in order to determine cause and effect.

Experimenter Bias

Errors in a research study due to predisposed notions or beliefs of experimenter. Eliminate by using double blind design

External Locus of Control

Rotter's idea that some individuals have the belief that environment has more control over life circumstances than the individual does.

External Validity

The extent to which data collected from a sample can be generalized to the entire population.


Reduction and eventual disappearance of a learned or conditioned response after it is no longer paired with the unconditioned stimulus-response chain.

Extrinsic Motivation

The desire or push to perform a certain behavior based on potential external rewards that may be received as a result.


Personality style where the individual prefers outward and group activity as opposed to inward and individual activity.

Factor Analysis

A statistical technique used combine data into similar groups


In Freud's theory of psychosexual development, the failure to complete a stage successfully which results in a continuation of that stage into later adulthood.

Fixed Interval Schedule

A schedule in which reinforcement is presented after a specific period of time.

Fixed Ratio Schedule

A schedule in which reinforcement is presented after a specific number of responses.

Frequency Distribution

A table showing the number of occurrences for each score

Frequency Effect

The phenomenon in memory which states that we tend to remember information better if it is repeated.

Freud, Sigmund

Referred to as father of psychological analysis. His extensive theory of personality development (psychoanalytical theory) is the cornerstone for modern psychological thought, and consists of (1) the psychosexual stages of development, (2) the structural model of personality (id, ego, superego), and (3) levels of consciousness (conscious, subconscious, and unconscious). See Psychoanalysis.


A behavioral technique used to treat phobias in which client is presented with feared stimulus all at once until the associated anxiety disappears.

Fluid Intelligence

Part of intelligence which involves the use, as opposed to the acquisition, of info. Speed of processing. DECREASES WITH AGE

Formal Operational Stage

Piaget's fourth and final stage of cognitive development where thinking becomes more abstract.


Presenting info either positively or negatively in order to change the influence is has on an individual or group. Wording effects. 90% lean not 20% fat!

Free Association

The psychoanalytic technique of allowing a patient to talk without direction or input in order to analyze current issues of the client.

Frontal Lobe

The lobe at the front of the brain associated with movement, speech, and impulsive behavior.


The feelings, thoughts, and behaviors associated with not achieving a particular goal or the belief that a goal has been prematurely interrupted.

Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis

Theory arguing that aggression is the natural reaction to frustration.


School of thought popular in 19th century emphasizing conscious experiences as a precursor to behavior - Studied reasons for elements that make up consciousness

Fundamental Attribution Error

Tendency to over estimate the internal attributes of another person's actions.

g factor

Basic intelligence of Spearman's theory. Typically compared to s which represents specific intelligences.

GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid)

Major INHIBITORY neurotransmitter Too little has been associated with anxiety disorders.

Gender Identity

Internal sense of being either male or female. Usually congruent with biological gender, but not always.

Gender Role

The accepted behaviors, thoughts, and emotions of a specific gender based upon the views of a particular society or culture.

Gender Typing

The process of developing the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions associated with a particular gender.


The tendency to associate stimuli, and therefore respond similarly to, due to their closeness on some variable such as size, shape, color, or meaning.

Genital Stage

Freud's final stage of psychosexual development where healthy sexual development is defined as attraction to same aged, opposite sexed peer.


German word typically translated as meaning 'whole' or 'form.'

Gestalt Therapy

Treatment focusing on awareness and understanding of one's feelings and restoring wholeness.

Group Polarization

Tendency for members of a cohesive group to make more extreme decisions due to lack of opposing views. Groups of like people become more strong in their opinions

Group Therapy

Psychotherapy conducted with at least three or four non-related individuals who are similar in some are, such as gender, age, mental illness, or presenting problem.

Group Think

Tendency for members of a cohesive group to reach decisions without weighing all the facts, especially those contradicting the majority opinion.


Sense of taste.


Decrease in response to a stimulus due to repetition (e.g., not hearing the ticking of a clock after getting used to it)


False perception of reality (e.g., hearing voices that aren't there or seeing people who do not exist) [auditory (hearing); visual (sight); olfactory (smell); tactile (touch); and taste].

Halo Effect

Tendency to assign generally positive or generally negative traits to a person after observing one specific positive or negative trait, respectively. Example: believing attractive people are also intelligent and good leaders

Hawthorne Effect

Phenomenon that subject behavior changes by mere fact that they are being observed.

Health Psychology

Specific field in psychology concerned with psychology's impact on health, physical well being, and illness.


A rule of thumb based on experience used to make decisions.

Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Theory of Motivation which states that we must achieve lower level needs, such as food, shelter, and safety before we can achieve higher level needs, such as belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

Higher Order Conditioning

Pairing a second conditioned stimulus with first conditioned stimulus in order to produce a second conditioned response.

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