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Source: (Psychology Teacher Network, Sept. - Oct. 1996) References McLeod, S. A. (2007) Simply Psychology [On-line] UK: Available: Accessed: February 22, 2010

Absolute threshold

intensity level at which one can detect a stimulus 50% of the time

Action potential

the electrical process by which information is transmitted the length of an axon


overt or suppressed hostility, either innate or resulting from continued frustration and directed outward or against oneself


a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder

Anxiety disorders

mental problems characterized mainly by anxiety. They include panic disorder, specific phobias, and obsessive compulsive disorders.


any of several theories that explain complex psychological phenomena as being built up from the association of simple sensations, stimuli and responses, or other behavioral or mental elements considered as primary


theory developed by Harlow; types include secure and insecure


a relatively enduring evaluation of a person or thing; Asch demonstrated that this doesn't always match one's behavior

Attribution theory

a way of explaining others' behavior by either one's disposition or one's situation

Avoidance learning

Avoidance learning is the process by which an individual learns a behavior or response to avoid a stressful or unpleasant situation.


a perspective on psychology that sees psychology as an objective science without reference to mental states

Binocular depth cues

retinal disparity and convergence which enable people to determine depth using both eyes

Central nervous system

consists of the brain and the spinal cord


brain structure that controls well-learned motor activities like riding a bike

Cerebral cortex

the fabric of interconnecting cells that blankets the brain hemispheres; the brain's center for information processing and control

Cerebral hemispheres

either of the two symmetrical halves of the cerebrum, designated right and left; in mammals, the cerebral hemispheres are connected by the corpus callosum, a transverse band of nerve fibers

Classical conditioning

method of learning in which a neutral stimulus can be used to elicit a response that is usually a natural response to a stimulus

Cognitive development

is defined as thinking, problem solving, concept understanding, information processing and overall intelligence

Cognitive dissonance theory

a highly motivating state in which people have conflicting cognitions, especially when their voluntary actions conflict with their attitudes

Conditioned stimulus

in classical conditioning, a previously neutral stimulus that comes to elicit he conditioned response

Conditioned reflex

a new or modified response elicited by a stimulus after conditioning, also known as a conditioned response


adjusting behavior to meet a group's standard


one's awareness of one's environment and oneself


the phenomenon that when two different but related stimuli are presented close together in space and/or time they are perceived as being more different than they really are

Control group

subjects in an experiment who do not receive application of the independent variable but are measured nonetheless for the dependent variable

Correlation coefficient

a positive one near 1.0 indicates two variable are positively related; a negative number indicates a negative relationship; zero indicates no relationship

Correlational method

a type of research that is mainly statistical in nature; also, correlational studies determine relationship between two variables


a branch off the cell body of a neuron that receives new information from other neurons

Deoxyribonucleic acid

the complex substance that is the main carrier of genetic information for all organisms and a major component of chromosomes

Dependent variable

the variable that the experimenter measures at the end of the experiment


a psychiatric disorder characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, loss of appetite, feelings of extreme sadness, helplessness, etc.

Depth perception

an ability that we exercise by using both monocular and binocular cues


the scientific doctrine that all occurrences in nature take place in accordance with natural laws

Developmental stages:

periods of life initiated by significant transitions or changes in psychical or psychological functioning

Distance cues

in order to receive information from the environment we are equipped with sense organs e. g. eye, ear, nose; each sense organ is part of a sensory system which receives sensory inputs and transmits sensory information to the brain


the Latin for "I"; in Freud's theories, the mediator between the demands of the id and the superego


a method of representation of brain waves


a system of acquiring knowledge that rejects all o priori knowledge and relies solely upon observation, experimentation, and induction


the study of the causes for and origin of any phenomena, also spelled aetiology.


a perspective that stresses the value of behavior in Darwinian terms

Experimental group

in an experiment, the group that is exposed to the treatment, that is, to one version of the independent variable


in classical conditioning, the process of eliminating the previously acquired association of the conditioned stimulus and conditioned response


one of the Big Five, a personality trait orients one's interests toward the outside world and other people, rather than inward

Forgetting curve

a graph plotting the amount of retention and forgetting over time for a certain batch of material, such as list of syllables; a typical curve is steep first, becoming flatter as time goes on

Free association

a clinical technique of psychoanalysis devised by Sigmund Freud

Free recall

an individual attends to previously processed stimuli (i.e. words, sounds, numbers, etc) and uses subjective organization to retrieve the memories in categories


a theory of hearing which states that the rate of nerve impulses traveling up the auditory nerve matches the tone's frequency


William James's school of thought that stressed the adaptive and survival value of behaviors


a German word for "whole", it refers to our tendency to perceive incomplete figures as complete

Gestalt Psychology

sought to understand how the brain works by studying perception, arguing that percepts consist of meaningful wholes (in German, Gestalts)


a prediction of how the an experiment will turn out


in Freud's conception, the repository of the basic urges toward sex and aggression

Independent variable

a type of variable manipulated by the experimenter

Information processing

humans accomplish this either in parallel (unconsciously) or in serial fashion (consciously)

Instrumental behavior

is a concept stemming from the Behaviorist movement, which asserts that disorders are learned responses to traumatic experiences


the ability to learn from experience, to use information, to understand things

Intelligence quotient

the average is 100; there are many definitions of this attribute, including multiple and crystallized


a personality trait that signifies that one finds energy from internal sources rather than external ones

Just noticeable difference

the threshold at which one can distinguish two stimuli that are of different intensities, but otherwise identical

Law of effect

Thorndike's rule that behaviors which have positive outcomes tend to be repeated

Long term memory

refers to memory that is stored effectively in the brain and may be accessed over an extended period of time

Longitudinal research

a type of study in which one group of subjects is followed and observed (or examined, surveyed, etc.) for an extended period of time (years)


meaning is communicated through the use of language, (and has to do with the distribution of signs in sign relations (symbols), while in a relationship between ontology and truth, and as a reference or equivalence)

Mental illness

a psychological or physiological pattern that occurs in an individual and is usually associated with distress or disability that is not expected as part of normal development or culture.

Mental imagery

a mental representation that mirrors or resembles the thing it represents; mental images can occur in many and perhaps all sensory modalities

Nature vs. nurture

the long-standing discussion over the relative importance of nature (heredity) and nurture (environment) in their influence on behavior and mental processes


The newer portion of the cerebral cortex that serves as the center of higher mental functions for humans.


a chemical that is released by a neuron for the purpose of carrying information across the gaps (synapses) between neurons

Normal distribution

describes a symmetrical, bell shaped curve that shows the distribution of many physical and psychological attributes


is a form of social influence where an individual acts in response to a direct order from another individual, who is usually an authority figure

Operant conditioning

a method of influencing behavior by rewarding desired behaviors and punishing undesired ones

Origins of Species

a book by Charles Darwin where he discusses the theory of "natural selection of spices," where he coined the term "survival of the fittest"


a consistent pattern of thinking, acting, feeling


a group of anxiety disorders involving a pathological fear of a specific object or situation

Placebo effect

phenomenon that some people get better even though they receive not medication but an inert substance which should have no medical effect

Positive reinforcement

a stimulus presented after a response and increasing the probability of that response happening again


a negative attitude formed toward an individual or group without sufficient experience with the person or group

Pro-social behavior

positive, constructive, helpful behavior; the opposite of antisocial behavior

Psychoanalytic theory

Freud's personality theory, basis for his therapeutic technique called Psychoanalysis


a disorder involving profound disturbances in perception, rational thinking, or affect

Psychosomatic disorder

condition in which psychological stresses adversely affect physiological (somatic) functioning to the point of distress.


Psychotherapy is a general term for a process of treating mental and emotional disorders by talking about your condition and related issues with an educated, trained and licensed professional


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


is an increase in the strength of a response following the change in environment immediately following that response

Right hemisphere

the cerebral hemisphere to the right of the corpus callosum that controls the left half of the body


Sampling is the process of selecting units (e.g., people, organizations) from a population of interest so that by studying the sample we may fairly generalize our results back to the population from which they were chosen.

Semantic memory

a subdivision of declarative memory that stores general knowledge, including the meaning of words and concepts

Serial position function

refers to the concept of "magic seven," which stipulates that people normally remember the first seven items on a list, for example, after which recall they start forgetting the following items

Short-term memory

a system for temporarily storing and managing information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension.

Significance level

the probability of a false rejection of the null hypothesis in a statistical test; also known as level of significance

Social influence

is the change in behavior that one person causes in another, intentionally or unintentionally, as a result of the way the changed person perceives themselves in relationship to the influencer, other people and society in general


the process by which children learn the behaviors, attitudes, and expectations required of them by their society or culture


a stable personality characteristics that are presumed to exist within the individual and guide his or her thoughts and actions under various conditions


in classical Freudian theory, the psychic domain of which the individual is not aware but that houses memories, desires, and feelings that would be threatening if brought to consciousness

Unconscious motivation

having a desire to engage in an activity but being consciously unaware of the desire

Visual depth perception

The ability to perceive spatial relationships, especially distances between objects, in three dimensions

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