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A comprehensive review of terminology for AP Psychology. Definitions are for triggering other information. (Pulled from other lists.)


removal or destruction of brain tissue in a surgical procedure

absolute threshold

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


the process of modifying a schema to account for new information; the process of the eyes lens changing shape in order to focus on distant or near objects

acetylcholine (ACh)

a neurotransmitter involved in learning, memory and muscle movement

need for achievement

desire for accomplishment, mastery of people, ideas, things, desire for reaching a high standard

achievement test

a test that assesses what one has learned


a process in classical conditioning by which the association of a neutral stimulus with a natural stimulus is first established

action potential

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

activation synthesis

the idea that dreams are the result of the cerebral cortex interpreting and organizing random flashes of brain activity, originating in the lower brain structures, especially the pons

adrenal gland

source of the hormone norepinephrine which affects arousal

affective disorders

psychological disturbances of mood

need for affiliation

desire to associate with others, to be part of a group, to form close and intimate relationships

after image

an image that remains after a stimulus is removed, especially one in which the colors are reversed


drugs which mimic the activity of neurotransmitters


the most frequently used and abused CNS depressant in most cultures; its use affects mood, judgment, cognition


description of the action of neurons when firing

alpha waves

seen when an individual is in a relaxed, unfocused, yet still awake state


limbic system component associated with emotion, particularly fear and anger

anal stage

Freud's pychosexual period during which a child learns to control his bodily excretions

anorexia (nervosa)

an eating disorder in which one starves oneself even though significantly underweight


drug which blocks the activity of neurotransmitters

anterograde amnesia

loss of memory for events that occur after the onset of the amnesia; eg, see in a boxer who suffers a severe blow to the head and loses memory for events after the blow

retrograde amnesia

loss of memory for events that occurred before the onset of amnesia; eg a soldier's forgetting events immediately before a shell burst nearby, injuring him

antisocial personality disorder

psychological disorder in which one demonstrates a lack of conscience


the middle of the three ossicles


impairment of language usually caused by damage to the left hemisphere


condition in which the sympathetic nervous system is in control

artificial intelligence

a subdiscipline of computer science that attempts to simulate human thinking


interpreting new experiences in terms of existing schema

association areas

areas of the cerebral cortex which have no specific motor or sensory repsonsibilities, but rather are involved in thinking, memory and judgment

associative learning

learning in which an organism learns that certain events occur together, such as my cat knowing that she will be fed when I get home from work


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


feeling of being drawn toward another and desiring the company of a person

attribution theory

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

auditory canal

the area that sound waves pass through to reach the eardrum


style of parenting in which the parent creates strict rules for the child and the child has little or no input into determining the rules

autonomic nervous system

division of the nervous system that control the glands and organs; its divisions arouse or calm

autonomy vs. shame and doubt

Erikson's stage in which a toddler learns to exercise will and to do things independently; failure to do so causes shame and doubt

availability heuristic

this cognitive shortcut features the idea that events which are vividly in memory seem to be more common


extension of the neuron which carries, via an action potential, information that will be sent on to other neurons, muscles or glands


stage of language development at about 4 months when an infant spontaneously utters nonsense sounds

basic research

scientific investigations intended to expand the knowledge base

applied research

scientific investigations intended to solve practical problems


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

belief perseverance

situation in which one's beliefs continue despite the fact that the ground for the beliefs have been discredited

big 5 personality factors

openness to new experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism

binocular cues

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


perspective that stresses links between biology and behavior

bipolar cells

eye neurons that receive information from the retinal cells and distribute information to the ganglion cells

bipolar disorder

mood disorder in one experiences both manic and depressed episodes

blind spot

point in the retinal where the optic nerve leaves the retina so there are no rods or cones there

bottom-up processing

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


we have two, right and left, and some brain functions seem to centered in one or the other


oldest part of the brain, beginning where the spinal cord swells upon entering the skull; controls fundamental survival processes like heartrate and breathing


eating disorder characterized by excessive eating followed by purging

bystander effect

the tendency to not offer help when needed if others are present who do not offer help


theory of emotion that says that a stimulus causes simultaneously psyiological arousal and the subjective experience of an emotion

case study

scientific investigation in which a single subject is studied in great detail

CAT scan

a method of creating static images of the brain through computerized axial tomography


a form of schizophrenia in which the patient has muscle immobility and does not move


release of aggressive energy through activity or fantasy

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


using operant conditioning to teach a complex response by linking together less complex skills


organizing units of information into manageable units such as memorizing a phone number as three groups of information 248-555-1212

circadian rhythm

the daily biological rhythms that occur in a 24-hour period

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

client-centered therapy

developed by Carl Rogers, this humanistic therapy includes unconditional positive regard


this type of psychologist studies, assesses and treats those with psychological disorders


this coiled structure in the inner ear is fluid-filled and in it the energy from sound waves stimulate hair cells

cognitive dissonance theory

this says that we will suffer discomfort and act to change the situation when our thoughts and actions seem to be inconsistent


perspective on psychology that stresses the importance of mental activities associated with thinking, remembering, etc

cognitive therapy

treatment for psychological disorders that centers on changing self-defeating thinking

collective unconscious

Jung's theory that we all share an inherited memory that contains our culture's most basic elements

color blindness

a variety of disorders marked by inability to distinguish some or all colors


this adjective describes cultures in which the individual is less important than the group

concrete operations

Piaget's stage in which children learn such concepts as conservation and mathematical transformations; about 7 - 11 years of age

concurrent validity

the extent to which two measures of the same trait or ability agree

conditioned response

in classical conditioning, the response elicited by the conditioned stimulus


generally, learning in which certain experiences make certain behaviors more or less likely; there are two forms of this


one type of hearing impairment caused by mechanical problems in the ear structures


neurons in the retina that are responsible for color vision

confirmation bias

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


adjusting behavior to meet a group's standard

confounding variable

extraneous factor that interferes with the action of the independent variable on the dependent variable


one's awareness of one's environment and oneself.

consummate love

includes passion, intimacy and committment

control group

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

convergent thinking

a type of critical thinking in which one evaluates existing possible solutions to a problem to choose the best one


the transparent outer covering of the eye

corpus callosum

the fibers that connect the right and left hemispheres, enabling them to communicate


the degree of relationship between two variables

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


type of study that measures a variable across several age groups at the same time


giving participants in a research study a complete explanation of the study after the study is completed

defense mechanisms

Freud's processes by which individuals express uncomfortable emotions in disguised ways


when an individual seems to lose himself or herself in the group's identity


moving people with psychological or developmental disabilities from highly structured institutions to home- or community-based settings

delta waves

largest brain waves, associated with deep, dreamless sleep


irrational, highly improbable belief


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


a defense mechanism in which unpleasant thought or desires are ignored or excluded from consciousness

dependent variable

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


any agent that reduces the activity of the CNS

depth perception

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

difference threshold

also called the jnd; smallest distinction between two stimuli that can consistently be detected

diffusion of responsibility

reduction in sense of responsibility often felt by individuals in a group; may be responsible for the bystander effect


treating members of different races, religions, ethnic groups differently; usually associated with prejudice


defense mechanism in which unwanted feelings are directed towards a different object

dispositional attribution

assuming that another's behavior is due to personality factors, not situational ones

dissociative identity disorder

also called multiple personality disorder

dissociative fugue

disorder in which one travels away from home and is unable to remember details of his past, including often his identity

divergent thinking

a type of creative thinking in which one generates new solutions to problems


a neurotransmitter that is associated with Parkinson's disease (too little of it) and schizophrenia (too much of it)

double blind

this term describes an experiment in which neither the subjects nor the experimenter knows whether a subject is a member of the experimental group or the control group


occur most often during REM sleep; may be caused by activation-synthesis, or may be a way of cementing memories

drive reduction

theory that claims that behavior is driven by a desire to lessen drives resulting from needs that disrupt homeostasis


initials of the American Psychiatric Association's book that lists diagnostic criteria for many psychological disorders


a learning disability that results in difficulty reading and writing


also called the tympanic membrane


term that describes memory of sounds


initials of a method of representation of brain waves


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


in a toddler, the belief that others perceive the world in the same way that he or she does

Electra complex

counterpart to the Oedipus complex for females

electroconvulsive therapy

a treatment in which low level electric current is passed through the brain


early stage of human development, when cells have begun to differentiate

emotion theories

James-Lange, Cannon-Baird and Singer-Schachter are three


conversion of sensory information into a form that can be retained as a memory

endocrine system

the slow messenger system of the body; produces hormones that affect many bodily functions


neurotransmitters that give one a feeling of well-being, euphoria or eliminate pain


describes a type of memory that includes specific events that one has personally experienced


perspective that stresses the value of behavior in Darwinian terms


form of scientific investigation in which one variable is tested to determine its effect on another

experimental group

subjects in an experiment to whom the independent variable is administered


term that describes memories that can be consciously recalled

external locus of control

this term describes what you have if your behaviors are driven mainly by outside forces


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


one of the Big 5, a personality trait orients one's interests toward the outside world and other people, rather than inward


term that describes motivations that drive behavior in order to gain rewards from outside forces

false consensus

a belief that others share the same opinion about something, when actually most don't

feature detection

the ability of the brain to identify specific components of visual stimuli such as corners or edges

fetal alcohol syndrome

sometimes the result in a child of the mother's excessive drinking while pregnant, characterized by low birth weight, facial abnormalities, mental retardation


a stage in human development extending from about ten weeks after conception to birth


refers to our ability to distinguish foreground from background in visual images

fixed interval

describes the schedule of reinforcement wherein a worker receives a paycheck every Friday

fixed ratio

describes a schedule of reinforcement wherein a worker is paid for a certain sum for each product produced

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