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the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 002)


the view that (a) knowledge comes from experience via the senses, and (b) science flourishes through observation and experiment. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 003)


an early school of psychology that used introspection to explore the elemental structure of the human mind. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 004)


a school of psychology that focused on how mental and behavioral processes function—how they enable the organism to adapt, survive, and flourish. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 005)

humanistic psychology

historically significant perspective that emphasized the growth potential of healthy people; used personalized methods to study personality in hopes of fostering personal growth. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 007)

natural selection

the principle that, among the range of inherited trait variations, those that lead to increased reproduction and survival will most likely be passed on to succeeding generations. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 009)

nature-nurture issue

the longstanding controversy over the relative contributions that genes and experience make to the development of psychological traits and behaviors. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 009)

biopsychosocial approach

an integrated perspective that incorporates biological, psychological, and social-cultural levels of analysis. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 010)

levels of analysis

the differing complementary views, from biological to psychological to social-cultural, for analyzing any given phenomenon. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 010)

basic research

pure science that aims to increase the scientific knowledge base. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 012)

applied research

scientific study that aims to solve practical problems. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 013)

clinical psychology

a branch of psychology that studies, assesses, and treats people with psychological disorders. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 013)

counseling psychology

a branch of psychology that assists people with problems in living (often related to school, work, or marriage) and in achieving greater well-being. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 013)


a branch of medicine dealing with psychological disorders; practiced by physicians who sometimes provide medical (for example, drug) treatments as well as psychological therapy. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 013)

hindsight bias

the tendency to believe, after learning an outcome, that one would have foreseen it. (Also known as the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon.) (Myers Psychology 8e p. 020)

critical thinking

thinking that does not blindly accept arguments and conclusions. Rather, it examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, and assesses conclusions. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 024)


an explanation using an integrated set of principles that organizes and predicts observations. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 024)


a testable prediction, often implied by a theory. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 025)

operational definition

a statement of the procedures (operations) used to define research variables. For example, human intelligence may be operationally defined as what an intelligence test measures. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 025)


repeating the essence of a research study, usually with different participants in different situations, to see whether the basic finding extends to other participants and circumstances. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 025)

case study

an observation technique in which one person is studied in depth in the hope of revealing universal principles. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 026)


a technique for ascertaining the self-reported attitudes or behaviors of people, usually by questioning a representative, random sample of them. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 027)

false consensus effect

the tendency to overestimate the extent to which others share our beliefs and behaviors. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 028)


all the cases in a group, from which samples may be drawn for a study. (Note: Except for national studies, this does not refer to a country's whole population.) (Myers Psychology 8e p. 028)

random sample

a sample that fairly represents a population because each member has an equal chance of inclusion. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 028)

naturalistic observation

observing and recording behavior in naturally occurring situations without trying to manipulate and control the situation. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 029)


a measure of the extent to which two factors vary together, and thus of how well either factor predicts the other. The correlation coefficient is the mathematical expression of the relationship, ranging from -1 to 1. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 030)


a graphed cluster of dots, each of which represents the values of two variables. The slope of the points suggests the direction of the relationship between the two variables. The amount of scatter suggests the strength of the correlation (little scatter indicates high correlation). (Also called a scattergram or scatter diagram.) (Myers Psychology 8e p. 031)

illusory correlation

the perception of a relationship where none exists. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 033)


a research method in which an investigator manipulates one or more factors (independent variables) to observe the effect on some behavior or mental process (the dependent variable). By random assignment of participants, the experimenter aims to control other relevant factors. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 036)

control condition

the condition of an experiment that contrasts with the experimental condition and serves as a comparison for evaluating the effect of the treatment. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 037)

double-blind procedure

an experimental procedure in which both the research participants and the research staff are ignorant (blind) about whether the research participants have received the treatment or a placebo. Commonly used in drug-evaluation studies. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 037)

experimental condition

the condition of an experiment that exposes participants to the treatment, that is, to one version of the independent variable. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 037)

placebo [pluh-SEE-bo] effect

experimental results caused by expectations alone; any effect on behavior caused by the administration of an inert substance or condition, which is assumed to be an active agent. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 037)

random assignment

assigning participants to experimental and control conditions by chance, thus minimizing preexisting differences between those assigned to the different groups. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 037)

dependent variable

the outcome factor; the variable that may change in response to manipulations of the independent variable. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 038)

independent variable

the experimental factor that is manipulated; the variable whose effect is being studied. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 038)


the arithmetic average of a distribution, obtained by adding the scores and then dividing by the number of scores. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 041)


the middle score in a distribution; half the scores are above it and half are below it. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 041)


the most frequently occurring score(s) in a distribution. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 041)


the difference between the highest and lowest scores in a distribution. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 042)

standard deviation

a computed measure of how much scores vary around the mean score. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 042)

statistical significance

a statistical statement of how likely it is that an obtained result occurred by chance. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 043)


the enduring behaviors, ideas, attitudes, and traditions shared by a large group of people and transmitted from one generation to the next. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 045)

evolutionary psychology

the study of the evolution of behavior and the mind, using principles of natural selection. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 107)


a random error in gene replication that leads to a change. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 108)

natural selection

the principle that, among the range of inherited trait variations, those that lead to increased reproduction and survival will most likely be passed on to succeeding generations. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 108)


in psychology, the biologically and socially influenced characteristics by which people define male and female. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 110)

biological psychology

a branch of psychology concerned with the links between biology and behavior. (Some biological psychologists call themselves behavioral neuroscientists, neuropsychologists, behavior geneticists, physiological psychologists, or biopsychologists.) (Myers Psychology 8e p. 054)

action potential

a neural impulse; a brief electrical charge that travels down an axon. The action potential is generated by the movement of positively charged atoms in and out of channels in the axon's membrane. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 055)


the extension of a neuron, ending in branching terminal fibers, through which messages pass to other neurons or to muscles or glands. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 055)


the bushy, branching extensions of a neuron that receive messages and conduct impulses toward the cell body. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 055)

myelin [MY-uh-lin] sheath

a layer of fatty tissue segmentally encasing the fibers of many neurons; enables vastly greater transmission speed of neural impulses as the impulse hops from one node to the next. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 055)


a nerve cell; the basic building block of the nervous system. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 055)


the level of stimulation required to trigger a neural impulse. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 056)


chemical messengers that traverse the synaptic gaps between neurons. When released by the sending neuron, neurotransmitters travel across the synapse and bind to receptor sites on the receiving neuron, thereby influencing whether that neuron will generate a neural impulse. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 057)

synapse [SIN-aps]

the junction between the axon tip of the sending neuron and the dendrite or cell body of the receiving neuron. The tiny gap at this junction is called the synaptic gap or cleft. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 057)

acetylcholine [ah-seat-el-KO-leen] (ACh)

a neurotransmitter that enables learning and memory and also triggers muscle contraction. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 058)

endorphins [en-DOR-fins]

"morphine within"—natural, opiatelike neurotransmitters linked to pain control and to pleasure. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 059)

central nervous system (CNS)

the brain and spinal cord. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 061)

nervous system

the body's speedy, electrochemical communication network, consisting of all the nerve cells of the peripheral and central nervous systems. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 061)

peripheral nervous system (PNS)

the sensory and motor neurons that connect the central nervous system (CNS) to the rest of the body. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 061)

autonomic [aw-tuh-NAHM-ik] nervous system

the part of the peripheral nervous system, which controls the glands, and the muscles of the internal organs (such as the heart). Its sympathetic division arouses; its parasympathetic division calms. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 062)


central nervous system neurons that internally communicate and intervene between the sensory inputs and motor outputs. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 062)

motor neurons

neurons that carry outgoing information from the central nervous system to the muscles and glands. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 062)


neural "cables" containing many axons. These bundled axons, which are part of the peripheral nervous system, connect the central nervous system with muscles, glands, and sense organs. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 062)

parasympathetic nervous system

the division of the autonomic nervous system that calms the body, conserving its energy. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 062)

sensory neurons

neurons that carry incoming information from the sense receptors to the central nervous system. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 062)

somatic nervous system

the division of the peripheral nervous system that controls the body's skeletal muscles. Also called the skeletal nervous system. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 062)

sympathetic nervous system

the division of the autonomic nervous system that arouses the body, mobilizing its energy in stressful situations. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 062)


a simple, automatic, inborn response to a sensory stimulus, such as the knee-jerk response. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 063)

neural networks

interconnected neural cells. With experience, networks can learn, as feedback strengthens or inhibits connections that produce certain results. Computer simulations of neural networks show analogous learning. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 064)

endocrine [EN-duh-krin] system

the body's "slow" chemical communication system; a set of glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 065)


chemical messengers, mostly those manufactured by the endocrine glands, that are produced in one tissue and affect another. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 065)

adrenal [ah-DREEN-el] glands

a pair of endocrine glands just above the kidneys. The adrenals secrete the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and nor-epinephrine (nor-adrenaline), which help to arouse the body in times of stress. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 066)

pituitary gland

the endocrine system's most influential gland. Under the influence of the hypothalamus, the pituitary regulates growth and controls other endocrine glands. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 066)

electroencephalogram (EEG)

an amplified recording of the waves of electrical activity that sweep across the brain's surface. These waves are measured by electrodes placed on the scalp. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 068)

lesion [LEE-zhuhn]

tissue destruction. A brain lesion is a naturally or experimentally caused destruction of brain tissue. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 068)

fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging)

a technique for revealing blood flow and, therefore, brain activity by comparing successive MRI scans. MRI scans show brain anatomy; fMRI scans show brain function. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 069)

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

a technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce computer-generated images that distinguish among different types of soft tissue; allows us to see structures within the brain. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 069)

PET (positron emission tomography) scan

a visual display of brain activity that detects where a radioactive form of glucose goes while the brain performs a given task. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 069)


the oldest part and central core of the brain, beginning where the spinal cord swells as it enters the skull; the brainstem is responsible for automatic survival functions. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 071)

medulla [muh-DUL-uh]

the base of the brainstem; controls heartbeat and breathing. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 071)

reticular formation

a nerve network in the brainstem that plays an important role in controlling arousal. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 071)

amygdala [uh-MIG-duh-la]

two lima bean sized neural clusters that are components of the limbic system and are linked to emotion. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 072)

cerebellum [sehr-uh-BELL-um]

the "little brain" attached to the rear of the brainstem; its functions include processing sensory input and coordinating movement output and balance. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 072)

limbic system

a doughnut-shaped system of neural structures at the border of the brainstem and cerebral hemispheres; associated with emotions such as fear and aggression and drives such as those for food and sex. Includes the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 072)

thalamus [THAL-uh-muss]

the brain's sensory switchboard, located on top of the brainstem; it directs messages to the sensory receiving areas in the cortex and transmits replies to the cerebellum and medulla. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 072)

hypothalamus [hi-po-THAL-uh-muss]

a neural structure lying below (hypo) the thalamus; it directs several maintenance activities (eating, drinking, body temperature), helps govern the endocrine system via the pituitary gland, and is linked to emotion. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 073)

cerebral [seh-REE-bruhl] cortex

the intricate fabric of interconnected neural cells that covers the cerebral hemispheres; the body's ultimate control and information-processing center. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 074)

glial cells (glia)

cells in the nervous system that support, nourish, and protect neurons. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 075)

frontal lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying just behind the forehead; involved in speaking and muscle movements and in making plans and judgments. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 076)

occipital [ahk-SIP-uh-tuhl] lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the back of the head; includes the visual areas, which receive visual information from the opposite visual field. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 076)

parietal [puh-RYE-uh-tuhl] lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the top of the head and toward the rear; receives sensory input for touch and body position. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 076)

temporal lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying roughly above the ears; includes the auditory areas, each of which receives auditory information primarily from the opposite ear. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 076)

motor cortex

an area at the rear of the frontal lobes that controls voluntary movements. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 077)

sensory cortex

the area at the front of the parietal lobes that registers and processes body touch and movement sensations. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 078)

association areas

areas of the cerebral cortex that are not involved in primary motor or sensory functions; rather, they are involved in higher mental functions such as learning, remembering, thinking, and speaking. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 079)


impairment of language, usually caused by left hemisphere damage either to Broca's area (impairing speaking) or to Wernicke's area (impairing understanding). (Myers Psychology 8e p. 080)

Broca's area

controls language expression—an area of the frontal lobe, usually in the left hemisphere, that directs the muscle movements involved in speech. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 081)

Wernicke's area

controls language reception—a brain area involved in language comprehension and expression; usually in the left temporal lobe. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 081)


the brain's capacity for modification, as evident in brain reorganization following damage (especially in children) and in experiments on the effects of experience on brain development. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 082)

corpus callosum [KOR-pus kah-LOW-sum]

the large band of neural fibers connecting the two brain hemispheres and carrying messages between them. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 084)

split brain

a condition in which the two hemispheres of the brain are isolated by cutting the connecting fibers (mainly those of the corpus callosum) between them. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 084)

behavior genetics

the study of the relative power and limits of genetic and environmental influences on behavior. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 096)


threadlike structures made of DNA molecules that contain the genes. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 096)

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)

a complex molecule containing the genetic information that makes up the chromosomes. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 096)


every nongenetic influence, from prenatal nutrition to the people and things around us. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 096)


the biochemical units of heredity that make up the chromosomes; a segment of DNA capable of synthesizing a protein. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 096)


the complete instructions for making an organism, consisting of all the genetic material in that organism's chromosomes. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 096)

identical twins

twins who develop from a single fertilized egg that splits in two, creating two genetically identical organisms. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 097)

fraternal twins

twins who develop from separate fertilized eggs. They are genetically no closer than brothers and sisters, but they share a fetal environment. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 098)


the proportion of variation among individuals that we can attribute to genes. The heritability of a trait may vary, depending on the range of populations and environments studied. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 102)


a person's characteristic emotional reactivity and intensity. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 102)


the effect of one factor (such as environment) depends on another factor (such as heredity). (Myers Psychology 8e p. 105)

molecular genetics

the subfield of biology that studies the molecular structure and function of genes. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 105)

bottom-up processing

analysis that begins with the sensory receptors and works up to the brain's integration of sensory information. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 197)


the process of organizing and interpreting sensory information, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 197)


the process by which our sensory receptors and nervous system receive and represent stimulus energies from our environment. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 197)

top-down processing

information processing guided by higher-level mental processes, as when we construct perceptions drawing on our experience and expectations. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 197)

absolute threshold

the minimum stimulation needed to detect a particular stimulus 50 percent of the time. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 199)


the study of relationships between the physical characteristics of stimuli, such as their intensity, and our psychological experience of them. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 199)

signal detection theory

a theory predicting how and when we detect the presence of a faint stimulus ("signal") amid background stimulation ("noise"). Assumes there is no single absolute threshold and detection depends partly on a person's experience, expectations, motivation, and level of fatigue. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 199)


the activation, often unconsciously, of certain associations, thus predisposing one's perception, memory, or response. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 200)


below one's absolute threshold for conscious awareness. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 200)

difference threshold

the minimum difference between two stimuli required for detection 50 percent of the time. We experience the difference threshold as a just noticeable difference. (Also called just noticeable difference or jnd.) (Myers Psychology 8e p. 201)

sensory adaptation

diminished sensitivity as a consequence of constant stimulation. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 202)

Weber's law

the principle that, to be perceived as different, two stimuli must differ by a constant minimum percentage (rather than a constant amount). (Myers Psychology 8e p. 202)


conversion of one form of energy into another. In sensation, the transforming of stimulus energies, such as sights, sounds, and smells, into neural impulses our brains can interpret. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 204)


the distance from the peak of one light or sound wave to the peak of the next. Electromagnetic wavelengths vary from the short blips of cosmic rays to the long pulses of radio transmission. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 204)


the process by which the eye's lens changes shape to focus near or far objects on the retina. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 205)


the dimension of color that is determined by the wavelength of light; what we know as the color names blue, green, and so forth. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 205)


the amount of energy in a light or sound wave, which we perceive as brightness or loudness, as determined by the wave's amplitude. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 205)


a ring of muscle tissue that forms the colored portion of the eye around the pupil and controls the size of the pupil opening. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 205)


the transparent structure behind the pupil that changes shape to help focus images on the retina. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 205)


the adjustable opening in the center of the eye through which light enters. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 205)


the light-sensitive inner surface of the eye, containing the receptor rods and cones plus layers of neurons that begin the processing of visual information. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 205)


the sharpness of vision. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 206)


retinal receptor cells that are concentrated near the center of the retina and that function in daylight or in well-lit conditions. The cones detect fine detail and give rise to color sensations. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 206)


a condition in which faraway objects are seen more clearly than near objects because the image of near objects is focused behind the retina. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 206)


a condition in which nearby objects are seen more clearly than distant objects because distant objects focus in front of the retina. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 206)


retinal receptors that detect black, white, and gray; necessary for peripheral and twilight vision, when cones don't respond. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 206)

blind spot

the point at which the optic nerve leaves the eye, creating a "blind" spot because no receptor cells are located there. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 207)


the central focal point in the retina, around which the eye's cones cluster. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 207)

optic nerve

the nerve that carries neural impulses from the eye to the brain. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 207)

feature detectors

nerve cells in the brain that respond to specific features of the stimulus, such as shape, angle, or movement. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 209)

parallel processing

the processing of several aspects of a problem simultaneously; the brain's natural mode of information processing for many functions, including vision. Contrasts with the step-by-step (serial) processing of most computers and of conscious problem solving. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 210)

Young-Helmholtz trichromatic (three-color) theory

the theory that the retina contains three different color receptors—one most sensitive to red, one to green, one to blue—which when stimulated in combination can produce the perception of any color. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 212)

opponent-process theory

the theory that opposing retinal processes (red-green, yellow-blue, white-black) enable color vision. For example, some cells are stimulated by green and inhibited by red; others are stimulated by red and inhibited by green. (Myers Psychology 8e p. 213)

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