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The mental activities involved in acquiring, retaining, and using knowledge.


The manipulation of mental representations of information in order to draw inferences and conclusions.

Mental Image

A mental representation of objects or events that are not physically present.


A mental category of objects or ideas based on properties they share.

Formal Concept

A mental category that is formed by learning the rules or features that define it.

Natural Concept

A mental category that is formed as a result of everyday experience.


The most typical instances of a particular concept.


Individual instances of a concept or category, held in memory.

Problem Solving

Thinking and behavior directed toward attaining a goal that is not readily available.

Trial and Error

A problem-solving strategy that involves attempting different solutions and eliminating those that do not work.


A problem-solving strategy that involves following a specific rule, procedure, or method that inevitably produces the correct solution.


A problem-solving strategy that involves following a general rule of thumb to reduce the number of possible solutions.


The sudden realization of how a problem can be solved.


Coming to a conclusion or making a judgement without conscious awareness of the thought processes involved.

Functional Fixedness

The tendency to view objects as functioning only in their usual or customary way.

Mental Set

The tendency to persist in solving problems with solutions that have worked in the past.

Availability Heuristic

A strategy in which the likelihood of an event is estimated on the basis of how readily available other instances of the event are in memory.

Representativeness Heuristic

A strategy in which the likelihood of an event is estimated by comparing how similar it is to the prototype of the event.


A system for combining arbitrary symbols to produce an infinite number of meaningful statements.

Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis

The hypothesis that differences among languages cause differences in the thoughts of their speakers.

Animal Cognition

The study of animal learning, memory, thinking, and language; also called comparative cognition.


The global capacity to think rationally, act purposefully, and deal effectively with the environment.

Mental Age

A measurement of intelligence in which an individual's mental level is expressed in terms of the average abilities of a given age group.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

A measure of general intelligence derived by comparing an individual's score with the scores of others in the same age group.

Achievement Test

A test designed to measure a person's level of knowledge, skill, or accomplishment in a particular area.

Aptitude Test

A test designed to assess a person's capacity to benefit from education or training.


The administration of a test to a large, representative sample of people under uniform conditions for the purpose of establishing norms.

Normal Curve or Normal Distribution

A bell-shaped distribution of individual differences in a normal population in which most scores cluster around the average score.


The ability of a test to produce consistent results when administered on repeated occasions under similar conditions.


The ability of a test to measure what it is intended to measure.

G Factor or General Intelligence

The notion of a general intelligence factor that is responsible for a person's overall performance on tests of mental ability.

Triarchic Theory of Intelligence

Sternberg's theory that there are three distinct forms of intelligence: analytic, creative, and practical.


The percentage of variation within a given population that is due to heredity.

Stereotype Threat

A psychological predicament in which fear that you will be evaluated in terms of a negative stereotype about a group to which you belong creates anxiety and self-doubt, lowering performance in a particular domain that is important to you.

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