Psychology words

Some common words used to talk about psychology. Click on a word for the definition.

A

abnormal

The most important feature of a mental disorder, however, may not be whether a person’s behaviour is abnormal – different from that of most other people – but whether it is maladaptive.

acquisition

The process of learning a conditioned response is called acquisition.

adolescence

He believed the self-consciousness of adolescence leads to self-criticism and censoriousness of self and others.

adulthood

At the age of 3, children were classified by temperament and, in adulthood, they were asked to rate their own temperament.

affect

We also know that the environment can affect our behaviour.

aggression

In humans, some of the causes of aggression are events in the immediate present, such as threats and frustrations that provoke anger and hostility.

altruism

Such acts of altruism suggest that human behavior is not always selfish.

anecdotal

Her research was not scientific – her method for interviewing people was not systematic, and her results are largely anecdotal.

anxiety

In implosive therapy, clients must imagine and deal with their worst fears in the safe surroundings of a therapist’s office, a procedure which often leads to extinction of the anxiety.

applied

The APU was dedicated to applied psychology, which for Broadbent referred not only to therapeutic applications, but also to applications that benefited society as a whole.

arousal

There is some veidence that the arousal immediately following intense exercise can lead to a misattribution of one’s own reaction to emotion-producing stimuli.

association

Free association requires clients to report anything that comes to mind.

attachment

As many studies have shown, a close relationship called attachment is important for infants’ social development.

attention

He believed that teachers should play an instructive role, constantly guiding and nurturing their pupils in order to improve their attention span, concentration, and learning skills, and so build up their competence.

attitude

Intergroup attitudes are a core component of intergroup behaviour.

attraction

Frequent interactions between people may not only increase the level of familiarity, but also provide an increasing impression of similarity, thereby breeding positive feelings and ultimately attraction.

attribution

A student who wins an art contest may decide it is because of ability (internal attribution) or because the judges are friends of her or his parents (external attribution).

autism

Autism is a disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.

B

behaviour

Some developmental psychologists study the effects of old age on behaviour and the body (a field called gerontology).

behaviourism

These notions of habit and causality became very important in the twentieth century with the development of behaviourism and the work of the Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget.

biological

The relative contributions of nature (genetic and biological inheritance) and nurture (environmental factors) in developmental processes has been and continues to be debated.

bipolar

In a bipolar disorder, a person alternates between the hopelessness and lethargy of depression and the overexcited state of mania.

brain

Baron-Cohen developed the empathizing-systematizing theory of “female” and “male” brains, which assigns a particular “brain type” to every person, regardless of gender, depending on ability to empathize or systematize.

C

case study

Oltmans et al.‘s book complements the DSM-IV TR and presents case studies of each of the major disorders listed in the manual.

cerebral

Research carried out by the Colombian neuroscientist Rodolfo Linas links consciousness to the activities of the thalamus in conjunction with the cerebral cortex.

childhood

Using this technique, he found that patients often revived painful memories reaching back even to early childhood.

classical

Behavioural therapists attempt to use the principles of classical and operant conditioning to modify behaviour.

classification

The classification system, which lists 16 categories of maladjustment and more than 200 subcategories, is designed to improve the reliability of diagnoses by using observable behaviors to categorize disorders.

clinical

These were experimental psychology and clinical psychology, which was largely based on the psychoanalytical approach of Sigmund Freud and his followers.

cognition

According to evolutionary psychologists, one reason why men are better at spatial cognition than women is that men were the hunters who ranged far and wide for their prey.

cognitive

As Piaget described it, cognitive development goes through several distinct stages.

collective

The collective unconscious, in contrast with Freud’s unconscious, contains latent memory traces from a person’s ancestors.

communication

The human vocal organs, breathing apparatus, auditory system, and brain are all specialized for spoken communication.

complex

However, an individual with a physical inferiority may develop more generalized feelings of inferiority—leading to an unbalanced personality and what Adler termed an “inferiority complex,” where the feelings of inferiority are never relieved.

comprehension

The mechanisms involved in perception, comprehension and production of speech are located in different areas of the cerebral cortex.

conditioned

For example, rats will learn a conditioned fear response faster if they receive higher levels of a painful stimulus.

conditioning

Various scholars have argued that the processes of classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning and observational learning all contribute to being prosocial.

conformity

Group norms are enormously powerful sources of conformity: we all tend to yield to the majority.

consciousness

The term “consciousness” is generally used to refer to an individual’s awareness of his or her own thoughts, including sensations, feelings, and memories.

consistency

The failure to find behavioral consistency has been taken as an argument against the importance of personality characteristics in determining what a person will do.

control

Other areas in the medulla and thalamus have also been implicated in the control of sleep and waking.

correlation

It is more unusual for people to draw on memory and make memory-based judgements, but when they do there is a stronger correlation between memory and judgement.

counselling

In some cases, aversion therapy is used; in others, less intrusive forms of therapy involving extensive counselling are used.

culture

But some facial expressions and other gestures differ in meaning from culture to culture and are regulated by cultural norms called display rules.

D

damage

The long-term damage to children brought up according to Watson’s behaviorist model became apparent only gradually, but was significant.

decision-making

In Germany, Wolfgang Köhler’s work on problem-solving and decision-making drew on Gestalt psychology and was also a precursor of cognitive psychology.

defence

They are characterised by pathological increases in anxiety or by defence mechanisms applied too rigidly, resulting in mental processes that are maladaptive.

dementia

The leading cause of dementia in the United States is Alzheimer’s disease.

depression

People who are heavy users of cannabis also report higher levels of depression than do light users.

desensitize

Those undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy learn the theories behind their disorder, but they also engage in group exercises that gradually desensitize them to the scenarios that cause social anxiety in the first place.

determinism

Bandura uses the term reciprocal determinism to label the processes that drive behaviour.

development

Similarly, he talks only in very general terms about the development of personality.

difference

The study of individual differences is a core part of the work of health psychologists as they seek to understand better the processes of health and illness.

disorder

OCD symptoms usually begin presenting in individuals before age 25, and the disorder affects approximately 1 to 3 percent of the general population.

dissonance

Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.

distribution

In this case, the norms consisted of distributions of scores obtained from children of various ages.

dream

Jung believed that dreams are a dialogue between the conscious self and the eternal (the ego and the collective unconscious), and that the archetypes operate as symbols within the dream, facilitating the dialogue.

dysfunction

Finally, some researchers have hypothesised that autism may involve a dysfunction in the so-called mirror neuron system.

E

effect

Psychodynamic views stress the important effect of early experiences, often in unconscious processes, on later behavior.

ego

The ego takes account of the realities of the world, and is also simultaneously engaged with the id and relegated to an inferior position by the superego.

emotional

The study shows that the facial expression of emotion in response to listening to a story of varying emotional content can depend not just on the storyteller but the medium through which that storyteller tells the story.

empathy

Simon Baron-Cohen argues that the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy, and the male brain for understanding systems.

empiricism

And, with its focus on empiricism, psychology will not achieve such an understanding because observation and experiment alone are not enough to define these terms.

encoding

One PET study compared the encoding and retrieval of word pairs in young (mean age 26) and old (70 and over) adults.

environment

Our aim with this research was to investigate to what extent safe sexual behaviour could be encouraged in what are traditionally risky environments.

error

When two toys in this test “become” one, the brains of babies register an error, showing they can discriminate between one and two.

evolution

Through evolution, humans have therefore developed a tendency to be scared of darkness.

experiment

The aim of the perverse experiment was to show that an emotionally stable nine-month-old infant could be trained to have a phobia of something he wasn’t scared of before.

extraversion

Psychometrics is a branch of psychology that purports to identify differences across five traits – openness, extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness and agreeableness.

F

fear

The central nucleus generates the fear response of freezing, while the basal nucleus generates the fear response of flight.

field

It represents the synthesis of research findings regarding social behaviour from many other fields of science, including those from evolutionary psychology, anthropology and behaviour genetics.

fluid

Cattell suggests fluid intelligence is genetically inherited, which may account for individual differences.

forgetting

Forgetting takes place when a behaviour is not rehearsed (or a person does not think about a particular memory) for a long time.

Freudian

Other well-known ways in which the unconscious reveals itself are through Freudian slips and the process of free association.

functionalism

The second reason for functionalism’s modern popularity is its obvious analogy to computer science.

fundamental

Critics have argued that all facial expressions are communicative and that to single out a group of emotional facial expressions ignores the fundamental social nature of facial expression.

G

gender

Gender and sexual orientation are reflected by changes in the brain’s anatomy and functioning.

genetic

The notorious genetic marker of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, ApoE4, may not be a lone wolf.

Gestalt

According to Gestalt psychology, our brain will often conjure symmetry where none exists.

H

heredity

Since heredity plays such a large role, it is important that ADHD is treated at an early stage.

hormone

In two interesting experiments, groups of individuals were given certain hormones for reasons other than enhancing cognitive ability.

humanistic

Sylva developed pedagogies that bridge theory and practice and laid the foundations for humanistic approaches in educational psychology.

hypnosis

Freud had worked with the French neurologist Jean Martin Charcot, and was much influenced by the latter’s use of hypnosis for the treatment of hysteria.

hypothesis

A test of the facial feedback hypothesis was undertaken by Laird, who asked participants to view photographs while electrical activity from the face muscles was ostensibly recorded.

I

identity

Once they have established gender identity, children usually try to adapt their behavior and thoughts to accepted gender-specific roles.

imprinting

What distinguishes imprinting from learning, Lorenz discovered, is that it happens only at a specific stage in an animal’s development, which he called the “critical period.”

individual

Despite evidence that people will defend their collective in-group norms, some researchers argue that the individual self-concept provides the most powerful motivational force for behaviour.

infancy

And these problems can begin as early as infancy, the report from the American Psychological Association (ASA) said.

influence

Researchers have shown that culture influences the way the brain works.

inherit

Some cognitive psychologists have claimed that not only do we inherit certain psychological characteristics, they are also subject to the same sort of natural selection as our physical characteristics.

innate

Linguist Noam Chomsky proposed the well-known, but controversial, theory that children have an innate neural mechanism called a language acquisition device (not yet discovered), which allows them to master language.

instinct

Hence, according to Freud, human beings create cultural rules and laws to inhibit and suppress this natural instinct for aggression.

intelligence

Brains do not, generally, vary greatly in size, and there is little evidence to suggest that bigger brains produce greater intelligence.

intergroup

One interesting line of research has applied the principles of regulatory focus theory to intergroup discrimination.

interpersonal

In extreme cases, Bowlby found that maternal deprivation could even result in “affectionless psychopathy,” a clinical condition in which people are unable to care deeply for others and so do not form meaningful interpersonal relationships.

introspection

To obtain data, structuralists use a technique called introspection, the process of examining what is happening in one’s mind and what one is thinking and feeling .

introversion

Certainly, the genetics of introversion are such that all these individuals exit the womb as more self-contained, or less sociable, than extroverts.

K

knowledge

Knowledge acquisition components are those the person uses to gain new knowledge by sifting out relevant information and integrating it with what they already know.

L

learning

Learning is a process in which neurons that fire together to produce a particular experience are altered so that they have a tendency to fire together again.

long-term

The distinction between long-term memory and short-term memory had already been established, but Tulving felt there was more than one kind of long-term memory.

M

materialism

Materialism maintained that the mind was made of matter; thus all natural phenomena, including human behaviour, could be explained in terms of physical entities: the interaction of matter and energy.

meaning

Perception is the way that sensory information is chosen and transformed so that it has meaning.

mechanism

Freud also developed Janet’s ideas, stating that dissociation was a universal “defense mechanism.”

memory

Episodic memory comprises reconstructions of past experiences, including sensations and emotions; these usually unfold like a movie and are experienced from one’s own point of view.

mental

Some mental disorders, especially the less severe ones, appear to be caused by environmental factors or by a person’s perception of these factors, such as stress or unhealthy family interactions.

method

Hospitalization and drugs are often preferred methods of treatment rather than psychological investigation.

methodology

My methodology tends to be very straightforward, either simple correlational studies or experimental studies with just one or two variables manipulated.

mood

Bower carried out studies in which people learned lists of words while in different moods, and later had to recall them, again when in varying emotional states.

motivation

Numerous studies in management and psychology have analyzed how organizations can increase worker motivation.

motor

Expert singers also showed activation in the basal ganglia, thalamus and cerebellum, subcortical areas associated with motor movement and memory.

N

negative

Knowing people from different cultures is one of the most effective ways of combating the formation of negative stereotypes and the development of prejudice .

nervous system

Neurons that convery impulses from receptors toward the rest of the nervous system are called sensory neurons.

neurobiology

But the extraordinary advances in neurobiology in the late twentieth century have revolutionised psychology.

neuron

Neurons that convery impulses from receptors toward the rest of the nervous system are called sensory neurons.

neuropsychology

Modern neuropsychology also relies on sophisticated brain imaging techniques such as positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

non-verbal

His research suggests that the female brain is largely hardwired for empathy, with females usually showing more sympathy for others, and greater sensitivity to facial expressions and non-verbal communication.

noticeable

In nineteenth-century Germany, Weber devised the concept of the just-noticeable difference (jnd), and Fechner used the jnd to measure the magnitude of sensations.

O

observation

Personality assessment is conducted through behavioral observations, paper-and-pencil tests, and projective techniques.

operant

The response we make – in this case, picking up the phone when the phone rings and saying ‘hello’ – is called an operant behaviour.

P

perception

In many organisms, important features of the perception of space are apparently built into the nervous machinery.

personality

The idea of traits became central to personality psychology and, following Allport’s work, it became a major new area of study.

phenomenon

The phenomenon of social facilitation, improved performance due to the presence of others, is believed to be due to a fear of evaluation as well as others’ presence.

phobia

Perhaps, Allport suggested, the child had learned this dirt phobia from his mother, a neat and rather domineering woman.

physiology

Other models such as those of Lang suggest that emotions may not be unitary phenomena but comprise three systems: verbal report, behaviour and physiology.

positive

Positive reinforcement is the presentation of a rewarding or pleasant stimulus (something that the subject wants, also called a positive reinforcer) that increases the probability that a particular response will occur .

pragmatism

Symbolic interactionism, a major perspective within sociological social psychology, was derived from pragmatism in the early twentieth century.

prejudice

By understanding the reasons why people justify or deny the use of cruelty, we may be better placed to mediate or prevent it in wider social contexts, such as war or social prejudice.

problem-solving

He was able to put this to the test when he became director of an anthropoid research center on Tenerife from 1913–20, where he studied chimpanzees tackling a number of problem-solving tasks.

process

Assimilation is the process of acquiring new information about the world and fitting it to already acquired information .

prosocial

As relationships develop, children also show evidence of prosocial behaviour – they will automatically help another child.

psychiatry

But the Royal College of Psychiatrists said there were too few medical students specialising in psychiatry and not enough psychiatrists becoming consultants.

psychoanalysis

Classical psychoanalysis is the method Sigmund Freud developed at the turn of this century.

psychodynamic

The mind, to Freud, was a battleground for the warring factions of instinct, reason and conscience; the term psychodynamic refers to this struggle.

psycholinguistics

Psycholinguistics is a relatively recent, distinct branch of psychology although psychologists have studied language since the discipline’s early experimental days.

psychosexual

This theory of female psychosexual development has been widely attacked on both scientific and political grounds.

psychotherapy

Emotions, and more especially emotional disorders, played a large part in psychotherapy from its beginnings, but they were seen more as symptoms to be treated than as something to be examined in their own right.

purposive

Behaviour had a purpose; it was executed to achieve a goal, hence, purposive behaviourism.

Q

qualitative

For example, she argues that qualitative researchers do sometimes use measures of quantity and that quantitative methods are often applied in naturalistic settings.

quantitative

For example, she argues that qualitative researchers do sometimes use measures of quantity and that quantitative methods are often applied in naturalistic settings.

quotient

The revised scale, called the Stanford-Binet intelligence scale, introduced the concept of the intelligence quotient (IQ).

R

reality

Additionally, the frontal lobes are reactivated, shifting us back into a normal state of consciousness in which we know who and where we are, and can tell the difference between fantasy and reality.

reasoning

It includes abilities such as reasoning and verbal and numerical skills and is generally believe d to be affected by experience and formal education.

recognition

The abilities that are disrupted include recognition of spoken words, comprehension of the meaning of words, and the abil- ity to convert thoughts into words.

reflex

In living creatures, such actions are the basis of the automatic behavior that we call “reflexes,” such as immediately moving your hand when you touch something hot.

reinforcement

In positive reinforcement the response produces an appetitive stimulus – a rat pressing a lever to get food.

relationship

Gilligan proposed that this gender difference is in part due to children’s relationship with their mother.

replication

On 3 January 2007, the American current affairs programme, Primetime, featured a replication of Milgram’s study, conducted by Jerry Burger.

repression

Freud claimed that the mind has a way of defending itself against unacceptable or painful thoughts and impulses, by using an unconscious mechanism that he called “repression” to keep them hidden from awareness.

research

Instead, new psychological research suggests that it is not necessarily citizens’ personal (dis)content with their lives that matters as much as the perceived Zeitgeist of our time.

response

This is why scents create such an intense, instant emotional response.

retrieval

Reading provides a particularly compelling example of the automatic nature of memory retrieval.

S

sample

To ensure that one can generalize from sample to population, investigators use a random sample.

schizophrenia

Laing’s main work centers on the understanding and treatment of schizophrenia—a serious mental disorder characterized by severe disruptions in psychological functioning—and on explaining it to ordinary people.

self-actualization

Maslow created a highly structured plan to explain the path of human motivation, defining the steps that humans need to follow as they move toward self-actualization.

sensation

Taste can be described as four basic sensations, sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

sense

The brain reaches out to the environment via our sense organs, which respond to various stimuli such as light, sound waves, and pressure.

sensory

Our brains are bombarded with sensory information, but only a fraction of it reaches consciousness.

short-term

William James in The Principles of Psychology makes the distinction between primary (short-term) and secondary (long-term) memory.

signal

The sense organs detect changes in the environment and send signals through the nerves to the CNS.

situational

Self-serving bias is the tendency to attribute positive outcomes to our internal or personal factors, and negative outcomes to situational or external factors.

social behaviour

It represents the synthesis of research findings regarding social behaviour from many other fields of science, including those from evolutionary psychology, anthropology and behaviour genetics.

socialization

Maccoby’s work to debunk stereotypes is considered fundamental to understanding children’s socialization and gender differences.

speech

Psychologists used to believe that thinking was “nothing more” than speech turned inwards.

stage

Sleeptalking sometimes occurs as part of a REM sleep dream, but it more usually occurs during other stages of sleep.

stimulus

Overt attention involves consciously directing the eyes, ears, or other sense organs toward a stimulus and processing information from it.

stress

We will consider a few lines of evidence that relate to various potentially stress-producing situations.

structuralism

Structuralism is interested in “what is consciousness?” while functionalism is interested in “what is consciousness for?”

syndrome

Some children are born with disorders associated with mental retardation (such as Down syndrome).

T

theory

Erikson’s theory of lifelong development has been very influential, and his term ‘identity crisis’ has become a familiar one.

therapy

Therapy is a process of unlearning maladaptive habits and replacing them with more useful ones.

thought

Perhaps what underlies creativity and psychoticism is disinhibition, the ability not to inhibit behaviour and thought.

trait

Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal proposed that there are five major personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism or emotional stability.

transference

As the client relives aspects of childhood, they may begin to project powerful attitudes and emotions onto the therapist, a process called transference.

trial

The CS (conditioned stimulus) – for example, the sound of a buzzer – is presented in several trials.

twin

Olson et al. (2001) found that identical twins were more likely to share similar attitudes on 26 of 30 attitude items than were DZ twins.

U

unconditional

Unconditional self-acceptance and unconditional acceptance of others are vital, and when these are lacking, people fail to remain open to experience.

unconditioned

The hippocampus is also involved in learning the relationship between the unconditioned and conditioned stimulus when there is a delay between the presentation of each, a process called trace conditioning.

unconscious

Psychoanalysts explain the unconscious as the place where all the memories that we wish to push aside are stored, and cannot be retrieved consciously.

V

validity

The term validity refers to the extent that a test measures what it is supposed to measure.

variable

But researchers often attempt to study variables whose measurement is subjective, that is, it requires practical judgement and expertise.

visual

The brain works hard to make sense of visual information.