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absolutist reasoning that assumes there is always a single, clear answer to a given problem (cf. dialectical ; relativist )

abstinence violation effect a more severe relapse resulting from a minor violation of substance use abstinence (e.g. one forbidden drink leading to more)

acoustic nerve conveys information from the cochlea to the auditory cortex

action potential the all-or-nothing electrical output of a neuron

acuity the finest detail that the visual (or other) system can distinguish

adaptation decline in the response of a sensory or perceptual system that occurs if the stimulus remains constant

adherence (or compliance ) the extent to which a patient does as suggested (e.g. taking medicine or changing behaviour)

adipsia lack of drinking

after-effect change in the perception of a sensory quality (e.g. colour, loudness, warmth) following a period of stimulation, indicating that selective adaptation has occurred

Aggression Replacement Training (ART) research-based programme for working with violent offenders

agonist neurotransmitter agonists mimic or enhance the effect of a neurotransmitter

agoraphobia fear of situations in which escape would be difficult or help is not available should panic or anxiety occur

akinesia lack of voluntary movement

amnesia a clinical problem, often with underlying neurological damage, involving chronic and serious memory problems

amplitude the difference between the peaks and troughs of a waveform

amygdala a group of nuclei in the brain, important in emotional processing, whose shape was thought to resemble an almond ( amygdala means ‘almond’ in Latin)

analytical psychology the theory of personality developed by Carl Jung, in which people are viewed as striving towards selfactualization

antagonist neurotransmitter antagonists prevent or reduce the normal effect of a neurotransmitter

antipsychotics drugs used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia

anxiolytics drugs that produce sedation and reduce anxiety, popularly known as tranquillizers

aphagia lack of eating

aphasia loss of speech ability

apoptosis genetically programmed self-destruction of a neuron

appraisal an individual’s assessment of both the outside world and their ability to cope with this world

arousal the fluctuating state of physiological activation of the nervous system

arousal theory developed by Eysenck, this theory provides an account of the physiological systems underlying introversion–extraversion.

articulatory suppression a research technique in which participants repeat aloud a simple sound or word, preventing the phonological loop from retaining any further information

assessment centres series of assessment exercises (e.g. interviews, work-sample tests, group discussions) used to assess a person’s potential for a job

association a link between two events or entities that permits one to activate the other (such as when a characteristic odour elicits an image of the place where it was once experienced)

attachment the close links formed between a human infant and caregiver, or the intimate bond that can form between adults

attitude function the psychological needs that an attitude fulfils

attitude object the thing (e.g. idea, person, behaviour) that is accorded a favourable or unfavourable attitude

attribution an individual’s belief about causality

attributional style the characteristic patterns of explanation people use to make sense of life-events

auditory cortex a region of the cortex devoted to processing information from the ears

authoritarian personality a particular type of personality (originating in childhood and oversubmissive to authority figures) that predisposes individuals to be prejudiced

autism early onset, biologically caused disorder of communication and social interaction, usually accompanied by obsessive and stereotyped behaviour and intellectual disability

autobiographical memory the recall of events from our earlier life – a type of episodic memory

autokinetic effect optical illusion in which a stationary point of light shining in complete darkness appears to move about

automatic processing the processing of information that is beyond conscious awareness and extremely fast – in experimental studies, within 240 ms of stimulus presentation

automatic thoughts used in cognitive therapy to refer to spontaneously generated thoughts associated with specific moods or situations

autonomic nervous system part of the peripheral nervous system, with sympathetic and parasympathetic components that control functions like heart rate and blood pressure

autoreceptor a neurotransmitter receptor located on a neuron so as to be activated by that neuron’s own release of neurotransmitter

autoshaping classical conditioning used with pigeons which results in pecking at an illuminated response key that has been regularly presented before the delivery of food, even though the delivery of the food does not depend on the pecking behaviour

availability relies on the possibility that a solution (from heuristic reasoning) that readily or quickly comes to mind may be the correct one

aversion therapy a problem behaviour is paired with an aversive stimulus in an attempt to establish an aversive response to the behaviour (e.g. fear, disgust)

avoidance instrumental training procedure in which performing a given response brings about the omission of an aversive event that is otherwise scheduled to occur

axon the neuronal outgrowth through which the output is transmitted


behavioural inhibition shyness, quietness, fearfulness, social avoidance, and high levels of physiological arousal and stress reactivity in young children

behavioural intentions intentions to perform or not to perform a specific behaviour

behaviourism a totally objective psychology, whose subject matter is observable behaviour

between-subjects design a research study involving a systematic manipulation of an independent variable with different participants being exposed to different levels of that variable (cf. withinsubjects design )

Big Five see five factor model of personality

biochemical imbalance complex neurotransmitter dysregulation process involving the various neurotransmitters in the brain

biodata life history information about job candidates

biopsychosocial the type of interaction between biological factors (e.g. a virus), psychological factors (e.g. beliefs) and social factors (e.g. class)

bivariate the relationship or association between two variables (‘variate’ is another word for variable)

blocking training an organism with one stimulus as a signal for an unconditioned stimulus to prevent the organism from learning about a second stimulus when both stimuli are subsequently presented together as signals for the same unconditioned stimulus

body language expressions, gestures, movements, postures and para-linguistic aspects of speech that form the basis of nonverbal communication

book-keeping model suggests that stereotypes and schemas are constantly fine-tuned with each new piece of information

bounded rationality being rational by making a rational judgement, but based on only part of the evidence

brain stem a grouping of brain structures generally taken to include the medulla, pons, midbrain, hypothalamus and thalamus

brainstorming technique of uninhibited generation of as many ideas as possible in a group (concerning a specific topic) to enhance group creativity

bystander intervention occurs when an individual breaks out of the role as a bystander and helps another person in an emergency


Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development longitudinal study, based at the University of Cambridge , concerned with the development of delinquency and later adult crime

cartesian dualism a framework offered by Descartes, which asserts a relationship of mutual interaction (see dualism )

case study method research method that involves a single participant or small group of participants who are typically studied quite intensively

castration anxiety a male’s fear of losing his genitals, which Freud believed was related to the Oedipus complex

category-based processing information processing that is fast, non-strategic, efficient, can be automatic and beyond conscious awareness, and is more likely to occur when the data are unambiguous and relatively unimportant

central executive the component of Baddeley’s working memory model that controls attention and coordinates the slave systems

central nervous system collectively, the brain and the spinal cord

central processes Fodor’s term for the kinds of proposed information processing carried out in thought as distinct from those carried out by mental ‘modules’

central tendency measures of the ‘average’ (most commonly the mean, median and mode), which tell us what constitutes a typical value

centralization the degree to which decisions can only be taken by senior management, as against being devolved to people throughout the organization

centration when a preoperational child focuses on only one aspect of a problem at a time

cerebellum the brain region important in skilled movement (in Latin, cerebellum means ‘small brain’)

channel transmits a restricted range of sensory information (e.g., in the case of colour, information about a restricted range of wavelengths, but no information about the movement or orientation of the stimulus)

chemosensors receptors for chemical signals such as glucose concentration

chromatic opponency a system of encoding colour information originating in retinal ganglion cells into red–green, yellow–blue and luminance signals; so, for example, a red–green neuron will increase its firing rate if stimulated by a red light, and decrease it if stimulated by a green light.

cingulotomy surgical procedure in which neurosurgeons make lesions in the cingulate gyrus, a section of the brain connecting the prefrontal cortex to the limbic system

classical conditioning learning procedure in which two stimuli are paired – one (the conditioned stimulus) usually presented shortly before the other (the unconditioned stimulus) to produce a conditioned response to the first stimulus (learning)

clinical psychology focuses on the causes and treatment of psychological disorders and adjustment problems such as depression and phobias

cochlea coiled structure in the inner ear responsible for transforming mechanical vibration (sound energy) into action potentials in the acoustic nerve

coerced confession formal admission of guilt made under duress, which can be true or false, usually made to the police

cognitive–affective units in the personality system a model of categories through which personality can be examined within a social cognitive framework

cognitive appraisal determines reactions to stressful events, according to Lazarus

cognitive components basic information-processing routines (e.g. encoding, response selection) which underpin task performance

cognitive dissonance theory describes how people may feel an aversive tension when their behaviour is inconsistent with their attitude, and in order to reduce their discomfort, will change their behaviour to be consistent with their attitude

cognitive distortions dysfunctional ways of thinking about the self, the world, other people and the future that can make people vulnerable to depression and other negative emotions

cognitive interview method of questioning witnesses, devised for use by the police, based on principles taken from memory research

cognitive map postulated internalized representation of the layout of the environment in which information about the relative spatial relationships of various features is preserved

cognitive miser someone who minimizes effort and energy when processing information, making ‘top of the head’ judgements, evaluations and inferences, with little thought or considered deliberation

cognitive psychology examines fundamental mental processes such as perception, thinking, memory, language

cognitive scripts see event schemas

collaborative empiricism cognitive therapy procedure in which the therapist formulates a hypothesis and then helps the client test the validity of the hypothesis

column a volume of cells stretching the entire depth of the cerebral cortex, which all have some physiological property in common (e.g. the preferred orientation of the bar or edge stimulus to which they respond, in the case of a column in the primary visual cortex)

compliance see adherence

compulsions ritualistic, repetitive behaviours that a person feels compelled to engage in

concordance rates the extent to which people show the same disorders

concrete operations period the third major phase of cognitive development, according to Piaget, lasting from approximately seven to 11 years, when the child’s problem solving is more logical but his reasoning is largely dependent on application to immediate physical entities and tasks

condition a situation in a research study in which participants are all treated the same way

conditioned emotional response result of the superimposition of the pairing of a conditioning and an unconditioned stimulus on a baseline of operant or instrumental behaviour

conditioned response (CR) evoked by a conditioned stimulus as a result of classical conditioning

conditioned stimulus (CS) evokes a conditioned response as a result of classical conditioning

conditions of worth conditions under which affection is given

cones cells in the retina that transform light energy into action potentials, different kinds responding preferentially to different wavelengths

conformity social influence resulting from exposure to the opinions of a majority of group members and/or to an authority figure – typically superficial and short-lived

confound an unintended or accidental manipulation of an independent variable that threatens the validity of an experiment

conjunction search visual search for a unique conjunction of two (or more) visual features such as colour and orientation (e.g. a red tilted line) from within an array of distractors, each of which manifests one of these features alone (e.g. red vertical lines and green tilted lines)

connectionist approach also known as a ‘neural network’ approach, it is informed by a view of how the nervous system might compute different mental operations

conservation ability to recognize that an object or amount remains the same despite superficial changes in appearance

constructivist theorist who attributes the acquisition of knowledge to the active processes of the learner, building on increasingly complex representations of reality

contact hypothesis the idea that contact between members of different groups, under specified conditions, reduces prejudice and hostility

contingency theory Fiedler’s interactionist theory, specifying that the effectiveness of particular leadership styles depends on situational and task factors

control group participants in an experiment who are not subjected to the treatment of interest (as distinct from the experimental group)

control theory of human functioning a metaphorical thermostat system used to model the ways in which people set standards for their own behaviour and how they monitor this behaviour

controlled processing the processing of information that is deliberate, conscious, and strategic; in experimental studies, this occurs after 2000 ms of the presentation of a stimulus

conversion a change in covert (private) opinion after exposure to others’ opinions (who often represent a minority within the group)

conversion model predicts dramatic and sudden change in schema and stereotypes in the face of salient contradictions

coping processes ways of dealing with stressors – usually a mixture of being problem-focused and emotion-focused

corpus callosum massive fibre system of axons connecting the two hemispheres

correlation the extent to which two variables, such as weight and height, are related; a correlation of +1 indicates a perfect positive association, and - 1 a perfect negative association

correlation coefficient a measure of the degree of correspondence or association between two variables that are being studied

cortex structure made of a layer of cell bodies, especially neocortex, the multi-layered outside of the brain ( cortex means ‘bark’ in Latin)

counter-attitudinal advocacy presenting an attitude or opinion, within a role-play context, which opposes the person’s initial attitude

covert sensitization a form of aversion therapy in which the client imagines a problem behaviour followed by an aversive stimulus

criminological psychology the application of psychology to enrich our understanding of crime and criminal behaviour

criterion validity the relationship between a person’s scores in a selection method (e.g. job interview or intelligence test) and his scores on subsequent performance measures (e.g. supervisor’s rating of the person’s job performance)

crystallized intelligence ( Gc ) diverse skills and knowledge acquired across the lifespan

cue information that initiates and/or aids recall

cue overload principle as more information is tied to each cue, a smaller proportion of that information will be recalled

cued recall recall in response to directive cues


data-based processing information processing that is slow, deliberate, and requires conscious effort and attention, used where the need for accuracy is high

deindividuation a psychological state in which rational control and adherence to norms is weakened, leading to greater readiness to respond in an extreme manner and to violate social norms

dendrites the input system of a neuron, so called because of its branching structure

dependent variable the variable on which a researcher is interested in monitoring effects or outcomes

descriptive statistics numerical statements about the properties of data, such as the mean or standard deviation

developmental psychology the study of age-related changes across the lifespan

developmental psychopathology a perspective suggesting that risk for psychopathology depends on success at negotiating and mastering important developmental tasks

dialectical reasoning in which competing positions are integrated and synthesis achieved (cf. absolutist ; relativist )

diathesis–stress model suggests that some people possess an enduring vulnerability factor (diathesis), which, when coupled with a proximal stressor, results in psychological symptoms

directional sensitivity similar to acuity

discourse a set of sentences that bear a sensible relationship to one another and so form a message

discriminative stimulus signals whether or not a given response is likely to produce a particular outcome

dishabituation restoration of a habituated response by presentation of a strong extraneous stimulus

dispersion measures of dispersion (most commonly range, standard deviation and variance) describe the distance of separate records or data points from each other

double-blind procedure in order to evaluate treatment efficacy, the patient and all staff having contact with the patient remain uninformed (blind) as to the true nature of the treatment

double recessive the two copies of a gene in an animal are both recessive (i.e. non-dominant), as opposed to one copy being dominant (in which case the phenotype, or body characteristic, will be that of the dominant gene)

downsizing when organizations reduce their workforce to save on labour costs

Dream Levinson’s term for an individual’s vision of his life goals, formed around 17 to 22 years of age and contributing to the motivation for subsequent personal development

dualism the view that the body and the mind (or soul or spirit) are fundamentally different in nature

dyslexia impaired reading due to trauma or developmental factors


eardrum a membrane between the outer and middle ear that vibrates when sound waves reach it

echoic memory auditory sensory memory

ecological validity the extent to which a task is typical of tasks that people have to solve in everyday life

egocentrism inability of the preoperational child to distinguish between her own perspective on a situation and the perspectives of others

elaborative rehearsal considering the meaning of information (cf. maintenance rehearsal )

electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) a treatment for severe depression in which two electrodes are placed on the scalp and a moderately intense electric current is passed between them for about half a second

emotional intelligence the capacity to be sensitive to and regulate our own emotional state, and that of other people

emotionality the extent to which we react emotionally – akin to a personality trait, and thought to be partly inherited.

empiricism the belief that knowledge comes from observation and experience, and sensory experience is the source of all knowledge

encoding specificity principle states that what is remembered later depends on the similarity of the retrieval situation to the original encoding conditions

episodic buffer the component in Baddeley’s working memory model that integrates and manipulates material in working memory

episodic memory memory for personally experienced events

equity theory assumes that satisfaction in a relationship is highest when the ratio of one’s own outcomes to inputs is equal to that of a referenced other (individuals will try to restore equity when they find themselves in an inequitable situation)

Eros the desire for life, love and sex within psychoanalytic theory

event schemas cognitive structures that describe behavioural and event sequences in everyday activities such as eating at a restaurant, attending a lecture or shopping at a supermarket

evolutionary cognition cognitive processes that are established by evolution

experimental analysis of behaviour a term used by Skinner and his associates to describe the investigation of operant behaviour (those behaviours that are not prompted by any observable stimulus)

experimental control the method of ensuring that the groups being studied are the same except for the manipulation or treatment under investigation

experimental group participants in an experiment who are exposed to a particular level of a relevant manipulation or treatment (as distinct from a control group)

experimental method a research method in which one or more independent variables are systematically manipulated and all other potentially influential variables are controlled (i.e. kept constant), in order to assess the impact of manipulated (independent) variables on relevant outcome (dependent) variables

explicit memory memory with conscious awareness of the original information or the situation in which the learning occurred

expressed emotion (EE) specific set of feelings and behaviours directed at people with schizophrenia by their family members

external memories memories of events that really occurred

external validity the extent to which a research finding can be generalized to other situations

extraversion the tendency to seek and engage with the company of others (cf. introversion )

eyewitness testimony the evidence given by witnesses to a crime, typically in the form of a verbal account or person identification


facial feedback hypothesis the view that our experience of emotion is determined by physiological feedback from facial expressions

factor analysis a data reduction technique where relationships between a large number of variables can be reduced to a relationship among fewer hypothetical (i.e. latent) factors

familial transmission genetic transmission of disorders

feature detector a mechanism sensitive to only one aspect of a stimulus, such as red (for the colour dimension) or leftwards (for direction of motion) and unaffected by the presence or value of any other dimension of the stimulus

feature integration theory different features of an object (e.g. colour, orientation, direction of motion) are thought to be analysed separately (and in parallel) by several distinct mechanisms, and the role of attention is to ‘glue together’ these separate features to form a coherent representation

feature search visual search for a unique feature such as a particular colour or orientation (e.g. a red spot) in an array of distractors defined by different features along the same visual dimension (e.g. green spots)

five factor model of personality a model developed using factor analysis to try to determine the key traits in human personality

flavour aversion learning classical conditioning procedure in which animals are allowed to consume a substance with a novel flavour and are then given some treatment that induces nausea, resulting in the flavour being subsequently rejected

flooding a technique used in behaviour therapy that involves exposing the patient to highly threatening events for a prolonged period of time

fluid intelligence ( Gf ) Horn and Cattell’s Gf is something akin to Spearman’s g , namely an overarching processing capacity that in turn contributes to Gc (see crystallized intelligence )

formalization written rules and regulations governing activities in an organization

fovea the central five degrees or so of human vision, particularly the central, high-acuity part of this area (about one degree in diameter)

free recall recall in response to non-specific cues

frequency the rate at which a periodic signal repeats, often measured in cycles per second or Hertz (Hz); the higher the frequency, the higher the perceived pitch

frequency selectivity the degree to which a system (e.g. a neuron) responds more to one frequency than another

frustration effect an increase in the vigour of responding, following the absence of reward, in a place where reward was experienced previously

functional neuro-imaging methods for observing which brain regions are active

functionalism addresses the very practical question of what functions the mind, or mental processes, accomplish


ganglion a cluster of neuronal cell bodies, especially in the spinal cord

gap junction extremely close contact between two neurons allowing direct flow of electrical current between them

generalization related to the concept of external validity, this is the process of making statements about the general population on the basis of research

generativity the feeling in mid-life that one has made or is making a contribution to the next generation (cf. stagnation )

genetic epistemology the study of the origin of knowledge in child development, as practised by Jean Piaget

genetic predisposition likelihood of showing condition or characteristic carried by genetic material

genotype our genetic complement, coded in DNA, that we inherit from our parents

Gestalt psychologists a group of German psychologists (and their followers) whose support for a constructionist view of perception has been enshrined in several important principles, such as ‘the whole (in German, Gestalt ) is more than the sum of the parts’

glial cells non-neuronal cells in the brain that provide ‘support’ for the neurons

glucostasis constancy of glucose availability (e.g. reflected in the glucose concentration in the plasma)

grasping reflex response in human infants to a stimulus (such as a finger) placed in the open palm

grey matter parts of the brain that consist mostly of neuronal cell bodies rather than axons

group polarization tendency for group discussion to produce more extreme group decisions (in the same direction as the mean of the group) than would be indicated by the mean of members’ pre-discussion opinions

groupthink a mode of thinking in highly cohesive groups in which the desire to reach unanimous agreement overrides the motivation to adopt appropriate, rational decision-making procedures

gustatory pathways taste pathways through the brain

gyrus outgoing fold in the wrinkled cortical surface


habituation waning of the unconditioned response with repeated presentation of the eliciting stimulus

hair cells long, thin cells in the cochlea and the vestibular system, which, when bent, produce an action potential

Hawthorne effect when workers appreciate the attention and interest shown in their work by researchers and managers, and show this appreciation through better work performance

health behaviours examples are exercise, food intake and going to the doctor

health beliefs examples are perceptions of risk or beliefs about the severity of an illness

health locus of control where the cause of health is seen to be located – either internal (‘due to me’) or external (‘due to others’)

hemi-neglect a neuropsychological condition leading the patient to ignore one side of the world, including one side of their own body

heuristic reasoning solving a problem by using a method that is likely to give the right answer, although there is no guarantee

hindsight bias falsely overestimating the probability with which we would have predicted an outcome after we know it has already occurred

hippocampus brain structure important in memory processing, whose shape was thought to resemble a seahorse ( hippocampus means ‘seahorse’ in Greek)

human information-processing approach derived from ideas in information theory, a branch of communications sciences that provides an abstract way of analysing the processing of knowledge

humanistic a branch of personality theory that emphasizes the capacity for personal growth

hyperphagia pathological overeating

hyperpolarization increasing neuronal membrane potential to more than its usual resting potential (making it harder to induce the cell to produce an action potential)

hypothalamus brain structure important in motivation and homeostatic regulation, located beneath the thalamus

hypothesis a statement about the causal relationship between particular phenomena (i.e. A causes B), usually derived from a particular theoretical framework, which is designed to be tested via research investigation


iconic memory visual sensory memory

idiographic an approach to personality that proposes each individual is unique and cannot be compared with another (see nomothetic )

idiosyncrasy credits Hollander’s transactional theory proposes that followers reward leaders for achieving group goals by allowing them to be relatively idiosyncratic in their behaviour and opinions

illness beliefs examples are how long the illness will last and what impact it will have on the patient’s life

illusory conjunctions perceptual phenomena which may occur when several different stimuli are presented simultaneously to an observer whose attention has been diverted (e.g. the perception of a red cross and a green circle when a red circle and a green cross are presented)

impairment extent to which a behaviour or set of behaviours gets in the way of successful functioning in an important domain of the individual’s life

implicit memory influence on behaviour, affect or thought as a result of prior experience but without conscious recollection of the original events

imprinting the development of filial responses by newly hatched birds to an object (usually the mother) experienced early in life, or more generally the early formation of social attachments in animals

independent variable the treatment variable manipulated in an experiment, or the causal variable believed to be responsible for particular effects or outcomes

indirect agonists substances increasing neurotransmitter effects, typically by inducing additional neurotransmitter release

inferential statistics numerical techniques used to estimate the probability that purely random sampling from an experimental population of interest can yield a sample such as the one obtained in the research study

information-processing approach understanding how something works by finding out the kinds of information involved and the steps through which it goes in order to accomplish a task

informational influence social influence based on acquiring new information from other group members, which is accepted as evidence about reality

informed consent the ethical principle that research participants should be told enough about a piece of research to be able to decide whether they wish to participate

inhibitory neurotransmitters neurotransmitters that make their target cell less excitable, so it becomes harder to induce an action potential

insight an individual’s understanding of the unconscious reasons for his or her maladaptive behaviour – central to psychoanalysis

inspection time (IT) the time taken to process a single bit of information: the stimulus is seen (inspected) for a very short time before disappearing (cf. reaction time )

instrumental learning the likelihood of a response is changed because the response yields a certain outcome (a reward or punishment) (also called operant conditioning)

inter-ocular transfer the adaptation or learning that occurs when a training stimulus is inspected with one eye and a test stimulus is subsequently inspected with the other eye

interactive view two processes are interactive when the processing occurring in one of them depends on the processing occurring in the other

internal validity the extent to which the effect of an independent (manipulated) variable on a dependent (outcome) variable is interpreted correctly

internal working model a set of basic assumptions (a schema) about the nature of relationships

interneurons neurons whose output projection targets are all local

interrogative suggestibility the degree to which individuals are inclined to accept as true the type of information that is communicated by the questioner during interrogation

introspection literally, looking inward, this is an observational method used to describe the elements of experience (colours, tones, tastes and so on)

introversion the tendency to avoid the company of others and to withdraw from social situations (cf. extraversion )

investment model a theory that proposes that commitment to a relationship is based upon high satisfaction, and/or a low quality of alternatives, and/or a high level of investment

ion channel specialized opening in the neuron’s outer membrane, which lets electrically charged ions flow through, so changing neuronal potentials


job analysis procedures for describing jobs, including the nature of the work and the relationships of the job-holder with other people

job redesign techniques to increase the variety, autonomy and completeness of a job

job satisfaction a person’s attitude (favourable or unfavourable) towards their job

just noticeable difference ( JND) the smallest difference between two stimuli that can be discriminated



law of effect Thorndike’s proposal that reward will strengthen the connection between the response that preceded it and any stimuli present when it is delivered, or more generally, the principle that the consequence (effect) of behaviour will determine how likely it is to recur

law of large numbers the idea that the average outcomes of random processes are more stable and predictable with large samples than with small samples

leading questions contain information (either intentionally or unintentionally) that can bias the respondent’s reply

legal psychology the application of psychology to matters of concern in a court of law

levels of processing – the theory that there are superficial, intermediate and deeper levels of processing new information that will influence what can later be remembered

lexical criterion of importance Cattell’s proposal that an aspect of personality described by many words in the vernacular is likely to be more important than one described by just a few

lobotomy (or leucotomy) surgical operation in which white nerve fibres connecting the frontal lobes with other parts of the brain are severed

logical reasoning reasoning about issues whose conclusions necessarily follow from what is given

long-term depression (LTD) a long-lasting reduction in a target neuron’s response to a given level of activity of its input neurons

long-term memory store holds information relatively permanently

long-term potentiation (LTP) a long-lasting increase in a target neuron’s response to a given level of activity of its input neurons

longitudinal research type of research design in which data are collected from a group of people, termed a cohort, over a long period of time (typically decades)

luminance the intensity of light corrected for the degree to which the visual system responds to different wavelengths


magno (M) cell a large cell in the visual system (particularly, the retina and lateral geniculate nucleus) that responds particularly well to rapid and transient visual stimulation.

maintenance rehearsal repeating items over and over, maintaining them in short-term memory but not increasing their long term recall

manipulation the process of systematically varying an independent variable across different experimental conditions (sometimes referred to as the experimental treatment or intervention)

manipulation check a procedure that checks the manipulation of the independent variable has been successful in changing the causal variable the experimenter wants to manipulate

materialism the view that all things, including mental phenomena, can be described in physical terms and understood in terms of matter and energy

mean the sum of all the scores divided by the total number of scores

median the middle score of a ranked array – equal to the (( N + 1) /2)th value, where N is the number of scores in the data set

medulla the nearest part of the brain stem to the spinal cord, where some vital control systems influencing heart rate and respiration are located

memory span the number of words that you can hear and then repeat back without error

menopause the time in a woman’s life when menstruation becomes less regular and then ceases

mesencephalon the mid-brain

meta-analysis a quantitative method for combining results across a number of studies by first converting the findings of each study into a metric for comparison

metamemory someone’s understanding about how their memory works

method of loci a mnemonic technique used to improve memory by creating images that link the items to be remembered with a series of familiar locations

minimal cognitive architecture Anderson ’s model of intelligence outlining two main contributors to the gaining of knowledge: speed of information processing and modular development

minimal group paradigm an experimental procedure designed to investigate the isolated effect of social categorization on intergroup behaviour

misinformation effect recall of misleading information presented after an eyewitness experience

mnemonics techniques for improving memory

mode the most commonly occurring score in a set of data

modular view two processes are said to be modular when they occur independently of one another and do not interfere with one another

modules dedicated information-processing systems that provide information about the environment (e.g. complex information conveyed by people’s faces) which cannot be provided by central processes of thought in an ecologically useful time frame

monogamous having only one sexual partner

Moro reflex reaction in human infants to sudden loss of support to the neck and head (thrusting out the arms and legs)

morphology the shape or form of a neuron

motivated tactician someone who deploys flexible informationprocessing strategies that are consistent with their motivations, goals and situational requirements

multiple-act criterion assessment of many behaviours that are relevant to the attitude being measured

multiple intelligences Gardner’s theory that there are many autonomous intelligences including linguistic, musical, logical–mathematical, spatial, bodily–kinaesthetic, personal, naturalist and spiritualist


naming explosion a period, usually in the second half of the second year after birth, when children’s early vocabulary development accelerates rapidly

negative symptoms in schizophrenia, symptoms that indicate the absence of something normal, such as good social skills, appropriate affect, motivation and life skills

neurocrine classical neurochemical action of transmitters that are released at the axon terminal to affect specialized receptor sites across the synaptic cleft

neuroleptics antipsychotic drugs

neuromodulators neurochemicals that indirectly affect neuronal activity, usually by modifying response to other chemical neurotransmitters

neuron a nerve cell

neuroticism the tendency to be worried and anxious

neurotransmitters chemical messengers used for communication between neurons, released from specialized sites at the axon terminal and affecting specialized receptor sites across the synaptic cleft

nigrostriatal the pathway from the substantia nigra to the striatum, which degenerates in Parkinson’s disease

NMDA receptor a subtype of glutamate receptor

nomothetic an approach to personality that emphasizes comparisons between individuals and proposes that people are all governed by the same basic behavioural principles (see idiographic )

normal distribution the symmetrical, bell-shaped spread of scores obtained when scores on a variable are randomly distributed around a mean

normative influence social influence based on the need to be accepted and approved of by other group members

norms attitudes and behaviours that group members are expected to show uniformly; these define group membership and differentiate between groups

nucleus a cluster of cell bodies in the brain (as opposed to a cortical layer)

null hypothesis the hypothesis that the research reveals no effect


object permanence understanding that an object continues to exist even when it cannot be seen or touched

obsessions unwanted, persistent, intrusive, repetitive thoughts

obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) characterized by intrusive unwelcome thoughts (obsessions) and the need repeatedly to perform certain patterns of behaviour (compulsions), such as hand-washing

Oedipus complex a description used by Freud of boys’ tendency in the phallic stage to be attracted to their mothers and to resent their fathers

offender profiling constructing a picture of an offender’s characteristics from their modus operandi together with the clues left at the crime scene

olfactory pathways smell pathways through the brain

operant conditioning see instrumental learning

operant response (or instrumental response) an arbitrary response or behaviour performed in order to obtain a reward or escape from or avoid a punishment

optic nerve conveys information from the retina to the visual cortex

orbitofrontal cortex above the orbits of the eyes, part of the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the frontal lobes in front of the motor cortex and the premotor cortex

organizational culture the shared meanings, values, attitudes and beliefs held by organizational members

oropharyngeal the oral cavity and pharynx

orosensory the sensory systems concerned with the oral cavity, including taste, smell and the texture of what is in the mouth

osmosensors receptors for osmotic signals


panic attack sudden and apparently inexplicable experience of terror characterized by extreme physiological reactions, such as heart palpitations and feelings of impending doom

paracrine non-classical effects of neurotransmitters that may not be released at the synapse, and/or whose receptors are not located at the synapse

parallel processing perceptual processing in which it is assumed that different aspects of perception occur simultaneously and independently (e.g. the processing of colour by one set of neural mechanisms at the same time as luminance is being processed by another set)

parallel search a visual search task in which the time to find the target is independent of the number of items in the stimulus array because the items are all processed at the same time (in parallel)

paranoid delusions elaborate set of beliefs, commonly experienced by schizophrenics, characterized by significant distrust of others and feelings of persecution

parasympathetic nervous system one of the components of the autonomic nervous system, essentially calming in its effects

partial reinforcement the delivery of a reinforcer in operant conditioning is scheduled to occur after only a proportion of the responses rather than after all of them (continuous reinforcement)

partial report procedure technique for inferring the capacity of a memory store, even when the memories do not last long enough to inform a complete report

parvo (P) cell a small cell in the visual system (particularly, the retina and lateral geniculate nucleus) that responds particularly well to slow, sustained and coloured stimuli

Pearson’s r the commonly used name for Pearson’s productmoment correlation coefficient

pegword mnemonics method for remembering items by imagining them interacting with a learned set of peg items

perceptual learning exposure to events, increasing subsequent ability to discriminate between them

period of formal operations the last of Piaget’s stages of intellectual development, when thought is no longer dependent on concrete operations tied to immediately present objects and actions, but is based on reasoning about abstract propositions and the evaluation of alternative possible outcomes

peripheral nervous system the autonomic nerves and the somatic nerves that branch out beyond the spinal cord itself (as opposed to the central nervous system)

person schemas a configuration of personality traits used to categorize people and to make inferences about their behaviour – also referred to as person prototypes

personal construct a mental representation used to interpret events

phenotype the expression of our genes in behavioural traits that we can measure

phobias intense and seemingly irrational fears

phonemes basic building blocks of speech: English contains around 40 different phonemes

phonological loop the part of Baddeley’s working memory model that contains a phonological store and an articulatory control process – responsible for ‘inner speech’

photoreceptor a ce ll (rod or cone) in the retina that transforms light energy into action potentials

physiological psychology investigates the association between the brain and behaviour

pinna the structure made of skin and cartilage on the outer part of the ear.

pitch auditory sensation associated with changes in frequency of the sound wave

pituitary gland an endocrine gland, located just outside and below the brain

placebo effect phenomenon whereby patients show some form of real improvement after being treated with an inert substance (a placebo) such as a sugar pill

polygamous having many sexual partners

pons located just above the medulla, the pons has a role in arousal, autonomic function and sensory relays between the cerebrum and cerebellum

positive manifold the fact that the correlations between ability tests are all positive

positive symptoms in schizophrenia, symptoms that indicate the presence of something unusual, such as hallucinations, delusions, odd speech and inappropriate affect

positivism a term coined by Comte to describe a way of thinking that recognizes only positive facts and observable phenomena, as practised in the physical sciences

postformal reasoning a level of thought beyond Piaget’s period of formal operations, characterized by the understanding that there may be multiple perspectives on a problem and that solutions may be context-dependent

power the probability of carrying out one’s own will in an organization, despite resistance from other organizational members

pragmatics the significance given to a sentence or utterance by relating its semantics to everyday knowledge of situations

predictive factors characteristics of an individual or their environment that have some utility in predicting the likelihood of their future offending

preoperational period the second major phase of cognitive development, according to Piaget, extending from approximately two to six years, when the child begins to represent the world symbolically but remains intuitive and egocentric

preparedness tendency of certain combinations of events to form associations more readily than others

primary visual cortex a region at the back of the visual cortex to which the optic nerves project, and which carries out an initial analysis of the information conveyed by the optic nerves

priming the effect of a previous encounter with a stimulus

principle of contiguity the proposal that events must be experienced close together in time and space for an association to be formed between them

principle of similarity suggestion that association formation occurs particularly readily when the events are similar to one another

projection neurons neurons with connections that are not just local (i.e. they connect to other areas)

prosopagnosia a neurological condition in which the capacity to recognize individuals by their faces is lost, although other visual discriminations are unimpaired

psyche psychoanalytic term meaning ‘mind’

psychoanalysis Freud’s ‘talking cure’, which aimed to bring pathological memories into conscious awareness and was used by Freud as the foundation for developing a theory of personality

psychogenetic model of development Freud’s model of personality development

psychometric tests assess cognitive and personality dimensions

psychometrics the theory and measurement of psychological variables such as IQ (intelligence quotient)

psychophysics the systematic attempt to relate changes in the physical world to differences in our psychological perceptions

psychosis a break with reality, characteristic of schizophrenia

psychosocial factors psychological, environmental and social factors that may play a role in psychopathology

psychoticism the tendency to be cold, aggressive and antisocial

psychotropic drugs a loosely defined grouping of drugs that have effects on psychological function

punisher something an animal will work to escape or avoid

punishment an aversive event as the consequence of a response to reduce the probability of the response

pyloric sphincter controls the release of food from the stomach to the duodenum


qualitative research uses methods such as open-ended interviews, focus groups or observation, where the data are analysed without resorting to number

quantitative research uses methods such as questionnaires, experiments and structured interviews, where the data are analysed using numbers

quasi-experimental method embodies the same features as the experimental method but does not involve the random assignment of participants to experimental conditions


random assignment the process of assigning participants to study conditions on a strictly unsystematic basis

random sample a sample of participants in which each has the same chance of being included, ensured by using random participant selection methods (e.g. drawing lots)

randomized clinical trial (RCT) random assignment of patients to treatment conditions in order to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment

reaction time (RT) the time taken to process a single bit of information: the stimulus is seen until a decision is made and response is completed (cf. inspection time )

realistic conflict theory Sherif ’s theory of intergroup conflict, which proposes that goal relations (e.g. competition vs. cooperation) determine the nature of intergroup relations (e.g. conflict vs. harmony)

recency effect the better recall of the last few items of information encountered

receptive field a region of the visual world where a change in the intensity of light results in changes in production of action potentials in a neuron

receptor the specialized site of action at which neurotransmitters have their effects (e.g. by controlling a membrane ion channel)

reciprocal inhibition loosening of the ability of stimuli to evoke anxiety when a response antagonistic to anxiety (e.g. relaxation) is made to occur in the presence of the stimuli

recurrent processing occurs when the later stages of sensory processing influence the earlier stages (top-down), as the output of a processing operation is fed back into the processing mechanism itself to alter how that mechanism subsequently processes its next input

reflectance the relative proportion of each wavelength reflected by a surface: the higher the reflectance, the lighter the object will look

refractory period a brief period following the generation of an action potential, during which a neuron is hard to re-excite

reinforcer an event that, when made contingent on a response, increases the probability of that response; also another term for the unconditioned stimulus in classical conditioning

relativist reasoning in which the individual has become aware that there are often different perspectives on any given issue, and that the ‘correct’ answer may depend on the context

reliability the extent to which a given finding will be consistently reproduced on other occasions

representativeness used in heuristic reasoning to decide whether something is likely because it corresponds to an idea of what is typical in that situation

respondent conditioning alternative name for classical conditioning

response patterns particular patterns of physiological responses, in this case linked to various emotions

resting potential the potential difference across the neuron’s membrane when it is neither activated nor inhibited (roughly 70 millivolts)

retrieval-induced forgetting when some parts of a set of information are practised (i.e. repeatedly tested and retrieved), the parts that are not practised become temporarily more difficult to recall

reward something for which an animal will work

rods cells in the retina that transform light energy into action potentials and are only active at low light levels (e.g. at night)

role ambiguity employee uncertainty about their job functions and responsibilities

role conflict when demands placed on an employee conflict with one another

role schemas knowledge structures of the behavioural norms and expected characteristics of specific role positions in society based on people’s age, gender, race, occupation, etc.

roles patterns of behaviour that distinguish between different activities within a group, and that help to give the group an efficient structure

rooting reflex tendency in human infants to orient the head and mouth towards an object touching the face

rostral towards the head or front end of an animal, as opposed to caudal (towards the tail)


saccades rapid eye movements in which the fovea is directed at a new point in the visual world

satiety reduction of appetite

satisficing making a judgement based on bounded rationality

schedules of reinforcement rules that determine which responses will be followed by a reinforcer in operant conditioning (see partial reinforcement )

schemata (schemas) knowledge structures that help us make sense of familiar situations, guiding our expectations and providing a framework within which new information is processed and organized

scientific method a procedure for acquiring and evaluating knowledge through systematic observation or experimentation

search space a space of possible reasoning, within which we search for a path linking the problem with the solution

self-actualization the tendency to grow in ways that maintain or enhance the self

self-consciousness the tendency to direct attention towards the self

self-efficacy the extent to which people believe that they can bring about outcomes

self-perception theory indicates that people may guess their own attitude from their behaviour towards the attitude object, particularly when they can see no external reasons for the behaviour

self schemas cognitive representations of the self that organize and process all information that is related to the self

semantic-differential scales these measure attitudes by using a dimension that depicts a strongly negative attitude at one end to a strongly positive attitude at the other

semantic memory abstract knowledge that is retained irrespective of the circumstances under which it was acquired (e.g. ‘the world’s largest ocean is the Pacific’)

semantics the meaning of words and how they combine to give the meanings of sentences

sensorimotor stage the first stage of cognitive development, according to Piaget, extending from birth to approximately two years, when the child constructs an elementary understanding of the world and thought is tied closely to physical or sensory activity

sensory memory hypothetical large capacity memory store holding incoming sensory information for a brief period of time

sensory preconditioning pairing of two neutral stimuli prior to one of them being used as the conditioned stimulus in a standard classical conditioning procedure, leading to the other stimulus acquiring the power to evoke the conditioned response

serial model the assumption that perception takes place in a series of discrete stages, and that information passes from one stage to the next in one direction only

serial search a visual search task in which time to find the target increases with the number of items in the stimulus display, suggesting that the observer must be processing items serially, or sequentially

short-term store hypothetical memory store holding information for a few seconds

significance testing the process of deciding whether research findings are more plausibly due to chance (H 0 ) or due to real effects (H 1 )

single-blind procedure in order to evaluate the effect of a therapy, the patient is kept uninformed (blind) as to the true nature of the treatment

social comparison the act of comparing oneself, usually with similar others, to assess one’s attitudes, abilities, behaviours and emotions; these comparisons are most likely to occur when people are uncertain about themselves

social decision schemes explicit or implicit decision rules specifying the processes by which individual inputs are combined into a group decision

social exchange theory a general theoretical model that views relationships in terms of rewards and costs to participants; expected outcomes are based on personal standards, prior experience, partner’s outcomes, and the outcomes of comparable others

social facilitation an increase in dominant responses in the presence of others of the same species, leading to improved performance on well-learned/easy tasks and deterioration in performance on poorly-learned/difficult tasks

social identity theory theory of group membership and intergroup relations which explains much intergroup behaviour in terms of the desire to belong to groups which are valued positively compared to other non-membership groups

social information processing theoretical model of how we perceive and understand the words and actions of other people

social intelligence competencies and skills used in social behaviour

social loafing a reduction in individual effort when working on a collective task (in which one’s outputs are pooled with those of other group members), compared with when one is working alone

social messages input from a range of sources such as friends, family and media regarding the nature of symptoms

social support the feeling of being supported by others, whether in one’s broader social network (which impacts positively on health and stress) or within a small group (which helps one to resist pressures to comply with an outside majority or obey an immoral authority)

somatic nervous system the part of the peripheral nervous system that includes the sensory and motor nerves, but excludes the autonomic nervous system

speak-aloud protocols a description of our own processes of thinking during a problem solving task

spectrogram a way of plotting the amplitude and frequency of a speech sound-wave as we speak individual phonemes

speed of information processing the speed with which an individual can take in information from their environment; the speed of perceptual encoding.

split brain occurs when the corpus callosum has been cut (e.g. in order to prevent the spread of epileptic seizures)

stagnation the feeling experienced by some individuals in midlife that they have achieved relatively little and have little to offer to the next generation (cf. generativity )

standard deviation the square root of the sum of the squares of all the differences (deviations) between each score and the mean, divided by the number of scores (or the number of scores minus 1 for a population estimate)

Statement Validity Assessment (SVA) method for the formal analysis of witness statements in order to gauge their reliability

stepping reflex the attempts of the human infant to take ‘steps’ if held upright with their feet touching a physical surface

stereopsis the ability to see objects three-dimensionally based on having two eyes that give us two slightly different views of those objects and their relative locations in space

stereotype mental representations of social groups and their members that include behavioural and trait characteristics that are widely shared in society

stimulus substitution when the conditioned stimulus comes to acquire the same response-eliciting properties as the unconditioned stimulus

stress negative emotional experience resulting from a mismatch between the individual’s appraisal that the stressor is stressful and their ability to cope with and therefore reduce their response to it

structural model of the psyche Freud’s model of how the mind works

structuralism a theory derived from the use of psychophysical methods, so called because it focuses on the structure of the mind

structured interviews in which the questions are standardized across interviewees

substantia nigra part of the brain containing the cell bodies for the dopamine-containing projection to the striatum, which degenerates in Parkinson’s disease (the Latin name means ‘black substance’)

subtyping model predicts that disconfirming instances of a stereotype are relegated to subcategories or subtypes, which accommodate exceptions to the stereotype but by and large leave the overall stereotype intact

sucking reflex tendency in human infants to suck on objects placed in the mouth

sulcus the inward folds in the wrinkled cortical surface

superordinate goals a goal desired by two or more groups, but which can only be achieved by the groups acting together, not by any single group acting on its own

supertraits Eysenck’s three key traits, which he also referred to as types

survey method the systematic collection of information about different variables in order to investigate the relationship between them

sympathetic nervous system part of the autonomic nervous system that prepares the body for emergency action

symptom perception how an individual experiences and makes sense of their symptoms

symptom substitution the emergence of new symptoms after treating the symptoms of a disorder (as opposed to its ‘root’ cause)

synapse the highly specialized area at which neurotransmission occurs between neurons; transmitter is released at the presynaptic axon terminal and binds to specialized receptors in the membrane of the post-synaptic target neuron

synaptic cleft the gap in the synapse between two adjacent neurons

syntax rules that govern the admissible orderings of letters within words, and words within the sentences of a language


tabula rasa the empiricist Locke argued that each infant is born with a mind like a blank slate, a tabula rasa, upon which experience is written

tardive dyskinesia a serious movement disorder, characterized by involuntary movements, that can arise as a side-effect of taking antipsychotic drugs

template an internally stored representation of an object or event in the outside world, which must be matched with the pattern of stimulation of the sensory systems before identification, recognition or naming of that object or event can occur

tension-reduction hypothesis the notion that people use substances in order to reduce tension and negative affect

Thanatos the drive for aggression and death in Freudian psychoanalysis (see Eros )

theory a coherent framework used to make sense of, and integrate, a number of empirical findings

three-component model states that beliefs, feelings and behaviour towards an object can influence attitudes towards it, and that these attitudes can reciprocally influence the beliefs, feelings and behaviours

threshold potential the voltage at which depolarization of a cell leads to generation of an action potential

timbre the complexity of a sound wave, especially one emitted by a musical instrument, allowing us to distinguish the same note played on, say, a piano and a guitar

tolerance the need for increased amounts of a substance in order to achieve the desired effect, or a diminished effect with same amount that used to produce the desired effect

topographic model of the psyche Freud’s model of the structure of the mind

tracers substances used in neuroanatomy that are taken up by neurons (e.g. at the axon terminals) and transported along them (e.g. to the cell body), allowing the neurons’ connections to be identified

training needs assessment identification of learning requirements, to facilitate successful completion of present and future roles

traits labels given to consistent and enduring aspect of personality, viewed as continuous dimensions

transduction the process of transforming one type of energy (e.g. sound waves, which are mechanical in nature) into another kind of energy – usually the electrical energy of neurons

transfer appropriate processing for the best recall, the type of memory encoding needs to be appropriately matched to the type of cueing information that will be available at recall

transfer of training application of what was learned in job training to the job itself

transference projection by a client onto the therapist of characteristics that are unconsciously associated with parents and other important figures

transformational leader a leader seen by followers as being endowed with exceptional personal qualities, and who works to change or transform followers’ needs and redirect their thinking

transformational leadership a style used by leaders who tend to be dominant and self-confident, need to influence others, while believing strongly in their own values, communicate their goals and visions clearly, and have high expectations of their followers’ performance

treatment the experimental manipulation of the independent variable

treatment–etiology fallacy a logical error in which treatment mode (e.g. psychopharmacology) is assumed to imply the cause of the disorder (e.g. biological)

two-process theory emphasizes the interaction of instrumental and classical conditioning processes in producing many types of behaviour

types a term used by early personality theorists, who divided people into different categories, or types


unconditioned response ( UR ) evoked by a stimulus before an animal has received any explicit training with that stimulus

unconditioned stimulus (US) evokes an unconditioned response

unconscious mental processes processes in the mind that people are not normally aware of

univariate relating to a single variable


validity the extent to which a given study investigates what it purports to investigate

variance the mean of the sum of squared differences between a set of scores and the mean of that set of scores; the square of the standard deviation (see above)

vernier acuity the ability to see very small differences in the alignment of two objects, which becomes particularly obvious when the objects are close to one another

vesicle subcompartment of a neuron in which neurotransmitter is stored prior to release

vestibular system located in the inner ear, this responds to acceleration and allows us to maintain body posture

visual search a type of experiment in which the observer typically has to report whether or not a target is present among a large array of other items (distractors)

visuo-spatial sketch pad the part of Baddeley’s working memory model that is responsible for setting up and manipulating mental images

voluntary confession formal admission of guilt given freely, which can be true or false, usually made to the police


What Works generic name given to a recent approach to offender treatment, which is based on findings from meta-analyses of the offender treatment literature

white matter those parts of brain consisting mostly of axons rather than cell bodies; the axons’ myelin sheaths are very white

withdrawal the experience of physical symptoms when a substance is stopped, or the use of another substance to relieve or avoid those symptoms

within-subjects design a research design in which the same participants are exposed to different levels of the independent variable (cf. between-subjects design )

work groups collectives of individuals within organizations – formal groups are designated as work groups by the organization, and informal groups are not defined by the organization as functional units, but nevertheless have an impact upon organizational behaviour

work-sample tests personnel assessment techniques which require the applicant to perform tasks that are examples of the task demands of the job in question




Copyright 2005 BPS Blackwell