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Psychology Vocab



The belief that objects that are inanimate (not living) have feelings, thoughts, and have the mental characteristics and qualities of living things.


A logical thinking ability.

Fixed Mindsets

People believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits.

Growth Mindsets

People believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.


The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.

Object permanence

The understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed.


Anterograde Amnesia

Loss of the ability to create new memories.

Autobiographical memory

A memory system consisting of episodes recollected from an individual’s life, based on a combination of episodic (personal experiences and specific objects, people and events experienced at particular time and place) and semantic (general knowledge and facts about the world) memory.


Internal or external events which have a signalling significance to an organism which subsequently affects learning and behaviour.


The apparent loss or modification of information already encoded and stored in an individual’s long-term memory.


Occurs in learning when there is an interaction between the new material and transfer effects of past learned behaviour, memories or thoughts that affect the understanding the new material.

Long-term memory

Informative knowledge can be stored for long periods of time.

Procedural memory

Part of the long-term memory that is responsible for knowing how to do things, also known as motor skills.

Retrieval cues

Stimuli that are used to bring a memory to consciousness or into behaviour.

Retrograde Amnesia

A loss of memory-access to events that occurred, or information that was learned, before an injury or the onset of a disease.


A cognitive framework or concept that helps organise and interpret information. Schemas can allow individuals to take shortcuts in interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in their environment.

Short-term memory

The part of the memory system where information is stored for roughly 30 seconds.

Working memory

A system for temporarily storing and managing the information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension.

Psychological Problems


These substances are used to influence brain chemistry and the most common classes of these are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).


Also known as neuroleptics or major tranquilizers are a class of medication primarily used to manage psychosis.

Clinical Depression

Also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. To be diagnosed with clinical depression an individual must meet the criteria in the DSM or the ICD (please see the ICD and DSM for the different criteria).

Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Diseases (DSM)

Published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), offers a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders.


From a behaviourist perspective – the individual responding to certain stimuli but not to those that are similar. In the context of mental health, it refers to when someone is treated unfairly because of their mental health.

International Classification of Diseases (ICD)

The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, referred more commonly as International Classification of Diseases (ICD), is the international “standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes”.

Mental Health

Defined by the WHO ‘as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’


A term used to describe the process of treating psychological disorders and mental distress by the use of verbal and psychological techniques.


Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder, characterised by profound disruptions in thinking, affecting language, perception, and the sense of self (please see the ICD and DSM for the different classifications).


Negative attitudes create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination.

World Health Organisation (WHO)

A governmental agency that work side by side with multiple governments and other partners to ensure the highest attainable level of health for all people.

Brain and Neuropsychology

Frontal lobe

Each of the paired lobes of the brain lying immediately behind the forehead, including areas concerned with behaviour, learning, personality, and voluntary movement.

Pre-frontal cortex

The grey matter of the anterior part of the frontal lobe that is highly developed in humans and plays a role in the regulation of complex cognitive, emotional, and behavioural functioning.

Dorsolateral Frontal lobe

One of the most recently evolved parts of the human brain that undergoes an extremely prolonged period of maturation that lasts until adulthood.

Cerebral cortex

The outer layer of the brain, composed of folded grey matter and playing an important role in consciousness.

Temporal lobe

Each of the paired lobes of the brain lying beneath the temples, including areas concerned with the understanding of speech.


A roughly almond-shaped mass of grey matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions.


Coordinates both the autonomic nervous system and the activity of the pituitary, controlling body temperature, thirst, hunger, and other homeostatic systems, and involved in sleep and emotional activity.


The elongated ridges on the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain, thought to be the centre of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system.

Limbic system

A complex system of nerves and networks in the brain, involving several areas near the edge of the cortex concerned with instinct and mood.

Pineal Gland

A pea-sized conical mass of tissue behind the third ventricle of the brain, secreting a hormone-like substance in some mammals.


Hormone secreted by the pineal gland which inhibits melanin formation and is thought to be concerned with regulating the reproductive cycle.

Basal Ganglia

A group of structures linked to the thalamus in the base of the brain and involved in coordination of movement.

Occipital lobe

The rearmost lobe in each cerebral hemisphere of the brain.

Parietal Lobe

Either of the paired lobes of the brain at the top of the head, including areas concerned with the reception and correlation of sensory information.


Latin for “little brain” is a major structure of the hindbrain that is located near the brainstem. This part of the brain is responsible for a number of functions including motor skills such as balance, coordination, and posture.


A junction between two nerve cells, consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass by diffusion of a neurotransmitter.

Central Nervous System (CNS)

The complex of nerve tissues that controls the activities of the body. In vertebrates it comprises the brain and spinal cord.

Cerebral Blood Flow

The blood supply to the brain in a given period of time.

Dopamine system

A monoamine neurotransmitter that is formed during the synthesis of norepinephrine and is essential to the normal functioning of the central nervous system.

Synaptic transmission

To how the nervous system transmits information across a “synaptic gap” (the physical gap between nerve cells) from one neuron to another.

Social Influence

Anti-social behaviour

Are disruptive acts characterised by hostility and intentional aggression toward others.


The ability or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience (and other behaviours).

Dispositional Factors

Individual characteristics that influence behaviour and actions in a person like personality traits, temperament, and genetics.

Locus of control

The extent to which people believe they have power over events in their lives.

Majority influence

The behaviour of a large number of people affects the behaviour of a smaller group of people.

Minority influence

When a small number of people affect a larger number.


Compliance with commands given by an authority figure.

Pro-social behaviour

Any action intended to help others.

Situational factors

Influences that do not occur from within the individual but from elsewhere like the environment and others.

Social influence

The term used to describe how the behaviour of one person affects the behaviour of another.

Criminal Psychology


A legal or moral misdeed or act.


Preventing or controlling actions or behaviour through fear of punishment or justice.


One of the three personality traits identified by Eysenck.


Is characterised by sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and excitability.


Involves the addition of attitudes, values, standards and the opinions of others into one’s own identity or sense of self.


One of the three personality traits identified by Eysenck. Neuroticism is usually categorised as someone who has below average emotional control, will power and capacity to exert self.


One of the three personality traits identified by Eysenck.

Psychoticism usually categorises a personality pattern typified by aggressiveness and interpersonal hostility.


Any change in a human or animal’s surroundings that occurs after a given behaviour or response which reduces the likelihood of that behaviour reoccurring.


A stimulus which strengthens or increases the likelihood of a specific response.


An objective way to describe the positive value that an individual attributes to an object, behavioural act or an internal physical state.

Role model

A person whose behaviour, example, or success is or can be imitated by others.


Reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth.


Process by which children and adults learn from others.

Sleep and Dreaming


A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occurs involuntarily in the mind during certain sta

Dreaming usually occurs during REM sleep.

Endogenous Pacemakers

Internal ‘biological clocks’ that measure human rhythms.

Exogenous zeitgebers

External cues that help to keep an individual’s rhythms adjusted with the changing external environment.


Habitual sleeplessness; inability to sleep.


Psychiatric therapy originated by Sigmund Freud in which free association, dream interpretation, and analysis of resistance and transference are used to explore repressed or unconscious impulses, anxieties, and internal conflicts.

Psychosexual development

Freud proposed that a child’s psychological development had a series of fixed phases. Stages of development include Oral stage, Anal stage, Phallic stage, Latent stage and Genital stage.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM)

An erratic motion of a person’s eyes occurring in REM sleep.

REM Sleep

A form of sleep that occurs at intervals during the night and is characterised by rapid eye movements.

Sleep disorders

Changes in the way an individual sleeps.

Research methods


A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a precise, testable statement of what the researchers predict/s will be the outcome of the study.

Null Hypotheses

A null hypothesis is a statement that predicts no difference or correlation in the findings.

Alternate Hypotheses

An alternate hypothesis is a statement that predicts a difference of correlation in the findings.

Independent Variable (IV)

The variable/s the experimenter manipulates (i.e. Changes).

Dependent Variable (DV)

A DV is the variable which is measured by the experimenter after they have manipulated the IV.

Extraneous Variable (EV)

Extraneous variables are other variables (not the IV) which could affect the results of the experiment.

Experimental designs

Refers to the way participants are allocated to conditions, and includes Independent Measures Design and Repeated Measures Design.

Independent measures

Where each participant is only assigned to one condition of the IV.

Repeated Measures

Where each participant is assigned to more than one condition of the IV.

Target population

The total group of individuals from which the sample might be drawn.


A section of the population that is used to represent the group as a whole.


Drawn from a population of interest and has demographics and characteristics that match those of the population in as many ways as possible.

Measures of Central Tendency

Describes the way in which a group of data cluster around a central value. There are three measures of central tendency: the mean, the median and the mode.


The middle score in a set of data. Mode The most frequently occurring score in a set of data.


The average of a set of data.


A statistical measure of variance. It is calculated by subtracting the lowest score from the highest score and then adding one.


The quantitative relation between two amounts showing the number of times one value contains or is contained within the other.


A rate, number, or amount in each hundred. Fractions A numerical quantity that is not a whole number (e.g. 1/2).


The overall consistency of the measure or study. Internal Reliability Assesses the consistency of results across items within a test.


Refers to the accuracy of a test’s ability to measure what it is supposed to measure.

Ecological validity

Refers to the extent to which the findings of a research study are able to be generalised to real-life settings.

Demand Characteristics

A subtle cue that makes participants aware of what the experimenter expects to find or how participants are expected to behave.

Observer Effect

Refers to subjects altering their behaviour when they are aware that an observer is present.

Social Desirability

Describes the tendency of survey respondents to answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favourably by others.

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