Essential Psychology: A Concise Introduction


Edited by: Philip Banyard, Mark N.O. Davies, Christine Norman & Belinda Winder

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    About the Book

    What is psychology? Everyone seems to have a good idea about what it is, but those ideas often don't match what is studied at university. If you ask someone what a psychologist does then they are most likely to suggest that they

    • read minds
    • tell you how to improve your love life
    • study body language
    • sit you on a couch and talk to you about your mother
    • chase serial killers.

    Sadly, none of these are true. Take the first one, for example. Psychologists cannot read minds and neither can anyone else. If someone tells you that they can read minds then they are lying, deluded or both. In fact the complexities of your own mind are so great that you can't even read it that well yourself. We may not be able to read minds but we can certainly study how the mind works and influences the world around us. The truth is far more exciting than the fiction. Psychology is the scientific study of mind and experience; we leave the myth-making and psychobabble to entertainers.

    Psychology, we believe, is an amazing subject. Whether you want to know if a baby smiles because it recognises its mother, or how a cricketer manages to strike a ball with his bat, psychology offers you a way of exploring these questions. Studying psychology will encourage you to challenge the way you think about yourself and your place in the world.

    Our text is aimed at A level students and first year undergraduates. We do not assume too much prior knowledge of the subject. Nevertheless, our philosophy in writing the book is that you are introduced to some of the big questions in psychology. These are questions like: who am I? And why am I here? And why do I feel annoyed when Nottingham Forest loses a game? From big questions to small questions there is so much we don't know about the way that people tick. To be a psychologist is to be an explorer, discovering new information to help those that follow. We invite you to join us on this big adventure.

    An example of one of the big questions in psychology concerns the distinction between sensation and perception. Various things hit our senses: for example, light enters our eyes, and changes in air pressure are detected by our ears. We detect these changes in the environment, but the psychological miracle is that our brain processes the information our senses detect to produce the fantastic images and sounds that we perceive. If you have studied biology at school you'll probably know that we detect light on the flat screen of our retinas at the back of our eyes, but had you wondered how we manage to see in 3D? Our brains turn that flat image into the 3D world we experience. Our brains are sophisticated perceptual detectives. They take in a range of sensory cues to generate a plausible account of the world we experience – the perceived 3D world we are all familiar with.

    When you read this book you'll find it full of the information that you might expect in a textbook, but try to keep these bigger questions in mind. The way that we experience the world, interact with people, problem solve and reflect on our own behaviour is a miracle that psychology is only just starting to explore.

    The Text

    The text is designed around the six areas that make up the core of any undergraduate curriculum in the UK. We start with the difficult stuff, which comprises the areas commonly referred to as CHIPS by psychologists (conceptual and historical issues in psychology). Our journey begins with an evolutionary explanation to questions about how we came to be as we are in Chapter 1. This stretches from the cave to the computer and we consider one possible future for human evolution. We go on in Chapters 2 and 3 to look at the history of psychology and the modern ways that we describe what it means to be alive, to be conscious. We have introduced these concepts at the beginning not to put you off or try to impress you but because we think that these are the ideas that infuse the whole of modern psychology.

    The following sections each have three chapters about cognitive psychology, biological psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology and the psychology of individual differences. In the space available we aim to provide you with enough material to understand and explore the basic concepts in these fields. We also hope to arouse your interest and provide you with enough questions so that you feel the urge to go on to further study in one or more of the areas.

    The text has a number of features that have been chosen to help your understanding of the material and make it interesting to read. These include key studies on particular topics, short biographies of key contemporary researchers, exercises, suggestions for further reading and some lame attempts at humour.

    The Authors

    The book has contributions from 36 academic staff in the Division of Psychology at Nottingham Trent University. It has been edited by four of these staff and we hope that we have created a text that reads as if it has one author rather than many. We were going to include a picture of all the authors but modesty and, frankly, good taste prevailed. Maybe we will put one up on the website for the curious to marvel at.

    One of the most striking aspects of being an editor is to watch your colleagues adopt the behaviour of students. Much of this is very positive but some of the negative aspects also crept in. At the university we have strict deadlines and word limits for student work and it is part of the corridor culture for staff to throw their eyebrows to the ceiling when these basic rules are not met by their students. Lecturers commonly think that it is easy to keep to deadlines and word limits.

    Imagine our surprise to find that these same staff used the worst excuses to explain their own lateness. Bargaining for an extension accompanied by the lamest of excuses became a daily event for the editors. Avoidance, denial and emotional blackmail became part of the daily discourse on the corridor. And as for word limits … you'd think it could not get more simple than to say 7500–8000 words, but only a handful of chapters were submitted around the word limit. The most extreme was 15,000 words, which also included a note to say that they still needed to add another section. Most inexplicable was the 8500-word chapter that was sent back to the author to reduce it a bit and came back at 9500 words.

    Students, take heart from this. If these authors had been students at this university most of them would have had their work failed for lateness, marked down for being overlength and derided for the poor quality of their excuses. It must be harder being a student than we remember, and that is a key lesson we'll take from this process.


    The editors would like to acknowledge their students at Nottingham Trent University who have put up with our weak attempts at humour over the years and have engaged with us in a positive and productive way. Learning is not something that stops when you get your degree, and our students help us to keep looking at material afresh and keep learning ourselves.

    The editors would also like to acknowledge the positive and supportive working environment that they enjoy with their colleagues at Nottingham Trent University. We would like to thank Tim Clack, Eleanor Davey, Mark Thomas, Kathy Bach, Jemma Underwood, Sheilah Han, Tim Wells, Aarti Kotecha, Danni Mayes and Leah James for their help with this project. Michael Carmichael and the staff at SAGE have been very supportive and shown remarkable confidence in, and tolerance of the editors. Finally, the editors would like to namecheck The Bread and Bitter, psychexchange, Amy Jailbird Harris, Somnium the Tortoise and Clifford the Wise.

    The editors and publishers would like to thank the many academic peer reviewers who have provided useful comments at various points throughout the project. Specific thanks goes to those who took the time to read the proofs at the final stages before going to press, including Professor S. Alexander Hallam, Professor Peter K. Smith, Professor Rom Harré, Professor Rick Hanley, Dr Suzanne Higgs, Dr Harriet E.S. Rosenthal and Dr Dawn Watling.

    Guided Tour

    Chapter Outline: The first page of all chapters includes the list of contents.

    Introduction and Framing Questions: Each chapter begins with an introduction that provides you with the overall framework of the chapter. It gives you a map of the journey you are about to undertake with each topic area, the key ideas, and the contexts in which these ideas developed. The framing questions provide key questions which will emerge in the chapter.

    Aside: Not all of the interesting things we want to tell you about fit into the narratives we create in each chapter. We have added some asides which are descriptons of a relevant idea or piece of research. You might like to explore them further once you've read the main body text.

    Key Researcher: Every field in psychology has thousands of researchers. We've selected a number of mainly current researchers to highlight their work and also to give a flavour of the range of interests that psychologists have. You might find that you want to follow up their work, if so then Google them. It's amazing what you can find out.

    Key Study: Psychology is mainly led by research studies. These are the basic evidence that is at the heart of any theory. To emphasise this we have included an outline of one important piece of research which has been carried out and which relates to the topics in the chapter.

    Exercise: We all learn best by doing. With this in mind we have made some suggestions of things you can do which will clarify or extend your learning. We include group and individual-based exercises which are designed to provide practical and reflective learning on key issues, concepts and phenomena covered in each chapter.

    Chapter Summaries: A review of the main concepts and issues covered in the chapter to reinforce the key points. These are followed by Discussion Questions to explore with friends on your course or individually and Suggestions for Further Reading which point you towards more material to explore relating to the chapter.

    Companion Website

    For the cyber-hungry of you, or for those who are more inclined to read in pixels than in print, this textbook comes with an accompanying website ( providing lecturers and students with a suite of materials written by the editors and authors.

    Naturally, being the Essential Psychology website, we believe it consists of the essential materials needed for lecturers to help them teach from the textbook and for students to prepare for assignments or exams on a foundation course. Below is the top half of the rather funky homepage image for the website including, of course, the Mini image that you're probably all pondering about … Well, we think that this textbook is compact, affordable, stylish and gives you what you need for your journey without all the redundant extras – just like the eponymous Mini! Get it? Well, we like it anyway.

    Anyway, we digress. Here's an image of the website and a list of its features:

    • A test bank of multiple choice questions (30 per chapter), a set of teaching notes and a full set of PowerPoint slides per chapter for lecturers available on a password restricted basis. These are wrapped up ready in a cartridge for importing into any VLE (Virtual Learning Environment).
    • An online multiple choice quiz (10 per chapter), a flashcard glossary quiz per chapter for students freely available to all, plus a list of interesting and selective web links related to discussions throughout the textbook.

    Happy surfing!

  • Glossary

    • 5-alpha reductase syndrome Individuals who are genetically male but appear to be female at birth. During puberty, male genitalia then develop and the majority of such individuals develop a male gender identity.
    • Absolute refractory period In a neurone, the period of time following an action potential during which another action potential cannot be generated.
    • Accentuation principle Categorisation theory suggests that differences between members within the same category are underestimated and differences between members of different categories are accentuated.
    • Accommodation The modification and expansion of pre-existing cognitive schemata in order to adapt to new experiences.
    • Acetylcholine (ACh) Neurotransmitter abundant in the nervous system that acts as a fast excitatory neurotransmitter at the neuromuscular junction, although it can have inhibitory effects elsewhere.
    • Acetylcholineresterase (AChE) Enzyme that inactivates acetylcholine.
    • Action potential Mechanism of signalling information from one end of a neurone to the other achieved by the transitory change in membrane potential travelling down the neurone.
    • Activational hormones Hormones that circulate in the bloodstream and can affect behaviour or physical characteristics when they bind to a receptor site.
    • Actor-observer effect An extension of the fundamental attribution error. Whilst attributing the actions of targets to their disposition, we are more likely to explain our own behaviour as influenced by the situation.
    • Affordances The notion that the function of objects can be directly perceived, with no prior experience being necessary.
    • Agonist Drug that enhances effects of a neurotransmitter on the post-synaptic neurone.
    • Agreeableness This personality trait mainly involves being motivated to help, serve and please others. A person with high levels of the agreeableness trait will often comply with requests for help and sometimes do things without worrying about their own interests. Agreeableness is a part of the five-factor model of personality.
    • Allocentric The skill of memorising the position of an object in relation to other objects.
    • All-or-none law The result of the threshold of excitation. An action potential is either triggered or not and so is always of the same strength.
    • Altruism The act of helping someone, but without any expectation of getting something in return.
    • Amygdala A structure of the limbic system located in the medial temporal lobe involved in emotional processes.
    • Analytical intelligence The ability to evaluate ideas, solve problems and make decisions through analysing, evaluating and making inferences.
    • Androgen A class of male sex hormones responsible for the maintenance and development of male characteristics.
    • Androgen insensitivity syndrome A male with this condition is insensitive to the masculinising effects of androgens in the womb. Such individuals appear to be female, although they possess testes.
    • Animism The attribution of life-like qualities to inanimate objects (for example, toys like Edmund Elephant).
    • Antagonist Drug that inhibits the effects of a neurotransmitter on the post-synaptic neurone.
    • Anterograde axoplasmic transport Forward conveyance of material such as neurotransmitter vesicles, along the axon of a neurone (from soma towards synaptic button).
    • Anthropocentrism or anthrocentrism The belief that people (anthro) are the most important thing in the universe rather than the worthless pile of brown stuff that we really are!
    • Ascending auditory pathway The pathway that runs from the ear to the brain.
    • Ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) Sometimes known as the reticular activating system, this is a part of the brain that affects, among other things, an individual's level of wakefulness and attentiveness. Hans Eysenck claimed that this part of the brain is what differentiates extraverts and introverts; extraverts seek out stimulation to the ARAS (i.e. being ‘stimulus hungry’) whereas introverts avoid stimulation in the ARAS if they can help it (i.e. being ‘stimulus aversive’).
    • Assimilation The incorporation of new experiences into pre-existing cognitive schemas.
    • Astrocytes Glial cells shaped like stars that perform various functions for neurones within the CNS including physical support, producing the blood-brain barrier, isolation of synapses, providing nutrition and keeping the extracellular environment clean.
    • Attachment behaviour Any behaviour that helps to form or establish an emotional bond between two individuals. Strong attachment bonds are usually formed between an infant and his or her caregiver.
    • Attention Concentration of cognitive resources on some aspect or aspects of an environment whilst ignoring others.
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder A behaviour disorder, usually first diagnosed in childhood, that is characterised by inattention, impulsivity and, in some cases, hyperactivity.
    • Attenuate The reduction of a signal or information.
    • Attitudes The thoughts and opinions you have about any number of objects in the world.
    • Attribution The act of making a decision as to why someone has acted in a particular way.
    • Auditory canal The ‘tube’ running between the pinna and the tympanic membrane.
    • Authoritarianism The theory that a person with this type of personality will be hostile to minority groups and has a predisposition to show prejudice.
    • Autism A form of pervasive developmental disorder. It can range from high functioning to severe in nature. Diagnosis is usually made according to difficulties found in aspects of communication, social skills and the use of imagination.
    • Autonomic nervous system (ANS) This is part of the nervous system that stimulates activity to the heart and muscles and is especially important to get the person to defend (i.e. the ‘fight-or-flight’ response) against any perceived threats. The ANS has been associated with the personality trait of neuroticism, with persons who have high levels of this trait being poor in controlling the ANS.
    • Autoreceptor Pre-synaptic receptor that detects and signals levels of neurotransmitter in the synaptic cleft and so regulates release.
    • Axon The long slender projection from cell body to axonal branches or synaptic buttons. Its main purpose is to convey action potentials.
    • Axon hillock Region of the axon that is adjacent to the soma (also known as the initial segment). It is here that post-synaptic potentials typically accumulate and determine whether an action potential is triggered or not.
    • Axonal branches The division of the axon of the neurone into two or more sections. Occurs in certain types of neurones and only at the synaptic end.
    • Axoplasm The fluid inside the axon.
    • Babbling A child appears to be experimenting with making the sounds of language, but is not yet producing any recognisable words. Also, what boys do when they are trying to ask someone out on a date.
    • Basal ganglia A group of forebrain structures that integrates voluntary movement and consists of the caudate nucleus, globus pallidus and putamen.
    • Base rate fallacy Ignoring the base rate of an event occurring when computing a probability.
    • Basilar membrane A flexible membrane in the cochlea that moves in response to sound.
    • Bayes theorem A method of computing the probability of a hypothesis being true given some factual evidence related to the hypothesis.
    • Bipolar cells A type of neurone which is specialised for dealing with sensory information.
    • Bipolar neurone A type of neurone (usually a sensory neurone) named for its structure, having two processes arising from the cell body.
    • Blind spot The point on the retina where there are no photoreceptor cells.
    • Blood-brain barrier Protective barrier between the brain and blood vessels, providing a mechanism by which certain substances are prevented from entering the brain.
    • Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence The ability to use one's body in various movements and activities.
    • Bottom-up processing A cognitive process that starts with simple (low-level) processes and builds up to the more complex higher levels. It doesn't depend on prior knowledge.
    • Brain stem The part of the brain that regulates vital reflexes such as heart rate and respiration; it consists of the midbrain, the pons and the medulla. It is activity or the lack of it in this region that is used by medics to establish if a patient is ‘brain dead’.
    • Bullying This is a process involving exercise of power and control over a more vulnerable person. Bullying may take a verbal form (e.g. insults, threats, and use of language to make the victim feel fearful). It might also be physical in nature such as when a group of bullies surrounds the victim (i.e. ‘mobbing’) in order to intimidate them.
    • Bystander effect Lack of action in a given situation, based on the presence of other people. The higher the number of participants, the lower the probability that anyone will act.
    • Cardinality The principle that a set of items has a cardinal value (a quantity), and this quantity is equal in value to another set of items with the same quantity. For example, although three horses might look visually different to three ducks, the principle of cardinality suggests that there are the same number, i.e. three.
    • Cartesian dualism The idea that we are made up of two parts, a mind and a body. The body is like all other material objects and can be examined using the material sciences, whereas the mind is not physical and cannot be measured.
    • Catharsis Release of pent-up energy (usually frustration or aggression) by acting out the emotions stored up within the individual.
    • Cell theory Schwann's (1839) theory that all bodily tissues are composed of individual discrete cells.
    • Centration The focusing of attention on one aspect of a situation while excluding the rest of the scenario.
    • Cerebellum The lower part of the brain responsible for balance and coordination.
    • Cerebral cortex The layer of neural tissue which covers the cerebral hemispheres and is involved in higher-order cognitive processes.
    • Cerebral hemispheres The right and left halves of the most anterior part of the brain. They play a primary role in most of our mental abilities, such as language, attention and perception.
    • Cerebrospinal fluid The clear fluid that protects the central nervous system and fills the ventricular system, the subarachnoid space and the central canal.
    • c-fibres Neurones that are found in the somatic sensory system and are unique because, unlike most other nerves in the nervous system, they are unmyelinated. They have a role in the transmission of pain.
    • Chemical synapses Synapses that depend upon chemicals (transmitter substances), released by the pre-synaptic cell and recognised by the post-synaptic cell, for communication.
    • Chemically gated ion channels Ion channels whose state (open or closed) is determined by the docking of an appropriate chemical onto a nearby receptor.
    • Child-directed speech (motherese) The act of using a sing-song voice, speaking slowly, or using simple language when talking to an infant.
    • Chloride (Cl-) Negatively charged ion that plays a role in producing and maintaining membrane potentials.
    • Chromosome A thread-like strand of DNA that carries the genes.
    • Chunk decomposition The process of breaking down something that was initially perceived as a whole into its constituent parts – such as X being seen as two individual lines rather than as a letter of the alphabet.
    • Cisternae Found in some synaptic buttons, cisternae repackage transmitter substances into vesicles.
    • Cochlea The spiral-shaped structure in the inner ear which generates electrical impulses in response to sound.
    • Cochlear duct A fluid-filled chamber in the cochlea.
    • Cognitive dissonance The argument that if our own attitudes, thoughts or actions disagree with each other, a state of dissonance is created. This acts as a motivation to change one or more of these internal elements (Festinger, 1957).
    • Cognitive miser In contrast to Heider's naive scientist perspective, the idea that we try to conserve mental energy and take shortcuts when making attributions (Fiske & Taylor, 1991).
    • Cognitive schemata Mental representations and plans used to enact behaviours.
    • Competitive binding The situation where drugs and neurotransmitters are in competition for the same receptor sites.
    • Concrete vocabulary A precursor to abstract vocabulary, whereby children name objects at a subordinate level, e.g. chair and table, as opposed to an abstract superordinate level, e.g. furniture.
    • Cones The photoreceptor cells in the eye responsible for colour vision and visual acuity.
    • Conflict resolution When more than one rule (or production) is able to be used at any one time in a production system, it is said to be in conflict. Conflict resolution is the strategy used to resolve this conflict.
    • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia A female with this condition is exposed to an excess of androgens, produced by the adrenal glands, during prenatal development. As a consequence, a number of physical and personality characteristics are shifted in a male-typical direction.
    • Conscientiousness This personality trait is often demonstrated by an individual in a work or study setting, in which the individual is industrious and has an eye for detail in the work that is being done. People with high levels of conscientiousness are very practical and like to finish a project once they have started it. Conscientiousness is a part of the five-factor model of personality.
    • Consciousness Often used in everyday speech to describe being awake or aware in contrast to being asleep or in a coma. In psychology, the term has a more precise meaning concerning the way in which humans are mentally aware so that they distinguish clearly between themselves and all other things and events.
    • Conservation The understanding that certain properties of objects remain the same under transformation. These properties include quantity, weight and volume.
    • Consolidation theory The idea that memories are fragile and require time to consolidate before they can be stored in long-term memory.
    • Constraint relaxation The process of relaxing constraints that were unnecessarily imposed on a problem – such as believing coins could not be stacked on top of each other in the eight-coin problem.
    • Constructivist An approach which assumes that our perceptual experiences are constructed based on a combination of sensory input and what we know about the world.
    • Contact hypothesis The theory that bringing members of two different groups together within a cooperative, equal and supportive environment can reduce conflict between those two groups.
    • Context-dependent memory Where memory for an item improves when the original context in which it was presented is reinstated at test.
    • Cornea The transparent protective layer on the surface of the eye.
    • Corpus callosum The largest commissure in the brain that connects the two cerebral hemispheres.
    • Cranial nerves Part of the peripheral nervous system composed of a set of 12 pairs of nerves or pathways which transmit sensory and motor information to and from the brain.
    • Creative intelligence The ability to draw upon previous experience in order to come up with new solutions to both old and new problems.
    • Critical period A limited period, usually early in life, in which a child is required to be exposed to a particular skill or experience in order for it to be learned. Alternatively, the time during pregnancy when exposure to certain substances has lasting consequences on development.
    • Crossed category membership The theory that encourages people to view others' membership in lots of different categories to reduce intergroup bias (this can include race, age, ethnicity, gender, university enrolment and economic status, to name just a few).
    • Cryptarithmetic A problem where an arithmetic sum is given using letters rather than numbers, with the goal of identifying which number from 0 to 9 corresponds to each of the letters.
    • Crystallised intelligence (gc) The ability to think and reason about abstract ideas, and to use knowledge and skills to solve problems.
    • Cued recall Where specific prompts or cues are used to direct recall (e.g. paired-associate learning).
    • Cultural tools Tools that help us to understand the world more fully by solving problems, measuring the environment, making calculations and storing information (e.g. computers and calculators).
    • Cytoplasm Gel-like fluid, rich in salts, that is contained within the cell and surrounds organelles.
    • Decay An explanation of forgetting that suggests memories fade or deteriorate over time.
    • Declarative knowledge Factual information such as that Paris is the capital of France.
    • Deductive reasoning A type of reasoning that uses a rule or a set of premises applied to specific instances to produce a conclusion.
    • Deindividuation A process whereby the presence of others leads an individual to lose their sense of personal identity and to feel anonymous, becoming less socially responsible and guided by moral principles.
    • Dendrites The branching processes that emanate from the soma and receive inputs from other cells.
    • Dendritic arborisation The number and organisation of dendrites.
    • Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) Nucleic acid found in cells that contains the genetic instructions vital for development and functioning of organisms.
    • Desired state The ultimate state, i.e. when the problem is solved.
    • Determinism The idea that every event including human thought and behaviour is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior events. According to this idea there are no mysterious miracles and no random events.
    • Diencephalon The division of the forebrain that contains the thalamus and hypothalamus.
    • Diffusion Natural movement of molecules in solution from areas of high to low concentration.
    • Diffusion of responsibility The phenomenon of individuals taking less responsibility for events when there are other people present because they feel less personally responsible for what is happening.
    • Dihydrotestosterone An androgen converted from testosterone by the actions of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase.
    • Discrimination The consideration or treatment of others (typically negative) based on general factors (e.g. their race, religion or some other grouping), rather than on individual merit.
    • Displacement Swapping negative feelings or aggression from one group or individual to another target.
    • Dogmatism A rigid, inflexible approach which can cause prejudice through intolerance.
    • Double dissociation A term used in brain sciences to indicate that two cognitive processes are distinct, such that damage to a particular brain region affects one of those processes but not the other. For example, damage to Broca's area of the brain means a patient cannot speak but can still understand speech, whereas damage to Wernicke's area means a patient cannot understand speech but can still speak.
    • Down syndrome A congenital disorder, caused by the presence of an extra 21st chromosome, in which the affected person has mild to moderate learning difficulties and distinctive facial profile. Also called trisomy 21.
    • Dramaturgical analogy Erving Goffman proposed a theatrical metaphor as a way of understanding self in everyday life and seeing social interactions as though they were dramatic performances, considering the costumes, the props etc. which go towards making up the ‘scenes’ played out by people.
    • Drugs Substances that produce observable changes to physiological processes and/or behaviour at relatively low doses.
    • Dynamic equilibrium When two opposing processes operate at equivalent rates.
    • DZ and MZ twins Fraternal or dizygotic (DZ) twins occur when two different eggs are fertilised by two different sperm. Identical or monozygotic (MZ) twins occur when a single fertilised egg divides into two identical copies.
    • Egocentric thinking When an individual has little regard for the views or interests of others, which may involve individuals memorising objects in relation to themselves.
    • Elaboration likelihood model Examines how attitudes are formed and changed by focusing on two routes to persuasion: the ‘central route’ and the ‘peripheral route’.
    • Electrical synapses Synapses that depend upon electrical charge accumulated in the pre-synaptic cell passing to the post-synaptic cell for communication.
    • Electrostatic pressure The force created because particles of opposite polarity (+ and −) are attracted towards each other and those of the same polarity are repelled.
    • Emotional intelligence An ability to identify, assess and manage the emotions of yourself, other individuals and groups.
    • Encoding The stage of memory involving interpreting and transforming incoming information in order to ‘lay down’ memories.
    • Encoding specificity principle This principle states that specific encoding operations performed at presentation determine what is stored, and therefore determine what retrieval cues are effective at test.
    • Endocrine system A series of small organs responsible for producing hormones that regulate a variety of processes including growth and development, metabolism and puberty.
    • Endogenous Substances naturally found within the body (e.g. neurotransmitters).
    • Entitativity Refers to how coherent and connected a group is, that is, how much the people in the group can be seen as being a part of the group rather than being a collection of individuals.
    • Enzymatic degradation Process by which certain neurotransmitters are broken down by enzymes.
    • Enzymes Typically proteins that are catalysts important for biological reactions.
    • Equilibration This is when a child's set of schemas are balanced and not disturbed by conflict.
    • Equilibrium potential Each type of ion has its own equilibrium potential, which is the voltage at which the net effect of the passage of a given ion in and out of the cell is zero.
    • Ethnocentrism A stance in which an individual believes that their own race or ethnic group (or aspects of it, e.g. its culture) is superior to other groups.
    • Ethnomethodology Not a formal research method, but an approach to empirical study that aims to discover the things that people do in particular situations and how they create the patterns and orderliness of social life to gain a sense of social structure.
    • Eugenics The political idea that the human race could be improved by eliminating ‘undesirables’ from the breeding stock, so that they cannot pass on their supposedly inferior genes. Some eugenicists advocate compulsory sterilisation, while others seem to prefer mass murder or genocide.
    • Eustachian tube A structure in the middle ear which helps regulate air pressure.
    • Event-related potentials A characteristic electrophysiological response by the brain to a stimulus, usually recorded using EEG (electroencephalography).
    • Excitatory post-synaptic potentials (EPSPs) Graded post-synaptic potentials that increase the likelihood that the post-synaptic cell will produce an action potential.
    • Exocytosis Process by which substances are released from a cell.
    • Exogenous Substances originating outside the body (e.g. drugs).
    • Explanatory pluralism Holds that different levels of description, like the psychological and the neurophysiological, can coevolve, and mutually influence each other, without the higher-level theory being replaced by, or reduced to, the lower-level one.
    • Explicit memory test Where the participant is told at test that the task involves memory for material presented earlier.
    • External locus of control People with an external locus of control will usually see their lives as mainly subject to influence and control by other people (e.g. destiny affected by someone's family members, friends, boss etc.).
    • Extraversion The main feature of extraversion is having a focus on other people and their interests. A typical characteristic of having high levels of extraversion is someone who seeks out social situations, like parties, and enjoys being in this type of environment. Extraversion is a personality trait that is common to all major personality factor models and is best understood as having two extremes of people, with high extraversion levels being called ‘extraverts’ and those with low extraversion levels being seen as ‘introverts’.
    • Factor analysis This is a statistical method that is used to reduce complex information into more manageable units. The technique entails analysing personality by examining how certain behaviours, motivations and feelings are correlated with each other. Strong relationships between some of these measurements might indicate an underlying personality factor. This technique has been used to aid the development of many of the major personality factor models, like the three-factor, five-factor, and sixteen-factor models.
    • False belief This is when an individual incorrectly believes a statement or scenario to be true when it is not. This is the basis of the false belief tasks used in the theory of mind experiments.
    • False consensus effect The effect seen when people overestimate the probability of other people thinking, feeling or acting the same way as they do.
    • Filter In the context of attentional processing, a filter serves the purpose of allowing some sensations of stimuli through to be processed whilst screening out others. This is based on the theoretical approach that we can only cope with a limited amount of information and so select which stimuli to process.
    • Five-factor model This model of personality traits is sometimes called the Big 5 or the OCEAN model (after the initials for each of the five major traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism). It is commonly used to assess personality in a range of settings, including the workplace. The model is highly popular in personality psychology and has been developed and promoted by Robert McCrae and Paul Costa Jr, both working at the National Institute of Aging, National Institutes of Health in the United States of America.
    • Fluid intelligence (gf) The ability to learn from previous experiences.
    • Foetal alcohol syndrome Foetal abnormalities caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
    • Folk psychology Ways of thinking about the mind that are implicit in how we make everyday attributions of mental states to ourselves and others.
    • Forebrain Most anterior division of the brain, containing the telencephalon and diencephalon.
    • Forgetting function The mathematical equation that determines the precise rate of forgetting as a function of time.
    • Fovea The part of the eye located in the centre of the macula which is responsible for high visual acuity.
    • Fraternal birth order effect The increased rates of homosexuality observed in males with a large number of older brothers.
    • Free recall Where the prompt for recall is quite general (e.g. ‘remember as many words as you can from the first list’).
    • Frustration-aggression hypothesis The theory that frustration leads to aggression; this can be used to explain prejudice.
    • Functional fixedness When one becomes fixated on the function of an object rather than considering other uses that the object could be applied to.
    • Functionalism In the philosophy of mind, functionalism refers to the idea that mental states can be defined by their causes and effects.
    • Fundamental attribution error The tendency to attribute the actions of a person we are observing to their disposition, rather than to situational variables.
    • G protein Guanine nucleotide-binding proteins are coupled to metabotropic chemical receptors and are involved in cascade effects that result in the opening of ion channels.
    • Gendered identity A person's gendered identity is the way that people perform their biological sex. Just how or in what way gender is demonstrated will vary depending on social or cultural understanding, circumstances, expectations or requirements.
    • Gene A discrete portion (sequence) of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). DNA is the building block of our chromosomes. In Homo sapiens there are 23 pairs of chromosomes contained in the nucleus of each cell. For each pair, one of the chromosomes is inherited from the mother and one from the father. We have around 20,000 to 25,000 genes.
    • General factor (g) The theoretical general factor of intelligence that some scientists believe underpins all cognitive activity.
    • General problem solver (GPS) A computer program created in 1957 by Herbert Simon and Allen Newell to build a universal problem solving machine.
    • Generality approach Researchers studying the link between personality and health may use the generality approach by analysing specific health-related behaviours that are influenced by personality. In essence, this approach assumes that health is affected by an indirect route from a personality trait or type contributing to a behaviour that is likely to impact upon health (e.g. smoking, alcohol use, taking fewer risks when driving etc.).
    • Generate-recognise theory The theory that people use an initial prompt to generate a series of cues during recall until one of them matches an item shown at presentation and is recognised.
    • Genetic predisposition Any behaviour or physical characteristic that is present within an individual's genetic code. These characteristics may not always be activated, but there is a potential for them to be developed.
    • Genotype Genes that make up the genetic code for an individual are described as the genotype. In humans the genotype comprises approximately 25,000 genes. Genes mostly come in pairs. Each member of a pair of genes is referred to as an allele.
    • Genus A class, group or category that possesses common attributes. Our own species exists in the genus Homo alongside other species (all of which are now extinct).
    • Gestalt psychology A school of psychology that began in Germany in the first half of the twentieth century. It proposed that an experience or behaviour can only be understood as a whole, not by understanding the individual constituent parts.
    • Glial cells Non-neuronal cells performing a number of supporting roles in the nervous system.
    • Goal state A desired state for a subgoal of the problem solving process.
    • Graphemes The graphical representation of a sound in written form.
    • Groupthink A style of thinking shown by group members who try to minimise conflict and reach a consensus without critically testing and evaluating ideas.
    • Habituation A method of measuring infant attention, by habituating an infant to a particular stimulus until they become uninterested in the stimulus.
    • Hegemony A situation where the interests of the powerful can marginalise and counter the claims of other groups. Hegemonic masculinity is therefore one that subordinates women's activities and other (usually more effeminate) ways of being masculine.
    • Helping behaviour The act of helping someone, but with the hope or expectation of getting something in return.
    • Heritability The proportion of variance in the phenotype that can be attributed to genetic variance. It is a widely misunderstood concept and is commonly misused in debates about nature and nurture. It is a measure that may vary with the range of genetic backgrounds and range of environments studied. It is therefore a mistake to argue that a high figure for heritability in a particular population in a particular environment means that the characteristic is genetically determined.
    • Hermaphrodite A term derived from Hermaphroditus, a Greek deity believed to possess both male and female attributes. Such individuals possess both testicular and ovarian tissue.
    • Heuristic A mental shortcut (or rule of thumb) that represents a ‘best guess’, allowing people to make solution attempts or make decisions quickly and efficiently (though not always correctly).
    • Heuristic systematic model Explains that, when making decisions, individuals either use heuristics and shortcuts or systematically process the merits and problems with a given argument.
    • Hierarchical models of intelligence These models imply one or more general, higher-order factor(s) of intelligences and one or more lower levels with several specific intelligence factors.
    • Hindbrain Most posterior division of the brain, containing the metencephalon and myelencephalon.
    • Hippocampus Structure of the limbic system located in the medial temporal lobe that plays an important role in memory.
    • Hormones From the Greek horman, ‘to excite’ or ‘impetus’. Hormones are chemical messengers, released by the endocrine system, that are carried to other areas of the body through the bloodstream. Once they have reached a specific area of the body, they bind to certain receptor sites within tissues or organs and induce physiological change. Hormones have powerful effects on physiology and behaviour.
    • Humanistic psychology The humanistic approach explains the subjective experience of individuals in terms of the way they interpret past events. Humanistic psychology partly arose in reaction to the mechanical (stimulus/response) models of behaviourism. Borrowing ideas from psychoanalysis, it sought to affirm the dignity and worth of all people.
    • Humours Refers to the physical elements that ancient Greek and Roman doctors thought were flowing through a person's body. According to the Roman physician Galen, four main humours characterised a person's temperament, which were related to being sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic and melancholic. A person would tend to have a larger proportion of one or other of the humours and this would dictate how the person consistently reacted in a variety of situations.
    • Huntington's disease A dominant genetic disorder in which a protein is produced abnormally, leading to the breakdown in the parts of the brain that control movement.
    • Hypothalamus A part of the brain which controls the actions of the pituitary gland and as such controls hormone production in the human body. It is also involved in a variety of physiological processes such as hunger, thirst, circadian rhythms and sexual behaviour.
    • Hysteria A condition in which physical symptoms appear in the absence of any obvious physical cause.
    • Identity Awareness of shared distinctive characteristics by members of a group. Identity may be considered in a number of ways, e.g. in cultural terms as ethnic identity, or in terms of sexual orientation.
    • Idiographic or idiothetic approach This perspective focuses on the uniqueness or idiosyncrasies of the person. It does not require trying to get a common language of personality traits or types to compare between people. Instead, it allows people to tell their stories of how they develop over time and attempts to understand their perceptions of why they say and do things. It recognises that a person evolves over time and that changing moods and perceptions can influence what that person may do in any given situation.
    • Illusion An error in perception.
    • Impasse When one becomes stuck during problem solving and cannot see a solution.
    • Implicit memory test Where participants perform an activity at test that is apparently unrelated to the material that was originally presented.
    • Incidental learning Where participants are not told at presentation that their memory for the material will later be tested.
    • Inductive reasoning A type of reasoning that starts from specific instances or facts to produce general rules or theories.
    • Inferior colliculi Nuclei of the tectum in the midbrain that receives auditory information.
    • Ingroup A group of which an individual believes they are a member.
    • Inhibitory post-synaptic potentials (IPSPs) Graded post-synaptic potentials that decrease the likelihood that the post-synaptic cell will produce an action potential.
    • Innate Being present at birth (usually refers to a characteristic or behaviour that is deemed hereditary).
    • Inner ear The part of the ear which consists of the cochlea and the semicircular canals.
    • Inner hair cells The sensory receptors in the ear which are responsible for sending electrical signals to the brain.
    • Insight This is when we reach a dead end in problem solving, until suddenly – ‘aha!’ – we suddenly realise the solution. A rare phenomenon.
    • Intelligence quotient (IQ) A numerical figure, believed by some to indicate the level of a person's intelligence, and by others to indicate how well that person performs on intelligence tests.
    • Intentional learning Where participants are told at presentation that their memory for the material will later be tested.
    • Interference An explanation of forgetting in which other learning (old or new) can disrupt or prevent retrieval.
    • Internal locus of control People with an internal locus of control see themselves as ‘masters of their own destiny’. Locus of control relates to how individuals perceive the causes of events that occur to them. Internal locus of control is a personality type that categorises a person as seeing events that occur around them as being dependent on what they say or do. Someone with an internal locus of control is also said to have ‘self-determination’ or ‘personal control’ or ‘self-agency’, which all refer to people seeing themselves as being integral to what happens to their lives.
    • Interneurone A neurone connecting two other neurones. Typically for local connections confined to a specific region of the brain.
    • Interpersonal intelligence The ability to understand other people's thoughts, beliefs and intentions, and respond appropriately.
    • Interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) An experiential qualitative approach to research in psychology and the social sciences. It was developed by Jonathan Smith and it offers insights into how a person makes sense of a particular experiential phenomenon – the ‘insider's perspective’.
    • Intersex An individual who has undergone atypical sexual differentiation, and has external genitalia that appear to be between those of a typical female and a typical male.
    • Intrapersonal intelligence The ability to understand oneself and be aware of one's thoughts, beliefs and intentions, and use this understanding to guide one's behaviour.
    • Introversion This is the polar opposite of extraversion and lies at the other end of a continuum of how outwardly focused someone is. Introversion relates to a person being primarily focused on their own needs and drives. The concept is common to most theories relating to personality traits; it has been used in understanding and measuring personality types, as in the analytic psychology developed by Carl Jung and in assessing types through the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
    • Ion channels Pores (formed by proteins) found in cell membranes that allow or restrict the passage of ions in and out of the cell.
    • Ionotropic receptors Chemical receptors that when activated act directly to open ion channels.
    • Ions Positively and negatively charged atoms that are vital to maintaining the membrane potential of cells.
    • Iris The coloured part of the eye which controls the amount of light that enters the pupil.
    • Job analysis This is a process that entails unpacking the main tasks, roles and responsibilities that are undertaken by a person holding a specific job. Job analysis involves a lot of fact finding about the job role but also the characteristics of the person who would be ideally suited to hold that role. Methods of job analysis include collecting data through interviews of current post-holders and observation of their behaviour.
    • Just-world hypothesis The belief that people have a need to believe that we live in a world where people generally get what they deserve and deserve what they get.
    • Klinefelter's syndrome A male who receives an additional X chromosome during conception (XYY sex chromosomes). Such individuals tend to have a more feminised appearance.
    • Language acquisition device A system proposed by Chomsky that young infants have. It helps them navigate the grammar of language, which in turn helps language development.
    • Lateral geniculate nucleus An area of the thalamus that processes visual information.
    • Lens The part of the eye that focuses incoming light onto the retina.
    • Levels of processing theory The theory that deep, semantic processing leads to better retention than shallow, perceptual processing.
    • Ligand Any substance (e.g. neurotransmitter or drug) with the capacity to bind to a receptor.
    • Likert scale Developed by Rensis Likert (1932). A scale for measuring attitudes, typically using a score from 1 to 5 across a range of attitudes such as ‘agree strongly’ to ‘disagree strongly’.
    • Limbic system A group of interconnected forebrain structures that plays a role in memory and emotion.
    • Linguistic intelligence The capacity to use spoken and written words and languages.
    • Lipids Substances that are fat soluble.
    • Locus of control Refers to what people perceive to be the source of what happens to them. An internal locus of control means that people see it as coming from within themselves – so they are largely in control of what happens to them, or at least in a position to influence it. An external locus of control means that it is perceived as coming from sources outside the person, and so is not something which the individual can influence.
    • Logical-mathematical intelligence The capacity for logic reasoning and dealing with numbers.
    • Longitudinal studies This is research that observes the same participants over a period of time. These observations can be over weeks, months or years, or perhaps even over someone's lifetime. These studies are important in areas such as developmental psychology, where researchers are interested in how people develop over a given period. The central feature of longitudinal research is that it tracks the same people. In personality psychology, this can be an important tool to see how people's personalities develop over time and in relation to positive and negative events.
    • Long-term memory Memory for material that has left consciousness and has to be brought back into mind. This term also describe experiments with a long delay between presentation and test (presumed to measure long-term memory).
    • Long-term recency Enhanced memory for the most recent of a sequence of items or events that are spread over a long period (e.g. for the last few films seen at the cinema).
    • Long-term store a key component of the modal model of memory. Items held in the short-term store for an extended period are more likely to pass into the long-term store.
    • Macula The area of the eye that falls in the centre of the retina.
    • Material and immaterial If something is material it is made up of the atoms and molecules that are building blocks of our world, whereas if it is immaterial it is not made up of these things. We cannot measure or see immaterial things such as ‘mind’, which challenges their existence. The existence of immaterial things is a matter of belief rather than evidence.
    • Maturation lag Slower than expected rate of development for a child.
    • Means-ends analysis Setting a goal and then breaking it down to produce subgoals which need to be achieved – thus creating a ‘means to an end’.
    • Medulla oblongata Most caudal part of the brain stem that regulates breathing and heart rate.
    • Membrane potential The voltage difference across the cell membrane, i.e. the differences in voltage between the interior and the exterior of the cell.
    • Meninges The three protective membranes (dura mater, arachnoid and pia mater) that surround the brain and spinal cord.
    • Mental representations An internal cognitive map of stimuli.
    • Mental states In the philosophy of mind, a mental state is unique to thinking and feeling beings, and forms part of our cognitive processes. These processes include our beliefs and attitudes as well as our perceptions and sensations, such as the taste of wine or the pain of a headache.
    • Mere exposure The finding that mere exposure to an item will increase positive feelings towards it (Zajonc, 1968).
    • Mesencephalon Another name for midbrain.
    • Meshing How an adult's and an infant's behaviours fit together.
    • Meta-analysis Where a researcher uses statistics to combine results from (typically) a large number of studies about a particular topic.
    • Metabotropic receptors A form of G protein coupled chemical receptor that when activated indirectly (via activation of a G protein) opens ion channels.
    • Microglia Small glial cells that constitute the major immune system of the CNS, ‘swallowing’ infectious agents (phagocytosis) and producing inflammatory responses.
    • Micrometre (μm) Unit of measurement equal to 10−6 m.
    • Midbrain The middle division of the brain that includes the tectum and the tegmentum.
    • Middle ear The part of the ear that contains the ossicles and the Eustachian tube.
    • Millivolts (mV) Unit of measurement equal to one-thousandth (10−3) of a volt.
    • Minimal intergroup paradigm An experimental technique used to form groups on an ad hoc basis to study social categorisation.
    • Mitochondria Organelles found within the neurone. They are important for producing chemical energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate, but also play a vital role in a number of other cellular processes.
    • Mnemonics Strategies for helping people to remember information, usually involving cues such as rhyme or imagery.
    • Modal model The model of short-term memory exemplified by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968), which includes a limited capacity short-term store and an unlimited capacity long-term store.
    • Motherese More recently termed ‘child-directed speech’. The act of using a sing-song voice, speaking slowly, or using simple language when talking to an infant.
    • Motivated tactician As a midpoint between the naive scientist and the cognitive miser, the argument that we can use either of those strategies as the situation requires (Kruglanski, 1996).
    • Motivation Most commonly, this is defined as the mechanism or process that drives someone to act. However, the main motivations of a person might not be that readily apparent and visible and may need a great deal of study and observation. There are many variables within this complicated process such as being driven to act by what we expect to achieve from our actions (e.g. getting a good grade after putting in many hours of revision) or being driven by habitual ways of acting (e.g. feeling stressed being equated with the need to get drunk).
    • Motor neurone Type of neurone with its soma located in the CNS. Responsible for sending outgoing motor information along axons to sites outside the CNS (e.g. to muscles).
    • Multiple intelligences The theory of multiple intelligences, proposed by Howard Gardner, holds that there are many kinds of human intelligence in addition to the intelligence that is measured with conventional IQ tests.
    • Multipolar neurone The most common type of neurone in the CNS. Typically posesses a long axon and many dendrites.
    • Musical intelligence Abilities that involve hearing and performing sounds, rhythm and music.
    • Myelin Fatty insulating sheath deposited by glial cells that surrounds the axons of some neurones and nerve cells.
    • Naive scientist The idea that when making attributions we try to understand other people's behaviour in a rational way, seeking to find stable causes, in a naive scientific manner (Heider, 1958).
    • Neurites Collective term for axons and dendrites (i.e. any projection from the soma).
    • Neurone doctrine The widely accepted theory, originally espoused by Cajal, that nerve cells are discrete units and are separate from one another.
    • Neurone membrane The ‘skin’ that bounds the neurone and which is composed of the phospholipid bilayer.
    • Neurones Specialised cells found in the CNS that are responsible for communication of information.
    • Neuroticism A personality trait characterised by feelings of anxiety, tension, anger and/or depression.
    • Neurotransmitters Chemical substances released from neurone terminals into the synaptic cleft that can affect the activation of another adjacent neurone.
    • Nodes of Ranvier Small gaps in the myelination of axons that are necessary for saltatory conduction of action potentials.
    • Nomothetic and idiographic measures Nomothetic approaches look for laws of behaviour and collect measures that can be observed and verified and quantified. They are concerned with averages and norms. By contrast, idiographic approaches look for unique and individual experiences.
    • Nucleus Organelle found within the soma of a cell that contains the genetic information necessary for cell form and function.
    • Object permanency This is the ability to understand that an object still exists even if it is no longer visible.
    • Old-new recognition A memory test in which one item is presented at a time and a participant indicates if it is a ‘new’ (unrecognised) or an ‘old’ (recognised) item.
    • Oligodendrocytes Glial cells responsible for myelination of neurone axons within the CNS.
    • Openness to experience One of the personality factors in the five-factor model. This factor refers to people who have high levels of creative tendencies, a thirst for knowledge, and an active imagination. A high score on this factor may also indicate the drive to pursue an unconventional lifestyle.
    • Optic flow The apparent motion of objects in the visual scene caused by an observer moving through the scene.
    • Optic nerve An array of axons that carry information from the eye to the brain.
    • Organ of Corti The sensory organ for hearing located in the cochlea.
    • Organelles Little ‘organs’ found within cells such as the nucleus, Golgi apparatus and endoplasmic reticulum. Organelles are membrane bound and perform specialised roles within the cell.
    • Organisational hormones Hormones that a foetus is exposed to in the womb. Such hormones affect the structure of the developing foetal brain and their effects are set in place for life.
    • Ossicles The three small bones in the middle ear (stapes, hammer, anvil).
    • Outer ear The external portion of the ear, consisting of the pinna, the auditory canal and the tympanic membrane.
    • Outer hair cells The sensory receptors in the ear which are responsible for injecting energy into the movement of the basilar membrane.
    • Outgroup A group of which an individual believes they are not a member.
    • Over-regulation errors Children might overuse a rule that they have learnt in a particular context when it seems appropriate in a new context. In language, this might work for some invented words such as ‘wug’ and ‘wugs’ but not for irregular plurals such as ‘sheep’.
    • Paraplegia Paralysis characterised by failure to move and/or feel the lower part of the body due to damage in the thoracic, lumbar or sacral segments of the spinal cord.
    • Parasympathetic division Part of the autonomic nervous system that is mainly involved in restoring and preserving levels of energy in the body.
    • Parsimony The idea that ‘less is better’ and, in particular, that a complicated explanation is not needed when a simple one is sufficient.
    • Pavlov's log Conditioned reflex action causing bowels to relax as soon as you see the toilet door.
    • Perception The process of making sense of the world around us.
    • Perceptual constancies The way that perception of an object remains unchanged despite changes in lighting or viewing angle.
    • Perceptual processing Processing of material to extract superficial sensory characteristics such as shape or colour.
    • Perseveration errors When a participant repeats items in a recall task.
    • Personality The characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that make a person unique.
    • Personality coefficient Contrary to the belief that an individual's personality is consistent over time, Mischel suggested that humans are consistently inconsistent. By examining a range of studies into how personality traits are related to units of behaviour, Mischel found an average correlation coefficient of 0.30 (which represents a weak correlation at best) with regard to correlations between two single behaviours in two separate situations.
    • Phagocytes Cells which are able to ‘swallow’ and break down unwanted materials such as pathogens and cell debris.
    • Phenomenology Based on the idea that the ordinary world of lived experience is taken for granted and often unnoticed, phenomenology attempts to discover how people know and understand objects (and other people) from the way they perceive and construct ideas about the social world around them.
    • Phenotype The characteristics of an organism resulting from the interaction between its genetic makeup and the environment. These characteristics can be biological or behavioural.
    • Phenylketonuria An inherited, metabolic disorder that can result in learning difficulties and other neurological problems. People with this disease have difficulty breaking down and using the amino acid phenylalanine. PKU can be managed by a diet restricted in foods that contain this amino acid.
    • Phonemes The smallest unit of sound that is able to carry some meaning in language.
    • Photoreceptor cells The sensory receptors in the eye which are responsible for converting light energy into electrical signals.
    • Pidgin and creole A shared language developed when two communities with different languages join together.
    • Pinna The visible part of the ear, on the outside of our heads.
    • Pinocytosis The reverse process to exocytosis. The cell ‘pinches up’ transmitter into vesicles and takes it back into the cell.
    • Pituitary gland Endocrine gland, also called hypophysis, that is ventral to the hypothalamus.
    • Plasticity The ability of the brain to adapt to deficits or injury.
    • Pons Metencephalic structure, ventral in the brain stem, that relays sensory information to the cerebellum and thalamus.
    • Positive manifold Charles Spearman's discovery that an individual's performance on any two tests of cognitive abilities is positively correlated.
    • Post-synaptic events Events that occur in the post-synaptic cell (‘after’ the synaptic cleft).
    • Post-synaptic membrane Synaptic element associated with the post-synaptic neurone. It is here that neurotransmitters bind to post-synaptic receptors.
    • Post-synaptic neurone Neurone that is ‘after’ the synaptic cleft (that is, the receiving neurone).
    • Post-synaptic potentials Graded changes in membrane voltage in the post-synaptic cell (caused by input into that cell) that affects the likelihood that the post-synaptic cell will produce an action potential.
    • Potassium (K+) Positively charged ion that plays a role in producing and maintaining membrane potentials.
    • Practical intelligence The ability to solve problems in everyday life. This ability draws upon ‘tacit knowledge’ which is gained through experience and practice, and is difficult to explain with words.
    • Precursor In biochemistry, a substance from which more complex compounds are made.
    • Prejudice An unreasonable or unfair dislike of something, or more usually someone – typically because they belong to a specific race, religion, or group.
    • Presentation The phase of a memory experiment in which the experimenter presents the to-be-remembered material to participants.
    • Pre-synaptic events Events that occur in the pre-synaptic neurone (‘before’ the synaptic cleft).
    • Pre-synaptic membrane Synaptic element associated with the pre-synaptic neurone. It is from here that neurotransmitters are released.
    • Pre-synaptic neurone Neurone that is ‘before’ the synaptic cleft (that is, the transmitting neurone).
    • Primacy effect Good recall of the first few items of a set of stimuli (e.g. word list).
    • Primary auditory cortex The first cortical structure responsible for processing sound.
    • Primary dimensions of intellectual abilities Louis Leon Thurstone found that human intelligence comprises a number of independent cognitive abilities, all of which are of equal importance. Thurstone suggested that there are seven primary dimensions of intellectual abilities.
    • Primary memory James's (1890) term for the immediate contents of consciousness and a precursor to the more modern idea of a short-term store.
    • Probabilistic reasoning How we reason under varying degrees of uncertainty.
    • Procedural knowledge Knowledge that we have that is difficult to put into words, such as how to ride a bicycle.
    • Production system A system that uses facts and rules about those facts to govern its behaviour. The term arises because rules are also known as productions.
    • Progestin-induced pseudohermaphroditism A similar condition to congenital adrenal hyperplasia, whereby a foetus is exposed to an excess of androgen-like substances (progestin) in the womb.
    • Prosencephalon Another name for forebrain.
    • Prosocial behaviour The act of helping out another person, whether as a helping behaviour or as an act of altruism.
    • Protoconversations Early turn-taking behaviour between adults and infants, whereby adults tend to vocalise when the infants are not vocalising.
    • Pseudohermaphrodites These individuals have gonads that are consistent with their sex chromosomes (ovaries in females and testes in males) but have ambiguous internal and external genitalia.
    • Psychometric approach Any attempt to assess and express numerically the mental characteristics of behaviour in individuals, usually through specific tests for personality or intelligence or some kind of attitude measurement.
    • Psychometric tests Instruments which have been developed for measuring mental characteristics. Psychological tests have been developed to measure a wide range of things, including creativity, job attitudes and skills, brain damage and, of course, ‘intelligence’.
    • Psychoticism Hans Eysenck suggested a three-factor model of personality in which psychoticism represented individuals who are reckless, unable to empathise with others' situations and likely to commit antisocial acts. Psychoticism has also been termed ‘tough-mindedness’ (as opposed to ‘tender-mindedness’) and this is due to people with high psychoticism levels being likely to be ruthless in their dealings with others. Originally, Eysenck believed that high levels of psychoticism could predict an individual's vulnerability to experiencing psychotic symptoms, including schizophrenia.
    • Puberty The physiological process resulting in sexual maturity. This process is marked in males by the onset of sperm production and a liking for metal music (spermarche) while in females it triggers the onset of the menstrual cycle (menarche).
    • Pupil The opening in the iris through which light enters the eye.
    • Qualitative data Describe meaning and experience rather than providing numerical values for behaviour such as frequency counts.
    • Quantitative data Focus on numbers and frequencies rather than on meaning or experience.
    • Race Commonly used to refer to groups of people such as white people or black people. It implies a genetic component to the differences between these groups, but research shows that the term ‘race’ has no biological validity and is best described as a political construct.
    • Racism A negative attitude towards a group on the basis of their race.
    • Rape acceptance myths A person's, society's or culture's endorsement or subscription to rape myths. Rape myths are prejudicial, stereotyped or false beliefs about rape, rape victims and rapists which serve to justify and legitimise sexual aggression towards women and shift the blame onto rape victims.
    • Realistic conflict theory The theory that competition for resources between groups causes conflict.
    • Recall Where participants are prompted to remember the material that was originally presented.
    • Recency effect Good recall of the last few items of a set of stimuli (e.g. the last few items on a word list).
    • Receptors Proteins embedded in cell membranes that respond to ligands (specific chemical substances, e.g. neurotransmitters).
    • Recessive gene A gene which must be present on both chromosomes in a pair to show outward signs of a certain characteristic.
    • Reciprocity Helping someone else, on the basis that they will voluntarily help you at some undefined point in the future.
    • Recognition Where the original material is re-presented and participants indicate whether they remember it or not.
    • Recognition failure Recognition failure of recallable words occurs when participants recall items that they fail to recognise (a phenomenon impossible in generate-recognise theory).
    • Reductionism The idea that a complex system is nothing more than the sum of its parts, and that a description of a system can be reduced to descriptions of the individual components.
    • Reissner's membrane A membrane in the cochlea.
    • Relative deprivation An individual's perception that they are getting less than they deserve compared to other people or groups.
    • Reliability The reliability of a psychological measuring device (such as a test or a scale) is the extent to which it gives consistent measurements. The greater the consistency of measurement, the greater the tool's reliability.
    • Retention interval The gap in time between presentation and test in a memory experiment.
    • Reticular formation Network of neurones in the brain stem that regulates arousal and consciousness.
    • Reticular theory The theory espoused by Golgi that nerve cells are continuous (actually join) to each other.
    • Retina The sensory organ for sight that lines the back of the eye.
    • Retinal ganglion cells Cells in the eye which receive information from the rods and cones.
    • Retrieval The stage of memory where information is brought back into mind to be used or reported.
    • Retrieval cue Any stimulus that helps us recall information, for example a picture, an odour or a sound.
    • Retrograde axoplasmic transport Backwards conveyance of material along the axon of a neurone (i.e. from synaptic button towards the soma).
    • Reuptake Process by which certain neurotransmitters are taken back into the releasing cell.
    • Rhombencephalon Another name for hindbrain.
    • Ribonucleic acid (RNA) Nucleic acid that has a number of roles including protein synthesis and gene regulation.
    • Rime The vowel sound of a word followed by the subsequent consonants: for example, the rime of ‘ham’ is ‘am’. When two words share the same rime unit, they can be said to rhyme.
    • Risky shift When individual group members all favour a relatively risky course of action prior to group discussion, the decision made after group discussion is more risky than the average of individual positions would have predicted.
    • Rods The photoreceptor cells in the eye which are extremely sensitive to movement and are responsible for our peripheral vision.
    • Role conflict When an individual has two or more different and incompatible roles at the same time, resulting in anxiety and/or stress.
    • Role theory A perspective in social psychology that considers how we manage everyday activity (rights, duties, expectations and norms of behaviour) by fulfilment of socially defined social roles (e.g. mother, manager, teacher).
    • Salutogenesis This concept focuses on the science of ‘good health’ and the factors that influence a person's physical and mental wellbeing.
    • Scaffolding A teaching strategy in which instruction begins at a level encouraging students' success and provides sufficient support to move students to a higher level of understanding.
    • Scapegoat An individual or group who become the target of negative attitudes and/or behaviours, caused by a different group, individual or circumstances.
    • Schema A mental representation of some aspect of the world built from experience and into which new experiences are fitted.
    • Schizophrenia Schizophrenia is not a single condition but is best described as a syndrome. The typical symptoms include difficulties in organising behaviour (including speech) as well as detachment from reality which may involve delusion and/or hallucinations. Schizophrenia is often misrepresented in the popular media as a case of split or multiple personalities.
    • Schwann cells Glial cells responsible for myelination of nerve axons within the PNS.
    • Scientific revolution In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there was a period of rapid change in the intellectual endeavour of making sense of the world that people lived in. Medieval philosophy was replaced by scientific principles of observation, measurement and experimentation. These developments are linked with Bacon (1561–1626), Galileo (1564–1642), Descartes (1596–1650) and Newton (1642–1727).
    • Search space The states that can be visited when trying to solve a problem.
    • Second messenger Substance released as part of a series of cascading effects in metabotropic receptors that result in the opening of ion channels.
    • Self-categorisation theory The notion that as an individual categorises themselves as a group member, they take on the group identity and the characteristics of a typical group member.
    • Self-concept or self-identity Self-knowledge and memory allow people to develop a life story and to understand how others perceive them. The self-concept is the product, therefore, of self-assessments – some relatively permanent such as personality attributes and knowledge of skills and abilities, others less so such as occupation, interests and physical status.
    • Self-fulfilling prophecy When an individual's expectations or false beliefs of another influence their interactions and cause that individual to behave in ways which appear to confirm the false beliefs.
    • Semantic differential scales Developed by Osgood et al. (1957), a set of diametrically opposite adjectives upon which the participant marks a score.
    • Semantic processing Processing of material that extracts meaning from it (e.g. deciding whether it completes a sentence).
    • Sensation The stimulation of our sensory systems which cause the nervous system to send electrical impulses to the brain.
    • Sense of coherence If a person has high levels of sense of coherence, this has been associated with having good mental health. With sense of coherence, a person's world is seen as controllable (i.e. she or he can influence what happens to them), sensible (i.e. the events that occur can be explained and understood) and meaningful (i.e. that person has a sense of purpose).
    • Sensitive period A period of development, usually early in life, during which the individual is most sensitive to certain types of experience or learning. Refers to a period that is more extended than a critical period.
    • Sensory neurone Type of neurone that has its cell body located in peripheral ganglia and receives sensory information from organs via (typically) long dendrites. In turn, this information is transmitted along axons to sites within the CNS.
    • Separation anxiety The resulting fear or apprehension of a child after the removal of a parent or other significant figure.
    • Serial position curve A plot of the percentage of correct responses as a function of order of presentation (e.g. the position of a word in a list).
    • Sexism A negative attitude towards a group on the basis of their sex/gender.
    • Short-term memory Memory for the immediate contents of consciousness (e.g. maintained by rehearsal or some other process that can act only in the short term). Also describes experiments that have an immediate test or only a brief interval between presentation and test (presumed to measure short-term memory).
    • Short-term store A key component of the modal model of short-term memory. Items enter the short-term store as a consequence of attention to environmental stimuli.
    • Situationalism or situationalist critique Refers to the viewpoint proposed by Walter Mischel and others that our behaviour is primarily determined by factors beyond our personalities. The overall emphasis of this approach is to demonstrate that personality traits or types are not the dominant factor influencing our actions; it is how we interpret situations, and our roles within the situations, that matter.
    • Snowball effect Refers to the processes by which the opinions of the majority shift in order to agree with the position of the minority, which is then, strictly speaking, no longer a minority.
    • Social categorisation The way in which we categorise people into social groups across society.
    • Social change In social identity theory, the rejection of current relations between groups and the collective group effort to bring about a change in those relations.
    • Social comparison The comparison of our own attitudes, beliefs and behaviours with other people's in order to establish if they are acceptable.
    • Social constructionism An approach to psychology which focuses on meaning and power; it aims to account for the ways in which phenomena are socially constructed.
    • Social constructivism A theoretical approach that emphasises the role of culture and context in children's understanding and development.
    • Social facilitation Refers to the effect that the presence of one or more people can have to boost our performance.
    • Social grooming or allogrooming A behaviour seen in many social species including our own. It involves an individual or individuals assisting others to keep clean and in good maintenance. In addition to the obvious health benefits, the behaviour has also taken on a significant social function.
    • Social hierarchies Classic research describes a pecking order which determines the dominant and subordinate positions of individuals. This is a pyramid-like form of organisation that has at its head the most dominant individual, while others will be at various levels of dominance or influence.
    • Social identity An individual's membership of a social group and their acceptance of the group's attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.
    • Social identity theory The explanation of how group membership can influence behaviour. The theory suggests that as a member of a group it is our social self and not our personal self which guides our beliefs and attitudes and therefore our behaviours.
    • Social inhibition Refers to how the presence of one or more people can have a detrimental effect on our performance.
    • Social loafing The reduction in individual effort that can occur in tasks when only group performance is measured (not each person individually).
    • Social mobility In social identity theory, when an individual moves from one group into another group with perceived higher status.
    • Social responsibility A social norm that says we should help those in trouble, particularly those who seem to be suffering unfairly.
    • Sodium (NA+) a positively charged ion that plays a role in producing and maintaining membrane potentials.
    • Soma Cell body; contains the cell nucleus.
    • Somatic nervous system The division of the peripheral nervous system that interrelates with the external world.
    • Somatotopical organisation The arrangement of brain structures whereby regions of brain represent particular parts of the body. For example, when the hand area in the primary motor cortex is activated, the hand moves.
    • Sound waves Fluctuations in air pressure that result from physical vibrations in the environment.
    • Spatial intelligence Ability to perceive spatial information.
    • Species A group that exists within a genus. Members of a species in the same or in different populations are able to interbreed under natural conditions to produce viable offspring. Species are defined by reproductive isolation. There is one hominid species to which we all belong called Homo sapiens.
    • Specific factors (s) Spearman's intelligence theory suggested that each individual intelligence test measures a unique or specific factor s of intelligence, in addition to the general factor g which all of the intelligence tests have in common.
    • Specificity approach This is a way of seeing personality as influencing a person's tendency to experience disease or illness. Through this approach, personality is seen as directly contributing to the cause of a person's illness. For example, someone's personality can directly affect their physiology and make them experience a psychosomatic illness, like having peptic ulcers or some kinds of skin disorders.
    • Spinal cord Part of the central nervous system located within the vertebral column.
    • Spinal nerve A bundle of axons that transmits information to and from the spinal cord.
    • SRY gene The ‘sex determining region, Y chromosome’ (Haqq et al., 1994). This is part of a group of genes referred to as testes determining factor (TDF).
    • Stereocilia The stiff rods (or hairs) that protrude from the inner and outer hair cells in the ear.
    • Stereotype An oversimplified, generalised impression of someone or something.
    • Stereotype threat The concern of an individual that they will be judged on the stereotypes of the social group to which they belong, and the concern that they will confirm this belief through their own actions (like the self-fulfilling prophecy).
    • Storage The stage of memory between encoding and retrieval. Factors such as the length of the retention interval and exposure to interfering material may influence memory during this stage.
    • Subarachnoid space Space between the arachnoid layer and the pia mater that is filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
    • Successful intelligence In Robert Sternberg's theory, intelligence is the individual's ability to select, shape and adapt to the environment. Someone with a high level of intelligence is successful in interacting with many different environments.
    • Superior colliculi Nuclei of the tectum in the midbrain that receive visual information.
    • Superordinate goal A goal desired by two or more groups which cannot be achieved by one group on its own, therefore necessitating cooperation between groups.
    • Syllogism A form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. For example, all Liverpool players are divers; Steven Gerrard is a Liverpool player; therefore Steven Gerrard is a diver.
    • Symbolic thought The representation of reality through the use of abstract concepts such as words, gestures and numbers.
    • Sympathetic division Part of the autonomic nervous system that is mainly involved in spending levels of energy in the body.
    • Synapse Junction between cells across which information is transmitted in electrical or chemical form. Comprises a pre-synaptic and a post-synaptic membrane that are separated by the synaptic cleft.
    • Synaptic buttons Terminal points of axonal branches from which neurotransmitter is released and which form the pre-synaptic element of a synapse.
    • Synaptic cleft Small (20 nanometre) gap that separates the pre- and post-synaptic membranes of a synapse.
    • Tectorial membrane A membrane in the cochlea.
    • Tectum Dorsal division of the midbrain that consists of the superior and inferior colliculi and receives visual and auditory information.
    • Tegmentum Ventral division of the midbrain that consists of the substantia nigra, red nucleus and part of the reticular formation.
    • Temperaments In ancient times, a person's temperament was associated with the type of fluid (or ‘humour’) that was mainly flowing throughout that person's body. Nowadays, someone's temperament is mainly connected to how a person generally thinks, feels and acts; it is often associated with whether someone is prone to anxiety, anger or a range of other emotions.
    • Teratogens Substances or environmental influences that affect development of the foetus resulting in physical abnormalities.
    • Test The phase of the task in which the experimenter attempts to measure memory for the material that was presented.
    • Testosterone The primary type of androgen, involved in the development of male characteristics and sexual functioning.
    • Tetraplegia Paralysis characterised by inability to move and/or feel the lower part and most of the upper part of the body due to damage in the cervical segments of the spinal cord.
    • Thalamus Diencephalic structure that relays sensory and motor information to the cerebral cortex.
    • Theory of mind The ability to attribute mental states such as beliefs, intentions and desires to yourself and others, and to understand that other people have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from your own.
    • Three-factor model Also known as the PEN model after the initial letters of the three major personality traits that Hans Eysenck claimed were the core parts of people's personalities: psychoticism, extraversion and neuroticism.
    • Tonotopic The spatial ordering (in the ear or brain) of the response to sound frequency, with low frequencies at one location and high frequencies at another.
    • Top-down processing A way of explaining a cognitive process in which higher-level processes, such as prior knowledge, influence the processing of lower-level input.
    • Tower of Hanoi The Tower of Hanoi is a problem solving puzzle consisting of three rods. On one of the rods are placed a number of disks of various sizes (placed in order of size from large to small). The aim is to move all disks onto another rod in the correct order of size. The constraints are that only one disk can be removed at a time and may not be placed on top of a smaller disk. The aim is to use the smallest possible number of moves to achieve the goal.
    • Traits Traits are linked to stable aspects of our personalities. They are usually ‘higher-order’ parts of our personality that are measured along a continuum and attempt to comprehensively cover the variation in how we think, feel and act.
    • Transfer-appropriate processing The idea that similar processing at encoding and retrieval enhances memory.
    • Transporter molecules Proteins integral to the cell membrane that are involved in the movement of substances (e.g. neurotransmitters) in and out of the cell.
    • Trial-and-error Attempting to solve a problem by not applying any thought to it.
    • Turner's syndrome A female with this condition inherits only a single X chromosome (XO sex chromosomes). Such females do not menstruate, are unable to become pregnant, do not develop breasts during puberty and are generally short in stature, but they do not differ from typical females in terms of their behaviour and interests.
    • Two-alternative forced-choice test Recognition memory test in which the ‘new’ and ‘old’ items are presented simultaneously and the recognised option has to be selected.
    • Tympanic canal A fluid-filled cavity in the cochlea.
    • Tympanic membrane Also known as the ear drum. A thin membrane that vibrates in response to sound.
    • Type A behaviour pattern or type A personality This type of personality is normally linked to being at an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Two cardiologists, Friedman and Rosenman, found that the type A personality consisted of a range of typical behaviour patterns ranging from irritability to competitiveness to restlessness. This type of personality is contrasted with people who have type B personality, which mainly involves a set of reactions such as being calm and relaxed and not overly competitive.
    • Types Personality types are often categorisations that allow researchers to identify someone's most dominant way of thinking, feeling and acting. Whereas personality traits are assessed on many points on a continuum (i.e. ranging from high to moderate to low levels) on a given personality factor, personality types are often assessed by classifying into one category or another. For instance, if type psychology was being used and a person measured just over the average on an extraversion scale, that person would be labelled as an extravert.
    • Ultimate attribution error The tendency to differentially explain similar actions by individuals of different social groups. With a member of an ingroup, if there is good behaviour or achievements this is explained internally (within the individual such as kindness), whereas if there is bad behaviour or failures this is explained externally (societal or environmental factors such as luck). The opposite applies to explanations of the behaviours of a member of another group (an ‘outgroup’).
    • Unipolar neurone Type of neurone (usually a sensory or autonomic nervous system neurone), named for its structure, having a single process arising from the cell body.
    • Ventricle Any of the four cavities in the brain filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
    • Vesicles Membrane-bound packets of neurotransmitter found within the synaptic button.
    • Vestibular canal A fluid-filled cavity in the cochlea.
    • Volition The act of deciding to do something. It is also referred to as ‘will’.
    • Withdrawal symptoms Physiological, behavioural and/or psychological symptoms following the withdrawal of certain drugs.
    • Word pair Stimulus used in a paired-associate learning cued recall task, in which participants are presented with pairs of words to learn. At test they are presented with one member of the pair as a cue to retrieve the other.
    • Working memory model A model proposed by Baddeley and Hitch (1974) to account for many of the shortcomings of the modal model of short-term memory.
    • XXX syndrome A female with this condition inherits an additional X chromosome (XXX sex chromosomes). XXX females do not have any distinguishing features and they are virtually impossible to tell apart from typical XX females.
    • XYY syndrome A male with this condition inherits an additional Y chromosome (XYY sex chromosomes). Such individuals are virtually indistinguishable from typical males, though XYY males tend to be slightly taller in stature and have larger canine teeth.
    • Zone of proximal development (ZPD) The zone or distance between what a learner can achieve alone and what he/she can achieve with assistance.


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