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Psychology Dictionary


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Random Assignment   Assigning subjects to experimental groups based on chance.


Random Sample   A group of subjects representing the population who are selected through chance.


Range   A statistical term representing the difference between the highest score and the lowest score.

Rational Emotive Therapy   A Cognitive Therapy based on Albert Ellis' theory that cognitions control our emotions and behaviors; therefore, changing the way we think about things will affect the way we feel and the way we behave.


Rationalization    A defense mechanism where one believes or states an acceptable explanation for a behavior as opposed to the real explanation.


Reaction Formation   A defense mechanism where unacceptable impulses are converted to their opposite.


Recency Effect   The tendency to remember the last bit of information due to the shorter time available for forgetting.


Reconstruction  Tendency to fill in the gaps in our memory and often believe these represent true memories.


Referent Power  Power given to an individual due to respect and/or desire to be similar to that individual.


Rehearsal   Repeating information in order to improve our recall of this information.


Reinforcer   Anything that follows a behavior that increases the chances of that behavior occurring again.


Regression   A defense mechanism where one reverts to an earlier stage of development.

Reliability   A statistical measure of a tests consistency, or ability to result in similar scores if given repeatedly.


Representativeness Heuristic   A rule of thumb where similarity to a prototype or similar situation dictates a decision.


Repression   In Psychoanalytic Theory, the defense mechanism whereby our thoughts are pulled out of our consciousness and into our unconscious.


Retrieval   The process of bringing material out of long term memory and into consciousness.


Reward Power  Power derived through an ability to offer rewards.


Rogers, Carl   A humanistic Psychologist who developed Client-Centered Therapy.

Rorschach Inkblot Test   A projective technique utilizing ambiguous inkblots as stimuli.




Schema   The cognitive structure utilized to make sense of the world.


Secondary Reinforcer   A reinforcer other than one which meets our basic needs such as food or water (e.g., intellectual stimulation, money, praise).


Selection Bias     Errors in the selection and placement of subjects into groups that results in differences between groups which could effect the results of an experiment.

Self Actualization   The process of understanding oneself more completely and being aware of issues affecting one's life. 


Self Efficacy     One's belief in his or her own ability.


Self Serving Bias    The tendency to assign internal attributes to successes and external factors to failures.


Semantic Memory   The part of declarative memory that stores general information such as names and facts.


Sensation     Information brought in through the senses.


Sensory Memory    The brief storage of information brought in through the senses;  typically only lasts up to a few seconds.

Sexual Orientation    A feeling of attractedness or arousal associated with a particular gender.  Sexual behavior can be a result of this but does not necessarily define a person's orientation.


Shaping     Gradually molding a specific response by reinforcing responses that come close to the desired response.


Short Term Memory   The stage of memory where information is stored for up to 30 seconds prior to either being forgotten or transferred to long term memory.

Skinner, B. F.   Considered the father of behavioral therapy.  He once stated that with the ability to control a child's environment, he could raise a child to become anything he wanted.

Social Facilitation   The effect of other’s presence on one’s performance.  Typically we perform simple or well-learned tasks better in front of others and difficult or novel tasks worse.


Social Loafing   The tendency for people to work less on a task the greater the number of people are working on that task.


Social Psychology   The branch of psychology which focuses on society and it's impact on the individual.


Social Roles   Accepted behaviors associated with a particular position within a group.


Standard Deviation   A statistical formula used to determine the amount of difference expected from one score to the next.


State   A temporary internal characteristic (e.g., depressed, angry)


State Dependent Memory   The theory that information learned in a particular state of mind (e.g., depressed, happy, somber) is more easily recalled when in that same state of mind.


Stimulus   Anything in the environment to which one responds.


Storage   The process of saving information in long term memory


Stress     The physical and psychological result of internal or external pressure.


Stressor     Anything, internal or external, which applies psychological pressure on an individual.


Sublimation     A defense mechanism where undesired or unacceptable impulses are transformed into behaviors which are accepted by society.

Superego   In Psychoanalytical theory, the part of the personality that represents the conscience.


Supertraits   Hans Eysenck's term for his two distinct categories of personality traits.  They include Introversion-Extroversion and  Neuroticism.  According to Eysenck, each of us fall on a continuum based on the degree of each supertraits.


Suppression   The defense mechanism where we push unacceptable thoughts out of consciousness and into our unconscious.


Survey   A research technique in which subjects respond to a series of questions.


Syllogism   Aristotle’s theory of reasoning where two true statements are followed by a single logical conclusion.


Systematic Desensitization     A treatment technique where the client is exposed to gradually increasing anxiety provoking stimuli while relaxing; the goal is for the client to eventually confront a phobia or fear without the previously associated anxiety.





Tactile   The sense of touch.


TAT   See Thematic Apperception Test


Temperament    A person’s typical way of responding to his or her environment.


Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)    A subjective personality test where ambiguous pictures are shown to a subject and they are asked to tell a story related to them. 


Theory   A general idea about the relationship of two or more variables.


Trait   A relatively permanent internal characteristic (e.g., friendly, outgoing)

Transference   Intense feelings directed toward the therapist that many clients experience in the process of therapy.

Type A Personality   A theory used to describe a person with a significant number of traits focused on urgency, impatience, success, and excessive competition.


Type B Personality   A theory used to describe person with a significant number of traits focused on relaxation, lack of urgency, and normal or reduced competition.





Unconditional Positive Regard    The nonjudgmental empathy and respect for another person.  


Unconditioned Response    The response in a stimulus-response chain that is naturally occurring as opposed to learned.


Unconditioned Stimulus     The stimulus in a stimulus-response chain that is naturally occurring as opposed to learned.


Unconscious      According to Freud, the area of the psyche where unknown wishes and needs are kept that play a significant role in our conscious behavior.





Validity     Statistical technique used to determine if a test is actually measuring what it is intended to measure.


Variable   Any factor which has the potential to influence another factor in a research study.


Variable Interval Schedule  A schedule in which the reinforcement is presented after a varying amount of time.


Variable Ratio Schedule  A schedule in which the reinforcement is presented after a varying number of responses.





WAIS-III   See Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Third Edition.

Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Third Edition   An objective measure of intelligence.  The Stanford-Binet test is also used, has very similar validity, but is not as popular.


Wernicke’s Aphasia    Aphasia resulting from damage to the Wernicke’s area of the frontal lobe.  Affects written and spoken language. 



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  visitors since September 23, 2002