Dictionary of Terms


Case Study Observation of the behavior of individuals having special characteristics, such as psychological or neurological disorders.

Cataplexy A neurological disorder in which the person collapses, becoming temporarily paralyzed but not unconscious; usually triggered by anger or excitement; apparently related to the paralysis that normally accompanies REM sleep.

Catatonic Schizophrenia A form of schizophrenia characterized primarily by various motor disturbances, including catatonic postures and waxy flexibility.

Causal Event An event that causes another event to occur.

Central Nervous System The brain and the spinal cord.

Central Traits Personality attributes that seem to be the most typical of a particular individual.

Cerebellum A pair of hemispheres resembling the cerebral hemispheres but much smaller and lying beneath and in back of them; controls posture and movements, especially rapid ones.

Cerebral Cortex The outer layer of the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, approximately 3 mm thick.

Cerebral Hemisphere The largest part of the brain; covered by the cerebral cortex and contains parts of the brain that evolved most recently.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) The liquid in which the brain and spinal cord float; provides a shock-absorbing cushion.

Chemosense One of the two sense modalities (gustation and olfaction) that detect the presence of particular molecules present in the environment.

Child-Directed Speech The speech of an adult directed toward a child; differs in important features from adult-directed speech and tends to facilitate learning of language by children.

Chromatopsia The inability to discriminate among different hues; caused by damage to the visual association cortex.

Chromosomal Aberration The rearrangement of genes within cells or a change in the total number of chromosomes.

Chromosomes Rodlike structures in the nuclei of living cells that contain genes.

Chunking A process by which information is simplified by rules that make it easier to remember. For example, the string of letters TWAABCFBI is easier to remember if a person learns the rule that organizes it into smaller "chunks": TWA, ABC, and FBI.

Cilium A hairlike appendage of a cell; involved in movement or in transducing sensory information. Cilia are found on the receptors in the auditory and vestibular system.

Cingulotomy Surgical destruction of the cingulum bundle, which connects the prefrontal cortex with the limbic system; helps to reduce intense anxiety and the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Circadian Rhythm A daily rhythmical change in behavior or physiological process.

Classical Conditioning The process by which a response normally elicited by one stimulus (the UCS) comes to be controlled by another stimulus (the CS) as well.

Client-Centered Therapy A form of therapy in which the client is allowed to decide what to talk about without strong direction and judgment from the therapist.

Clinical Psychology The branch of psychology devoted to the investigation and treatment of abnormal behavior and mental disorders.

Cochlea The snail-shaped chamber set in bone in the inner ear, where audition takes place.

Cognitive Appraisal One's perception of a stressful situation.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory The theory that changes in attitudes can be motivated by an unpleasant state of tension caused by a disparity between a personís beliefs or attitudes and behavior, especially beliefs or attitudes that are related to the personís self-esteem.

Cognitive Psychology The branch of psychology that studies complex behaviors and mental processes such as perception, attention, learning and memory, verbal behavior, concept formation, and problem solving.

Cognitive Reappraisal Any coping strategy in which one alters oneís perception of the threat posed by a stressor to reduce stress.

Cognitive Restructuring The process of replacing the clientís maladaptive thoughts with more constructive ways of thinking.

Cognitive Structures According to Piaget, mental representations or rules, such as schemata or concepts, that are used for understanding and dealing with the world and for thinking about and solving problems.

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy A treatment method that focuses on altering the clientís thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions.

Collective Unconscious According to Jung, the part of the unconscious that contains memories and ideas inherited from our ancestors over the course of evolution.

Color Mixing The perception of two or more lights of different wavelengths seen together as light of an intermediate wavelength.

Community Psychology A form of treatment and education whose goal is to address psychological problems through an assessment of the sociocultural context in which they develop.

Companionate Love Love that is characterized by a deep, enduring affection and caring for another person, accompanied by a strong desire to maintain the relationship.

Comparative Psychology A branch of psychology that studies the behaviors of a variety of organisms in an attempt to understand the adaptive and functional significance of the behaviors and their relation to evolution.

Competition A striving or vying with others who share the same ecological niche for food, mates, and territory.

Compliance Engaging in a particular behavior at another personís request.

Componential Intelligence According to Sternberg, the mental mechanisms people use to plan and execute tasks; includes metacomponents, performance components, and knowledge acquisition components.

Compulsion An irresistible impulse to repeat some action over and over even though it serves no useful purpose.

Concept A category of objects or situations that share some common attributes.

Concordance Research Research that studies the degree of similarity in traits expressed between twins. Twins are said to be concordant for a trait if either both or neither twin expresses it and discordant if only one twin expresses it.

Conditional Response In classical conditioning, the response elicited by the CS.

Conditional Stimulus In classical conditioning, a stimulus which, because of its repeated association with the UCS, eventually elicits a CR.

Conditioned (or Secondary) Reinforcer (or Punisher) A stimulus that acquires its reinforcing (or punishing) properties through association with a primary reinforcer (or punisher). Sometimes referred to as a secondary reinforcer (or punisher).

Conditioned Emotional Response A classically conditioned response produced by an unconditional stimulus that elicits an emotional response-in most cases, including behavioral and physiological components.

Conditioned Flavor-Aversion Learning A type of learning in which a substance is avoided because its flavor has been associated with illness.

Conditions of Worth Conditions that others place on us for receiving their positive regard.

Conduction Aphasia An inability to remember words that are heard, although they usually can be understood and responded to appropriately. This disability is caused by damage to Wernickeís and Brocaís areas.

Cone One of the photoreceptors in the retina; responsible for acute daytime vision and for color perception.

Confidentiality Privacy of subjects and nondisclosure of their participation in a research project.

Confirmation Bias A tendency to seek evidence that might confirm a hypothesis rather than evidence that might disconfirm it; a logical error.

Conformity The adoption of attitudes and behaviors shared by a particular group of people.

Confounding of Variables An inadvertent alteration of more than one variable during an experiment. The results of an experiment involving confounded variables permit no valid conclusions about cause and effect.

Conjugate Movement The cooperative movement of the eyes, which ensures that the image of an object falls on identical portions of both retinas.

Conscience The internalization of the rules and restrictions of society; it determines which behaviors are permissible and punishes wrongdoing with feelings of guilt.

Consensual Behavior Behavior that is shared by many people; behavior that is similar from one person to the next. To the extent that people engage in the same behavior, their behavior is consensual.

Conservation Understanding that specific properties of objects (height, weight, volume, length) remain the same despite apparent changes in the shape or arrangement of those objects.

Consistency The extent to which a personís behavior is consistent across time.

Consolidation The process by which information in short-term memory is transfered to long-term memory, presumably because of physical changes that occur in neurons in the brain.

Content Word A noun, verb, adjective, or adverb that conveys meaning. See also function word.

Contextual Intelligence According to Sternberg, intelligence that reflects behaviors that were subject to natural selection: adaptation-fitting into the environment by developing useful skills and behaviors; selection-finding a niche in the environment; and shaping-changing the environment.

Contralateral Residing in the side of the body opposite the reference point.

Control Group A comparison group used in an experiment, the members of which are exposed to the naturally occurring or zero value of the independent variable.

Conventional Level Kohlbergís second level of moral development, in which people realize that society has instituted moral rules to maintain order and to serve the best interests of its citizenry.

Convergence The result of conjugate eye movements whereby the fixation point for each eye is identical; feedback from these movements provides information about the distance of objects from the viewer.

Conversion A defense mechanism that involves converting an intrapsychic conflict into a physical form, such as blindness, deafness, paralysis, or numbness.

Conversion Disorder A somatoform disorder involving the actual loss of bodily function, such as blindness, paralysis, and numbness, due to excessive anxiety.

Coping Response A response that permits an animal to escape, avoid, or minimize the stressful (harmful or painful) effects of an aversive stimulus.

Coping Strategy A plan of action that a person follows to reduce the perceived level of stress, either in anticipation of a stressor or in response to its occurrence.

Cornea The transparent tissue covering the front of the eye.

Corpus Callosum A large bundle of axons ("white matter") that connects the cortex of the two cerebral hemispheres.

Correctional Mechanism In a regulatory process, the mechanism that is capable of restoring the system variable to the set point.

Correlation Coefficient A measurement of the degree to which two variables are related.

Correlational Study The observation of two or more variables in the behavior or other characteristics of people or other animals.

Counterbalancing A systematic variation of conditions in an experiment, such as the order of presentation of stimuli, so that different subjects encounter them in different orders; prevents confounding of independent variables with time-dependent processes such as habituation or fatigue.

Countertransference The process by which the therapist projects his or her emotions onto the client.

Covert Sensitization A method used by behavior therapists in which a client imagines the aversive consequences of his or her inappropriate behavior.

Cranial Nerve A bundle of nerve fibers attached to the base of the brain, conveying sensory information from the face and head and carrying messages to muscles and glands.

Criterion An independent measure of a variable being assessed. For example, college grades are the criterion measure for scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Critical Period A specific time in development during which certain experiences must occur for normal development to occur.

Cross-Cultural Psychology The branch of psychology that studies the effects of culture on behavior.

CT Scanner A device that uses a special X-ray machine and a computer to produce images of the brain that appear as slices taken parallel to the top of the skull.

Cultural Evolution The adaptive change of a culture to recurrent environmental pressures.

Culture The sum of socially-transmitted knowledge, customs, and behavior patterns common to a particular group of people.

Culture-Bound Syndromes Highly unusual mental disorders, similar in nature to nonpsychotic mental disorders, that appear to be specific to only one or a few cultures.

Cumulative Recorder A mechanical device connected to an operant chamber for the purpose of recording operant responses as they occur in time.

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