Dictionary of Terms


s factor According to Spearman, a factor of intelligence that is specific to a particular task.

Saccadic Movement The rapid movement of the eyes that is used in scanning a visual scene, as opposed to the smooth pursuit movements used to follow a moving object.

Sample A selection of items from a larger population-for example; a group of subjects selected to participate in an experiment.

Saturation A perceptual dimension of color, most closely associated with purity of a color.

Scatterplot A graph of items that have two values; one value is plotted against the horizontal axis and the other against the vertical axis.

Schema A mental framework or body of knowledge that organizes and synthesizes information about a person, place, or thing. The plural form of this term is "schemata."

Schizophrenia A serious mental disorder characterized by thought disturbances, hallucinations, anxiety, emotional withdrawal, and delusions.

Scientific Method A set of rules that govern the collection and analysis of data gained through observational studies or experiments.

Sclera The tough outer layer of the eye; the "white" of the eye.

Script The characteristics (events, rules, and so on) that are typical of a particular situation; assists the comprehension of verbal discourse.

Seasonal Affective Disorder A mood disorder characterized by depression, lethargy, sleep disturbances, and craving for carbohydrates. This disorder generally occurs during the winter, when the amount of daylight, relative to the other seasons, is low. This disorder can be treated with exposure to bright lights.

Secure Attachment A kind of attachment in which infants use their mothers as a base for exploring a new environment. They will venture out from their mothers to explore a Strange Situation but return periodically.

Selective Attention The process that controls our awareness of, and readiness to respond to, particular categories of stimuli or stimuli in a particular location.

Self A personís distinct individuality.

Self-Actualization The realization of oneís true intellectual and emotional potential.

Self-Attribution Attributions made about the causes of our behavior based on our self-observations of the way we act in different situations.

Self-Concept Self-identity. Oneís knowledge, feelings, and ideas about oneself.

Self-Control Behavior that produces the larger, longer-term reward when people are faced with the choice between it and the smaller, short-term reward.

Self-Efficacy The expectation of success; the belief in oneís own competencies.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy A stereotype that causes a person to act in a manner consistent with that stereotype.

Self-Perception Theory The theory that we come to understand our attitudes and emotions by observing our own behavior and the circumstances under which it occurs.

Self-Schema A mental framework that represents and synthesizes information about oneself; a cognitive structure that organizes the knowledge, feelings, and ideas that constitute the self-concept.

Self-Serving Bias The tendency to attribute our accomplishments and successes to internal causes and our failures and mistakes to external causes.

Semantic Memory A type of long-term memory that contains data, facts, and other information, including vocabulary.

Semantic Priming A facilitating effect on the recognition of words having meanings related to a word that was presented previously.

Semantics The meanings and the study of the meanings represented by words.

Semicircular Canal One of a set of three receptor organs in the inner ear that respond to rotational movements of the head.

Sensation The detection of the elementary properties of a stimulus.

Sensorimotor Period The first period in Piagetís theory of cognitive development, from birth to 2 years. Marked by an orderly progression of increasingly complex cognitive development: reflexes, permanence, appreciation of causality, imitation, and symbolic thinking.

Sensory Association Cortex Those regions of cerebral cortex that receive information from the primary sensory areas.

Sensory Memory Memory in which representations of the physical features of a stimulus are stored for very brief durations.

Sensory Neuron A neuron that detects changes in the external or internal environment and sends information about these changes to the central nervous system.

Separation Anxiety A set of fearful responses, such as crying, arousal, and clinging to the caregiver, that infants exhibit when the caregiver attempts to leave the infant.

Serum Cholesterol A fatlike chemical found in the blood. One form (LDL) promotes the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. Another form (HDL) may protect against coronary heart disease.

Set Point The optimum value of the system variable in a regulatory mechanism. The set point for human body temperature, recorded orally, is approximately 98.6ƒF.

Sex Chromosomes The chromosomes that contain the instructional code for the development of male or female sex characteristics.

Sexual Selection Selection for traits specific to gender, such as body size or particular patterns of behavior.

Shading A monocular cue of depth perception; determines whether portions of the surface of an object are perceived as concave or convex.

Shadowing The act of continuously repeating verbal material as soon as it is heard.

Shallow Processing The analysis of the superficial characteristics of a stimulus, such as its size or shape.

Shaping The reinforcement of behavior that successively approximates the desired response until that response is fully acquired.

Short-Term Memory An immediate memory for stimuli that have just been perceived. It is limited in terms of both capacity (7 ± 2 chunks of information) and duration. Sometimes called "working memory."

Signal Detection Theory A mathematical theory of the detection of stimuli, which involves discriminating a signal from the noise in which it is embedded, and which takes into account the subjectsí willingness to report detecting the signal.

Simple Phobia An excessive and irrational fear of specific things, such as snakes, darkness, or heights.

Simulation An attempt to express an emotion that one does not actually feel.

Single-Blind Study An experiment in which the experimenter but not the subject knows the value of the independent variable.

Single-Subject Research An experiment or correlational study concerning the behavior of individual subjects rather than comparisons of the average performance of groups of subjects.

Situational Factors Environmental stimuli that affect a personís behavior.

Slow-Wave Sleep Sleep other than REM sleep, characterized by regular, slow waves on the electroencephalograph.

Social Cognition The processes involved in perceiving, interpreting, and acting on social information.

Social Facilitation The enhancement of task performance caused by the mere presence of others.

Social Learning Theory The idea that both consequences of behavior and the individual's beliefs about those consequences determine personality.

Social Loafing The decreased effort put forth by individuals when performing a task with other people.

Social Norms Informal rules defining the expected and appropriate behavior in specific situations.

Social Phobia A mental disorder characterized by an excessive and irrational fear of situations in which the person is observed by others.

Social Psychology The branch of psychology that studies our social nature or how the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others influences our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Sociobiology The study of the biological bases of social behavior.

Soma A cell body; the largest part of a neuron.

Somatization Disorder A class of somatoform disorder, occurring mostly among women, that involves complaints of wide-ranging physical ailments for which there is no apparent biological cause.

Somatoform Disorder A mental disorder involving a bodily or physical problem for which there is no physiological basis.

Somatosense Bodily sensations; sensitivity to such stimuli as touch, pain, and temperature.

Species-Typical Behavior A behavior seen in all or most members of a species, such as nest building, special food-getting behaviors, or reproductive behaviors.

Spinal Cord A long, thin collection of nerve cells attached to the base of the brain and running the length of the spinal column.

Spinal Nerve A bundle of nerve fibers attached to the spinal cord; conveys sensory information from the body and carries messages to muscles and glands.

Split-Brain Operation A surgical procedure that severs the corpus callosum, thus abolishing the direct connections between the cortex of the two cerebral hemispheres.

Spontaneous Recovery After an interval of time, the reappearance of a response that had previously been extinguished.

Standard Deviation A statistic that expresses the variability of a measurement; square root of the sum of the squared deviations from the mean.

Stanford-Binet Scale An intelligence test that consists of various tasks grouped according to mental age; provides the standard measure of the intelligence quotient.

State-Dependent Memory The tendency to recall information better when our mental or emotional state at retrieval matches that during encoding.

Statistical Significance The likelihood that an observed relation or difference between two variables is not due to chance factors.

Stereopsis A form of depth perception based on retinal disparity.

Stereotaxic Apparatus A device used to insert an electrode into a particular part of the brain for the purpose of recording electrical activity, stimulating the brain electrically, or producing localized damage.

Stereotype An overgeneralized and false belief about the characteristics of members of a particular group.

Stimulus Equivalence A type of learning in which stimuli become equivalent even though the organism has never observed a relation between them; may be involved in learning how to read and manipulate symbols.

Storage The process of maintaining information in memory.

Strange Situation A test of attachment in which an infant is exposed to different stimuli that may be distressful.

Stranger Anxiety The wariness and fearful responses, such as crying and clinging to their caregivers, that infants exhibit in the presence of strangers.

Stress A pattern of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive responses to stimuli that are perceived as endangering oneís well-being.

Stress Inoculation Training A method of teaching people to cope with anticipated problems. It involves three steps: education, rehearsal, and application.

Stressors Stimuli that are perceived as endangering oneís well-being.

Striving For Superiority The motivation to seek superiority. Adler argued that striving for superiority is born from our need to compensate for our inferiorities.

Stroke A cerebrovascular accident; damage to the brain caused by a blood clot in a cerebral artery or rupture of a cerebral blood vessel.

Structural Family Therapy A form of family therapy in which the maladaptive relationships among family members is inferred from their behavior and attempts are made to restructure these behaviors into more adaptive ones.

Structuralism Wundtís system of experimental psychology; it emphasized introspective analysis of sensation and perception.

Sublimation A defense mechanism that involves redirecting pleasure-seeking or aggressive instincts toward socially acceptable goals.

Subliminal Perception The perception of a stimulus, as indicated by a change in behavior, at an intensity insufficient to produce a conscious sensation.

Subordinate Concept A concept that refers to types of items within a basic-level category.

Subvocal Articulation An unvoiced speech utterance.

Superego The repository of an individualís moral values, divided into the conscience, or the internalization of a society's rules and regulations, and the ego-ideal, or the internalization of one's goals.

Superordinate Concept A concept that refers to collections of basic-level concepts.

Superstitious Behavior A behavior that occurs in response to the regular, noncontingent occurrence of an appetitive stimulus to a motivated organism; appears to cause a certain event, but in reality does not.

Surface Dyslexia A reading disorder in which people can read words phonetically but have difficulty reading irregularly spelled words by the whole-word method.

Surface Structure The grammatical features of a sentence. See also deep structure.

Syllogism A logical construction that contains a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. The major and minor premises are assumed to be true, and the truth of the conclusion is to be evaluated by deductive reasoning.

Sympathetic Branch The portion of the autonomic nervous system that activates functions that accompany arousal and expenditure of energy.

Synapse The junction between the terminal button of one neuron and the membrane of a muscle fiber, a gland, or another neuron.

Synaptic Cleft A fluid-filled gap between the presynaptic and postsynaptic membranes; the terminal button releases transmitter substance into this space.

Syntactical Rule A grammatical rule of a particular language for combining words to form phrases, clauses, and sentences.

System Variable The variable controlled by a regulatory mechanism; for example, temperature in a heating system.

Systematic Sesensitization A method of treatment in which the client is trained to relax in the presence of increasingly fearful stimuli.

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