Definitions in Psychology Theories and Research Methods

AP Psychology Identifications


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Wilhelm Wundt- (1832-1920) He is the founder of scientific psychology because he was the first person to open a Psychology laboratory in 1879. Wundt is closely tied to structuralism which uses introspection to focus on the basic elements of consciousness.
Introspection- introspection is a way for people to look within themselves and describe what they are feeling and thinking. Wundt used this method in the structuralism school of psychology in order to understand the structure of the mind and to identify the basic elements of consciousness.
William James- (1842-1910) He is an American Psychologist that is closely associated with functionalism. He was interested in the function and purpose of our behavioral acts and how they intertwine with our environment.
Functionalism- The functionalism side of psychology is focused on how our metal operations help us to adapt to our environment. They used methods such as stream of consciousness in order to help explain our behavior.
Max Wertheimer- (1880-1943) He is a psychologist mainly known for being a founder of the Gestalt theory who also made contributions to perception, sensation and experimental psychology.
Sigmund Freud- (1856-1939) He was an Austrian Physician who is known for creating the Psychoanalytic approach to psychology. He believed that our actions and the way we perceive things are dictated by our unconscious. He also stated that our mind was divided into 3 parts: the Id, Ego, and Superego.
Psychoanalytic theory- This is Freud’s theory that our thoughts and actions come from our unconscious. He believed talking with his patients over a long period of time could bring some of their unconscious memories into light and help them overcome their struggles.
John Watson- (1878-1958) He was a behaviorist that is most famous for his “Little Albert” experiment. He paired a white rat with loud noises and because of this little Albert started crying and was afraid of the rat. He believed that this showed our behaviors are all learned.
Ivan Pavlov- (1849-1936)He was a behaviorist that founded the theory of classical conditioning. He is most known for his experiment with dogs in which he paired a tone with food which created a conditioned response to the tone (dog drooling).
B. F. Skinner- (1904-1990) Skinner was a behaviorist that founded operant conditioning. He created a box (Skinner’s Box) in which rats have to hit a bar for food. This box shows that our behavior is greatly influenced by the consequences after a behavior.
Behaviorism- This is the perspective of psychology that believes everything we do is a learned response to a situation. They only believe in objective science and therefore do not believe in any of the mental or unconscious processes.
Humanist perspective- This perspective of psychology believes we are all good people and we just have to meet our growth potential. It also states that in order to move on to the next level of growth all of the needs below it need to be satisfied.
Psychoanalytic perspective- This perspective of psychology is focused on how our thoughts and actions are a product of our unconscious sexual urges. It also focuses on our development through the psycho sexual stages.
Biopsychology (or neuroscience) perspective- This perspective of psychology is focused on the relationships of biological, neuroscience, behavior, and our psychological processes. Psychologists in this field study how our genes and our environment interact.
Evolutionary perspective- This perspective focuses on how natural selection has influenced human behaviors and traits and why we act like we do based on evolution.
Behavioral Perspective- This perspective of psychology only focuses on observable behavior and how we have learned to react to different situations. Behaviorists do not believe in anything that goes on inside of the mind because they cannot directly observe it.
Cognitive perspective- This perspective of psychology studies how we encode, process, store, and retrieve information. By studying this they hope to learn how we solve problems, reason and react to situations based on how we think.
Social-cultural perspective- This perspective of psychology is focused on how we are shaped by our culture and how our interactions and beliefs differ from someone with a different cultural background.

Research Methods

Hindsight bias- in research methods, this is the tendency to believe that they knew something would happen all along after they see the result. For example, you predict the Mavericks were going to win but they lost, after the game you will think, I knew they would lose because their Point Guard was off all game.
Applied research- Applied research is a research method used to find solutions to everyday problems such as stress.
Basic research- This research method is used to do research for the sake of science itself and to accomplish scientific gain.
Hypothesis- In scientific method, a hypothesis is a testable prediction often based on a theory.
Theory- In scientific method, a theory is an observation that predicts behaviors or events. In order to test a theory you must make a hypothesis based on the theory you want to be tested.
Operational definitions- In scientific method, an operational definition are the set of procedures used to define the research variables.
Validity- In the principles of test construction, validity is how well the test can predict what it was designed to predict. For example, a driving test is used to test if you know the laws on driving and how to properly handle a car; this test is pretty reliable in testing the subject it was designed to test.
Reliability- In the principles of test construction, reliability is how consistent the scores on a test are. There are two ways to test reliability, you can have someone take the test twice and see how the scores compare or you can separate the test by even and odd numbers and have them take both tests. With both of these methods the scores should be close if the test is reliable.
Sampling- In research methods, a sample is a portion of something that is used to represent the entirety of what is being sampled. The sample is usually a random sample because that usually will usually yield results applicable to the entirety of what is being sampled.
Population- In random sampling, population is the entirety of the group you are studying. Usually testing or polling an entire population would take too long, that is why researchers often use random sampling of the population.
Random selection- In random sampling, random selection is a sample that accurately represents an entire population because everyone has an equal chance of being randomly selected.
Stratified sampling- in research methods, stratified sampling is when a population is separated based on criteria such as gender, race or income. After you have your population categorized they are randomly sampled in each category.
Experiment- In research methods, an experiment is when a researcher manipulates the independent variables in order to affect the dependent variables. Experiments are often used to find cause and effect.
Confounding variables- In research methods, confounding variables are outside influences other than the independent variable. To prevent confounding variables the experimenter must limit the variables that the participants of the experiment have.
Assignment- In research methods, assignment is the method the researcher uses in order to assign the participants of an experiment to a group.
Random assignment- in research methods, random assignment is to assign the participants to a random group. This method tends to yield the most accurate results because everything is random.
Experimenter bias- In research methods, Experimenter bias is when the researcher influences the experiment in order to obtain the results he was looking for. To prevent this from happening the researcher usually just observes the experiment and has no interaction with it.
Double-blind procedure- In research methods, a double blind procedure is a way to prevent bias in the experiment. When using the double blind procedure neither the experimenters nor the participants know which group they are in.
Participant bias (AKA response bias)- In research methods, participant bias is the tendency for the participants to act the way they think the researcher wants them to act. Because of this data can be inaccurate because the people were responding the way they thought the experimenter wanted, not the way they actually felt.
Hawthorne effect- In research methods, the Hawthorn effect is that when people know that they are being observed they tend to change their behavior based upon what they think the observer wants to see.
Correlation- In research methods, correlation is the relationship that two variables have. The correlation can measure anywhere from -1 to 1. -1 and 1 are both very strong relationships while 0 would be no relationship.
Scatter plot- In research methods, a scatter plot is a graph with multiple dots placed on it. The dots on a scatter plot could be really close or really spread apart. If they are close there is a high correlation and if they are spread apart there is a low correlation.
Survey method- In research methods, a survey method is a method of learning the behaviors of a specific group. This is mainly done by questioning a representative sample of a group in order to find out specific information about the group being surveyed.
Naturalistic observation- In research methods, watching the subject in their natural habitat without controlling the situation is called naturalistic observation. This is the best method to try and limit the Hawthorne effect and get the best results.
Case study- In research methods, a case study is the in depth studying of a specific individual to hopefully gain a better understanding of larger groups.
Descriptive statistics- In research methods, descriptive statistics are used to display the data gained through research and experiments. There are many ways to use descriptive statistics such as mean, median, mode, variability, range, standard deviation and many more. Through the use of these things you can paint a picture of the data in easy to use graphics and numbers.
Measures of variability- Variability is a huge part of statistics and in order to have meaningful data you need to have your variability clearly displayed through the use of standard deviation or other measures of variability.
Normal curve- In research methods, the normal curve is bell shaped and it describes how data is distributed. With a normal curve most scores fall near the mean rather than on either end of the normal curve.
Inferential statistics- In research methods, inferential statistics are how we use data to help understand and draw conclusions about the data.
Statistical significance- In research methods, statistical significance is the chance that the outcome of an experiment is due to chance or the independent variable. Before a researcher begins their experiment they set their P value to establish what results would be statistically significant. For example, if a researcher set his/her P value at (p<.01) and the experiment yields results that fall within that it means that there was a less than 1% chance that the results were due to chance. APA Ethical Guidelines for Human Research- In research methods, these guidelines protect humans from unethical or psychologically damaging experiments. There are strict standards that must be followed in order to fall within the APA ethical guidelines such as immediately debriefing the participant if you have deceived them. APA Ethical Guidelines for Animal Research- In research methods, these guidelines protect animals from unneeded harm from psychological experiments or any unethical experiments.


Neuroanatomy- In biology, this is the study of our anatomical structure of our neurons and how our different parts of the brain make it work.
Neuron- In biology, a neuron is a nerve cell that creates the nervous system. Neurons send information through our body through neurotransmitters. Some examples of neurotransmitters are serotonin and dopamine.
Dendrites- In biology, dendrites are the branchlike ends of neurons that are responsible for receiving the information from other neurons.
Cell body (soma)- the soma is where the signals from the dendrites go and from the soma they are passed on.
Brain plasticity- In biology, brain plasticity refers to the brains ability to adapt if part of your brain gets damaged. Your brain will use another part of your brain to help replace the damaged part. The older you get the less brain plasticity you will have.
Myelin sheath- In biology, the Myelin sheath is a cover over your axons to help speed up the process of your neurons. The lack of a myelin sheath causes multiple sclerosis
Axon- In biology, the axon is the long part of a neuron that is responsible for the action potential. If you are healthy you will have a myelin sheath covering your axon.
Terminal buttons- In biology, terminal buttons are at the very end of a neuron and are responsible for sending the signal on to other neurons.
Neurotransmitters- in biology, neurotransmitters are a chemical that passes a message through neurons. Examples of neurotransmitters are dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.
Synapse- In biology, the small gap in between neurons is called the synapse. The neurotransmitters must pass through the synapse in order to be passed through the next neuron.
Receptor sites- in biology, receptor sites are the receivers of specific neurotransmitters. Receptor sites are located on the dendrites.
Threshold- In biology, a threshold is the amount of stimulus we need in order for us to detect the stimuli. There are two types of thresholds for humans, the absolute threshold and the difference threshold.
Action potential- In biology, the action potential is a brief firing of a neuron. The action potential is an all or nothing thing if the neuron doesn’t receive enough chemical signals it won’t fire.
Neural firing- In biology, neural firing is when the neuron reaches its action potential and fires it’s signal to the next neuron.
Excitatory neurotransmitters- in biology, excitatory neurotransmitters are like accelerators for the neurons. They increase neural firing.
Inhibitory neurotransmitters- In biology, inhibitory neurotransmitters are compared to brakes for neurotransmitters. The decrease neural firing.
Acetylcholine (ACH) – In biology, ACH is a neurotransmitter that plays a part in our attention and arousal. ACH is located in both the central and peripheral nervous system.
Dopamine- In biology, dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for movement, learning, attention and emotion. Too much dopamine is linked with schizophrenia and not enough dopamine is linked with Parkinson’s disease.
Heritability- In biology, Heritability is the amount of difference in a group or between individuals you can attribute to genetics alone.
Serotonin- In biology, Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, hunger, sleep and arousal. A lack of Serotonin is known to cause depression.
Endorphins- In biology, Endorphins are neurotransmitters that have an ability to dampen pain and they can also control pleasure.
Motor Neurons (Efferent) – in biology, motor neurons carry messages from the brain and spinal cord to your muscles and glands.
Sensory Neurons (Sensory) – In biology, sensory neurons are neurons that carry information from your sensory receptors to the brain and spine.
Central Nervous System- in biology, the central nervous system consists of the brain and the spine.
Spinal Cord- In biology, the spinal cord is the long tube going down your back that is protected by the vertebrae. The spinal cord is responsible for the transmission of neurons between the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system.
Peripheral nervous system- In biology, the Peripheral nervous system is the neurons that that connect the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is the head over the somatic and autonomic nervous system.
Somatic nervous system-In biology the somatic nervous system falls under the peripheral nervous system. The somatic nervous system is responsible for voluntary movement.
Autonomic nervous system- In biology, the autonomic nervous system is a part of the PNS and is responsible for the regulation of internal organs and glands such as the heart. The Autonomic nervous system is responsible for the sympathetic and parasympathetic part of the PNS.
Sympathetic nervous system- In biology, the sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for arousal in situations such as a dog baring its teeth at you.
Parasympathetic nervous system- In biology, the parasympathetic nervous system is under the autonomic nervous system. It is responsible for calming the body.
Lesions- a lesion is a destruction of tissue. A brain lesion is the destruction of part of your brain tissue. If you were to have a brain lesion you would have brain damage and loose function of part of your brain.
Electroencephalogram- In biology, an EEG is an amplified recording of brain waves. In order to see the brain waves electrodes must be placed on the scalp.
CAT or CT Scan- in neuroimaging techniques, a CT scan is a series of x-rays taken at various angles and combined. CT scans are a good technique for seeing brain damage.
MRI- In neuroimaging techniques, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce pictures of soft tissue. MRIs are good for showing the anatomy of a brain.
PET scan- In neuroimaging techniques, a PET (positron emission tomography) is a visual display of our brain activity. We can see which part of the brain is being used by the radioactive glucose that is injected into the body. This method is good for seeing what part of the brain is being used during certain tasks.
fMRI- In neuroimaging techniques, a fMRI (Functional MRI) is a technique that shows the blood flow of the brain. This technique is good for showing how our brain functions.
Hindbrain- In brain structures, the hindbrain is the oldest part of our brain. It includes the medulla, pons and the reticular formation. The hindbrain is responsible for our heartbeat, breathing, and other automatic survival functions.
Medulla- In brain structures, the Medulla is the bottom of the brainstem and it controls our heartbeat and out breathing.
Pons- In brain structure, the Pons is the top of the brainstem that is responsible for arousal and wakefulness.
Cerebellum- In brain structures, the cerebellum is located at the rear of the brain. The cerebellum is responsible for our balance and movement.
Midbrain- In brain structures, the midbrain is responsible for auditory and visual information and is in charge of eye movement and body movement.
Reticular formation- in brain structures, the reticular formation is the part of the brainstem that controls arousal.
Forebrain- In brain structures, the forebrain is the part of the brain that includes the thalamus, hypothalamus, and the cerebrum.
Thalamus- In brain structures, the Thalamus is responsible for directing the traffic to the parts of the brain. It is located on the top of the brainstem.
Hypothalamus- In brain structures, the hypothalamus is responsible for eating, drinking and controlling body temperature. The Hypothalamus is located in the limbic system.
Amygdala- In brain structures, the Amygdala is responsible for controlling our fear and aggression.

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