Psychology Glossary (A to Z)

Written and peer-reviewed by PhD-Level Academics

Accommodation and Assimilation

Definition: Accommodation and assimilation are terms from cognitive theory refer to the processes of adding and amending information in mental schema.

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Attachment Theory

Definition: Attachment theory explores the stages of relationships between caregivers and their children and proposes a range of attachment styles.

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Attribution Theory

Definition: Attribution theory believes that people attempt to understand events and actions by (often mistakenly) attributing intentions, beliefs, and feelings to the events.

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Classical Conditioning

Definition: Classical conditioning refers to learned behaviors that occur when a neutral stimulus is associated with a learned response.

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Cognitive Bias

Definition: A cognitive bias is a mental shortcut (also known as a heuristic) leading to an unconscious error in thinking.

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Concrete Operational Stage of Development

Definition: The concrete operational stage is the third stage in Piaget’s stages of cognitive development typically occurring between ages 7 and 12.

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Crystallized Intelligence

Definition: Crystallized intelligence refers to the knowledge and skills a person develops throughout their lifespan. It is opposed to fluid intelligence, which refers to on-the-spot problem-solving intelligence.

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Fixed Ratio Schedules

Definition: A fixed ratio schedule of reinforcement is a rewards schedule when a reward is delivered after a specific number of responses.

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Fluid Intelligence

Definition: Fluid intelligence is the ability to solve newly encountered problems based on logic and reason.

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Formal Operational Stage of Development

Definition: The formal operational stage is the fourth and final stage in Piaget’s theory of cognitive development that occurs from the ages of 11 and up.

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Functional Fixedness

Definition: Functional fixedness refers to rigidity in problem-solving, characterized by a tendency to think of things only in terms of their usual functions.

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Higher Order Conditioning

Definition: Higher-order conditioning occurs when a second conditioned stimulus becomes associated with an initial conditioned stimulus and evokes an unconditioned response by itself. Confused? This article will clear it up.

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Intrinsic Motivation

Definition: Intrinsic motivation occurs when you do a task without any external incentives.

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Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Definition: Kohlberg devised a theory of moral development which postulates that moral reasoning passes through six stages from early childhood to adulthood.

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Locus of Control

Definition: An external locus of control refers to the belief that actions do not control outcomes. An internal locus of control refers to the belief that your actions can influence outcomes.

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Metacognitive Theory

Definition: Metacognitive Theory is a theory of knowledge that is interested in how humans can actively monitor and regulate their own thought processes.

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Moral Relativism

Definition: Moral relativism is a view that rejects the existence of any objective, absolute or universal moral truths that govern our morality.

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Operant Conditioning

Definition: Operant conditioning explains how people and animals develop learned responses through the repetition of reinforcements and punishments.

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Positive Reinforcement

Definition: Positive reinforcement is a concept from conditioning theory that refers to the use of rewards and praise to encourage repetition of desired behaviors.

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Preoperational Stage of Development

Definition: The preoperational stage is the second stage in Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. This stage is from ages 2 to 7 years old.

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Rehearsal (Elaborative and Maintenance)

Definition: Elaborative rehearsal refers to strategies for committing information to long-term memory. Maintenance rehearsal is for short-term memory.

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Reverse Psychology

Definition: Reverse psychology refers to a persuasion technique in which one person tries to get someone to do something by suggesting that they do the opposite.

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Definition: A cognitive schema is a mental framework that organizes information in the mind. It is a packet of mental information that categorizes objects and concepts.

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Selective Attention

Definition: Selective attention refers to the ability to intentionally focus awareness on specific aspects of a situation or information and drown out other information.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Definition: Self-actualization is the realization or fulfillment of one’s full talents and potentialities. It is the process of fully developing oneself physically, mentally, and spiritually.

maslows hierarchy of needs

Self-Determination Theory

Definition: Self-determination theory (SDT) is a theory of motivation. ‘Self-determination’ is the sense that we are on control of our own lives and choices, are motivated, and can meet our potential.

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Sensorimotor Stage of Development

Definition: According to Piaget, the sensorimotor stage of development is a child’s first stage of development. This stage lasts from birth to 2 years old.

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Social Penetration Theory

Definition: Social penetration theory explores stages of relationship progression and what happens in each stage.

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Definition: Sublimation involves channeling unwanted or disturbing thoughts, impulses or desires into something positive and constructive.

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Vicarious Punishment

Definition: Vicarious punishment is when one person observes another person (the model) being punished after doing something.

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