Psychology Dictionary

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backward conditioning: a form of classical conditioningwhereby the conditioned stimulus is presented after the unconditioned stimulus.

balance theory: proposed by Heider (1946), whereby individuals are motivated to seek balance in their attitudes towards themselves and other people. “Sentiment” or liking relations may be balanced or unbalanced according to the overall valence of affect between people.

Bandura (1925 - ): was a key proponent of behaviourism. Best remembered for his research into observational learning or modelling in the “Bobo doll experiment”. His work also includes self-efficacy, aggression and personality theory.

bar chart: this is used to display nominal data and average scores in the form of a graph. There are gaps between each bar that is plotted on the graph.

baseline: a datum of comparison to measure against the effects of a manipulated variable (the independent variable).

basic anxiety: in Horney's psychodynamic theory, an intense sense of isolation and helplessness which is the primary source of human motivation.

basic trust (vs mistrust): sense of security towards a parent/caregiver and world around them, that develops in an infant after being given loving and responsive care. 

Bateson (1904-1980) : proposed the ‘double bind?theory of faulty communication patterns within families of patients of schizophrenia.

behavioural model of abnormality: the view that abnormal behaviours are maladaptive learned responses to the environment which can be replaced by more adaptive behaviours.

behavioural psychology: an approach to psychology that emphasises the learning of behaviour and objective recording.

behavioural therapy: a form of treatment that aims to change behaviour by means of systematic desensitisation, behaviour modification, or aversion therapy.

behaviourism: one of the major perspectives in psychology that concentrates on overt (observable) behaviour rather than covert (unobservable) mental processing. Behaviours are seen as being acquired through the processes of learning, and the role of the environment is seen to be crucial in development.

behaviour modification: is a general label for attempts to change behaviour by using appropriate and timely reinforcement.

Berkowitz (1926 ): specialises in aggression, in particular instrumental and emotional aggression, the frustration-aggression hypothesis and intergroup hostility.

beta rhythm: also known as beta activity. Whilst an individual is alert and responsive, beta activity is depicted by irregular, low-amptitude waves on an EEG.

bias: a source of error which results in a systematic distortion of results.

biased sampling: a sample of participants is not representative of the population from which it was taken, and thus is likely to over-represent one group (e.g. by gender, working class etc)

binge eating:is related to "bulimia nervosa" but sometimes occurs without the compensatory behaviour to get rid of the excess calories.

binomial sign test:a non-parametric inferential statistical test. Used when you have nominal data, the research is repeated measures (or matched pairs) and you are looking for a difference in the effect each level of the independent variable has on the dependent variable.

biochemical:refers to those chemical processes involving human biological function.

biofeedback: feedback to a person about some bodily process (e.g. heart rate, muscle tension) of which the person is usually unaware.

biological model/biomedical approach to abnormality: emphasises the role of physiological processes (i.e. genetic and biochemical factors) in causing mental disorders, and in the treatment of disorders..

biological psychology:the study of the relationship between the physiological systems in the body and behaviour.

biological rhythms: activity that occur with some regularity in an organism. Infradian rhythms occur less than once a day (e.g. human menstrual cycle), circadian rhythms repeat themselves every 24 hours (e.g. sleep/waking cycle), and ultradian rhythms more than once a day (e.g. stages of sleep during one night).

biological (somatic) therapies:an approach to the treatment of mental disorders that relies on the use of physical or chemical methods.

biopsychosocial model: a model of heath and illness are determined by multiple factors, including social, cultural, psychological and biological, which can thus have multiple effects.

bipolar disorder/depression:  (manic depressive disorder) a mood disorder characterised by extremes of mania and depression.

bobo doll: an inflatable toy used in Albert Bandura's studies of aggression imitation.  

body language: sometimes referred to as 'non-verbal communication', in other words, what you can tell about someone's mood or frame of mind by the expression on their face, the way they are standing or sitting, etc.

Bolwby (1907 -1990): a British psychologist, who focused primarily on attachment bonds between a caregiver and a child, and how the strength or deprivation of the bond may affect the child’s cognitive, social and emotional development, epitomised in Bowlby’s maternal deprivation hypothesis.

bonding: the process whereby the young of a species form a bond with their parent(s). In the bonding process, parents also bond with their offspring and thus safeguard them from abuse or abandonment.

bottom-up approach: in the context of offender profiling, an approach that starts from the available evidence from the crimes committed by a particular offender (the 'bottom') and attempts to look for connections and links between them that will give a clue to the characteristics of the criminal.

bottom-up processing: of information (stimulus) that is determined solely by aspects of the stimulus.

BPS: an abbreviation of the British Psychological Society.

brain: the portion of the central nervous system which lies within the skull, responsible for controlling a range of behaviours.  The brain is the centrepiece of the nervous system.  Neuroscientists have identified different areas of the brain.  These areas perform a range of different functions.  The brain consists of three interconnected layers.  The central core, limbic system and cerebral cortex.

brain disorder: any abnormality in the brain that results in impaired functioning or thinking.

brain stem: the region at the top of the spinal cord, composed of three primary structures; the medulla, the pons and the midbrain.

brain ventricles: cavities in the brain that contain a clear, colourless fluid called cerebrospinal fluid which acts as a buffer against damage caused by blows to the head.

brain wave: (neurophysiology) rapid fluctuations of voltage between parts of the cerebral cortex that are detectable with an electroencephalograph.

brief:a description given to participants to indicate what will be expected of them during a study and to describe its general purpose so that they can give their informed consent to participate. It should also state their right to withdraw at any time.

British Crime Survey: a regular, large, face-to­face survey of adults living in private households in England and Wales. Its main purpose is to monitor trends in crime but it also covers a range of other topics such as attitudes to crime.

Broca's aphasia: characterised as a disturbance of speech production, whilst language comprehension remains largely intact. Occurs as a result of damage to Broca’s area.

Broca's area:the area of the inferior prefrontal cortex of the left hemisphere of the brain, hypothesised by Broca to be the centre of speech production.

buffers: term used in social influence research to refer to any aspect of a situation that protects people from having to confront the consequences of their actions.

bulimia_nervosa: characterised by secret binge eating followed by vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, excessive exercise, etc., in order to lose weight.

bystander behaviour: the behaviour shown by those who witness an emergency. This is often referred to as 'bystander apathy' because of the tendency of bystanders to ignore the emergency when in the company of others.

bystander intervention:the act of assisting strangers in an emergency.


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Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve
Erich Fromm

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