Psychology: the study of mental processes and behaviour

adaptive traits
A term applied to traits that help organisms adjust to their environment.

behavioural genetics
A field that examines the genetic and environmental bases of differences among individuals on psychological traits

behaviourist perspective
The perspective pioneered by John Watson and B. F. Skinner, which focuses on the relationship between observable behaviours and environmental events or stimuli; also called behaviourism.

behavioural neuroscience
A field of investigation that examines the physical basis of psychological phenomena such as motivation, emotion and stress; also called biopsychology.

The field that examines the physical basis of psychological phenomena such as motivation, emotion and stress; also called behavioural neuroscience.

Cartesian dualism
The doctrine of dual spheres of mind and body.

Thought and memory.

cognitive perspective
A psychological perspective that focuses on the way people perceive, process and retrieve information

cross-cultural psychology
The field that attempts to test psychological hypotheses in different cultures.

The capacity to understand another person’s experience, both cognitively and emotionally.

The belief that the path to scientific knowledge is systematic observation and, ideally, experimental observation.

The field that studies animal behaviour from a biological and evolutionary perspective.

evolutionary perspective
The viewpoint built on Darwin’s principle of natural selection that argues that human behavioural proclivities must be understood in the context of their evolutionary and adaptive significance.

evolutionary psychologists
Apply evolutionary thinking to a wide range of psychological phenomena.

free will versus determinism
The philosophical question of whether people act on the basis of their freely chosen intentions, or whether their actions are caused or determined by physical processes in their bodies or in the environment in which they live.

An early school of thought in psychology influenced by Darwinian theory that looked for explanations of psychological processes in terms of their role, or function, in helping the individual adapt to the environment.

Gestalt psychology
A school of psychology that holds that perception is an active experience of imposing order on an overwhelming panorama of details by seeing them as parts of larger whole (or Gestalts).

Approaches to personality that focus on aspects of personality that are distinctly human, not shared by other animals

ideal self
A person’s view of what she or he would like to be.

inclusive fitness
The notion that natural selection favours organisms that survive, reproduce and foster the survival and reproduction of their kin.

information processing
The transformation, storage and retrieval of environmental inputs through thought and memory.

The method used by Wundt and other structuralists in which trained participants verbally reported everything that went through their minds when presented with a stimulus or task; more generally, refers to the process of looking inward at one’s own mental contents or process.

localisation of function
The extent to which different parts of the brain control different aspects of functioning.

mind-body problem
The question of how mental and physical events interact.

natural selection
A theory proposed by Darwin which states that natural forces select traits in organisms that help them adapt to their environment.

nature-nurture controversy
The question of the degree to which inborn biological processes or environmental events determine human behaviour.

A broad system of theoretical assumptions employed by a scientific community to make sense out of a domain of experience.

person-centred approach
Carl Rogers’ therapeutic approach that focuses on the individual’s phenomenal world.

Broad ways of understanding psychological phenomena, including theoretical propositions, shared metaphors and accepted methods of observation.

Specialists who have medical degrees and prescribe medication to treat mental illness.

psychodynamic perspective
The perspective initiated by Sigmund Freud that focuses on the dynamic interplay of mental forces.

A view analogous to dynamics among physical forces in which psychological forces such as wishes, fears and intentions have a direction and an intensity.

psychological anthropologists
People who study psychological phenomena in other cultures by observing people in their natural settings.

Professionals who examine why people behave the way they do; they consider the thought processes that underpin behaviour.

The scientific investigation of mental processes and behaviour.

rationalist philosophers
Emphasise the role of reason in creating knowledge.

reproductive success
The capacity to survive and produce offspring.

People are motivated to fulfil the whole range of needs that humans experience.

An organised pattern of thought and perception about oneself.

A field that explores possible evolutionary and biological bases of human social behaviour.

An early school of thought in psychology developed by Edward Titchener, which attempted to use introspection as a method for uncovering the basic elements of consciousness and the way they combine with each other into ideas.