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SAD: see seasonal affective disorder.

salience: refers to the distinctiveness or importance of something. For example, when we are thirsty, images of drink are more salient.

sample: the group of individuals selected fromthe population to participate in a study so that the researcher can make generalisations about the whole of the original population.

sampling error: an error that occurs as a result of having a non-representative sample.

sampling method: a technique by which a sample of participants is taken from a population. Includes random sampling, stratified sampling, opportunity sampling and quota sampling.

scaffolding:  a term to describe how a childs learning can be advanced by a tutor who provides a framework within which the child can develop.

Schachter and Singer (1962): proposed a two-factor theory of emotion, whereby emotion is experienced as a combination of arousal and attribution (labelling).

schedule of reinforcement:  
in  operant conditioning, sequence of presenting and
withholding reinforcement.

schema: mental frameworks which structure knowledge, beliefs and expectations, of objects, people and situations, to guide cognitive processes and behaviour. 

schizophrenia: a severe form of mental disorder, characterised by distortions and
disturbances of perception, thought, language and emotions.

schizophrenia in remission: a diagnostic label to indicate that at the time of diagnosis,
the client is free of schizophrenic symptoms, but has had periods of schizophrenia in the past.

schizophrenogenic family: a term to describe a family with faulty communication patterns and conflict between members, and has been implicated in the development of schizophrenia.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD):
a mood disorder associated with changes in season.

Secondary reinforcement:
serves as a reinforcer through association with a primary reinforcement.

Secondary sexual characteristics:

characteristics that differ between the sexes, other than reproductive organs, such as body hair, facial hair and voice pitch.

Secondary territory:
territory with a medium degree of occupation and perception of ownership, e.g. classroom seat.

secure attachment:
an attachment bond between the mother (or primary caregiver) and infant, whereby the mother is sensitive and responsive to the childs needs, who will not experience significant distress at separation from the caregiver, but who seek comfort from caregiver when frightened. Secure attachment is related to healthy subsequent cognitive and emotional development as adults, including high self-esteem and the ability to maintain loving, trusting relationships.

a category of drugs that result in drowsiness and reduced sensori-motor skills by reducing central nervous system functioning.

selective attention:
perceptual process of focusing on specific elements of a stimulus.

an acceptance of yourself as you are, warts and all.

self-actualisation :
in Maslows hierarchy of needs, refers to an individuals desire to grow and reach his or her potential.  The
process of becoming a person in psychological emancipation (Carl Rogers).

self-awareness: is the explicit understanding that one exists. Furthermore, it includes the concept that one exists as an individual, separate from other people, with private thoughts.

self-categorisation theory:

proposes people are most likely to be influenced by those perceived to be similar to themselves (i.e.

mental representation of our sense of individuality and inter-dependence on others, and includes two aspects -self-understanding and self-esteem.

the tendency to reveal gradually more intimate information as we get to know others better.

an individual’s belief in ability and performance on a task or in a situation.

evaluative attitude towards the self of how much an individual likes themselves, influencing personal and
social behaviours.

is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, sex, I.Q. score, etc.), but also items that have been learned by that person about himself or herself, either from personal experiences or by internalising the judgments of others.

self-fulfilling prophecy:
a phenomenon whereby expectations of how others will act or behave, affects interactions and elicits the anticipated response.

self-perception theory:
suggests that by observing and perceiving how we act in a situation, shapes our attitudes and other self-characterisations.

the emancipation of an individual towards self-reliance in respect of the integrity, or the love of knowledge, the filognosy, of the different views, forms of logic and intelligence one finds in modern society. Self-actualisation is the more specific humanist conception of self-realisation.

a method of gathering data by asking an individual to report and identify their behaviour or mental state.

Self-serving bias:
the tendency to bias our judgements of our own behaviour, by emphasising external factors for failure, but attributing success to ability or effort.

Selye (1907-1982): an endocrinologist, who explored physiological responses to stress, illness and disease. This led to the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) consisting three stages of stress; an alarm state, resistance state, and exhaustion state.

semantic memory:
general memories that involve general knowledge of the world, including facts.

are the physiological methods of perception. The senses and their operation, classification, and
theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology (or cognitive science), and philosophy of perception.

Sensitive period:

(or critical period): a period in development when an organism is best able to develop a response, for instance development of language.

Sensitive responsiveness:

the extent to which a primary carer responds to an infants signals.

sensory memory:

a modality-specific form of memory, involved in temporary preservation of sensory stimuli,  serving as a buffer between the senses and short-term memory

sensory nerves:
neural pathways in the parasympathetic nervous system which transfer information from the sensory receptors to the central nervous system.

the quality or state of being sentient; consciousness; Feeling as distinguished from perception or thought.

self-aware, choice-making consciousness. Humans and cetaceans (dolphins and whales) are the two sentient species on earth.

serial-position curve:
a graphical representation of memory retrieval, whereby recall is highest for beginning (primacy effect)
and end items (recency effect) on a list than in the middle.


neurotransmitter that is important in the regulation of mood and control of aggressive behaviour. Normally produces an inhibitory effect.

sex differences:

commonly observed differences between males and females, that may be primary (associated with reproduction), secondary (biological, but not associated with reproduction) and differences of mental,
emotional or behavioural characteristics.

sex-linked trait:

any genetically-determined characteristic, that is linked to one sex more than the other, for instance male
performance at tests of spatial ability is superior to women.

prejudice and discrimination against one sex by members of the other sex, for instance in employment.

sexual orientation:
preference for sexual partners of the same or opposite sex

sexual selection:

individuals have features that make them attractive to members of the opposite sex (intersexual selection), or help them to compete with members of the same sex for access to mates (intrasexual selection).

used in studies of attention, involves listening to and repeating a message that is presented in
one ear.

shadow juries:
see mock jury.

a negative affect elicited by a perceived loss of self-esteem related to a particular behaviour.

shape constancy:
refers to the tendency to perceive the shape of an object, despite variations in the size of the retinal image.


in operant conditioning, reinforcing successive approximations to the desired response.

short-term memory (STM):

memory process which preserves recent information over relatively brief intervals, of limited capacity and
information is stored for only a short length of time without rehearsal.

sibling rivalry:
inevitable rivalry between children for parental affection and other resources.

sign language:
a form of gestural communication used by the deaf.

significance level:

in inferential statistics, a statement of the probability that an observed outcome is due only to chance.

significance tests: in statistics, inferential statistical procedures which are used to test whether observed results reflect real differences as a result of manipulation of variables, rather than chance

simultaneous conditioning:
used in classical conditioning where the unconditioned (UCS) and the conditioned stimuli (CS)
are presented simultaneously rather than one (the UCS) preceding the other, (the CS).

single-blind design:
an experiment whereby subjects are kept uninformed of the purpose and aim of the study, to avoid bias.

situational attribution:
attributing behaviour to be caused by factors outside of a persons control, for instance task difficulty or weather.

situational variables:
confounding effects as a result of environmental influences, such as lighting, noise levels and temperature.

size constancy:

tendency to perceive objects as being closer to their actual
size rather than the physical size registered on the
of the eye.

skewed distribution:

an asymmetrical
frequency distribution, whereby the
is usually more representative than the
mean as a measure of
central tendency.


the ability
that a person has to carry out a task
successfully and competently.

Skinner (1904-1990)

, who pioneered the principle of

operant conditioning
, including schedules of

, shaping and subsequent

behavior modification


a natural and periodic state of
rest during which consciousness of the world is suspended.

sleep apnea:
a temporary suspension of
breathing occurring repeatedly during sleep that often
affects overweight people or those having an obstruction in
the breathing tract, an abnormally small throat opening, or

neurological disorder

sleep disorders:

sleep apnea and

sleeper effect:

the effect
of persuasive messages may not have an immediate effect, but
may be revealed in a change of behaviour after a period of


a child’s inclination to interact with others and to seek
attention or approval.

social behaviour:

any behaviour which involves others or is oriented towards others

social cognition:

the mental
processes involved in the way individuals perceive and react
to social situations.

social comparison:

judging our
own behaviour against that of others.

social desirability:

either behaving in a way to bring social approval from
others, or responding in a self-evaluative situation (e.g.
interview, questionnaire) to present ourselves in a way that
reveals more socially desirable characteristics (whilst
potentially hiding undesirable characteristics).

social development:

growth of
social behaviours, such as the ability to form
attachments, develop healthy
self-esteem and form successful


social drift theory
the attempt to explain the relationship between social class
and serious mental illness by suggesting that those who are
seriously mentally ill ‘drift’ down the socio-economic

facilitation and inhibition (SFI):

an improvement in performance on a task due to the presence
of others (social facilitation), or an impairment in
performance due to the presence of others (social

social identity theory:

proposition that individuals categorise themselves and
others into
in-groups and
out-groups. Negative comparisons
are made between the two groups as a result of a need to
maintain a positive social identity, subsequently giving
rise to competition and

social influence:

how an individual’s behaviour is affected by others, such as
conformity pressures and
group dynamics.

: is
what keeps humans from becoming involved in potentially
objectionable actions and/or expressions in a social

social learning theory:

learning occurs through
imitation and

behaviour of
role models.

social loafing:

the phenomenon in which people working together on a task
tend to contribute less individual effort than they would if
working alone.

social norms:

expected standards of acceptable and appropriate behaviour and attitudes
for members of a group or society.

socially sensitive

that may have direct social consequences for
participants or
population represented. For instance, research into
racial differences.

social skills training:

a programme to teach people to improve social skills, such as making eye

social psychology:

an attempt to understand and explain how the thoughts,
feelings and behaviour of individuals are influenced by the
actual, imagined or implied presence of others.


is used by
social psychologists and
educationalists to refer to the process of learning ones
culture and how to live within it. For the individual it
provides the resources necessary for acting and
participating within their society

Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS):

a rating scale, devised by
and Rahe
, that scores
important life events and life changes according to their
psychological impact and degree of adjustment required.
Higher scores on the SRRS indicate a higher risk of
stress-related ill

social support:

and/or services that are supportive during difficult
periods, including information (e.g. advice) or
support (e.g. reassurance that one is cared for).


pertaining to or characterised by a combination of
sociological and
demographic characteristics

or socio-economics is the study of
the relationship between economic activity and social life.

a social scientist who studies
the institutions and development of human society.

is the scientific or systematic study of society, including
patterns of
social relations, social stratification, social interaction,


somatic treatments:

treatments of mental disorders that employ
and chemical methods, e.g

Electroconvulsive Shock

somatosensory cortex

a part of the
brain responsible for processing stimulation
coming from the skin, body wall, muscles, bones, tendons and
joints. It plays a part in determining pain intensity.

spatial memory:

is the
ability of animals to form a internal representation or map
of its familiar area or home range.


focused on

research; proposing the theoretical
underlying general factor (g) of

and statistics; establishing Spearmans rank

correlation coefficient
and factor analysis.

species-specific behaviour:
behaviours which are characteristic of all members of a
particular species. These response patterns (sometimes
popularly called ‘instincts‘) apply to behaviours such as
mating, finding food, defence and raising offspring.

split half reliability:

evaluation of the internal consistency of a test, by splitting test items
randomly into two halves and comparing
performance on the two halves. The two scores should
correlate highly if the test is internally reliable.

split-brain studies:

refers to studies derived from split?a target=”_blank” href=”https://psychology.net.in/dictionary/b#brain”>brain operations on
epileptic patients, involves cutting the
corpus callosum,
and thereby separating the two hemispheres of the

spontaneous recovery:

classical conditioning, after
extinction, an extinguished
conditioned response will be spontaneously produced.

spontaneous remission:

psychotherapy, improvement in an individual’s condition
without professional intervention, often serves as a
baseline criterion to compare the effectiveness of

standard deviation:

a measure of dispersion;
difference of a set of scores from the
mean measure.

directions given to
participants in a study to ensure that each
participant receives the same information to minimise


A set of consistent procedures to treat
participants in a
test, interview, or
experiment or for recording data.

statistical infrequency:

behaviour that is statistically infrequent is viewed as

statistical significance:

a conclusion drawn from the data collected in a research
study that the results are a result of the effect of the
independent variable upon the
dependent variable, and are
not due to chance.

stereoscopic vision:

the perceptual experience of a three-dimensional image
through the combination of two different views of the same
scene from the two eyes.


an oversimplified, generalised and often inaccurate
perception of an individual based upon membership of a
particular group. Can often underlie
prejudice and


any of a number of natural or synthetic substances that
regulate body function.


irregular plural of



a drug which increases activation of the
central nervous
and the
autonomic nervous system
decreasing fatigue, increasing physical activity and
alertness, diminish hunger, and result in a temporary
elevation of mood.

in general, any event, situation, object or factor that may
affect behaviour; in the
behaviourist approach, a stimulus
must be a measurable change in the environment.

stimulus discrimination:

conditioning, an organism learns to differentiate between
stimuli that differ from the
conditioned stimulus on some

stimulus generalisation:

classical conditioning, once a response to a
stimulus has
been learnt, the response may also be evoked by other
stimuli that have never been paired with the
unconditioned stimulus.


a term used
to describe any type of learning which involves an
association between a
and a response.


the retention of encoded information in
memory over time.

sample reflect the composition of the
population, for
instance 20 per cent left handed individuals, 80 percent
right handed individuals in the
population would determine a
selection of
participants using the same percentages.


a mismatch between the perceived demands of the environment
and an organisms perceived ability to cope.

stress reduction:

techniques used by an individual to cope with
stress and
reduce its adverse effects.


any event or
stimulus (internal or external)  which triggers
response in an individual.

Stroop effect:

is a demonstration of interference in the reaction time of a
task. When a word such as blue, green, red, etc. is printed
in a color differing from the color expressed by the word’s
semantic meaning (e.g. the word “red” printed in blue ink),
a delay occurs in the processing of the word’s color,
leading to slower test reaction times and an increase in


theory,  portions of the mind which are below the
level of

relating to the portion of the
brain immediately below the
cerebral cortex, which is the part of the
brain responsible
for most higher functions (sensation, voluntary muscle
movement, thought,
memory, etc.)


a subjective assessment is one that is based on criteria
that exist only or principally in the assessor. Two
subjective assessors assessing the same item might differ
widely in their assessment.


theory, a
defence mechanism
whereby energy is
redirected towards a socially desirable creative activity.

substance abuse:

a pattern
of behaviour where a person relies excessively on a
particular substance (e.g. alcohol or opioids such as
heroin) which can ultimately interfere with the individuals
daily functioning.



theory, portion of the
psyche governed by

superordinate goal:
higher and more important goal than that normally pursued by
individuals within a group.

suprachiasmatic nucleus

(SCN): is a bilateral region of the
brain, located in
hypothalamus, that is responsible for controlling
circadian rhythms. The
neuronal and
activities it generates regulate many different body
functions over a 24-hour period.


relationship between two animals where each animal benefits.

sympathetic nervous

autonomic nervous system


a change from normal structure, function, or sensation as
would be experienced by the patient and indicative of


a small physical gap between two
neurons, which is connected
by the flow of

synaptic transmission:

refers to the process by which a nerve impulse passes across
the synaptic cleft from one
neuron (the
neuron) to another (the


behavioural therapy to treat
phobias and
anxieties, whereby
a client is gradually exposed to situations that are more
and more
anxiety provoking until the fear response is
replaced by one of relaxation.

system variables:

in witness testimony, variables that affect the accuracy of witness
testimony and over which the police (and justice system in
general) have some influence, including interviewing

systems theory:
a theoretical framework involving multiple interrelated elements, where
the properties of the whole are different from the
properties of the parts; systems are viewed as governed by
processes of negative feedback (which promotes stability)
and positive feedback (which promotes instability).
Used to explain a range of phenomena, and a range of
situations, for instance,
Minuchins family systems

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