Glossary of Terms


the last of the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It is characterized by some degree of emotional detachment, objectivity, or resignation on the part of oneself or an important other to the reality of impending or actual death, other great loss, or trauma.

active euthanasia

direct action performed to terminate the life of a person (or animal) who is suffering greatly and is considered to have no chance for recovery. Administering a lethal injection is the most common method of active euthanasia today.

advance directives

a legal mechanism for individuals to specify their wishes and instructions about prospective health care in the event they later become unable to make such decisions. This can be achieved by means of a durable power of attorney, a legal document designating a health care proxy to make health care decisions on another person’s behalf. Other advance directives include a living will, a legal document clarifying a person’s wishes regarding future medical or, increasingly, mental health treatment; and a do not resuscitate (DNR) order stating that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is not to be performed if the patient’s heart or breathing stops.

anal stage

in the classical psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud, the second stage of psychosexual development, typically occurring during the 2nd year of life, in which the child’s interest and sexual pleasure are focused on the expulsion and retention of feces and the sadistic instinct is linked to the desire to both possess and destroy the object. Fixation during this stage results in an anal personality.


the second of the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It is characterized by anger, resentment, or even rage at one’s own (or at an important other’s) impending or actual death, other great loss, or trauma.

anticipatory grief

sorrow and anxiety experienced by someone who expects a loved one to die within a short period. The period of anticipatory grief can be regarded as having both stressful and constructive possibilities: It might cushion the emotional impact when the death actually occurs, but it could have the unfortunate consequence of leading a person to withdraw from the relationship, treating the other person as though he or she were already dead.

archival research

the use of books, journals, historical documents, and other existing records or data available in storage in scientific research. Archival research allows for unobtrusive observation of human activity in natural settings and permits the study of phenomena that otherwise cannot easily be investigated. A persistent drawback, however, is that causal inferences are always more tentative than those provided by laboratory experiments.


lacking sexual drive or sexual attraction to others; asexual people may still experience attraction, but it does not need to manifest itself in a sexual manner

autonomy versus shame and doubt

the second of Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, between the ages of 1½ and 3 years. During this stage, children acquire a degree of self-reliance and self-confidence if allowed to develop at their own pace but may begin to doubt their ability to control themselves and their world if parents are overcritical, overprotective, or inconsistent.


the third of the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It is characterized by an attempt to negotiate a deal with God or fate that would delay one’s own death or that of an important other, or that would mitigate or end other great loss or trauma.


the condition of having lost a loved one to death. The bereaved person may experience emotional pain and distress (see grief) and may or may not express this distress to others (see mourning); individual grief and mourning responses vary. Bereavement may also signify a change in social status (e.g., from wife to widow).


sexual attraction to or sexual behavior with both men and women. Although much psychological research demonstrates the existence of a continuum of sexual attraction within most individuals, equal responsiveness to both sexes over the lifespan is relatively rare, appearing to be more common in women than in men and varying across cultures.

case studies

an in-depth investigation of a single individual, family, event, or other entity. Multiple types of data (psychological, physiological, biographical, environmental) are assembled, for example, to understand an individual’s background, relationships, and behavior. Although case studies allow for intensive analysis of an issue, they are limited in the extent to which their findings may be generalized.

chronological age

the amount of time elapsed since an individual’s birth, typically expressed in terms of months and years.


having or relating to a gender identity that corresponds to the culturally determined gender roles for one’s birth sex (i.e., the biological sex one was born with). A cisgender man or cisgender woman is thus one whose internal gender identity matches, and presents itself in accordance with, the externally determined cultural expectations of the behavior and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex as male or female. (quoted  from APA Dictionary of Psychology, undated)

Classical Conditioning

this is the description for cc

cognitive development

the growth and maturation of thinking processes of all kinds, including perceiving, remembering, concept formation, problem solving, imagining, and reasoning.

cohort effect

any outcome associated with being a member of a group whose members all undergo similar experiences. Cohort effects may be difficult to separate from age effects and period effects in research.

cohort membership

a group of individuals who share a similar characteristic or experience. The term usually refers to an age (or birth) cohort, that is, a group of individuals who are born in the same year and thus of similar age.


obligation or devotion to a person, relationship, task, cause, or other entity or action. In relationships, this is the conscious decision to stay together.

complicated grief

a response to death (or, sometimes, to other significant loss or trauma) that deviates significantly from normal expectations. Three different types of complicated grief are posited: chronic grief, which is intense, prolonged, or both; delayed grief; and absent grief. The most often observed form of complicated grief is the pattern in which the immediate response to the loss is exceptionally devastating and in which the passage of time does not moderate the emotional pain or restore competent functioning. The concept of complicated grief was intended to replace the earlier terms abnormal grief and pathological grief.

content analysis

1. a systematic, quantitative procedure for coding the themes in qualitative material, such as projective-test responses, propaganda, or fiction.

2. a systematic, quantitative study of verbally communicated material (e.g., articles, speeches, films) by determining the frequency of specific ideas, concepts, or terms. Also called quantitative semantics.

control group

a comparison group in a study whose members receive either no intervention at all or some established intervention. The responses of those in the control group are compared with the responses of participants in one or more experimental groups that are given the new treatment being evaluated.

correlational research

a type of study in which relationships between variables are simply observed without any control over the setting in which those relationships occur or any manipulation by the researcher. Field research often takes this form. For example, consider a researcher assessing teaching style. They could use a correlational approach by attending classes on a college campus that are each taught in a different way (e.g., lecture, interactive, computer aided) and noting any differences in student learning that arise.

cross-sectional research

a research design in which individuals, typically of different ages or developmental levels, are compared at a single point in time. An example is a study that involves a direct comparison of 50-year-olds with 80-year-olds. Given its snapshot nature, however, it is difficult to determine causal relationships using a cross-sectional design. Moreover, a cross-sectional study is not suitable for measuring changes over time, for which a longitudinal design is required.

cross-sequential research

a study in which two or more groups of individuals of different ages are directly compared over a period of time. It is thus a combination of a cross-sectional design and a longitudinal design. For example, an investigator using a cross-sequential design to evaluate children’s mathematical skills might measure a group of 5-year-olds and a group of 10-year-olds at the beginning of the research and then subsequently reassess the same children every 6 months for the next 5 years.

cultural relativism

the view that attitudes, behaviors, values, concepts, and achievements must be understood in the light of their own cultural milieu and not judged according to the standards of a different culture. In psychology, the relativist position questions the universal application of psychological theory, research, therapeutic techniques, and clinical approaches, because those used or developed in one culture may not be appropriate or applicable to another. Compare cultural universalism.


1. the distinctive customs, values, beliefs, knowledge, art, and language of a society or a community. These values and concepts are passed on from generation to generation, and they are the basis for everyday behaviors and practices.

2. the characteristic attitudes and behaviors of a particular group within society, such as a profession, social class, or age group.

curative care

health care given for medical conditions where a cure is considered achievable, and the main goal is complete recovery.

defense mechanisms

in classical psychoanalytic theory, an unconscious reaction pattern employed by the ego to protect itself from the anxiety that arises from psychic conflict. Such mechanisms range from mature to immature, depending on how much they distort reality: Denial is very immature because it negates reality, whereas sublimation is one of the most mature forms of defense because it allows indirect satisfaction of a true wish. In more recent psychological theories, defense mechanisms are seen as normal means of coping with everyday problems and external threats, but excessive use of any one, or the use of immature defenses (e.g., displacement or repression), is still considered pathological.


the first of the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It is characterized by a conscious or unconscious inability to acknowledge or accept one’s own or an important other’s impending or actual death or some other great loss or trauma.

dependent variable

the outcome that is observed to occur or change after the occurrence or variation of the independent variable in an experiment, or the effect that one wants to predict or explain in correlational research.


the fourth of the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, loss, regret, or uncertainty that typically represent, consciously or nonconsciously, some level of acceptance in facing one’s own or another’s impending or actual death or some other great loss or trauma.

descriptive research

an empirical investigation designed to test prespecified hypotheses or to provide an overview of existing conditions, and sometimes relationships, without manipulating variables or seeking to establish cause and effect. For example, a survey undertaken to ascertain the political party preferences of a group of voters would be a descriptive study because it is intended simply to identify attitudes rather than systematically infer or analyze influencing factors.

developmental psychology

the branch of psychology that studies the changes—physical, mental, and behavioral—that occur from conception to old age and investigates the various biological, neurobiological, genetic, psychological, social, cultural, and environmental factors that affect development throughout the lifespan. Since its emergence as a formal discipline in the late 19th century, the field has broadened its focus from one that largely emphasized infant, child, and adolescent development to one, beginning in the 1920s, that also accounted for adult development and the aging process and, more recently, prenatal development. As such the term developmental psychology is now often considered virtually synonymous with lifespan developmental psychology.

dialectical thought

ability to see the strengths and weaknesses in various opposing viewpoints; developed as a result of interactions between the individual and the environment.

dichotomous thinking

the tendency to think in terms of polar opposites—that is, in terms of the best and worst—without accepting the possibilities that lie between these two extremes. The term has been used to characterize the tendency of people with major depressive disorder to view mildly negative events as extremely negative, but the potential role of such thinking in other conditions (e.g., eating disorders, personality disorders) is also under investigation.

disenfranchised grief

grief that society (or some element of it) limits, does not expect, or may not allow a person to express. Examples include the grief of parents for stillborn babies, of teachers for the death of students, and of nurses for the death of patients. People who have lost an animal companion are often expected to keep their sorrow to themselves. Disenfranchised grief may isolate the bereaved individual from others and thus impede recovery.

dual process model of grieving

an alternative explanation to the five-stage theory of grief. This model takes into consideration that everyone will have stressful life events while they are coping with bereavement, and specifies both loss-oriented and restoration-oriented processes.


in psychoanalytic theory, the component of the personality that deals with the external world and its practical demands. More specifically, the ego enables the individual to perceive, reason, solve problems, test reality, and adjust the instinctual impulses of the id to the demands of the superego.


the theory that characteristics of an organism, both physical and behavioral, arise from an interaction between genetic and environmental influences rather than from one or the other.


any of a class of steroid hormones that are produced mainly by the ovaries and act as the principal female sex hormones, inducing estrus in female mammals and secondary female sexual characteristics in humans. [...] Estrogens are used therapeutically in estrogen replacement therapy and oral contraceptives and to treat certain menstrual disorders and some types of breast and prostate cancers.


1. the practice of regarding one’s own ethnic, racial, or social group as the center of all things. Just as egocentrism is a sense of self-superiority, so ethnocentrism is the parallel tendency to judge one’s group as superior to other groups.

2. the tendency, often unintentional, to base perceptions and understandings of other groups or cultures on one’s own. Also called ethnocentricity.


the act or process of terminating a life, usually to prevent further suffering in an incurably or terminally ill individual. Voluntary euthanasia requires the consent of a competent person who has established a valid advance directive or made his or her wishes otherwise clearly known.

evaluation research

the use of scientific principles and methods to assess the effectiveness of social interventions and programs, including those related to mental health, education, and safety (e.g., crime prevention, automobile accident prevention).

experimental group

a group of participants in a research study who are exposed to a particular manipulation of the independent variable (i.e., a particular treatment or treatment level). The responses of the experimental group are compared to the responses of a control group, other experimental groups, or both.


a series of observations conducted under controlled conditions to study a relationship with the purpose of drawing causal inferences about that relationship. An experiment involves the manipulation of an independent variable, the measurement of a dependent variable, and the exposure of various participants to one or more of the conditions being studied. Random selection of participants and their random assignment to conditions also are necessary in experiments.

explanatory research

a study conducted to assess why a particular finding occurred. For example, one might conduct explanatory research to determine why individuals who have been abused as children tend to be at higher risk for negative outcomes as adults.

five stages of grief

a hypothetical model, originally described in 1969 by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, depicting psychological states, moods, or coping strategies that occur during the dying process or during periods of bereavement, great loss, or trauma. These begin with the denial stage, followed by the anger stage, bargaining stage, depression stage, and acceptance stage. The model is nonlinear in that the stages do not necessarily occur in the given sequence or for a set period of time; moreover, they can recur and overlap before some degree of psychological and emotional resolution occurs. Also called grief cycle model.

five-factor model of personality (FFM)

a model of personality in which five dimensions of individual differences—extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to experience—are viewed as core personality structures. Unlike the Big Five personality model, which views the five personality dimensions as descriptions of behavior and treats the five-dimensional structure as a taxonomy of individual differences, the FFM views the factors as psychological entities with causal force. The two models are frequently and incorrectly conflated in the scientific literature, without regard for their distinctly different emphases.

fixed-alternative question

a test or survey item in which several possible responses are given and participants are asked to pick the correct response or the one that best matches their preference. An example of a fixed-alternative question is “Which of the following most closely corresponds to your age: 12 or younger, 13 to 19, 20 to 39, 40 to 59, 60 to 79, or 80 or older?” A fixed-alternative question is sometimes referred to as a closed question, although this can also refer to any inquiry requesting a short definite answer (e.g., “How old are you?”). Also called fixed-choice question; forced-choice question; multiple-choice question.

follicle-stimulating hormone

a gonadotropin released by the anterior pituitary gland that, in females, stimulates the development in the ovary of graafian follicles (see menstrual cycle). The same hormone in males stimulates Sertoli cells in the testis to produce spermatozoa.


the condition of being male, female, or neuter. In a human context, the distinction between gender and sex reflects the usage of these terms: Sex usually refers to the biological aspects of maleness or femaleness, whereas gender implies the psychological, behavioral, social, and cultural aspects of being male or female (i.e., masculinity or femininity). (quoted directly from APA Dictionary of Psychology, undated)

gender identity

one’s self-identification as male or female. Although the dominant approach in psychology for many years had been to regard gender identity as residing in individuals, the important influence of societal structures, cultural expectations, and personal interactions in its development is now recognized as well. Significant evidence now exists to support the conceptualization of gender identity as influenced by both environmental and biological factors. (quoted directly from APA Dictionary of Psychology, undated)

gender role

the pattern of behavior, personality traits, and attitudes that define masculinity or femininity in a particular culture. It frequently is considered the external manifestation of the internalized gender identity, although the two are not necessarily consistent with one another.


the extent to which results or findings obtained from a sample are applicable to a broader population. For example, a theoretical model of change would be said to have high generalizability if it applied to numerous behaviors (e.g., smoking, diet, substance use, exercise) and varying populations (e.g., young children, teenagers, middle-age and older adults). A finding that has greater generalizability also is said to have greater external validity, in that conclusions pertain to situations beyond the original study.

generativity versus stagnation

the seventh stage of Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development. Generativity is the positive goal of middle adulthood, interpreted in terms not only of procreation but also of creativity and fulfilling one’s full parental and social responsibilities toward the next generation, in contrast to a narrow interest in the self, or self-absorption.

genital stage

in classical psychoanalytic theory, the final stage of psychosexual development, ideally reached in puberty, when the Oedipus complex has been fully resolved and erotic interest and activity are focused on intercourse with a sexual partner.


the anguish experienced after significant loss, usually the death of a beloved person. Grief is often distinguished from bereavement and mourning. [...] Grief often includes physiological distress, separation anxiety, confusion, yearning, obsessive dwelling on the past, and apprehension about the future. Intense grief can become life-threatening through disruption of the immune system, self-neglect, and suicidal thoughts. Grief may also take the form of regret for something lost, remorse for something done, or sorrow for a mishap to oneself.

Hawthorne effect

the effect on the behavior of individuals of knowing that they are being observed or are taking part in research. The Hawthorne effect is typically positive and is named after the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works plant in Cicero, Illinois, where the phenomenon was first observed during a series of studies on worker productivity conducted from 1924 to 1932. These Hawthorne Studies began as an investigation of the effects of illumination conditions, monetary incentives, and rest breaks on productivity, but evolved into a much wider consideration of the role of worker attitudes, supervisory style, and group dynamics. The human relations theory of management is usually considered to have developed from these studies.


the assumption that heterosexuality is the standard for defining normal sexual behavior and that male–female differences and gender roles are the natural and immutable essentials in normal human relations. According to some social theorists, this assumption is fundamentally embedded in, and legitimizes, social and legal institutions that devalue, marginalize, and discriminate against people who deviate from its normative principle (e.g., gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered persons).


sexual attraction to or activity between members of the opposite sex


dread or fear of gay men and lesbians, associated with prejudice and anger toward them, that leads to discrimination in such areas as employment, housing, and legal rights and sometimes to violence (gay bashing). Extreme homophobia may lead to murder.


sexual attraction or activity between members of the same sex. Although the term can refer to homosexual orientation in both men and women, current practice distinguishes between gay men and lesbians, and homosexuality itself is now commonly referred to as same-sex sexual orientation or activity.

hospice care

a form of care for terminally ill individuals, often those with life expectancies of about half a year as determined by medical personnel. Instead of curing disease and prolonging life, the emphases of the hospice concept are patient comfort, psychological well-being, and pain management (see palliative care). The approach is interdisciplinary, with care provided by medical, psychological, spiritual, volunteer, and family caregivers, either in special facilities or in the patient’s home.


the part of the brain that helps integrate autonomic activity into appropriate responses to internal and external stimuli - involved in appetite, thirst, sleep, and sexuality.


an empirically testable proposition about some fact, behavior, relationship, or the like, usually based on theory, that states an expected outcome resulting from specific conditions or assumptions.


in psychoanalytic theory, the component of the personality that contains the instinctual, biological drives that supply the psyche with its basic energy or libido. Sigmund Freud conceived of the id as the most primitive component of the personality, located in the deepest level of the unconscious; it has no inner organization and operates in obedience to the pleasure principle.

identify versus identify confusion

the fifth of Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, marked by an identity crisis that occurs during adolescence. During this stage, the individual may experience a psychosocial moratorium, a period of time that permits experimentation with social roles. The individual may “try on” different roles and identify with different groups before forming a cohesive, positive identity that allows him or her to contribute to society; alternatively, the individual may identify with outgroups to form a negative identity or may remain confused about his or her sense of identity, a state Erikson calls identity diffusion.

independent variable

the variable in an experiment that is specifically manipulated or is observed to occur before the dependent, or outcome, variable, in order to assess its effect or influence.

industry versus inferiority

the fourth of Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, occurring from ages 6 to 11 years, during which the child learns to be productive and to accept evaluation of his or her efforts or becomes discouraged and feels inferior or incompetent.


an intense, but short-lived passion or admiration for someone

initiative versus guilt

the third of Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, which occurs during the child’s 3rd through 5th years. In planning, launching, and initiating fantasy, play, and other activity, the child learns to believe in his or her ability to successfully pursue goals. However, if these pursuits often fail or are criticized, the child may develop instead a feeling of self-doubt and guilt.

integrity versus despair

the eighth and final stage of Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, which occurs during old age. In this stage, the individual reflects on the life he or she has lived and may develop either integrity—a sense of satisfaction in having lived a good life and the ability to approach death with equanimity—or despair—a feeling of bitterness about opportunities missed and time wasted, and a dread of approaching death.

interpersonal attraction

the interest in and liking of one individual by another, or the mutual interest and liking between two or more individuals.


an interpersonal state of extreme emotional closeness such that each party’s personal space can be entered by any of the other parties without causing discomfort to that person. Intimacy characterizes close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationships and requires the parties to have a detailed knowledge or deep understanding of each other.

intimacy versus isolation

the sixth of Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, which extends from late adolescence through courtship and early family life to early middle age. During this period, individuals must learn to share and care without losing themselves; if they fail, they will feel alone and isolated. The development of a cohesive identity in the previous stage (identity versus identity confusion) provides the opportunity to achieve true intimacy, but the development of identity diffusion makes it harder for individuals to achieve a positive outcome at this stage.

latent stage

in classical psychoanalytic theory, the stage of psychosexual development in which overt sexual interest is sublimated and the child’s attention is focused on skills and peer activities with members of his or her own sex. This stage is posited to last from the resolution of the Oedipus complex, at about age 6, to the onset of puberty.


1. in psychoanalytic theory, either the psychic energy of the life instinct in general or the energy of the sexual instinct in particular. In his first formulation, Sigmund Freud conceived of this energy as narrowly sexual, but subsequently he broadened the concept to include all expressions of love, pleasure, and self-preservation. See also Eros.

2. in the analytic psychology of Carl Jung, the general life force that provides energy for all types of activities: biological, sexual, social, cultural, and creative.

3. more generally, sexual energy or desire.

longitudinal research

the study of a variable or group of variables in the same cases or participants over a period of time, sometimes several years. An example of a longitudinal design is a multiyear comparative study of the same children in an urban and a suburban school to record their cognitive development in depth. A longitudinal study that evaluates a group of randomly chosen individuals is referred to as a panel study, whereas a longitudinal study that evaluates a group of individuals possessing some common characteristic (usually age) is referred to as a cohort study.

loss orientation

the loss oriented process focuses on coping with the loss itself, recognizing and accepting it.

luteinizing hormone

a gonadotropin secreted by the anterior pituitary gland that, in females, stimulates the rapid growth of a graafian follicle in the ovary until it ruptures and releases an ovum (see menstrual cycle). In males, it stimulates the interstitial cells of the testis to secrete androgens.

mere exposure

the finding that individuals show an increased preference (or liking) for a stimulus as a consequence of repeated exposure to that stimulus. This effect is most likely to occur when there is no preexisting negative attitude toward the stimulus object, and it tends to be strongest when the person is not consciously aware of the stimulus presentations.


the process of feeling or expressing grief following the death of a loved one, or the period during which this occurs. It typically involves apathy and dejection, loss of interest in the outside world, and diminution in activity and initiative. These reactions are similar to depression but are less persistent and are not considered pathological. Other mourning reactions may include anger (e.g., toward the deceased for dying); a sense of relief (e.g., that the deceased is no longer suffering); anxiety about the repercussions of losing someone upon whom the bereaved may have depended; and physical signs (e.g., fatigue, loss of appetite).

observational research

research in which the experimenter passively observes the behavior of the participants without any attempt at intervention or manipulation of the behaviors being observed. Such studies typically involve observation of cases under naturalistic conditions rather than the random assignment of cases to experimental conditions: Specially trained individuals record activities, events, or processes as precisely and completely as possible without personal interpretation.

open-ended questions

a question that cannot be answered with a "yes" or "no" responses, or with a static response. Open-ended questions are phrased as a statement which requires a response.


operational definition: a description of something in terms of the operations (procedures, actions, or processes) by which it could be observed and measured. For example, the operational definition of anxiety could be in terms of a test score, withdrawal from a situation, or activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The process of creating an operational definition is known as operationalization.

oral stage

in the classical psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud, the first stage of psychosexual development, occupying the 1st year of life, in which the libido is concentrated on the mouth as the principal erotic zone. The stage is divided into the early oral-sucking phase, during which gratification is achieved by sucking the nipple during feeding, and the later oral-biting phase, when gratification is also achieved by biting. Fixation during each of these phases is posited to cause a particular type of oral personality.


a peptide produced in the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary gland into the blood, where it acts as a hormone, or into the central nervous system, where it acts as a neurotransmitter and binds to oxytocin receptors to influence behavior and physiology.

It has earned a reputation as a facilitator of social affiliation, and the tend-and-befriend response in particular, and it has been shown to influence sexual pleasure, reproductive functions, and parental (especially material) behaviour.

palliative care

health care given for medical conditions where a cure is considered achievable, or even possibly so, and directed to this end.


not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity


1. an intense, driving, or overwhelming feeling or conviction. Passion is often contrasted with emotion, in that passion affects a person unwillingly.

2. intense sexual desire.

passive euthanasia

the intentional withholding of treatment that might prolong the life of a person who is approaching death. It is distinguished from active euthanasia, in which direct action (e.g., a lethal injection) is taken to end the life. Courts have ruled that physicians do not have to try every possible intervention to prolong life, but opinions differ on where the line should be drawn.


the enduring configuration of characteristics and behavior that comprises an individual’s unique adjustment to life, including major traits, interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities, and emotional patterns. Personality is generally viewed as a complex, dynamic integration or totality shaped by many forces, including hereditary and constitutional tendencies; physical maturation; early training; identification with significant individuals and groups; culturally conditioned values and roles; and critical experiences and relationships. Various theories explain the structure and development of personality in different ways, but all agree that personality helps determine behavior.

phallic stage

in the classical psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud, the third stage of psychosexual development beginning around age 3, when the libido is focused on the genital area (penis or clitoris) and discovery and manipulation of the body become a major source of pleasure. During this period, boys are posited to experience castration anxiety, girls to experience penis envy, and both to experience the Oedipus complex.

physical death

the permanent cessation of physical and mental processes in an organism. In the United States in the early 1980s, the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association drafted and approved the Uniform Determination of Death Act, in which death is defined as either the irreversible cessation of core physiological functioning (i.e., spontaneous circulatory and respiratory functions) or the irreversible loss of cerebral functioning (i.e., brain death). Given the emergence of sophisticated technologies for cardiopulmonary support, brain death is more often considered the essential determining factor, particularly within the legal profession.


sexual attraction to more than one gender

postformal thought

the complex ways in which adults structure their thinking based on the complicated nature of adult life. It is an extension of Jean Piaget’s concept of formal operations (see formal operational stage), which are developed in adolescence, to adult cognition and includes an understanding of the relative, nonabsolute nature of knowledge; an acceptance of contradiction as a basic aspect of reality; the ability to synthesize contradictory thoughts, feelings, and experiences into more coherent, all-encompassing wholes; and the ability to resolve both ill- and well-defined problems.


a hormone, secreted mainly by the corpus luteum in the ovary, that stimulates the proliferation of the endometrium (lining) of the uterus required for implantation of an embryo. If implantation occurs, progesterone continues to be secreted—first by the corpus luteum and then by the placenta—maintaining the pregnant uterus and preventing further release of egg cells from the ovary. It also stimulates development of milk-secreting cells in the breasts.

psychosocial development

the development of both prosocial behavior (e.g., cooperation) and antisocial behavior (e.g., aggression).

restoration orientation

in the restoration-oriented process, the loss of the loved one is accepted and attachments with the deceased are relinquished. Individuals may focus on new roles in their post-loss reality.

secondary analysis

re-analysis of data already collected in a previous study, by a different researcher normally wishing to address a new research question.


the act of revealing personal or private information about one’s self to other people. In relationships research, self-disclosure has been shown to foster feelings of closeness and intimacy.


a statement or series of answers to questions that an individual provides about their state, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, past behaviors, and so forth. Self-report methods rely on the honesty and self-awareness of the participant (see self-report bias) and are used especially to measure behaviors or traits that cannot easily be directly observed by others.


the traits that distinguish between males and females. Sex refers especially to physical and biological traits, whereas gender refers especially to social or cultural traits, although the distinction between the two terms is not regularly observed. (quoted directly from APA Dictionary of Psychology, undated)

sex discrimination

differential treatment of individuals on the basis of their biological distinction as male or female. Although such treatment may sometimes favor women relative to men, in contemporary society, most sex discrimination favors men over women; common manifestations include unfair hiring and promotion practices, lower wages paid to women doing the same type of work as men, and a tendency to undervalue characteristics and interests associated with women. Changing attitudes toward marriage, improved availability of day care facilities, increased educational opportunities, role changes in the home, and workforce shortages in some industries have led to a heightened awareness of the erroneous nature of certain sex-role stereotypes and altered conceptions of what men and women can do. In addition, in many societies, legislation prohibits sex discrimination. Nevertheless, sex discrimination persists and contributes to a number of social problems, including inadequate support for working women, lower standards of health care for women, and violence against women.


discriminatory and prejudicial beliefs and practices directed against one of the two sexes, usually women. Sexism is associated with acceptance of sex-role stereotypes and can occur at multiple levels: individual, organizational, institutional, and cultural. It may be overt, involving the open endorsement of sexist beliefs or attitudes; covert, involving the tendency to hide sexist beliefs or attitudes and reveal them only when it is believed that one will not suffer publicly for them; or subtle, involving unequal treatment that may not be noticed because it is part of everyday behavior or perceived to be unimportant.

sexual orientation

one's enduring sexual attraction to male, female, and other-gendered partners. Sexual attraction may be hetersexual, same sex (gay or lesbian), bisexual, pansexual, asexual (no sexual attraction), or any number of other identified labels.

sexual response cycle

a conceptualization of a four-stage cycle of sexual response exhibited by both men and women, differing only in aspects determined by male or female anatomy. The stages include the arousal (or excitement) phase, which lasts several minutes to hours (see sexual arousal); the plateau phase, lasting 30 seconds to 3 minutes, marked by penile erection in men and vaginal lubrication in women; the orgasmic phase, lasting 15 seconds and marked by ejaculation in men and orgasm in women; and the resolution phase, lasting 15 minutes to 1 day (see refractory phase). This conceptualization was introduced by U.S. sex researchers William H. Masters (1915–2001) and Virginia E. Johnson (1925–2013) in 1966, but it has subsequently been criticized, particularly in the way that it equates the male and female pattern.


1. the capacity to derive pleasure from various forms of sexual activity and behavior, particularly from sexual intercourse.

2. all aspects of sexual behavior, including gender identity, orientation, attitudes, and activity. (quoted directly from APA Dictionary of Psychology, undated)

sexually transmitted infections

an infection transmitted by sexual activity. More than 20 STIs have been identified, including those caused by viruses (e.g., hepatitis B, herpes, HIV) and those caused by bacteria (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis).

social death

1. a pattern of group behavior that ignores the presence or existence of a person within the group. Social death occurs in situations in which verbal and nonverbal communication would be expected to include all participants but in which one or more individuals are excluded. See shunning; ostracism.

2. the social effect of individuals’ reactions to a living person as if he or she is dead, as sometimes seen among people in the presence of a comatose patient or someone with severe dementia.

socioeconomic status

the position of an individual or group on the socioeconomic scale, which is determined by a combination of social and economic factors such as income, amount and kind of education, type and prestige of occupation, place of residence, and—in some societies or parts of society—ethnic origin or religious background.

stage theories

any hypothetical construct used to describe phases or steps in a process that occurs over time, such as a theory that development involves discontinuous phases marked by changes in functioning. Examples include Sigmund Freud’s stages of psychosexual development and Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development (see Piagetian theory).


in psychoanalytic theory, the moral component of the personality that represents parental and societal standards and determines personal standards of right and wrong, or conscience, as well as aims and aspirations (see ego-ideal). In the classic Freudian tripartite structure of the psyche, the ego, which controls personal impulses and directs actions, operates by the rules and principles of the superego, which stem from parental demands and prohibitions. The formation of the superego occurs on an unconscious level, beginning in the first 5 years of life and continuing throughout childhood and adolescence and into adulthood, largely through identification with the parents and later with admired models of behavior.

support group

a group similar in some ways to a self-help group in that members who share a problem come together to provide help, comfort, and guidance. A primary distinguishing feature of support groups is in their leadership: a professional or agency-based facilitator who often does not share the problem of members. In addition, support groups often last for only a limited predetermined number of sessions, and a fee for attendance is sometimes charged.


a study in which a group of participants is selected from a population and data about or opinions from those participants are collected, measured, and analyzed. Information typically is gathered by interview or self-report questionnaire, and the results thus obtained may then be extrapolated to the whole population.


the basic foundation of personality, usually assumed to be biologically determined and present early in life, including such characteristics as energy level, emotional responsiveness, demeanor, mood, response tempo, behavioral inhibition, and willingness to explore.

time of measurement

the moment in time when the participants' responses are recorded.


having or relating to a gender identity that differs from the culturally determined gender roles for one’s birth sex (i.e., the biological sex one was born with) or for one’s sex as surgically assigned at birth. Transgender identities include transsexualism, some forms of transvestism, and intersex. These identities should not be confused with sexual orientation. (quoted directly from APA Dictionary of Psychology, undated)


an outdated term referring to people who wear the clothes of, and act in a manner traditionally associated with, another sex.

trust versus mistrust

the first of Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, between birth and 18 months of age. During this stage, the infant either comes to view other people and himself or herself as trustworthy or comes to develop a fundamental distrust of his or her environment. The growth of basic trust, considered essential for the later development of self-esteem and healthy interpersonal relationships, is attributed to a primary caregiver who is responsively attuned to the infant’s individual needs while conveying the quality of trustworthiness, whereas the growth of basic mistrust is attributed to neglect, lack of love, or inconsistent treatment. The child must experience both trust and mistrust to know how to truly trust.


in some Native American cultures, a person who takes on the gender identity of the opposite sex with the approval of the culture. The culture often views such individuals as having a special spiritual or guiding role in the community. In the Navajo culture, such a person is termed a nadle; in the Lakota culture, the term winkte is used; and in other cultures, a literal translation of “man-woman” might be used. The traditional scholarly term berdache is now used less frequently because of its negative implications of male prostitution or of a “kept” status. (quoted directly from APA Dictionary of Psychology, undated)


a condition in an experiment or a characteristic of an entity, person, or object that can take on different categories, levels, or values and that can be quantified (measured). For example, test scores and ratings assigned by judges are variables. Numerous types of variables exist, including categorical variables, dependent variables, independent variables, mediators, moderators, and random variables.


a peptide produced in the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary gland into the blood as controlled by osmoreceptors. Additionally, vasopressin and the chemically related peptide hormone oxytocin have been implicated in a range of mammalian social behaviors, such as aggression, territoriality, maternal and paternal care, pair-bond formation and mating, social recognition, attachment, affiliation, and vocalization, as well as components of human-specific social behaviors and disorders (e.g., autism).


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