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Terms in Psychology P [Updated 2024] | Terms You Should Know

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to terms in psychology p, breaking down the most important concepts and definitions in an easy-to-understand format. 

Psychology is a fascinating and complex field of study that encompasses a wide range of theories, concepts, and practices. 

However, it can also be overwhelming for those who are new to the subject. Especially when you trying to navigate the many different terms and jargon used in the field. 

Whether you are a student, professional, or simply someone with an interest in psychology, understanding the key terms and concepts is crucial. 


By the end of this article, you will have a solid foundation in the vocabulary and terminology used in psychology. Its will allow you to better comprehend the subject and communicate with others in the field.

"Mastering Psychology Vocabulary: Key Terms to Enhance Your Understanding | The Essential Guide to Psychological Terminology: Terms You Should Know | Discovering Psychology: Exploring Common Terms and Concepts."

Terms in Psychology P


The body's response to noxious stimuli that are intense enough to cause, or threaten to cause, tissue damage.

Panic Disorder 

An anxiety disorder in which sufferers experience unexpected, severe panic attacks that begin with a feeling of intense apprehension, fear, or terror.

Parallel Forms 

Different versions of a test used to assess test reliability; the change of forms reduces effects of direct practice, memory, or the desire of an individual to appear consistent on the same items.

Parallel Processes 

Two or more mental processes that are carried out simultaneously.

Parasympathetic Division 

The subdivision of the autonomic nervous system that monitors the routine operation of the body's internal functions and conserves and restores body energy.

Parental Investment 

The time and energy parents must spend raising their offspring.

Parenting Practices 

Specific parenting behaviors that arise in response to particular parental goals.

Parenting Styles 

The manner in which parents rear their children; an authoritative parenting style, balances demandingness and responsiveness, is seen as the most effective.

Parietal Lobe 

Region of the brain behind the frontal lobe and above the lateral fissure; contains somatosensory cortex.

Partial reinforcement effect 

The behavioral principle that states the responses acquired under intermittent reinforcement are more difficult to extinguish than those acquired with continuous reinforcement. 

Participant Modeling 

A therapeutic technique in which a therapist demonstrates the desired behavior and a client is aided, through supportive encouragement, to imitate the modeled behavior. 

Pastoral Counselor 

A member of a religious order who specializes in the treatment of psychological disorders, often combining spirituality with practical problem solving. 


The term used by those who take a biomedical approach to the treatment of psychological problems to describe the person being treated. 

Peace Psychology 

An interdisciplinary approach to the prevention of nuclear war and the maintenance of peace. 

Perceived Control 

The belief that one has the ability to make a difference in the course or the consequences of some event or experience; often helpful in dealing with stressors. 


The processes that organize information in the sensory image and interpret it as having been produced by properties of objects or events in the external, three-dimensional world. 

Perceptual Constancy 

The ability to retain an unchanging percept of an object despite variations in the retinal image. 

Perceptual Organization 

The processes that put sensory information together to give the perception of a coherent scene over the whole visual field. 

Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) 

The part of the nervous system composed of the spinal and cranial nerves that connect the body's sensory receptors to the CNS and the CNS to the muscles and glands. 

Personality Types 

Distinct patterns of personality characteristics used to assign people to categories; qualitative differences, rather than differences in degree, used to discriminate among people. 


Deliberate efforts to change attitudes. 

PET Scans 

Brain images produced by a device that obtains detailed pictures of activity in the living brain by recording the radioactivity emitted by cells during different cognitive or behavioral activities. 

Phantom Limb Phenomenon 

As experienced by amputees, extreme or chronic pain in a limb that is no longer there. 


The observable characteristics of an organism, resulting from the interaction between the organism's genotype and its environment. 


Chemical signals released by organisms to communicate with other members of the species; often serve as long-distance sexual attractors.


The simplest form of apparent motion, the movement illusion in which one or more stationary lights going on and off in succession are perceived as a single moving light. 


A persistent and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that is excessive and unreasonable, given the reality of the threat. 


Minimal units of speech in any given language that make a meaningful difference in speech production and reception. R and 1 are two distinct phonemes in English but variations of one in Japanese. 


Receptor cells in the retina that are sensitive to light. 

Physical Development 

The bodily changes, maturation, and growth that occur in an organism starting with conception and continuing across the life span. 

Physiological Dependence 

The process by which the body becomes adjusted to and dependent on a drug. 

Pitch/ Voice Pitch

Sound quality of highness or lowness; primarily dependent on the frequency of the sound wave.

Pituitary Gland

Located in the brain, the gland that secrets growth hormone and influences the secretion of hormones by other endocrine glands.

Place Theory

The theory that different frequency tones produce maximum activation at different locations along the basilar membrane. With the result that pitch can coded by the place at which activation occurs.

Placebo Control 

An experimental condition in which treatment is not administered; it is used in cases where a placebo effect might occur.

Placebo Effect 

A change in behavior in the absence of an experiment manipulation. 

Placebo Therapy 

A therapy independent of any specific clinical procedures, that results in client improvement. 


The region of the brain stem that connects the spinal cord with the brain and links parts of the brain to one another. 


The entire set of individuals to which generalizations will be made based on an experimental sample.

Positive Punishment 

A behavior is followed by the presentation of an aversive stimulus, decreasing the probability of that behavior. 

Positive Reinforcement 

A behavior is followed by the presentation of an appetitive stimulus, increasing the probability of that behavior. 

Possible Selves 

The ideal selves that a person would like to become, the selves a person could become, and the selves a person is afraid of becoming; components of the cognitive sense of self. 

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

An anxiety disorder characterized by the persistent re-experience of traumatic events through distressing recollections, dreams, hallucinations, or dissociative flashbacks; develops in response to rapes, life-threatening events, severe injuries, and natural disasters. 

Pre-attentive Processing 

Processing of sensory information that precedes attention to specific objects. 

Precocious Memories 

Memories that are not currently conscious but that can easily be called into consciousness when necessary. 

Predictive validity See criterion validity. 

Prefrontal Lobotomy 

An operation that severs the nerve fibers connecting the frontal lobes of the brain with the diencephalon. Especially those fibers of the thalami and hypothalami areas; best-known form of psycho-surgery. 


A learned attitude toward a target object, involving negative affect (dislike or fear), negative beliefs (stereotypes) that justify the attitude, and a behavioral intention to avoid, control, dominate, or eliminate the target object.

Primacy Effect 

Improved memory for items at the start of a list. 

Primary Reinforces

Biologically determined reinforces such as food and water. 


In the assessment of implicit memory, the advantage conferred by prior exposure to a word or situation.

Problem Solving | Problem Solving in Psychology

Thinking that is directed toward solving specific problems and that moves from an initial state to a goal state by means of a set of mental operations. 

Problem Space 

The elements that make up a problem: the initial state, the incomplete information or unsatisfactory conditions the person starts with. 

The goal state, the set of information or state the person wishes to achieve; and the set of operations, the steps the person takes to move from the initial state to the goal state. 

Procedural Memory 

Memory for how things get done; the way perceptual, cognitive, and motor skills are acquired, retained, and used. 

Protective Test 

A method of personality assessment in which an individual is presented with a standardized set of ambiguous, abstract stimuli and asked to interpret their meanings. The individual's responses are assumed to reveal inner feelings, motive, and conflicts. 

Prosocial Behaviors 

Behaviors that are carried out with the goal of helping other people. 


The most representative example of a category. 

Proximal Stimulus 

The optical image on the retina; contrasted with the distal stimulus, the physical object in the world.


An individual who has obtained an M.D. degree and also has completed postdoctoral specialty training in mental and emotional disorders. 

A psychiatrist may prescribe medications for the treatment of psychological disorders. 

Psychic Determinism 

The assumption that mental and behavioral reactions are determined by previous experiences.

Psychoactive Drugs 

Chemicals that affect mental processes and behavior by temporarily changing conscious awareness of reality. 


The form of psycho-dynamic therapy developed by Freud. It is an intensive and prolonged technique for exploring unconscious motivations and conflicts in neurotic; anxiety-ridden individuals.


An individual who has earned either a Ph.D. or an M.D. degree. And completed postgraduate training in the Freudian approach to understanding and treating mental disorder. 


The use of psychological (especially personality) theory; to describe and explain an individual's course through life. 

Psycho-dynamic Personality Theories 

Theories of personality that share the assumption; that personality is shaped by and behavior is motivated by powerful inner forces. 

Psycho-dynamic Perspective 

A psychological model in which behavior is explained in terms of past experiences and motivational forces. 

Actions are viewed as stemming from inherited instincts, biological drives, and attempts to resolve conflicts between personal needs and social requirements. 

Psychological Assessment 

The use of specified procedures to evaluate the abilities, behaviors, and personal qualities of people.

Psychological Dependence 

The psychological need or craving for a drug. 

Psychological Diagnosis 

The label given to psychological abnormality by classifying and categorizing the observed behavior pattern into an approved diagnostic system/ manual. 


An individual with a doctoral degree in psychology from an organized, sequential program in a regionally accredited university or professional school. 


The scientific study of the behavior of individuals and their mental processes. The study of human mind and behavior is called psychology.

Psychometric Function 

A graph that plots the percentage of detection of a stimulus (on the vertical axis); for each stimulus intensity (on the horizontal axis). 


The field of psychology; that specializes in mental testing. 


The research area that investigates interactions between psychological processes; such as responses to stress, and the functions of the immune system. 

Psycho-pathological Functioning 

Disruptions in emotional, behavioral, or thought processes that lead to personal distress or block one's ability to achieve important goals.


The branch of psychology that investigates the effects of drugs on behavior. 


The study of the correspondence between physical stimulation and psychological experience.

Psychosocial Stages 

Proposed by Erik Erikson, successive developmental stages that focus on an individual's orientation toward the self and other. 

These stages incorporate both the sexual and social aspects of a person's development; and the social conflicts that arise from the interaction between the individual and the social environment. 

Psychosomatic Disorder 

Physical disorders aggravated by, or primarily attributable to prolonged emotional stress or other psychological causes. 


A surgical procedure performed on brain tissue to alleviate a psychological disorder.


Any of a group of therapies, used to treat psychological disorders, that focus on changing faulty behaviors, thoughts, perceptions, and emotions that may be associated with specific disorders.

Psychotic Disorders 

Severe mental disorders in which a person experiences impairments in reality testing manifested through thought, emotional, or perceptual difficulties; no longer used as a diagnostic category after DSM-III.


The attainment of sexual maturity; indicated for girls by menarche, and for boys by the production of live sperm and the ability to ejaculate. 


Any stimulus that, when made contingent upon a response, decreases the probability of that response.


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