Affective forecasting

Predicting how one will feel in the future after some event or decision.

Age 5-to-7 shift

Cognitive and social changes that occur in the early elementary school years that result in the child’s developing a more purposeful, planful, and goal-directed approach to life, setting the stage for the emergence of the self as a motivated agent.


An individual who may have no gender or may describe themselves as having a neutral gender.


Any behavior intended to harm another person who does not want to be harmed.


A core personality trait that includes such dispositional characteristics as being sympathetic, generous, forgiving, and helpful, and behavioral tendencies toward harmonious social relations and likeability.


A motivation for helping that has the improvement of another’s welfare as its ultimate goal, with no expectation of any benefits for the helper.

Ambivalent sexism

A concept of gender attitudes that encompasses both positive and negative qualities.

Anal sex

Penetration of the anus by an animate or inanimate object.


Having both feminine and masculine characteristics.

Anecdotal evidence

An argument that is based on personal experience and not considered reliable or representative.

Archival research

A type of research in which the researcher analyses records or archives instead of collecting data from live human participants.

Arousal: cost–reward model

An egoistic theory proposed by Piliavin et al. (1981) that claims that seeing a person in need leads to the arousal of unpleasant feelings, and observers are motivated to eliminate that aversive state, often by helping the victim. A cost–reward analysis may lead observers to react in ways other than offering direct assistance, including indirect help, reinterpretation of the situation, or fleeing the scene.

Associative stigma

A stigma that results from being associated with someone who has a stigmatized identity such as having a spouse with a mental illness.


A way of thinking or feeling about a target that is often reflected in a person’s behavior. Examples of attitude targets are individuals, concepts, and groups.


The psychological process of being sexually interested in another person. This can include, for example, physical attraction, first impressions, and dating rituals.

Autobiographical reasoning

The ability, typically developed in adolescence, to derive substantive conclusions about the self from analyzing one’s own personal experiences.


A behavior or process has one or more of the following features: unintentional, uncontrollable, occurring outside of conscious awareness, and cognitively efficient.

Availability heuristic

A heuristic in which the frequency or likelihood of an event is evaluated based on how easily instances of it come to mind.

Aversive racism

Aversive racism is unexamined racial bias that the person does not intend and would reject, but that avoids inter-racial contact.

Basking in reflected glory

The tendency for people to associate themselves with successful people or groups.

Benevolent sexism

The “positive” element of ambivalent sexism, which recognizes that women are perceived as needing to be protected, supported, and adored by men.

Big data

The analysis of large data sets.

Big Five

A broad taxonomy of personality trait domains repeatedly derived from studies of trait ratings in adulthood and encompassing the categories of (1) extraversion vs. introversion, (2) neuroticism vs. emotional stability, (3) agreeable vs. disagreeableness, (4) conscientiousness vs. nonconscientiousness, and (5) openness to experience vs. conventionality. By late childhood and early adolescence, people’s self-attributions of personality traits, as well as the trait attributions made about them by others, show patterns of intercorrelations that confirm with the five-factor structure obtained in studies of adults.


An individual who identifies as two genders.


The idea that gender has two separate and distinct categories (male and female) and that a person must be either one or the other.


Attraction to two sexes.

Blatant biases

Blatant biases are conscious beliefs, feelings, and behavior that people are perfectly willing to admit, are mostly hostile, and openly favor their own group.

Blind to the research hypothesis

When participants in research are not aware of what is being studied.

Bystander intervention

The phenomenon whereby people intervene to help others in need even if the other is a complete stranger and the intervention puts the helper at risk.

Cartesian catastrophe

The idea that mental processes taking place outside conscious awareness are impossible.

Case study

An in-depth and objective examination of the details of a single person or entity.


Greek term that means to cleanse or purge. Applied to aggression, catharsis is the belief that acting aggressively or even viewing aggression purges angry feelings and aggressive impulses into harmless channels.

Central route to persuasion

Persuasion that employs direct, relevant, logical messages.

Chameleon effect

The tendency for individuals to nonconsciously mimic the postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviors of one’s interaction partners.


A term used to describe individuals whose gender matches their biological sex.

Coital sex

Vaginal-penile intercourse.

Collective self-esteem

Feelings of self-worth that are based on evaluation of relationships with others and membership in social groups.


The cultural trend in which the primary unit of measurement is the group. Collectivists are likely to emphasize duty and obligation over personal aspirations.

Common ingroup identity

The attempt to reduce prejudice by creating a superordinate categorization.

Common knowledge effect

The tendency for groups to spend more time discussing information that all members know (shared information) and less time examining information that only a few members know (unshared).

Complex experimental designs

An experiment with two or more independent variables.


An actor working with the researcher. Most often, this individual is used to deceive unsuspecting research participants. Also known as a “stooge.”


A trusted person with whom secrets and vulnerabilities can be shared.


Changing one’s attitude or behavior to match a perceived social norm.

Confronting prejudice

Interpersonal interactions wherein a person corrects or otherwise condemns the prejudice behaviors of others.


A personality trait consisting of self-control, orderliness, industriousness, and traditionalism.

Contact hypothesis

The theory that intergroup contact will reduce prejudice

Controllable stigma

Possessing an attribute or characteristic that is devalued by others and viewed to be escapable and thus, membership is perceived to be volitional.


A measure of the association between two variables, or how they go together.

Correlational research

A type of descriptive research that involves measuring the association between two variables, or how they go together.

Cost–benefit analysis

A decision-making process that compares the cost of an action or thing against the expected benefit to help determine the best course of action.

Counterfactual thinking

Mentally comparing actual events with fantasies of what might have been possible in alternative scenarios.

Cover story

A fake description of the purpose and/or procedure of a study, used when deception is necessary in order to answer a research question.

Cross-cultural psychology (or cross-cultural studies)

An approach to researching culture that emphasizes the use of standard scales as a means of making meaningful comparisons across groups.

Cross-cultural studies (or cross-cultural psychology)

An approach to researching culture that emphasizes the use of standard scales as a means of making meaningful comparisons across groups.

Cultural differences

An approach to understanding culture primarily by paying attention to unique and distinctive features that set them apart from other cultures.

Cultural intelligence

The ability and willingness to apply cultural awareness to practical uses.

Cultural psychology

An approach to researching culture that emphasizes the use of interviews and observation as a means of understanding culture from its own point of view.

Cultural relativism

The principled objection to passing overly culture-bound (i.e., “ethnocentric”) judgements on aspects of other cultures.

Cultural scripts

Learned guides for how to behave appropriately in a given social situation. These reflect cultural norms and widely accepted values.

Cultural similarities

An approach to understanding culture primarily by paying attention to common features that are the same as or similar to those of other cultures


A pattern of shared meaning and behavior among a group of people that is passed from one generation to the next.

Culture of honor

A culture in which personal or family reputation is especially important.


Oral stimulation of the female’s external sex organs.

Demand characteristics

Subtle cues that make participants aware of what the experimenter expects to find or how participants are expected to behave.

Dependent variable

The variable the researcher measures but does not manipulate in an experiment.

Descriptive norm

The perception of what most people do in a given situation.

Developmental intergroup theory

A theory that postulates that adults’ focus on gender leads children to pay attention to gender as a key source of information about themselves and others, to seek out possible gender differences, and to form rigid stereotypes based on gender.

Diffusion of responsibility

When deciding whether to help a person in need, knowing that there are others who could also provide assistance relieves bystanders of some measure of personal responsibility, reducing the likelihood that bystanders will intervene.

Directional goals

The motivation to reach a particular outcome or judgment.


Discrimination is behavior that advantages or disadvantages people merely based on their group membership.

Distractor task

A task that is designed to make a person think about something unrelated to an impending decision.

Dizygotic twins

Twins conceived from two ova and two sperm.

Downward comparisons

Making mental comparisons with people who are perceived to be inferior on the standard of comparison.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The tendency for unskilled people to be overconfident in their ability and highly skilled people to underestimate their ability.

Durability bias

A bias in affective forecasting in which one overestimates for how long one will feel an emotion (positive or negative) after some event.

Ecological validity

The degree to which a study finding has been obtained under conditions that are typical for what happens in everyday life.


(Electroencephalography) The recording of the brain’s electrical activity over a period of time by placing electrodes on the scalp.


Sigmund Freud’s conception of an executive self in the personality. Akin to this module’s notion of “the I,” Freud imagined the ego as observing outside reality, engaging in rational though, and coping with the competing demands of inner desires and moral standards.

Ego depletion

The state of diminished willpower or low energy associated with having exerted self-regulation.


A motivation for helping that has the improvement of the helper’s own circumstances as its primary goal.

Electronically activated recorder (EAR)

A methodology where participants wear a small, portable audio recorder that intermittently records snippets of ambient sounds around them.

Empathic concern

According to Batson’s empathy–altruism hypothesis, observers who empathize with a person in need (that is, put themselves in the shoes of the victim and imagine how that person feels) will experience empathic concern and have an altruistic motivation for helping.

Empathy–altruism model

An altruistic theory proposed by Batson (2011) that claims that people who put themselves in the shoes of a victim and imagining how the victim feel will experience empathic concern that evokes an altruistic motivation for helping.


The uniquely human form of learning that is taught by one generation to another.

Ethnocentric bias (or ethnocentrism)

Being unduly guided by the beliefs of the culture you’ve grown up in, especially when this results in a misunderstanding or disparagement of unfamiliar cultures.

Ethnographic studies

Research that emphasizes field data collection and that examines questions that attempt to understand culture from it's own context and point of view.

Eureka experience

When a creative product enters consciousness.

Evaluative priming task

An implicit attitude task that assesses the extent to which an attitude object is associated with a positive or negative valence by measuring the time it takes a person to label an adjective as good or bad after being presented with an attitude object.

Experience sampling methods

Systematic ways of having participants provide samples of their ongoing behavior. Participants' reports are dependent (contingent) upon either a signal, pre-established intervals, or the occurrence of some event.

Explicit attitude

An attitude that is consciously held and can be reported on by the person holding the attitude.

Extended-contact hypothesis

The theory that prejudice can be reduced for people who have friends who are friends with members of the outgroup.

False memories

Memory for an event that never actually occurred, implanted by experimental manipulation or other means.


Oral stimulation of the male’s external sex organs.

Field experiment

An experiment that occurs outside of the lab and in a real world situation.

Five stages of psychosexual development

Oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital.

Fixed action patterns (FAPs)

Sequences of behavior that occur in exactly the same fashion, in exactly the same order, every time they are elicited.

Fixed mindset

The belief that personal qualities such as intelligence are traits that cannot be developed. People with fixed mindsets often underperform compared to those with “growth mindsets”


Any member of a lineup (whether live or photograph) other than the suspect.

Foot in the door

Obtaining a small, initial commitment.

Frog Pond Effect

The theory that a person’s comparison group can affect their evaluations of themselves. Specifically, people have a tendency to have lower self-evaluations when comparing themselves to higher performing groups.

Functional distance

The frequency with which we cross paths with others.

Fundamental attribution error

The tendency to emphasize another person’s personality traits when describing that person’s motives and behaviors and overlooking the influence of situational factors.


The cultural, social, and psychological meanings that are associated with masculinity and femininity.

Gender constancy

The awareness that gender is constant and does not change simply by changing external attributes; develops between 3 and 6 years of age.

Gender discrimination

Differential treatment on the basis of gender.

Gender identity

A person’s psychological sense of being male or female.

Gender roles

The behaviors, attitudes, and personality traits that are designated as either masculine or feminine in a given culture.

Gender schema theory

This theory of how children form their own gender roles argues that children actively organize others’ behavior, activities, and attributes into gender categories or schemas.

Gender stereotypes

The beliefs and expectations people hold about the typical characteristics, preferences, and behaviors of men and women.


An individual who may identify as male, female, both, or neither at different times and in different circumstances.

Genderqueer (gender nonbinary)

An umbrella term used to describe a wide range of individuals who do not identify with and/or conform to the gender binary.

Gradually escalating the commitments

A pattern of small, progressively escalating demands is less likely to be rejected than a single large demand made all at once.

Group cohesion

The solidarity or unity of a group resulting from the development of strong and mutual interpersonal bonds among members and group-level forces that unify the group, such as shared commitment to group goals.

Group polarization

The tendency for members of a deliberating group to move to a more extreme position, with the direction of the shift determined by the majority or average of the members’ predeliberation preferences.


A set of negative group-level processes, including illusions of invulnerability, self-censorship, and pressures to conform, that occur when highly cohesive groups seek concurrence when making a decision.

Growth mindset

The belief that personal qualities, such as intelligence, can be developed through effort and practice.


The complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being—not just the absence of disease or infirmity.

Health behaviors

Behaviors that are associated with better health. Examples include exercising, not smoking, and wearing a seat belt while in a vehicle.


A component of the prosocial personality orientation; describes individuals who have been helpful in the past and, because they believe they can be effective with the help they give, are more likely to be helpful in the future.


Prosocial acts that typically involve situations in which one person is in need and another provides the necessary assistance to eliminate the other’s need.


Opposite-sex attraction.


A mental shortcut or rule of thumb that reduces complex mental problems to more simple rule-based decisions.


Same-sex attraction.

Hostile attribution bias

The tendency to perceive ambiguous actions by others as aggressive.

Hostile expectation bias

The tendency to assume that people will react to potential conflicts with aggression.

Hostile perception bias

The tendency to perceive social interactions in general as being aggressive.

Hostile sexism

The negative element of ambivalent sexism, which includes the attitudes that women are inferior and incompetent relative to men.

Hot cognition

The mental processes that are influenced by desires and feelings.


A possible explanation that can be tested through research.


Sometimes used synonymously with the term “self,” identity means many different things in psychological science and in other fields (e.g., sociology). In this module, I adopt Erik Erikson’s conception of identity as a developmental task for late adolescence and young adulthood. Forming an identity in adolescence and young adulthood involves exploring alternative roles, values, goals, and relationships and eventually committing to a realistic agenda for life that productively situates a person in the adult world of work and love. In addition, identity formation entails commitments to new social roles and reevaluation of old traits, and importantly, it brings with it a sense of temporal continuity in life, achieved though the construction of an integrative life story.

Impact bias

A bias in affective forecasting in which one overestimates the strength or intensity of emotion one will experience after some event.

Implicit Association Test

An implicit attitude task that assesses a person’s automatic associations between concepts by measuring the response times in pairing the concepts.

Implicit association test (IAT)

A computer-based categorization task that measures the strength of association between specific concepts over several trials.

Implicit attitude

An attitude that a person cannot verbally or overtly state.

Implicit measures of attitudes

Measures of attitudes in which researchers infer the participant’s attitude rather than having the participant explicitly report it.

Independent self

The tendency to define the self in terms of stable traits that guide behavior.

Independent variable

The variable the researcher manipulates and controls in an experiment.

Individual differences

Psychological traits, abilities, aptitudes and tendencies that vary from person to person.


The cultural trend in which the primary unit of measurement is the individual. Individualists are likely to emphasize uniqueness and personal aspirations over social duty.

Informational influence

Conformity that results from a concern to act in a socially approved manner as determined by how others act.


A state in which the group members depend on each other for successful performance of the group goals.

Interdependent self

The tendency to define the self in terms of social contexts that guide behavior.


Born with either an absence or some combination of male and female reproductive organs, sex hormones, or sex chromosomes.

Jigsaw classroom

An approach to learning in which students from different racial or ethnic groups work together, in an interdependent way, to master material.

Kin selection

According to evolutionary psychology, the favoritism shown for helping our blood relatives, with the goals of increasing the likelihood that some portion of our DNA will be passed on to future generations.

Laboratory environments

A setting in which the researcher can carefully control situations and manipulate variables.

Levels of analysis

Complementary views for analyzing and understanding a phenomenon.

Local dominance effect

People are generally more influenced by social comparison when that comparison is personally relevant rather than broad and general.


Being cunning, strategic, or exploitative in one’s relationships. Named after Machiavelli, who outlined this way of relating in his book, The Prince.

Manipulation check

A measure used to determine whether or not the manipulation of the independent variable has had its intended effect on the participants.


Receiving pain from another person to experience pleasure for one’s self.

Mastery goals

Goals that are focused primarily on learning, competence, and self-development. These are contrasted with “performance goals” that are focused on the quality of a person’s performance.


Tactile stimulation of the body for sexual pleasure.

Mere-exposure effects

The result of developing a more positive attitude towards a stimulus after repeated instances of mere exposure to it.


Insults, invalidations, and indignities that members of stigmatized groups experience in their everyday interpersonal encounters

Misinformation effect

A memory error caused by exposure to incorrect information between the original event (e.g., a crime) and later memory test (e.g., an interview, lineup, or day in court).

Mock witnesses

A research subject who plays the part of a witness in a study.

Model minority

A minority group whose members are perceived as achieving a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average.


Keeping track of a target behavior that is to be regulated.

Monozygotic twins

Twins conceived from a single ovum and a single sperm, therefore genetically identical.

Mood-congruent memory

The tendency to be better able to recall memories that have a mood similar to our current mood.

Motivated skepticism

A form of bias that can result from having a directional goal in which one is skeptical of evidence despite its strength because it goes against what one wants to believe.


The finding that increasing the number of competitors generally decreases one’s motivation to compete.


A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a need for admiration, and lack of empathy.

Narrative identity

An internalized and evolving story of the self designed to provide life with some measure of temporal unity and purpose. Beginning in late adolescence, people craft self-defining stories that reconstruct the past and imagine the future to explain how the person came to be the person that he or she is becoming.

Naturalistic observation

Unobtrusively watching people as they go about the business of living their lives.

Need for closure

The desire to come to a decision that will resolve ambiguity and conclude an issue.

Need to belong

A strong natural impulse in humans to form social connections and to be accepted by others.

Negative state relief model

An egoistic theory proposed by Cialdini et al. (1982) that claims that people have learned through socialization that helping can serve as a secondary reinforcement that will relieve negative moods such as sadness.

Normative influence

Conformity that results from a concern for what other people think of us.


Responding to an order or command from a person in a position of authority.

Objective social variables

Targets of research interest that are factual and not subject to personal opinions or feelings.

Observational learning

Learning by observing the behavior of others.

Open ended questions

Research questions that ask participants to answer in their own words.


The process of defining a concept so that it can be measured. In psychology, this often happens by identifying related concepts or behaviors that can be more easily measured.


How researchers specifically measure a concept.

Oral sex

Cunnilingus or fellatio.


Excluding one or more individuals from a group by reducing or eliminating contact with the person, usually by ignoring, shunning, or explicitly banishing them.

Other-oriented empathy

A component of the prosocial personality orientation; describes individuals who have a strong sense of social responsibility, empathize with and feel emotionally tied to those in need, understand the problems the victim is experiencing, and have a heightened sense of moral obligations to be helpful.

Paraphilic disorders

Sexual behaviors that cause harm to others or one’s self.

Participant variable

The individual characteristics of research subjects - age, personality, health, intelligence, etc.

Perceived social support

A person’s perception that others are there to help them in times of need.

Peripheral route to persuasion

Persuasion that relies on superficial cues that have little to do with logic.

Personal distress

According to Batson’s empathy–altruism hypothesis, observers who take a detached view of a person in need will experience feelings of being “worried” and “upset” and will have an egoistic motivation for helping to relieve that distress.

Personal stigma

A stigma that results from one’s own attributes or characteristics such as a personal history of substance use.


A person’s relatively stable patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior.

Photo spreads

A selection of normally small photographs of faces given to a witness for the purpose of identifying a perpetrator.

Planning fallacy

A cognitive bias in which one underestimates how long it will take to complete a task.

Pluralistic ignorance

Relying on the actions of others to define an ambiguous need situation and to then erroneously conclude that no help or intervention is necessary.


An evaluation or emotion toward people based merely on their group membership.


A process by which a concept or behavior is made more cognitively accessible or likely to occur through the presentation of an associated concept.


The process by which exposing people to one stimulus makes certain thoughts, feelings or behaviors more salient.

Prosocial behavior

Social behavior that benefits another person.

Prosocial personality orientation

A measure of individual differences that identifies two sets of personality characteristics (other-oriented empathy, helpfulness) that are highly correlated with prosocial behavior.


The relative closeness or distance from a given comparison standard. The further from the standard a person is, the less important he or she considers the standard. When a person is closer to the standard he/she is more likely to be competitive.

Psychological reactance

A reaction to people, rules, requirements, or offerings that are perceived to limit freedoms.


A pattern of antisocial behavior characterized by an inability to empathize, egocentricity, and a desire to use relationships as tools for personal gain.

Public stigma

The negative attitudes that the public holds about their stigmatized identity.


Inflicting pain or removing pleasure for a misdeed. Punishment decreases the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated.

Random assignment

Assigning participants to receive different conditions of an experiment by chance.

Received social support

The actual act of receiving support (e.g., informational, functional).

Reciprocal altruism

According to evolutionary psychology, a genetic predisposition for people to help those who have previously helped them.


The act of exchanging goods or services. By giving a person a gift, the principle of reciprocity can be used to influence others; they then feel obligated to give back.

Redemptive narratives

Life stories that affirm the transformation from suffering to an enhanced status or state. In American culture, redemptive life stories are highly prized as models for the good self, as in classic narratives of atonement, upward mobility, liberation, and recovery.


The idea that the self reflects back upon itself; that the I (the knower, the subject) encounters the Me (the known, the object). Reflexivity is a fundamental property of human selfhood.

Relational aggression

Intentionally harming another person’s social relationships, feelings of acceptance, or inclusion within a group.

Replacement fantasy

Fantasizing about someone other than one’s current partner.

Representativeness heuristic

A heuristic in which the likelihood of an object belonging to a category is evaluated based on the extent to which the object appears similar to one’s mental representation of the category.

Research confederate

A person working with a researcher, posing as a research participant or as a bystander.

Research participant

A person being studied as part of a research program.

Right-wing authoritarianism (RWA)

Right-wing authoritarianism focuses on value conflicts but endorses respect for obedience and authority in the service of group conformity.


Rites or actions performed in a systematic or prescribed way often for an intended purpose. Example: The exchange of wedding rings during a marriage ceremony in many cultures.


Inflicting pain upon another person to experience pleasure for one’s self.

Safer-sex practices

Doing anything that may decrease the probability of sexual assault, sexually transmitted infections, or unwanted pregnancy; this may include using condoms, honesty, and communication.

Samples of convenience

Participants that have been recruited in a manner that prioritizes convenience over representativeness.


A mental model or representation that organizes the important information about a thing, person, or event (also known as a script).

Schema (plural: schemata)

A memory template, created through repeated exposure to a particular class of objects or events.


The gender categories into which, according to gender schema theory, children actively organize others’ behavior, activities, and attributes.

Scientific method

A method of investigation that includes systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.

Self as autobiographical author

The sense of the self as a storyteller who reconstructs the past and imagines the future in order to articulate an integrative narrative that provides life with some measure of temporal continuity and purpose.

Self as motivated agent

The sense of the self as an intentional force that strives to achieve goals, plans, values, projects, and the like.

self as social actor

The sense of the self as an embodied actor whose social performances may be construed in terms of more or less consistent self-ascribed traits and social roles.

Self-categorization theory

Self-categorization theory develops social identity theory’s point that people categorize themselves, along with each other into groups, favoring their own group.


The extent to which the self is defined as independent or as relating to others.

Self-enhancement effect

The finding that people can boost their own self-evaluations by comparing themselves to others who rank lower on a particular comparison standard.


The extent to which a person feels that he or she is worthy and good. The success or failure that the motivated agent experiences in pursuit of valued goals is a strong determinant of self-esteem.

Self-evaluation maintenance (SEM)

A model of social comparison that emphasizes one’s closeness to the comparison target, the relative performance of that target person, and the relevance of the comparison behavior to one’s self-concept.


The process of altering one’s responses, including thoughts, feelings, impulses, actions, and task performance.


The internalized negative attitudes that a stigmatized person holds about their stigmatized identity.


Biological category of male or female as defined by physical differences in genetic composition and in reproductive anatomy and function.

Sexual attraction

The capacity a person has to elicit or feel sexual interest.

Sexual consent

Permission that is voluntary, conscious, and able to be withdrawn at any time.

Sexual fluidity

Personal sexual attributes changing due to psychosocial circumstances.

Sexual harassment

A form of gender discrimination based on unwanted treatment related to sexual behaviors or appearance.

Sexual literacy

The lifelong pursuit of accurate human sexuality knowledge, and recognition of its various multicultural, historical, and societal contexts; the ability to critically evaluate sources and discern empirical evidence from unreliable and inaccurate information; the acknowledgment of humans as sexual beings; and an appreciation of sexuality’s contribution to enhancing one’s well-being and pleasure in life.

Sexual orientation

Refers to the direction of emotional and erotic attraction toward members of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both sexes.

Shared mental model

Knowledge, expectations, conceptualizations, and other cognitive representations that members of a group have in common pertaining to the group and its members, tasks, procedures, and resources.


The act of avoiding or ignoring a person, and withholding all social interaction for a period of time. Shunning generally occurs as a punishment and is temporary.

Situational identity

Being guided by different cultural influences in different situations, such as home versus workplace, or formal versus informal roles.

Social attribution

The way a person explains the motives or behaviors of others.

Social category

Any group in which membership is defined by similarities between its members. Examples include religious, ethnic, and athletic groups.

Social cognition

The way people process and apply information about others.

Social comparison

The process by which people understand their own ability or condition by mentally comparing themselves to others.

Social dominance orientation (SDO)

Social dominance orientation describes a belief that group hierarchies are inevitable in all societies and even good, to maintain order and stability.

Social facilitation

When performance on simple or well-rehearsed tasks is enhanced when we are in the presence of others.

Social identity theory

Social identity theory notes that people categorize each other into groups, favoring their own group.

Social influence

When one person causes a change in attitude or behavior in another person, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Social integration

Active engagement and participation in a broad range of social relationships.

Social learning theory

This theory of how children form their own gender roles argues that gender roles are learned through reinforcement, punishment, and modeling.

Social loafing

The reduction of individual effort exerted when people work in groups compared with when they work alone.

Social neuroscience

An interdisciplinary field concerned with identifying the neural processes underlying social behavior and cognition.

Social or behavioral priming

A field of research that investigates how the activation of one social concept in memory can elicit changes in behavior, physiology, or self-reports of a related social concept without conscious awareness.

Social proof

The mental shortcut based on the assumption that, if everyone is doing it, it must be right.

Social psychology

The branch of psychological science that is mainly concerned with understanding how the presence of others affects our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Social reputation

The traits and social roles that others attribute to an actor. Actors also have their own conceptions of what they imagine their respective social reputations indeed are in the eyes of others.

Social support

A social network’s provision of psychological and material resources that benefit an individual.

Sociometer model

A conceptual analysis of self-evaluation processes that theorizes self-esteem functions to psychologically monitor of one’s degree of inclusion and exclusion in social groups.

Solo status

The condition of being the only person who possesses a stigmatized identity in a particular context.

Standard scale

Research method in which all participants use a common scale—typically a Likert scale—to respond to questions.


Ideas about how things should (or should not) be.

Stereotype Content Model

Stereotype Content Model shows that social groups are viewed according to their perceived warmth and competence.


Our general beliefs about the traits or behaviors shared by group of people.


A mental process of using information shortcuts about a group to effectively navigate social situations or make decisions.

Stigmatized group

A group that suffers from social disapproval based on some characteristic that sets them apart from the majority.

Stigmatized identity

The possession of an attribute or characteristic that is devalued by others in particular contexts.

Subjective social variables

Targets of research interest that are not necessarily factual but are related to personal opinions or feelings

Subjective well-being

The scientific term used to describe how people experience the quality of their lives in terms of life satisfaction and emotional judgments of positive and negative affect.

Subtle biases

Subtle biases are automatic, ambiguous, and ambivalent, but real in their consequences.

Superordinate goals

In the context of intergroup contact, to intergroup members having mutually important goals that require their cooperative efforts.

Support network

The people who care about and support a person.

Survey method

One method of research that uses a predetermined and methodical list of questions, systematically given to samples of individuals, to predict behaviors within the population.

Survey research

A method of research that involves administering a questionnaire to respondents in person, by telephone, through the mail, or over the internet.


The process by which members of the team combine their knowledge, skills, abilities, and other resources through a coordinated series of actions to produce an outcome.

Terror management theory (TMT)

A theory that proposes that humans manage the anxiety that stems from the inevitability of death by embracing frameworks of meaning such as cultural values and beliefs.

The “I”

The self as knower, the sense of the self as a subject who encounters (knows, works on) itself (the Me).

The “Me”

The self as known, the sense of the self as the object or target of the I’s knowledge and work.

Theory of mind

Emerging around the age of 4, the child’s understanding that other people have minds in which are located desires and beliefs, and that desires and beliefs, thereby, motivate behavior.


A term used to describe individuals whose gender does not match their biological sex.

Transgender females (TGFs)

A transgender person whose birth sex was male.

Transgender males (TGMs)

A transgender person whose birth sex was female.

Trigger features

Specific, sometimes minute, aspects of a situation that activate fixed action patterns.


Not conscious; the part of the mind that affects behavior though it is inaccessible to the conscious mind.

Upward comparisons

Making mental comparisons to people who are perceived to be superior on the standard of comparison.

Value-free research

Research that is not influenced by the researchers’ own values, morality, or opinions.

Vigilant coping

When stigmatized group members protect themselves against discrimination monitoring or modifying behavior.


Aggression intended to cause extreme physical harm, such as injury or death.

WEIRD cultures

Cultures that are western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic.


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An Introduction to Social Psychology Copyright © 2022 by Thomas Edison State University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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