Glossary - Ways We Differ

30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011

Ways We Differ

cognitive bias The tendency for people to make false judgments based on erroneous presuppositions. There are many forms of cognitive bias, including projection bias (assuming people think the same way you do) and confirmation bias (ignoring information that does not fit in with your beliefs). Its purpose is to help the brain process information quickly, but it throws the reliability of anecdotal and personal evidence into doubt.

cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) A therapeutic approach that focuses on the way in which a patient thinks about and manages problems. The premise of cognitive behavioural therapy is that people have self-destructive tendencies and patterns of behaviour that are self-perpetuating and amplify, rather than solve, problems. Using workbooks to record their reaction to difficulties, patients are taught to recognize these negative patterns and are given positive strategies for dealing with problems.

dialectic construct A belief that is arrived at by considering both sides of the argument. Dialectics is the process of pitching an idea (thesis) against its opposite (antithesis) and developing a new idea that combines the two.

epigenetics The study of how cells are able to change their appearance and behaviour, despite maintaining the same DNA. It is thought that environmental factors trigger a change in gene expression (how the gene behaves), without requiring any change to its DNA imprint.

extraversion One of the big five personality traits (see here). Extraversion is associated with being particularly motivated by potential reward. Extraverts (also spelled extroverts) tend to be outward-going and enjoy the company of others. They look to the outside world for stimulation, rather than looking within. Everyone has aspects of all five personality traits, to varying degrees.

idiographic Concerned with specific events or facts, rather than generalities. In psychology, this means focusing on the psychological makeup of the individual person rather than seeking general theories of behaviour.

innate An essential part of something or someone, possibly existing since birth. From the Latin innatus, meaning to ’be born in’.

IQ test A measure of intelligence; IQ stands for intelligence quotient. The original test was devised by Alfred Binet in France in the early 1900s and adapted by American psychologist Lewis Terman in 1916. It uses a series of questions to test memory, attention and problem-solving abilities. Originally, the mental age of the subject was divided by their chronological age and multiplied by a hundred to produce the intelligence quotient. Thus, a child of 10 who has a mental age of 12 would score 12/10 x 100 = 120. The modern IQ test is standardized such that an average score is always 100.

narcissistic The tendency to be excessively preoccupied with oneself and unable to empathize or care about other people.

neuroticism One of the big five personality traits. Neuroticism is associated with a stronger reaction to aversive situations — a struggle to cope with everyday stress — and in extreme cases may lead to depression and anxiety. Everyone has aspects of all five personality traits, to varying degrees.

neurotransmitter A chemical that acts as a messenger between neurons and allows impulses to be passed from one cell to the next. Neurotransmitters can either excite or inhibit adjacent cells.

personal construct theory The idea that someone’s personality is formed by their understanding of the world around them. By testing different theories to see if they work, we build up a series of ’constructs’ that define our understanding of the world and create aspects of our personality. The theory was developed by American psychologist George Kelly in the 1950s. He devised a test called the ’repertory grid’ whereby patients are shown three cards, chosen from a set of twenty-one, and asked to choose the odd one out. The results are entered onto a grid to reveal the patients’ personal constructs.

personality test A test, usually composed of a series of questions or tasks, designed to evaluate various aspects of the subject’s personality. Many different types of test are available, most of them scored using either a dimensional approach, whereby the results are measured on a scale, or a typological approach, whereby the results are matched to predetermined categories or ’types’.