absorption: A personality trait reflecting the tendency to become so focused on an idea, action, or other stimulus as to lose track of what is going on around oneself; the trait is related to both hypnotic susceptibility and to flow.

abstract reasoning: The capacity to manipulate symbols, see relationships among concepts, and integrate ideas in thought.

access to information: In the study of consciousness, the state in which conscious awareness can obtain information, retrieve it, or attend to it, as opposed to being blocked off from information.

access to motility: The capacity of a portion of the brain or mind to control and direct the individual’s external movement, activity, and language.

accounts: Excuses or rationalizations people give of why they did or did not do something they were expected to have done.

achievers: An adult developmental group described by interest in both practical attainments and personal improvement.

activated-deactivated mood (or affect) factor: One of a pair of two basic dimensions for describing the interrelation of specific emotions, based on how much the emotion conveys energy or action. The other pair member is pleasant-unpleasant mood. This dimension is obtained through factor analysis of mood scales. Other factor solutions yield a second pair of dimensions.

actual self: How a person thinks of his or her qualities, life experience, and interactions.

adaptive functioning: The degree to which one can solve the practical, pragmatic problems of life.

adoption studies: Adoption studies examine adopted children who have little or no contact with their biological parents. Consequently, the studies provide information about how a person’s genetic makeup unfolds absent any direct influence from a parent who shares those genes.

affect: A term used to encompass both moods and other related states, such as alertness and tiredness.

agencies: Central parts of the mind distinguished by the fact that they are self-regulating, are partly autonomous, and exert influences on the rest of personality.

allocentrics: People with collectivistic outlooks.

alter: A contraction of “alternative personality”—the personalities that appear in dissociative identity disorder.

altercasting: The attempt to make other people look a certain way; for example, drawing attention to qualities that may make them seem more courageous or cowardly than otherwise.

alternate uses: A task in which a participant tries to think of as many uses as possible for an everyday object, such as a desk or a pen.

ambivalent striving: A personal striving that involves a goal that is, itself, fraught with problems. For example, striving to be honest, although very desirable, entails many costs.

amotivation: The lack of any type of motivation to carry out activities or tasks.

androgyny: The quality of possessing traits or other qualities associated both with being male and with being female.

anima: Proposed by Jung, a self that includes the female qualities of a man.

animus: Proposed by Jung, a self that includes the male qualities of a woman.

anxious-avoidant attachment: A relationship in which an individual has an uncertain or nervous bond with another person that limits independence and is coupled with somewhat ambivalent, uncertain returns to the caretaker.

anxious-resistant attachment: A relationship in which an individual has an uncertain or nervous bond with another person that limits independence and is coupled with somewhat fretful, yet welcomed returns to the caretaker.

archetype: A schema that represents an imagined cultural icon, such as a hero or magician, which people from many backgrounds and cultures recognize and respond to emotionally.

artistic occupations: Those jobs or careers stressing communication, creativity, art, and entertainment.

assortative mating: The tendency for people to marry or otherwise pair with those people who are similar to themselves on particular dimensions or traits. People exhibit assortative mating based on intelligence.

attachment pattern: A distinctive relationship an infant can form with its mother or other primary caretaker.

attachment system: The system responsible for establishing an infant’s secure relationship with a caretaker, which continues to exert control over relationships as the individual matures.

attachment theory: A theory proposed by John Bowlby that there exists a discrete mental system in infants responsible for establishing secure relationships with a caretaker, and that continues to exert control over relationships as the individual matures.

authoritarian parenting: An approach to raising children in which the caretaker exercises control over the child, but with little explanation for the reasons why control is exerted and with little concern for the child’s needs or feelings.

authoritative parenting: An approach to raising children in which the caretaker exercises control over the child in a nurturing fashion, for example, by establishing and enforcing rules for the child’s benefit while also explaining the purpose of such rules.

automatized actions: Physical movements that a person has performed over and over again until they are so over-learned that the individual pays little or no attention to them. Example: leaning right and left to keep one’s balance on a bicycle.

behavioral facilitation system (BFS): A brain system that encourages and facilitates behaviors such as fighting or joining with others.

behavioral inhibition system (BIS): A brain system that interrupts and suppresses behavior so that the individual can think and examine a situation.

bicameral mind: A descriptor of the human mind, bicameral refers to the fact that the mind is dependent upon the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which do things in different ways and may not be fully integrated, even in the recent past. In the early bicameral mind, according to Julian Jaynes, before about 300 BCE people did not realize that one part of the brain (speech production) can talk internally to the other (speech reception). As such, this internal speech was misinterpreted as coming from sources outside the individual such as gods and apparitions.

Big Five model: This is a hierarchical structural model of traits, developed by a number of researchers, in which five broad traits are used to describe personality. The five are: neuroticism-stability, extraversion-introversion, openness-closedness, agreeableness-disagreeableness, and conscientiousness-carelessness.

big or super traits: Very general, broad, thematic expressions of mental life that are relatively consistent within the individual and that can be subdivided into more specific traits.

Big Three super traits: A later modification of the Big Two super trait model by Eysenck (see glossary/text) in which a third super trait, psychoticism–tender-mindedness, was added.

Big Two super traits: A specific hierarchical structural model of traits, proposed by Hans Eysenck, in which two traits, extraversion-introversion and neuroticism-stability, are divisible into more specific traits. Collectively, the two super traits and their subdivisions are said to describe much of personality.

biological sex: A person’s genetically assigned sexual characteristics.

bipolar disorder: A mental disorder marked by severe swings in mood.

bipolar factor: In factor analysis, a factor that has both positive and negative variable loadings.

body homunculus: A band of areas in the cerebral cortex where each area corresponds to a part of the body, in order, such as toes, foot, lower leg, and so forth.

broad intelligence: An intelligence that relates to a particular mode or area of thinking, such as auditory intelligence or verbal intelligence.

California Q-Sort: A measurement technique in which a trained psychologist integrates case and/or test material about a person and then arranges 100 descriptions about an individual into 11 piles, according to those that best describe the individual to those that least describe the individual.

case study design: A scientific research approach in which one person (“the case”) is studied in depth.

causal attributions: Models of the self and world that are especially focused on what causes a particular behavior, event, or situation. Some people tend to see the world as caused by themselves, others tend to see the world as caused by other people or situations.

characterology: A literary tradition in which an author writes a series of short descriptions about the different character types he or she has recognized. Each description of a type is designed to bring forth a definite feeling of recognition in the reader that he or she has seen an example of that type of person as well.

choleric: One of four ancient personality types. The choleric type is quick to action, has a short temper, and is lean.

circumspection-preemption-control (C-P-C) cycle: A mental process described by the social-cognitive psychologist George Kelly, in which a person thinks about a problem (circumspects), decides enough time has been spent on it (preemption), and makes a decision about how to act (control).

classic suggestion effect: An introspective feeling that one has involuntarily responded to a direction, such as hearing the direction to move one’s head, and then having it move without willing it to do so.

classical conditioning: Learning based on the pairing of a stimulus to a natural, reflexive (unconditioned) response.

classical test theory: A theory underlying much psychological measurement, classical test theory is notable for its clarity and powerful predictions. Also known as classical true-score theory and classical reliability theory.

clinical psychology: The field of psychology that concerns both research and applied activities directed toward understanding what causes mental disorders and how they can be treated.

Cognitive-Affective Personality System (CAPS): A structural division of personality proposed by Walter Mischel and his colleagues, which divides personality into cognitive structures, such as expectancies and beliefs, and into affects (emotions).

collective unconscious: A part of the unconscious that contains material that is more or less universal across people, such as emotional images of parents, kings, queens, and magicians.

collectivistic cultures: Cultures that emphasize the interdependencies among people, families, and groups.

companionate love: A caring and desire for another person with whom our lives intertwine. It emphasizes intimacy and concern for the other.

comparator: A portion of a feedback loop that evaluates the difference between the current state of affairs and the desired goal.

complementary selection: The tendency to find a mate who is different from oneself on one or more dimensions.

concrete thinking: Thinking that correctly holds symbols, ideas, and thoughts in memory, but without any comparisons or generalizations about those ideas.

conditioned response: The learned response to an originally neutral stimulus.

conditioned stimulus: An originally neutral person, object, or symbol that, having been paired with an unconditioned stimulus, now produces a response.

confirmation bias: The tendency for people to search for information that supports their point of view in preference to challenging information.

conflictual striving: A personal striving or plan that meets one set of goals while frustrating another set of goals. This might happen, for example, when a person who is working hard in school so as to satisfy her needs to achieve simultaneously thwarts her needs to have fun.

connective structural models: Connective structural models are those that illustrate the relationship between personality and its surrounding environment.

conscious: Awareness; reflective observing of the inner mind (see text for further discussion).

consciousness: A subjective experience of awareness, and the capacity to reflect on that awareness.

conservers: An adult developmental group described by interest in practical attainment.

constructive thinking: Thinking that is productive for an individual and is based on the person’s having accumulated accurate positive mental models and having avoided irrational, superstitious mental models.

contamination sequence: A portion of a life story in which a person encounters an ambivalent or negative event that is seen as negatively defining one’s life.

control: One of two dimensions of parenting proposed by Baumrind; control concerns governing a child’s behavior and ensuring that it is personally and socially responsible.

conventional occupations: Those jobs or careers involving work with numbers and letters, including secretaries, bookkeepers, accountants, and engineers.

correlation coefficient: A statistic, ranging from –1 to +1, that describes the relation between two variables.

creativity: The capacity to come up with multiple, novel solutions to problems.

criterion-report (or mental ability) data: A type of test data in which the person must solve problems or engage in tasks, and then his or her performance is judged against a standard.

cross-sectional research design: An approach to developmental research in which people of two or more different ages are compared so as to assess the influence of age on mental functioning.

crystallized intelligence: Knowledge stored about the world that can be applied to the solutions of mental problems.

cultural display rules: The rules that people in a culture employ when expressing emotions (e.g., in some Western cultures, men are taught that they should not show fear).

current concerns: The goals, plans, and objectives a person is thinking about carrying out.

cybernetics: A field of study that focuses on communication and control in systems, particularly in relation to the system’s self-governance.

declarative memory or preconscious: Declarative memory includes all the information in memory that could be consciously retrieved if necessary. The preconscious was Freud’s earlier term for this aspect of memory.

defense mechanisms: Mental processes that divert attention from painful or unpleasant things to think about. Defense mechanisms help protect the conscious self (ego) from psychic pain by keeping material dynamically unconscious.

defensive pessimism: An adaptive type of pessimism in which a person imagines bad outcomes so as to motivate her- or himself toward higher achievement.

denial: A defense mechanism in which the individual maintains a claim in the face of obvious information to the contrary.

depleteds: An adult developmental group that is no longer seeking further goals in life.

depletion effect: The idea that self-control is a limited resource and that, when people exert self-control in a particular area, their self-control may become weakened and less effective for short periods of time thereafter.

desired self: An extremely attractive positive vision of oneself that an individual desires to become.

determinant needs: Basic needs that may cause the establishment of secondary needs, such as when a person’s desire to be intimate with another person creates a need to behave well toward others as a means to impress the individual.

determinism: The belief that all action in the universe, including human action, has already been set in motion at the beginning of time, with each event caused by the events that have come before, and, as consequence, that all human behavior is preordained.

developmental stages: Periods of growth, arranged in a sequence, in which each period can be distinguished from the next according to a set of criteria.

deviation IQ: A measure of intelligence. The deviation IQ is calculated by examining a person’s distance or deviation from the average performance of all other people his or her age (compare to rate IQ).

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM): A manual of psychiatric diagnoses published by the American Psychiatric Association and providing descriptions of mental disorders recognized by law in the United States.

dialogical self: A type of consciousness that switches between a person’s model of himself and that same individual’s models of other people. As the dialogical self switches from a model of oneself to a model of another person, it animates the given model, bringing first the self to life, and then animating the model of the other person as if she were there, talking or acting.

disclaimers: Statements people make to request a pardon or otherwise reduce the negativity of something they are about to say that they recognize may not meet the social ideals or expectations of the listener.

disorganized attachment: A pattern of contradictory or hard-to-classify relational patterns exhibited by infants when transitioning from the stresses of being alone or with an unknown adult back to its parent.

dissociated: A state in which concepts that are naturally associated in memory are divided off from one another, in a process called dissociation, and the ideas then operate independently of the ideas to which they had been related previously.

dissociative disorders: A group of psychiatric disorders characterized by sudden alterations in identity and its history. Portions of identity may be lost and then regained, or many identities may arise.

dissociative identity disorder (DID): This is a contemporary psychiatric diagnosis for what used to be called multiple personality disorder. In it, a person may alternate among two or more personalities (or identities) over time, with no true central personality.

divergent thinking: The capacity to generate many alternative solutions to a specified problem (e.g., “What are all the things you can do with a water bottle?”).

dizygotic (fraternal) twins: Siblings who develop together in utero from two different eggs and thus share 50% of their genetic material in common.

dynamic organization: Personality dynamics involve trends of causality across multiple parts of personality; in other words, how the parts of personality influence one another. For example, dynamics of action describe how a person’s urges end up being expressed in the individual’s actions.

dynamic traits: A class of long-term, stable mental patterns related to motives, including such examples as n achievement, sensation-seeking, and the like.

dynamic unconscious: Material that is made unconscious, through the redirection of attention, because the material is too painful or unpleasant to think about or feel.

ecological validity: In regard to personality experiments, the degree to which the treatment brings about a change in personality that is similar to the actual personality phenomenon being studied in the real world. For example, the degree to which experimentally introducing a mental conflict approximates an actual mental conflict.

ego: Latin for the “self,” a part of Freud’s 1923 structural division of mind that involves rational thought and the control of the person’s actions in the world. Although originally a psychodynamic concept, the term is now used in a number of theoretical orientations.

ego control: A trait describing the relative capacity of an individual to respond flexibly to the environment in a fashion that is neither over-controlled nor under-controlled.

ego strength: A trait describing the relatively stable, positive qualities of a person’s ego system: his or her thoughts, feelings, and goal-directed behaviors.

egocentric: The quality of constructing mental models with one’s own interests and perspective at their center.

emblems: Fairly precise gestures that have specific meanings in one’s culture, such as shaking the head up and down to mean “yes,” or side to side to mean “no.”

emotion-related traits: A type of personality trait (e.g., long-term psychological quality) that describes a person’s overall emotional quality (e.g., happy-go-lucky, sad).

emotional intelligence: The ability to reason with emotions and to use emotions to enhance thought. Emotional intelligence involves the capacity to accurately perceive emotions, to use them in thinking, to understand emotions, and to manage emotional experience.

empathy: The capacity to understand and feel what another person is experiencing.

enterprising occupations: Those jobs or careers involving the influence of others, including salespeople, politicians, and entrepreneurs.

entity theorists: Those who believe there are relatively fixed parts of personality. Almost everyone is an entity theorist in part.

epigenetics: The biological processes that modulate the expression of genes and that direct a given organism’s genotype toward a particular manifestation, called its phenotypic expression.

error score: In psychometrics, a hypothetical score that reflects mistakes in measurement that are either positive or negative. Positive error scores reflect testing that gives the respondent too much credit; negative error scores reflect testing that has not given the respondent enough credit.

expectancy of reward: The belief a person holds as to how likely it is he or she will or can succeed at gaining a particular, sought-after objective.

experimental confederate (or simply, confederate): A research assistant who impersonates a research participant in front of other research participants, while actually following predetermined instructions of the experimenter.

external-source data (or life data): A type of data about a person that comes from the person’s surrounding life; for example, from institutional records and the observations of others.

extrinsic motivation: A type of motivation in which a person’s activities are carried out in order to obtain an outside reward, such as social recognition or money.

facial affect coding system (FACS): A method developed for coding emotions in the face according to the position of muscles in the face and facial features.

factor (in factor analysis): A factor is a hypothetical variable that can be used to summarize two or more specific, observed variables. Sometimes the factor is said to “underlie” the observed variables.

factor analysis: A mathematical technique for grouping variables together based on their intercorrelations. Factor analysis is used to reduce large numbers of variables to smaller sets, and also for determining structural validity; that is, how many things a test measures.

factor loading: The correlation between an observed variable and a hypothetical variable called the factor (representing a group of variables).

faculty psychology: An 18th-century movement, predating modern personality psychology, to divide the mind into separate intellectual functions, called faculties, that include such broad areas as motivation, emotion, and cognition. Each functional area is, in turn, divided into more specific functions. For example, cognition is subdivided into specific faculties of memory, judgment, evaluation, and the like.

false consensus effect: A research finding that people often believe others are more like them than is actually the case.

false fame effect: An effect in which familiarity with a name leads a person to falsely believe the name is of a famous person.

family studies: Family studies examine personality relationships between parent-offspring pairs, as well as sibling and other familial relationships, such as between cousins, and provide a picture of how personality characteristics are passed from one generation to the next.

feared self: An extreme negative version of the self that an individual fears he or she will become.

feedback: Information about how close an agent (a person or machine) is to reaching a desired outcome. In personality psychology: information about how close a person is to attaining his goal.

feedback loop: A mechanism for controlling the action of a system that involves feedback as to whether or not it is meeting its goals.

femininity: Traits or other qualities typically associated with being female.

field-wide framework: An outline of a scientific area's most important topics.

flow: A conscious state in which a person is highly involved in a task, such that time passes quickly, distractions recede, and the person is enjoyably engaged.

fluid intelligence: A type of ongoing mental capacity or ability to deal with novel, new problems.

forced-choice items: Test items in which a person is forced to choose between two items that are paired such that they are equivalent in social desirability. The two items might both be highly desirable or highly undesirable. The item type is believed to force the participant to express a motive or preference, independent of social pressure.

foreclosure status: An identity status that arises when a young person commits to social and occupational roles without having explored alternatives.

free association: A method of case-study observation in which a person is asked to talk aloud about anything that enters his or her stream of consciousness, however trivial or even embarrassing it might seem.

free will: The idea that people can exercise self-control in a fashion at least partly independent from any causal influences, and stemming from their own independent judgment.

functional models: Divisions of personality based on the idea that different parts of the system carry out different forms of work (e.g., meeting needs [motivation] versus problem-solving and cognition).

functionally autonomous: The state of a need or motive, which, although originally caused by a biological urge, has taken on an independent life of its own.

Gemeinschaftsgefűhl: An attitude of caring concern for the rest of humanity that leads to a desire to help others in their life projects. Considered to be a quality of the self-actualized person.

gender identity: A person’s sex-related self-concept and roles.

gender role: The social behaviors and actions a person is expected to carry out in relation to his or her sex.

general intelligence (g): A person’s general ability to reason abstractly with information; a “first” or general factor of intelligence. General intelligence reflects a person’s overall ability to solve problems accurately and quickly across all areas of symbolic reasoning—language, perceptual organization, spatial rotations, and others.

HEXACO: A six-factor big trait model. The letters stand for honesty/humility, emotionality (neuroticism), extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness.

hierarchical structure of traits: This is a structural conception or theory about traits in which there are said to be big traits, or super traits, that can be divided into a larger number of lower-level, specific traits.

hormones: Chemicals secreted by the endocrine organs and sent into the bloodstream that can influence brain function.

hot intelligences: A group of intelligences concerned with understanding and reasoning about information of direct personal significance to the individual (for example, emotional intelligence).

hypnotic virtuoso: A hypnotic participant who is especially able to enter into the trance state and is especially talented at carrying out mental tasks under hypnosis.

id: Latin for the “it.” One part of Freud’s later, structural division of mind (the other parts are the ego and superego). The id contains sexual and aggressive instincts, and wishes and fantasies related to those instincts.

ideal self: A model of oneself that one seeks to become.

identity: The model one creates of who one is in one’s life. The term often suggests a specifically social emphasis, concerning in particular how one fits into or plans to fit into the surrounding world.

identity achievement: The highest level of identity status in which a person has adequately explored social and occupational roles available and committed to one that fairly represents her or his desires, needs, values, and goals.

identity commitment: A process by which an individual gradually entrusts himself, or herself, to a particular social self-concept for fitting into society and the world more generally.

identity crisis: A stage of growth during which a person experiences frustration, concern, and worry about who he or she is in the social world and seeks to better understand how to fit in with the world.

identity diffusion status: An identity status in which a young person fails to develop a coherent model of who he is; rather, the individual will employ a series of partial or contradictory models of his social and occupational roles.

identity exploration: A process during which an individual explores different identities, searching for the one that best fits his or her own being and outlook.

identity status: A classification of how a person views his occupational and social roles, based on whether the person has sufficiently explored those roles and committed to one.

ideomotor action: A scientific label for the concept that simply thinking of a physical movement brings it about or increases the likelihood of bringing it about.

idiocentrics: People with individualist outlooks.

if-then or conditional traits: Traits that only occur when very specific situational cues are present.

illustrators: Movements of the hands or other body parts to supplement the meanings of speech, as when a person holds his hands close together to illustrate how small a child is.

implicit (or automatic) unconscious: A type of unconscious bias or process that can be determined from experimental measures of memory but which the person is unaware of.

implicit knowledge: Knowledge that is acquired unintentionally in the course of doing or thinking about other things.

implicit models: Mental representations of the world that are learned incidental to, or as a consequence of, living, rather than learned in a formal, purposive way.

implicit personality theory: The informal, often unnoticed or unconscious system of beliefs an individual holds about how his or her own personality operates and how the personalities of other people operate.

incremental theorists: Those who believe that personality can change over time.

individual differences: A topic of scientific study that addresses the questions of how one person differs from another. Some people use this as an alternative definition of personality psychology.

individualist cultures: Cultures that emphasize the personal goals and needs of individuals.

inner-outer (internal-external) dimension: As applied to personality psychology, a dimension or continuum that separates the internal parts of personality (“beneath the skin”) from the external aspects of personality (behavior, environment).

insecure/dismissing attachment pattern: One of the three relationship patterns commonly studied in the attachment literature in which a child or adult feels frustrated or even rejected by others.

insecure/preoccupied attachment pattern: One of the three relationship patterns commonly studied in the attachment literature in which a child or adult feels ambivalent toward being intimate with others.

instinct: A biologically preprogrammed, fixed set of behaviors that, when triggered, is meant to accomplish a particular goal under certain circumstances.

intellectual absorption: A trait related to intelligence that concerns the capacity to become involved in intellectual problems to the point of losing track of other activities.

intelligence: A specific type of mental ability involving the capacity to reason abstractly so as to arrive at the proper solution to a problem.

intelligence quotient: A score originally proposed as an index of a person’s rate of mental (versus chronological) growth. The Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, has come to mean any score that reflects an individual’s level of general intelligence.

internal consistency reliability: A subtype of reliability estimated by examining the correlations among the items on a test. Examples include split-half and coefficient alpha reliability.

intersectionality: An approach that considers a person’s identity according to multiple group memberships, including gender, race, class, religion, and so forth.

intrinsic motivation: A type of motivation in which the process of carrying out an activity is rewarding to an individual in and of itself, aside from any outside reward.

introversion-extraversion: A personality dimension (obtained through factor analysis, as well as simple observation) describing people who like to keep to themselves on the introverted end, and those who prefer sociability on the extraverted end.

investigative occupations: Those jobs or careers involving the investigation of information, or exploration of new ideas or possibilities.

item response theory: A relatively new theory for modeling tests, it consists of a group of models for representing test items and understanding how they perform in interaction with a test-taker’s abilities.

latent content: Meanings of a communication that are symbolic, secondary, or conveyed indirectly, but that still can be understood by a careful observer.

lexical hypothesis: The hypothesis that the most important personality traits are those that can be found in the language people use to describe one another.

life stories: The narrative descriptions of a person’s life that people use to depict themselves.

lifespace: The systems, including biological underpinnings, social settings, interactive situations, and group memberships, which surround the individual and in which the individual operates.

locomotion: Movement of the body or parts of the body for purposes of going someplace.

longitudinal research design: An approach to developmental research in which people are followed across time to see how they change or stay the same.

Lotka-Price Law: A law of productivity of the members of a given field that states that the square root of the total will account for half the productivity.

Machiavellian personality: A quality of the individual to be motivated and calculating so as to intentionally manipulate social situations for gain and power.

macro-level personality dynamics: A larger dynamic that crosses all or almost all the many major functional areas or parts of personality.

manifest content: The relatively direct and obvious meaning of a communication; compare to “latent content.”

masculinity: Traits or other qualities typically associated with being male.

melancholic: One of four ancient personality types. The melancholic type is slow to move, self-preoccupied, and, most distinctly, unhappy and depressed.

menarche: In girls, the time, often between 11 and 13 years of age, during which the ovary, uterus, and vagina mature and the first menstrual period occurs.

mental ability: The capacity to perform mental tasks such as recognizing and solving problems.

mental age (MA): The age that a person’s mental functioning most closely resembles. For example, if a child can solve problems that most six-year-olds can solve, but fails most problems seven-year-olds can solve, the child is said to have a mental age of six.

mental model or schema: Information (knowledge) in memory related to a particular area of knowledge that possesses organization that can be determined through cognitive research; a cognitive structure for organizing information about a specific topic or topics, such as “the self concept” or the idea of “elephants.”

meso-level dynamics: A dynamic that crosses two or three major functional areas of personality.

micro-expressions: A very quick emotional facial expression (e.g., less than 200 milliseconds), most clearly visible using video recording, that often reflects a person’s suppressed or hidden feeling about a matter.

micro-level dynamics: A smaller personality dynamic that involves one part of personality influencing another.

molar systems: Structures that are relatively large, such as the economy or the ecosphere.

molecular systems: Structures that are relatively small, such as atoms and molecules.

molecular-molar continuum (or dimension): A dimension or continuum along which various scientific systems of study can be located, from those that are smallest to those that are largest.

monozygotic (identical) twins: Siblings who develop from a single fertilized egg and thus share all their genetic material in common.

mood-congruent cognition effect: Mood-congruent cognition is an effect in which ideas or concepts that match a mood in tone (e.g., pleasant thoughts; happy moods) seem more memorable, plausible, reasonable, and/or likely than ideas or concepts that mismatch the individual’s mood.

mood-congruent judgment: A special case of the mood-congruent cognition effect concerning judgments of plausibility or likelihood. For example, in a happy mood, good weather seems more likely.

moratorium: An identity status that involves postponing making a commitment to a social and occupational role until one has completed further exploration.

motivation: Motivation can refer to the reason why a person does something or to the level of a person’s desire to accomplish a goal (for example, a certain person’s motivation to get married is high).

motive or need: A mostly innate part of personality that directs the individual toward a specific source of satisfaction.

motor homunculus: A part of the brain, located on the surface of the rearmost area of the frontal lobe, that controls the movement of the body. The areas of this surface region are arrayed in sequences that mirror, in part, the arrangement of the external body.

Multilevel Personality in Context (MPIC): A model by Kennon Sheldon and colleagues that represents personality functions across four levels.

multivariate statistical technique: A statistical technique designed especially to answer questions about more than two variables at a time.

narcissism: A mental condition characterized by grandiosity, self-love, and the willingness to exploit others. At the extreme, narcissism is considered a personality disorder.

natural experiments: An experimental design in which the treatment of the experimental group (also known as the experimental manipulation) has already occurred naturally, rather than being randomly assigned. For example, in a comparison of airline pilots with middle managers, “career” is manipulated, but the individuals have already chosen their profession, and so profession has not been randomly assigned.

naïve optimism: A set of especially unrealistic beliefs that emphasize that things will turn out well, and that an individual may hold so as to excuse him- or herself taking responsibility for contributing to a given goal.

need: A need refers to a state of tension within the individual that can be satisfied by a specific goal, such as eating or being sociable.

need for achievement: A broad motive characterized by the desire to meet standards of excellence.

need for affiliation: A broad motive characterized by the desire to be friendly and cordial with other people.

need for intimacy: The motive to share inner urges, feelings, and thoughts with others.

need for power: A broad motive characterized by the desire to exert control over others.

need fusion: A state or condition of several distinct needs that occurs when a person engages in an action or objective that satisfies all the needs simultaneously.

negative feedback loop: A mechanism for controlling the action of a system in which the discrepancy between a goal and its attainment is reduced (negated) through feedback.

negative mood (or affect) versus relaxed mood (or affect) factor: One of a pair of two basic dimensions for describing the interrelation of specific emotions, based on how much the emotion conveys energy or action. The other pair member is positive-tired affect. This dimension is obtained through factor analysis of mood scales. Other factor solutions yield a second pair of dimensions.

neo- (new-) mammalian brain: The newest-evolved portion of the brain, shared in common among primates and including the thick outer layer of the cerebral cortex.

neo-dissociationism: A theory proposed by Ernest Hilgard in the 1970s to re-explain earlier ideas of dissociation and automatism—which dated from the 1890s—in more contemporary psychological language.

neuroticism-stability or emotionality-stability: A personality dimension (obtained through factor analysis) describing highly emotional individuals on the neurotic/emotional side, and people who are relatively emotionally stable on the stable end.

neurotransmitters: Chemicals secreted by neurons at the presynaptic sac that influence neighboring neurons.

no-access unconscious or unconscious proper: Portions of neural activity that take place with no connection to consciousness, such as the firing of individual nerve pathways or the elementary processing of psychological information.

nurturance: One of two dimensions of parenting proposed by Baumrind; nurturance concerns providing emotional support and caring for children.

observationism: A scientific approach in which multiple case studies are studied, and principles are deduced and tested from examining similarities among the cases such as common themes or behaviors shared in common across the people studied.

observer or informant data: A type of data about the person that comes from observers of the person such as specially trained raters, acquaintances, or friends.

obtained score: In psychometrics, the score a person obtains on a test.

operant conditioning: Learning as a consequence of the various rewards and punishments surrounding an individual.

ought self: A self that sets a standard for what one should live up to.

paleo or old-mammalian brain: A recently evolved portion of the brain, shared in common among smaller mammals, and part of the triune brain; it includes limbic system structures such as the thalamus and hypothalamus, hippocampus, corpus callosum, and the hippocampal gyrus of the temporal lobe.

parallel forms reliability: A reliability coefficient calculated by developing two parallel forms of the same test and correlating them.

parapraxes: Mistaken behaviors or slips of the tongue that reveal something about a person’s hidden motivations.

parsimony: In relation to scientific explanations, parsimony refers to using the simplest and fewest possible ideas to adequately explain a phenomenon; it is often regarded as a virtue in theorizing.

passionate love: A strong feeling for a potential or actual life partner involving intense arousal and longing for joining with the other.

peak experience: An altered state of consciousness in which one’s awareness appears to merge with a cosmic consciousness, and an individual feels at one with the surrounding environment or universe.

perceptual-organization intelligence: A type of intelligence that involves perceiving visual patterns, organizing the perceptual information in them, and being able to divide the patterns into parts and to reconstruct them.

perinatal period: The final months a fetus spends in the womb, and the month or two after birth.

permissive (or indulgent) parenting: An approach to raising children in which the caretaker treats the child in a nurturing and caring fashion, but without providing much structure and without enforcing important rules.

persona: A mask or social role that an individual uses to uphold social standards while carrying out tasks. Examples include “the concerned doctor,” “the strict professor,” and so forth.

personal construct system: A system of beliefs and predictions that help direct behavior.

personal control: High-level control exerted by the personality system in general, some of which involve conscious self-control and other portions of which involve unconscious mechanisms.

personal growth: The degree to which one can attain inner understanding and wisdom apart from the social norms of success and failure.

personal intelligence: The ability to understand one’s own personality and the personalities of others, including to iden- tify information relevant to personality, to form models of people, to guide choices with information relevant to personality, and to systematize one’s plans, goals, and life story.

personal strivings: Activities people engage in so as to meet their goals. Many types of striving may be necessary in order to meet a single goal.

personal-report data: A type of data that the person generates him- or herself. This kind of data is often generated in interviews, while taking a test, or in similar activities.

personality: Personality is the organized, developing, psychological system within the individual that represents the collective action of that individual’s major psychological subsystems.

personality assessment: In clinical psychology, the practice of understanding a person. It concerns evaluating a client’s mental qualities, typically through the administration of and interpretation of psychological tests, so as to better know the individual and how to provide help to him or her.

personality components (or parts): Individual instances of personality function, content, or processes are known as personality’s parts or components. These components or parts may be biological mechanisms such as a need for water in the case of thirst, learned contents such as the multiplication tables, or thematic ways of feeling, thinking, and acting, such as shyness, among others.

personality development: A sub-field of psychology concerned with how the parts of personality and their organization develop and change over time.

personality disorder: A type of mental disorder characterized by long-standing maladaptive traits and behavioral patterns that interfere with a person’s social and/or work life.

personality dynamic: A motivated chain of interrelated psychological events that cross a set of major mental areas to bring about an outcome. Personality dynamics are potentially reversible or modifiable.

personality measurement: A research procedure in which numerals are assigned to features of a personality in a systematic fashion.

personality perspective: A manner of looking at personality that is made up of a number of related theories that emphasize certain influences on personality and share certain assumptions. Examples include the psychodynamic perspective and the trait perspective.

personality psychology: A scientific discipline that addresses the questions, “Who am I?” and “Who are others?” Personality psychology involves the study of a person’s mental system, with a focus on its largest, most important parts, how those parts are organized, and how they develop over time.

personality structure: Personality structure refers to the relatively enduring, distinct major areas of the personality system, and their interrelations and interconnections. These different areas of personality can be distinguished according to their different contents, functions, or other characteristics.

personality systems framework: The systems framework is an outline of the field of personality psychology that divides it into the study of (a) the definition and location of personality, (b) personality parts, (c) personality organization, and (d) personality development.

personality types: A personality type (or form) represents a constellation of mental features such as traits or dynamics that occurs with enough frequency to form a category. Members of the group are different in their mental qualities from members of other groups.

phenotype (phenotypic expression): A person’s observable trait (as opposed to the underlying genetics).

philosophical humor: A type of humor employed by the self-actualized that gently pokes fun at the oddities and commonalities of the human experience.

phlegmatic: One of four ancient personality types. The phlegmatic type has little energy, is prone to eating too much, and is somewhat indifferent in disposition.

pleasant-unpleasant mood (or affect) factor: One member of a pair of two basic dimensions for describing the interrelation of specific emotions. The other pair member is activation-deactivation. This dimension is obtained through factor analysis of mood scales. Other factor solutions yield a second pair of dimensions.

positive mood (or affect) versus tired mood (or affect) factor: One member of a pair of two basic dimensions for describing the interrelation of specific emotions. The other pair member is negative-relaxed affect. This dimension is obtained through factor analysis of mood scales. Other factor solutions yield a second pair of dimensions.

positive psychology: A scientific movement to identify the positive strengths in individuals' personalities.

possible self: A mental model of what our self might be like in the future if it were to change (or in the past, if we had been different).

practical intelligence: A type of social intelligence involving the capacity to understand problems in everyday life that are often left undefined or poorly defined. Practical intelligence requires the problem solver to formulate the social problem him- or herself, under conditions in which information necessary to a solution may be lacking. It is said to operate on tacit knowledge—that is, knowledge not often explicitly stated.

prepotent need: A need that would take over the actions of personality—that is, become a regnant process—more quickly than other needs, that is, a very important need.

press: Aspects of the environment that elicit needs in a person.

process-report data: A type of data generated when a person expresses what is passing through his or her mind at the moment, as instructed by a researcher: for example, the person describes his or her ongoing mood at the moment when asked or the steps taken on the way to solve a mathematical problem.

projection: A defense mechanism in which the individual sees his or her own unpleasant attributes in another person while being unable to see them in him- or herself.

prototype: A type of schema consisting of a list of features that collectively define a concept or object. Typically, the most defining or common features are listed first, with progressively less-defining qualities following later in the list.

psychological mindedness: A person’s trait or predisposition to analyze one’s own and others’ mental characteristics, and how those mental characteristics lead to a person’s behaviors.

psychology: A scientific discipline that studies how the mind works.

psychometrics: A branch of psychology concerned with measuring mental and behavioral attributes.

psychopathy: A mental condition of low anxiety, low empathy, and reckless disregard for others that is often associated with mental disorders and criminal behavior.

puberty: A period of sexual maturation during which a child achieves the capacity to reproduce.

qualia (sing. quale): Elements, or an element, of consciousness—individual thoughts, feelings, and urges, or images, tastes, and sounds.

rate IQ: A measure of intelligence. The rate intelligence quotient (IQ) is calculated by taking a person’s mental age, dividing it by their chronological age, and multiplying by 100 (compare to deviation IQ).

rationalization: A defense mechanism in which a person employs a plausible but false reason for explaining her or his behavior, which covers up a real but more unpleasant or threatening reason.

reaction formation: A defense mechanism in which someone acts in ways opposite to their real inclinations in order to hide them (e.g., is intentionally generous in order to mask feelings of stinginess).

realistic occupations: Those jobs or careers dealing with work that must respond to definite requirements of land or objects (e.g., farming, mechanic).

redemptive sequence: A portion of a life story in which a person encounters a challenge or trauma and is then able to redeem the value of the experience.

regnant process: A mental process that is directing or ruling personality at a given point in time.

regression (of an idea): The state of an idea or desire to act when that desire is blocked from action. In such a case, the idea returns to the mind, where it must be dealt with. It may, for example, be expressed through an emotional fantasy.

relationship structures: Structures that contain procedural knowledge—knowledge about how to do something. Relationship structures contain information about how to act in a relationship.

reliability: In psychometrics, the consistency with which a test measures: for example, the degree to which the test produces the same score for the same person who takes the test at two different times. More technically, reliability is defined as the correlation between people’s obtained scores on a test and their corresponding true scores.

Remote Associates Task: A measure of divergent thinking in which a person identifies an association that several words share in common, for example, “water, cream, cold”: ice.

repression: The unconscious forgetting or blocking out of unpleasant or threatening ideas that one wishes to avoid thinking about.

repressive coping style: A habitual pattern some people employ in which they regularly distract themselves and/or deny their pain.

reptilian brain: The oldest part of the brain and the part of the triune brain structural model that includes such early-evolved, inner structures of the brain as the amygdala and the cerebellum, and portions of the thalamus and hypothalamus.

resilience: The capacity of the individual child or adult to grow healthily and thrive in the context of negative social or environmental circumstances.

reward value: The assessment a person makes of how desirable or pleasurable a particular objective or goal is.

sanguine: One of four ancient personality types. The sanguine type is cheerful, lively, and easygoing.

scatterplot: A graphical depiction of points, in which each point represents a pair of observations, such as the achievement-motivation score on a test and the earned income of that individual. The magnitude of one variable is represented on the horizontal, X axis; the magnitude of the other variable is represented on the vertical, Y axis.

schizotypal style: A cognitive style associated with a mental disorder, involving very odd forms of thinking and perceiving and behavioral eccentricities.

scripts: Stereotyped sequences of events and actions that describe how to do something.

secure attachment: A relationship in which an individual has a reliable bond with another person that allows for safe separation and independence, coupled with comfortable, welcomed returns to the caretaker.

secure attachment pattern: The healthiest of three relationship patterns commonly studied in attachment literature in which the person feels unambivalent security with loved others.

seekers: An adult developmental group described by interest in personal and spiritual self-development.

self, conscious executive, or ego: The conscious, aware part of the self. Note: The term ego was also used by Sigmund Freud as part of the id/ego/superego division of the mind. Freud’s ego was defined differently than it is here.

self-actualized: The state of a person who is able to develop his or her innermost self in a healthy fashion that represents, expresses, and satisfies his or her true needs and characteristics.

self-as-knower: According to William James, the conscious awareness that is a person’s innermost identity. It watches with consciousness and exerts will where useful.

self-awareness: A type of awareness in which the topic, or subject, of awareness is awareness itself; that is, reflective awareness.

self-concept: A mental model one constructs of oneself (often used interchangeably with self-schema).

self-control: The ability to voluntarily regulate ourselves—including our attention, emotion and thoughts—in the service of meeting more valued goals.

self-efficacy: One’s self-estimated ability to perform a specific task.

self-esteem: How positive or negative one feels toward oneself.

self-judgment (or self-report) data: A type of data about the person that the person generates him- or herself and that typically involves some judgment of his or her own qualities and features.

self-judgment (or self-report) items: Test items in which a person is asked a direct question about himself (e.g., “Do you like parties?”).

self-monitoring: A state within a person, or a long-term trait, that describes a condition in which the individual closely observes his or her own mental processes or behaviors.

self-schema: A memory structure that holds information about the self (often used interchangeably with self-concept).

self-serving attribution bias: A cognitive bias in which a person takes credit for good outcomes and attributes bad outcomes to other factors.

semi-autonomous: Operating partly on their own; partly independently of other influences.

sentience: In the study of consciousness, the state of being someone, of possessing internal, subjective experience.

shadow: An unconscious model of the self that contains the attributes and qualities that a person actually possesses, but rejects at the conscious level.

significant others: Internal representations of others, including parents and important relatives, friends, and teachers, who have played important roles in a person’s life.

social desirability (of a test item): The social desirability of a test item concerns the degree to which endorsing the item would be viewed as good by society.

social intelligence: A type of reasoning ability concerned with understanding social relations and how to carry out social tasks.

social occupations: Those jobs or careers involving working with people, including social workers, managers, and therapists.

social psychology: A field of psychology that is focused on the study of people in interaction with one another and with social groups, as well as the interactions among social groups.

social smile: A broad smile produced by 6-month-old infants. Evolutionary psychologists believe the smile evolved to encourage parental attention.

spatial intelligence: A type of intelligence pertaining to understanding how objects move in space. Spatial intelligence is often measured by examining people’s capacity to accurately rotate objects in their minds and identify what the rotated object would look like.

splitting: An individual’s tendency to alternately idealize and devalue themselves, a loved partner, or a friend.

standard deviations: A measure of distance from a group mean. The standard deviation is a unit of measure. It is calculated by first calculating the deviation of each person’s score from the mean; second, by squaring those deviations; third, by summing them and then dividing by the number of people (thereby obtaining the average of the squared deviations, which is also known as the variance or as a “mean square”); and, finally, taking the square root of the variance.

state-trait scales: Scales that measure parts of personality, such as anxiety, in two different ways—once as a momentary state and once as a trait.

states: Momentary feelings or internal qualities or activities.

strange situation: An experimental situation in which attachment patterns are measured. A mother sits in a playroom, and the infant is evaluated according to how far she will separate from her. The mother leaves briefly, a stranger comes in and leaves, and the mother returns. All the while, the infant’s reactions are monitored.

structural organization: This aspect of personality organization refers to the relatively long-term, stable positioning of one part of personality in relationship to another.

subjective realism: A school of philosophy according to which the subjective experience of consciousness is real and is generated by the physical and mental organism that experiences consciousness.

sublimation: A defense mechanism in which a person directs a potentially socially undesirable need into a productive social behavior.

subsidiary needs: A state of needs in which one need serves another, such as when a person tries to do well in school (need for achievement) so as to attain the ultimate goal of impressing others (need for esteem).

superego: Latin for “above the self,” the superego is a part of Freud’s 1923 structural division of the mind that involves internalized social rules of conduct and a sense of the ideal person one would like to become. Also, a portion of the mind that grows out of the ego and contains both an ideal self and the conscience.

suppression: A defense mechanism that involves the conscious blocking out or expelling thoughts that one wishes to avoid thinking about.

symbolic interactionism: A sociological perspective on social behavior that concentrates on how people represent themselves and each other in society.

System 1 thinking: Intuitive, fast, emotional, casual, imagistic kinds of thinking.

System 2 thinking: Logical, slow, effortful, and conscious thinking.

systems set: A model of personality functions that emphasizes four areas: energy development (motivation and emotion), knowledge guidance (mental models and intelligence), action implementation (procedural knowledge for behavior), and the executive management (self-awareness and control).

tacit or practical knowledge: A type of knowledge concerned with how the world actually works, as opposed to how it is said to work, or how teachers, instructors, and other experts say it works.

temperament: Bio-behavioral elements of the individual, such as tempo, activity level, and positive emotions, that form building blocks of later traits and behavior. The study of people’s innate, motivational, and emotional styles.

test (or scale): In psychometrics, a set of questions or tasks (called items) to which a person can respond, which is intended to measure one or more attributes of the person.

test-retest reliability: A type of reliability that is estimated by giving the same test to a group of people at two points in time, typically a few weeks apart, and then correlating the scores across test administrations.

thematic (or projective) test: A test that uses ambiguous stimuli as its items. The test-taker must respond to each item by completing a sentence, telling a story, or otherwise supplying a response.

Thematic Apperception Test (TAT): A projective test developed by Henry Murray and Christiana Morgan consisting of pictures. The respondent must tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end in response to a picture she is shown.

thematic-report (or projective) data: A type of test data in which a person constructs a response to an ambiguous stimulus, and that is often thought to reflect important motivational, affective, and cognitive processes in personality.

theory of personality: A set of statements or assumptions about human mental life or behavior that explains why people are the way they are.

thought suppression: The conscious blocking out of threatening material.

topographic model: Freud’s division of the mind into the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious.

totalitarian ego: Anthony Greenwald’s characterization of the ego as an entity that carefully controls information so as to promote its own positive image.

traits: Thematic regularities in personality—a person’s most common styles of and capacities for feeling, thinking, and responding to situations. Relatively long-term characteristics of the person, typically composed of thematically related features.

transference: The idea that one will generalize what one has learned about a significant other to new people that one meets. This term developed originally in the psychodynamic tradition, but is now more generally used.

treatment: In regard to experiments, the specific procedure employed to manipulate the independent variable.

trilogy of mind: This structural model of personality divides the system into three different functional areas: conation (motivation), affect (emotion), and cognition (thought).

triune brain: A structural model of the human brain that divides its physical areas according to whether the structures resemble those found in reptiles or whether the brain structures evolved at a later time and resemble those of early mammals, or of more recently evolved mammals.

true experimental design: A formal plan for carrying out an experiment, usually by comparing control and experimental groups on a dependent variable. Members of the experimental group receive a treatment, which is hypothesized to alter their level on the dependent variable, relative to the control group.

true score: In psychometrics, a hypothetical score a person would obtain on a test that has measured the person perfectly; that is, the score that reflects the real level of the attribute in the person who is being measured.

twin studies: A type of study in which people with different genetic overlap (e.g., identical and fraternal twins, siblings, cousins, and unrelated people) are compared in regard to their similarity on a given trait.

Type A personality: A personality type that emphasizes time pressure, competitiveness, achievement striving, impatience, and hostility, and that has been related to heart disease and high professional attainment.

unconditioned response: An innate response to an unlearned stimulus, such as salivating in response to food.

unconditioned stimulus: A person, object, or symbol that naturally and automatically triggers a response.

unconscious: That portion of the mind outside a person’s awareness. Social-cognitive theory emphasizes that it is evolutionarily adaptive for many processes to be outside of awareness. Psychodynamic theory emphasizes that some motivational and emotional processes are painful and threatening and are purposively avoided by consciousness.

uninvolved (or neglectful) parenting: An approach to raising children in which the caretaker is relatively unconcerned with a child, and neither monitors or enforces any rules concerning the child or the child’s behavior, and fails to nurture the child.

unipolar factor: In factor analysis, a factor that has only negative, or only positive, variable loadings.

unnoticed unconscious: A type of unconscious process that consists of influences that could be known if the person paid attention or if the person was taught about the influence, but that goes unnoticed for many or most people.

urge: The conscious psychological awareness of a need.

validity: In psychological measurement, the fact that a test measures what it claims to measure.

validity evidence from criterion relationships: A type of validity a test exhibits when it correlates with a criterion of interest.

validity evidence from test content: A type of validity a test exhibits when its items are systematically selected from the areas the test claims to measure. For example, if the test measures US history from 1900 to 1950, and its items sample history questions from the five decades in question, that would reflect content validity.

validity evidence from test structure: A type of validity a test exhibits when its items form a number of groups (as determined empirically by a technique such as factor analysis) that correspond to the number of things the test as a whole claims to measure. For example, if research indicates a test has three distinct groups of items, and those groups correspond to three scales that claim to measure three things, the test has structural validity.

variable: A feature of a person, situation, or other entity, which can take on more than one value. For example, level of creativity, number of siblings, and height are all variables.

verbal fluency: The capacity to come up with a large number of appropriate words that fit a specified category (e.g., words that rhyme with “smell”).

verbal-propositional intelligence: An intelligence that involves the capacity to reason validly with words and language, and to understand the meaning of words and language.

will: That part of the mind that exerts conscious, intentional control over thoughts and actions.