Intimate Relationships

Cortisol - the primary stress hormone secreted by humans. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid that is released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. Cortisol dampens the immune system, affects glucose metabolism, and alters cardiac functioning. Chronic oversecretion of cortisol has been linked to a variety of health problems, including diabetes, overweight/obesity, osteoporosis, and immune system disorders such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

HPA axis - a hormonal feedback loop in the neuroendocrine system, consisting of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland. The HPA axis negotiates the body's response to physical and emotional stressors. In response to stress, the HPA axis is activated, and the end result is secretion of cortisol and other stress-related hormones.


Schemas - A schema describes both the mental and physical actions involved in understanding and knowing. Schemas are categories of knowledge that help us to interpret and understand the world. In Piaget's view, a schema includes both a category of knowledge and the process of obtaining that knowledge. As experiences happen, this new information is used to modify, add to, or change previously existing schemas. For example, a child may have a schema about a type of animal, such as a dog. If the child's sole experience has been with small dogs, a child might believe that all dogs are small, furry, and have four legs. Suppose then that the child encounters a very large dog. The child will take in this new information, modifying the previously existing schema to include this new information.

Assimilation - The process of taking in new information into our previously existing schema's is known as assimilation. The process is somewhat subjective, because we tend to modify experience or information somewhat to fit in with our preexisting beliefs. In the example above, seeing a dog and labeling it "dog" is an example of assimilating the animal into the child's dog schema.

Accommodation - Another part of adaptation involves changing or altering our existing schemas in light of new information, a process known as accommodation. Accommodation involves altering existing schemas, or ideas, as a result of new information or new experiences. New schemas may also be developed during this process.

Equilibration - Piaget believed that all children try to strike a balance between assimilation and accommodation, which is achieved through a mechanism Piaget called equilibration. As children progress through the stages of cognitive development, it is important to maintain a balance between applying previous knowledge (assimilation) and changing behavior to account for new knowledge (accommodation). Equilibration helps explain how children are able to move from one stage of thought into the next.

Classification - The ability to group objects together on the basis of common features.

Class Inclusion The understanding, more advanced than simple classification, that some classes or sets of objects are also sub-sets of a larger class. (E.g. there is a class of objects called dogs. There is also a class called animals. But all dogs are also animals, so the class of animals includes that of dogs)

Conservation The realisation that objects or sets of objects stay the same even when they are changed about or made to look different.

Decentration - The ability to move away from one system of classification to another one as appropriate.

Egocentrism The belief that you are the centre of the universe and everything revolves around you: the corresponding inability to see the world as someone else does and adapt to it. Not moral "selfishness", just an early stage of psychological development.

Operation The process of working something out in your head. Young children (in the sensorimotor and pre-operational stages) have to act, and try things out in the real world, to work things out (like count on fingers): older children and adults can do more in their heads.

Stage A period in a child's development in which he or she is capable of understanding some things but not others.


Affordances- "what the environment offers or provides for an organism...opportunities for action" (p. 342, Miller, 2002)

Agency- self-control, intentionality in behavior

Prospectivity- intentional, anticipatory, planful, future-oriented behaviors

Search for Order- tendency to see order, regularity, and pattern to make sense of the world

Flexibility- perception can adjust to new situations and bodily conditions (such as growth, improved motor skills, or a sprained ankle)

Distinctive features- children learn to discriminate between objects and stimuli by focusing attention on their most critical properties

Invariants- children learn to extract aspects of objects that remain permanent despite change (e.g., as an object moves)

Structure- the world has an inherent structure that people gradually become more aware of as they develop. Although previous researchers thought that humans "enriched" ambiguous and uninformative perceptual information using cognitive processes, Gibson viewed the environment as rich with information, with the primary developmental task being the differentiation of this information into affordances.


Fixed Action Patterns - A very short to medium length sequence of actions, without variation, are carried out in response to a clearly defined stimulus. For example, many mating dances that are carried out by birds. The presence of the female bird is the clearly defined stimulus.

Genotype - The genetic makeup of a cell, an organism, or an individual. For example, a dominant homozygous genotype: YY; a recessive homozygous genotype: yy; a heterozygous genotype: Yy.

Phenotype - An organism's observable characteristics or traits. For example, a flower that has a genotype of Yy (yellow) can be observed as being a yellow flower.

Critical period - A limited time in which an event can occur, usually to result in some kind of transformation. For example, Bowlby suggested that there was a sensitive period for the formation of the attachment relationship. This period is from approximately six months to twenty-four months of age and coincides with the infant's increasing tendency to approach familiar caregivers and to be wary of unfamiliar adults. Attachment style in childhood/infancy may play a role in predicting attachment style in adulthood.

Instinct - The inherent inclination of a living organism toward a particular behavior. For example, newly hatched sea turtles will automatically head toward the ocean.


Child-in-Activity-in-Cultural-Context: Unit of study in Vygotskian theory. The child-in-context joining in an activity is the smallest unit of study.

Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): the distance between the child’s current, active developmental level (as determined by independent problem solving) and the child’s higher potential development (as determined by collaborative problem solving through peer or adult guidance).

Elementary mental functions: mental functions/abilities humans have in common with other animals.

Higher mental functions: advance human mental functions such as voluntary attention and abstract thinking.

Dynamic assessment: method of capturing the dynamic nature of development and interactions. Focuses on a child’s ZPD of learning (e.g., what the child can be vs. past/current independent performance)

Private speech: audible speech for oneself (occurs at about age 3)

Inner speech: transformation of private speech to inner speech (around age 7); silent speech which is more fragmented, abbreviated, and idiosyncratic.

Double-stimulation method: method of assessing higher mental functions. Presenting two stimuli to assess how a child will solve a problem (typically a stimulus with symbolic qualities and a stimulus with non-symbolic qualities).

Dynamic Systems

Dynamic: Pertaining to action or change.

System: A combination of parts that includes (a) components, (b) patterns of relationships among components, (c) processes that arise from the interaction of components, and (d) outcome.

Self-Organizing: Organized patterns arise solely out of interactions of internal processes and contextual influences, with no one component having causal priority over another (Thelen, 2005).

Soft Assembly: Patterns of behavior do not develop rigidly, but "softly assemble" in a way that allows for change under different circumstances

Stability: When patterns self-organize, they settle into preferred states which can be stable or unstable. When patterns are stable, they resist change.

Embodiment: A collection or unity of a comprehensive whole. Within DST, perception, action, and cognition form an integrated system that cannot be partitioned (Spencer et al., 2006).

Multiple determination: Behavior is contingent upon multiple factors, or determinants

Nonlinearity: A property of a system whose output is not proportional to its input

Social Learning Theory

Attention: the amount of attention we are capable of utilizing in regards to a specific action

Retention: The job of remembering what was paid attention to

Reproduction: Repeating the action that was originally paid attention to

Motivation: Having a reason to imitate what was seen

Reinforcement: the process of encouraging or establishing a belief or pattern of behavior

Experience the World: one of the processes Bandura believed humans developed. Experience the world is the process by which individuals learn through watching and perceiving their environment

Physical maturation: physical maturity to replicate observed behavior

Positive punishment: A stimulus is added to increase a behavior - A child is clapped for when they dance.

Negative reinforcement: A stimulus is decreased or removed to increase a behavior - A prisoner receives a reprieve from his jail sentence for good behavior.

Positive punishment: A stimulus is added to decrease a behavior - A child is placed in time out for inappropriate behavior.

Negative punishment: A stimulus is decreased or removed to decrease a behavior - A child's cell phone is taken away for poor behavior at school

Self-efficacy: The belief that you are capable of learning and/or performing specific tasks

Psychoanalytic Theory

Conscience: part of the superego, the conscience evokes anxiety which prohibits behaviors and punishes the individual with feelings of guilt.

Ego Ideal: standards of conduct toward which the child strives

Eros: internal drive toward sex, self-preservation, love, life forces, and unity.

Destructive Instinct: internal drive toward aggression, undoing connections, death, and hatred.

Fixation: halted personality development in response to excessive pleasure or anxiety.

Pleasure Principle: immediate discharge of energy to reduce tension and produce pleasure.

Projection: the attribution of anxiety-arousing thoughts to people and objects in the external world, rather than to the self.

Reaction Formation: Acting in a manner that is opposite of the way one feels - often with exaggerated emotive display.

Reality Principle: discharging small amounts of energy after delay following an indirect route.

Regression: Reverting to an earlier stage of development.

Repression: Denying or forgetting that which is likely to evoke excessive anxiety.

Foreclosure: Choosing an identity because your parents influence you and/or expects you to be a certain way or have a specific career.

Moratorium: A person realizes who s/he wanted to be no longer seems right. Here s/he begins actively searching for an identity or career that may better fit them. The person may feel anxious and uncertain in this stage.

Identity Diffusion: A person stops searching or trying to develop an identity due to previous failed attempts. Here the person becomes passive and may look to friends or family to dictate his or her identity, interests, or career.

Identity Achievement: The person has gone through Moratorium and has accepted the identity s/he actively searched for and devleoped. The person may end where s/he began, but has gone through the journey to decide that identity (or career choice) fit.