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Dyslexia and Myers-Irlen

The philosophical and theoretical framework within which a science, like psychology, is set.

or faulty acts. Parapraxes are of two types. The first is when we unconsciously forget to do something that causes us some pain. Such as doing homework when everyone else seems to be having a great time. The other type of parapraxes is a Freudian slip of the tongue, where we often accidentally reveal what we unconsciously mean. An example of this type of parapraxes would be, 'I'm glad to see you go.' Rather than 'I'm sad to see you go.' Oops!

Parasympathetic branch, the
The human nervous system is divided into the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and the central nervous system (CNS). Our peripheral nervous system is divided into two branches, the sympathetic branch, and the parasympathetic branch.

The parasympathetic branch of our PNS returns our bodily functions to normal after they have been altered by sympathetic stimulation. In times of danger like "fight or flight", the parasympathetic branch reverses previous sympathetic changes when the danger is over. Both branches of our PNS thus operate on the principle of homeostasis. Homeostasis determines the body's internal balance.

I often compare the workings of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the PNS to the Buddhist philosophy of Yin and Yan. Contradictory to each other, they are however both necessary and dependent upon each other for overall harmony, or in the case of our peripheral nervous system, our more natural state of internal bodily balance.

Look at the sympathetic branch entry and compare it to the fact that parasympathetic stimulation causes the slowing down of heartbeat, the lowering of blood pressure, the constriction of our pupils increased blood flow to the skin and viscera, and peristalsis of our gastrointestinal (GI) tract

Parietal lobe
Part of the cerebral cortex in either hemisphere of the brain lying below the crown of the head. Our parietal lobe is responsible for processing sensory information and interactive cognitive functions such as reading, as well as being the control centre for artistic and musical appreciation.

A participant in psychological research is a human being. (See subject).

Participant expectancy
This is a type of confounding variable associated with the participant, and was discovered as far back as 1939 by Roethlisberger and Dickson. Participant expectancy is more famously known as the Hawthorne Effect, which is a very good example of what are called demand characteristics in an experiment.

Roethlisberger and Dickson (1939) were interested in the relationship between working conditions and factory productivity. To investigate this they conducted a field experiment with five female workers over two years at the Hawthorne electrical generating plant in America. The independent variable included such things as altering the lighting conditions on the factory floor and manipulating when workers could take breaks. The dependent variable was measured in terms of workers' productivity.

To Roethlisberger and Dickson's surprise, the more adverse the factory conditions became, the more the workers productivity increased! Baffled by this they interviewed the five women and discovered they knew they were taking part in a psychological investigation. They worked harder as a result in order to please the two experimenters. This is participant expectancy otherwise known as the Hawthorne Effect.

For a little more on this see Hawthorne Research at and

Participant observation
Participant observation is where a researcher sets up and takes part in the observational study. (See non-participant observation).

Participant variables
These are confounding variables associated with the participants themselves. Participant variables are controlled in an experiment by using an experimental design, such as repeated measures or independent groups. Two types of participant variable are participant expectancy and demand characteristics.

Past experience
Important to the difference between sensation of a stimulus and perception of it. When two individuals come across a stimulus they both sense it in the same way. They may perceive it differently however dependent on their past experience of it. Two young people seeing a police officer see the same person, but will perceive and react to him/her differently. Why? Past experience. One may have never been in trouble in their life, the other a regular in police custody!

Ivan Pavlov was born in 1849 in a small village in central Russia. He studied at a theological seminary, but after reading Charles Darwin, he left for the University of St. Petersburg. Here he studied chemistry and physiology, graduating in 1879 with a PhD (doctorate). He continued his research into digestion and blood circulation, and was appointed professor of physiology at the Imperial Medical Academy. Here he began research into the digestive process in dogs, especially the interaction between salivation, and the action of the stomach. He realized that reflexes in the autonomic nervous system closely linked both. Without salivation, the stomach didn't know to start digesting. Pavlov wanted to see if external stimuli could affect this process, so he began his research into what became his theory of classical conditioning. Pavlov published his results in 1903, calling his ability to teach his dogs to salivate to the sound of a bell/metronome alone the "conditioned reflex." This response had to be learned. Pavlov called this learning process "conditioning." He also found that the conditioned reflex was repressed (or stopped) if the stimulus proved "wrong" too often. If the bell/metronome sounded repeatedly, and no food appeared, eventually the dog stopped salivating to the sound alone. This is called extinction. Dogs aren't daft! Pavlov was held in extremely high regard. In 1904, he won the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine for his research on digestion. He died in 1936, still hard at work in his laboratory, age 87.

Personal agency
Personal agency is the humanistic term for the exercise of free will. Personal agency refers to the choices we make in life, the paths we go down, and their consequences.

An active information process, which allows us to organise, interpret, and ultimately act upon sensory information coming to us from our outside world. Perception is different from sensation. We may all sense the same stimulus, but our individual perception of it can be different. This is a consequence of our perception, where our senses, gestalten, and past experience of the stimulus combine. What makes the difference between sensation and perception is past experience. Two girls walking down a road pass a boy. One thinks he is highly fanciable, the other thinks otherwise. They both sense the same stimulus. They both use the same gestalten. Their perception is different as a result of past experience. Girl number 2 has been the recent victim of domestic violence. Her perception is entirely different because of her past experience of men.

Peripheral nervous system
The peripheral nervous system connects our brain and spinal cord (CNS) to our outside world. This is as a result of its two branches, the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.

Personal growth
Personal growth describes someone who is moving towards good psychological health. The term personal growth is credited to Abraham Maslow, and is illustrated in his Hierarchy of Needs. The ultimate in personal growth for us as individuals is self-actualisation.

Who you are as an individual. Personality can be seen in terms of our psyche or self. Our personality is influenced to some degree by heredity, but much more so by experience in our environment, and the situations we find ourselves in. There are two ways of looking at personality in psychology, the nomothetic view, and the idiographic view. If you take a nomothetic approach you believe peoples personality can be fitted into general, named categories, such as extrovert and introvert. The late Professor Hans Eysenck (1916-1997) took a nomothetic approach to personality. If alternatively you take an idiographic approach, you believe an individual's personality is unique. So unique that slotting us all into general categories is impossible. Carl Rogers took an idiographic view of personality, as does George Kelly with his Personal Construct Theory. See Guestbook for more interesting stuff on Kelly.

Person centred counselling
Most types of couselling nowadays will be person centred. This is as a result of the influence of humanistic psychotherapy as developed by Carl Rogers.

Person centred psychotherapy
Another name for Roger's client centred humanistic psychotherapy.

Persuasive communication
Term used in the study of attitudes. A persuasive communication can be a person giving a speech, an advertisement, a newspaper article, a television news item etc.

Phallic stage
(3-5 years). Third, and most controversial stage of personality development. Here libido moves to the (male) genitals. Freud did not write about female psychosexual development. The phallic stage is the reason why. During the phallic stage a little boy is said to fall in love with his mother. Unfortunately he has a rival, his dad. Dad is so much bigger and more powerful than he is. This anxiety it causes the little boy is called the Oedipus complex. A problem the little boy then sets out to resolve by imitating, copying and joining in masculine dad-type behaviours. This is called identification, and is how the three-to-five year old boy resolves his Oedipus complex. He learns his gender role, or what it means to be masculine/male. The reason Freud did not contemplate female psychosexual development of personality lies in the question, 'What happens if the little boy cannot resolve their Oedipus complex?' Any suggestions?

Our phenomenology is our personal, subjective interpretation of the positive/negative experiences we have in life. Phenomenology influences self-esteem and self-image.

What genotype (genetic potential) actually becomes as a result of life experiences, or a person's phenomenology. The genotype footballer may go onto great things if their talent is nurtured throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The person with a biological predisposition to depression may never experience it, as long as they avoid stressors in their environment. On the other hand…….?

Physiological needs
The first of Maslow's lower order deficiency needs, these concern our bodily needs such as our need for food, warmth and shelter. If these are not satisfied you are dead!

Physiological psychology
Branch of Biological Psychology, which explains our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours as a result of structures and functions in our brain, and our bodily structures, processes, and functions. Greatly influenced by the founding father of American psychology William James. See also evolutionary psychology.

Physiological techniques
Physiological techniques are indirect measures of attitudes and include measurement of galvanic skin response; heart rate and pupil dilation. Such physiological measures assume that the affective (emotional/evaluative) component of attitudes correlates with the activity of the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system thought to be beyond our conscious control). While there is little hard evidence of this correlation Hess (1965) found a relationship between the size of a person's pupil and his or her attitude. A dilated (increased) pupil indicates a positive attitude, and pupil constriction indicates a negative attitude. These claims have not been fully accepted by others and have met with limited success. Pupil size might show the strength of an attitude, but not its orientation (like/dislike/neutral). See also unobtrusive measures and projective techniques.

Our bodily structures and processes.

Swiss genetic epistemologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is famous for his theory of cognitive development of children. A genetic epistemologist is, of course, someone interested in the biological basis to the growth of knowledge. This makes understanding the key point of Piaget's theory easy. This is, that the reason children think differently from adults is because of biological maturation of their brain. They can't think and problem solve like adults, simply because they are not biologically mature enough to do so. And won't be until around age 11. Children go through stages of cognitive development from birth to around 11, progressively developing more sophisticated ways of thinking and problem solving. Biological maturation of the brain, called epigenesis, is crucial to this. His four stages of cognitive development in childhood are:

  • The sensorimotor stage (birth - 2 years old)

  • The preoperational stage (ages 2-7)

  • The concrete operations (ages 7-11)

  • The formal operations (beginning at ages 11-15) By this stage, the child's cognitive structures are like those of an adult and include conceptual reasoning. They can now think in an adult manner.

To help us think Piaget says that we are born with two innate abilities, organisation and adaptation, to help us deal with stimuli in our world. We use these two abilities to form schema about all the things we come across. A schema is then the mental structure a child forms about all the stimuli it encounters in its world. A schema helps us understand and remember stimulus-information.

Pituitary gland
The master gland. The pituitary gland produces the largest number of hormones in our body, and also controls the release of hormones by other endocrine glands.

Population / Target population
A population is a particular group of people that have something in common. In psychological research the target population is the one from which a sample of participants in psychological research is drawn. It is the population to which a researcher wants to generalise their results. This is only possible if the sample selected is representative of the target population.

Positive correlation
A positive correlation is said to exist when as one covariate increases the other covariate does likewise. You would expect to see a positive correlation between number of hours spent studying for an examination, and marks obtained as a result. As the number of hours you study increases, so does your mark.

Positive reinforcement
The use of reward in the learning process. Positive reinforcement, or use of reward, encourages the likelihood of a particular behaviour being repeated. Praise someone for good work, and you encourage its repetition.

Procedural memory
Our how to memory. As in how to boil an egg, tie your shoelaces, drive a car etc.

Programmed learning
Developed by Skinner (1968) and Markle (1969), programmed learning applies the principles of operant conditioning to the learning experience. Used in flexi-learning; distance learning; computer-based learning etc, what is to be learned is divided up into small chunks, or units. Your reward is passing a unit, which allows you to then progress onto the next one. Each unit is a wee bit more difficult than the one that came before.

Projective techniques
Projective techniques are another indirect way psychologists measure attitude. Projective techniques take advantage of the fact that we often project our attitudes onto others. Use of a projective technique could involve us being asked to fill in responses to a scenario where we are actually being asked our attitude towards a particular event, stimulus or moral issue.

The advantages of such indirect techniques of attitude measurement are that they are less likely to produce socially desirable responses, the person is unlikely to guess what is being measured, and the attitude is unlikely to be affected by measurement.

The disadvantages are that it is difficult to measure attitude strength; attitudes are inferred, and such measures are not too reliable. Nevertheless, indirect measures often offer the only approach when investigating highly sensitive social topics.

See also physiological techniques and unobtrusive measures.

Psychoanalytic approach
an approach founded in 1900 by Viennese physician Sigmund Freud with the publication of 'On The Interpretation Of Dreams.' The psychoanalytic approach believes we think, feel, and behave the way we do because of our unconscious, of which we are unaware. . Our unconscious is heavily influenced by early childhood experiences.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy
the application of psychoanalytic theory in clinical practice. Its purpose is to access, and bring to the patients' conscious awareness, the cause of their problem thought to be lying in their unconscious. How? Interpretation of dreams, free association, hypnosis/regression transference etc.

Psychodynamic Approach
The psychoanalytic approach is nowadays part of the much larger psychodynamic approach. This broader approach encompasses the work of the likes of Alfred Adler, Carl Gustav Jung and Erik Erikson. Adler and Jung broke with Freud over his over-emphasis on sexuality being the personality forming variable in childhood. They say that the influence of our social world, of which sexual experience is but a part, is much more influential. The likes of Erikson believe that personality is shaped throughout our life.
Psychodynamic structure of personality
Psychodynamic structure of personality: Freud said our personality consists of three parts. We are born id, and develop ego and then superego by about age 6. These elements to our personality are said to be in a psychodynamic relationship with each other. They are forever moving within the healthy personality. Sometimes we are id, and let our instincts etc. rip! Sometimes we are superego and listen to our conscience before we act. It is the job of the ego to square the demands of the id off against the demands of the superego. This is the psychodynamic structure of personality.

The scientific study of behaviour and mental processes. Historically, psychology is influenced by philosophy, physiology, and biology. Psychology became established in its own right in 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt opened up the first psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig in Germany. This is currently disputed by Russian psychology.

Psychometric tests
[something will be here soon]

Psychosexual theory of adult personality development
Freud said that our adult personality is formed in childhood as a consequence of psychosexual experiences. Personality is formed in psychosexual stages from birth to puberty. These are the oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital stages. Each, bar the latent stage, has a particular erogenous zone related to it. An erogenous zone is a part of the body from which we derive pleasure, and is sexual in orientation. The pleasure, or lack of it, we get in stimulating these erogenous zones can influence the adult personality (see Fixations). Hence Freud's psychosexual theory of adult personality development.

A psychosis is a medical condition with a biological cause. A psychosis is understood from the biological point of view as having been caused by damage/disease/accident to a person’s physiology and/or genetics. Psychoses (plural) include severe mental disorders characterised by extreme impairment of a person's ability to think clearly, respond emotionally, communicate effectively, understand reality, and behave appropriately. Psychotic symptoms can be seen in people with a number of serious mental illnesses, such as depression, bi-polar disorder (manic depression), and schizophrenia. Psychotic symptoms interfere with a person’s daily functioning and can be very debilitating.

The application of psychological theory in clinical practice. Each approach in psychology has a set of theories about what causes us to think, feel, and behave as we do. Each approach supported by its theories has generated a related psychotherapy to help people in psychological distress.
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