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Important concepts from The Princeton Review book

Page history last edited by Eli Pollock 12 years, 10 months ago

By Eli Pollock



This page contains information reviewed by The Princeton Review Cracking the AP Psychology Exam 2011 Edition.  So instead of reading through the whole book on your own, you can use this.  How convenient.  Just make sure you take practice tests too.  I think they can be ordered through Collegeboard.


History of Psychology


Psychology is the study of behavior (observable actions) and the mind (unobservable sensations memories, motives, emotions, thoughts, and other subjective phenomena).

Dualism:  Concept raised by ancient Greeks that everything in the universe is divided into body and spirit.

Rene Descartes:  Universe is like a machine, but the human mind is an exception.  He believed body-mind interaction occured in the pineal gland.  Also recognized reflexes.

Locke:  Empiricism (acquisition of truth through observations and experiences) and tabula rasa (all knowledge is learned; nothing is innate).

Hobbes:  Materialism, believed that only things that exist are matter and energy, so conciousness is just a by-product.  Led to behaviorism.

Darwin:  Behavior evelves like physiology; also helped lead to behaviorism.

Wilhelm Wundt:  Founder of psycology because he had first lab to study consciousness.  Thought he could study mind like he studied the body.  His student, Titchener, believes in structuralism, which breaks mind into smaller parts.

William James:  Believed in functionalism, or how mind fulfills its purpose.



Biological:  How anatomy and physiology, esp. of nervous system, influences behavior.  e.g. Observing which part of brain is involved in a certain process.

Behavioral genetics:  Looks at how behaviors can be inherited and the extent to which environment leads to those traits being expressed

Behavioral:  Mind or mental events are irrelevant, only observable stuff is.  Involves conditioning, like classical done by Pavlov and his dogs or Watson/Rayner and Little Albert (making him scared of rats) or operant done by Skinner and his Box.  Now mainly used for behavior modification, which are techniques to fix psychological problems.

Cognitive:  Understanding how people interact with their environment and think is crucial to understanding their behavior.  Now the predominant approach.

Humanistic:  Emphasizes personal values and goals and how they influence behavior, anti-behavioral.  Maslow's self-actualization and Rogers' unconditional positive regard go with this.

Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic:  Concerned with conscious vs. unconscious mind.  Freud.

Sociocultural:  Environment shapes behavior.  Cultural values must be taken into account.

Evolutionary:  Behaviors best explained by how adaptive they are to our survival.


Research methods:   Kind of easy so I'll just put harder stuff.  Textbook chapters 1-2 have a lot about this.

Clinical research=case studies

Operational definition:  description of how variables will be observed and measured; must be valid and reliable

Group matching:  control group has members similar to those in the experimental group.


In a normal distrubution curve, mean, median, and mode are all equal.

Mean determines where the center of a distrubution curve is, while standard deviation determines how tall/wide it is

STandard deviation determines how close numbers are around the mean and is a measure of variability

68% of all scores are within 1 standard deviation around the mean, and 95 are within 2

Percentiles also measure statistics, and express the standing of one score relative to all other scores in a set of data.

Correlation coefficiant describes how well attributes relate.  Ranges from 1.00 to -1.00.  Pearson correlation coeficient describes linear relationship between two attributes.


Help to generalize results from a sample to a population

null hypothesis states that a treatment has no effect, but alternative hopothesis is one that tests to see if it does

Errors can occur in testing hypotheses:

     Type I error is conclusion that a difference exists where there isn't one

     Type 2 error is a conclusion that there is no difference when there is actually one

p-value measures probability of making a Type I error.  It indicates that the results are not due to chance.


informed consent=participants know what their participation entails.  MILGRAM experiment (obedience experiment where participants believed they were electrically shocking someone) led to this

SUBFIELDS of psychology:  applied psychology is put into practice.  basic psychology is grounded in research

psychiatry is study of mental disorders; practitioners are all medical doctors



Know about EEG (electroencephalogram)- electrodes placed on head to measure electrical activity in brain

CAT scans (computerized axial tomography scans)- make cross-sectional images of the brain

MRI( magnetic resonance imaging) is more detailed that CAT scans

fMRI (rapid sequencing of MRI) and PET (tracking glucose) allow observation of brain over time


Afferent neurons=sensory, efferent=motor

Reflex pathways only go to spinal cord, not all the way to the brain

Nervous system is divided into Central (brain and spinal cord) and Peripheral (everything else)

Peripheral is divided into somatic (voluntary movement) and autonomic (involuntary, like heart and digestion)

Autonomic is divided into sympathetic (fight-or-flight, burn energy) and parasympathetic (conserve energy, return to homeostasis)




     Cerebelum:  muscle tone and balance

     Medulla:  Basic life functions

     Reticular activating system:  arousal

     Pons:  Bridge between brain regions

     Thalamus:  Relays sensory information

Midbrain aka limbic system:

     Hippocampus:  Learning and memory.  Destruction creates anterograde amnesia (can't form new memories)

     Amygdala:  Anger and frustration

     Hypothalamus:  Basically in charge of homeostatis (hunger, thirst, temperature), divided into lateral and ventromedial

Forebrain aka cerebral cortex, the wrinkly outer layer

     Left and right joined by corpus callosum

     Sensory and motor cortices (plural for cortex) contained here

     Broca's area in left side involved in speaking (think Spanish "boca" means mouth); loss of this results in expressive aphasia.

     Wernicke's area involved in comprehending, damage creates receptive aphasia

     Sperry and his magical split-brain patients.  sperry sperry sperry


          -frontal for higher-level thinking and motor cortex

          -parietal has sensory cortex

          -temporal for hearing

          -occipital for seeing

     Association areas make up most of the cortex.  damage results in apraxia (can't organize movement), agnosia (can't process sensory input), and alexia (can't read)


Neurons--- easy stuff covered in the regular textbook, so i'll just put the lesser-known info

     Gaps between beads of myelin (these beads are called Schwann cells) on axons are called the NODES OF RANVIER.  sounds like lord of the rings a little.

     action potential = nerve impulse

     remember the all-or-none response

     messages can either be excitatory or inhibitory

     Some neurotransmitters:

          Acetylcholine:  memory and muscle contraction

          Serotonin:  Arousal, sleep, pain sensitivity, and mood and hunger regulation

          Dopamine:  movement attention, and reward.  imbalances may cause Parkinson's and schizophrenia

          GABA:  an inhibitory neurotransmitter

          Norepinephrine;  alerness; a lack can cause depression

          Endorphins:  natural painkillers

study break with a song about neurotransmitters:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAigCKiqYvw

Endocrine System:  releases hormones

     pituitary gland:  master gland.  releases hormones that controles hormonal release in other glands.  controlled by hypothalamus

     ADRENOCORTICOTROPIC HORMONE (ACTH) stimulates adrenal glands

     Epinephrine=adreneline and norepinephrine=noradrenaline.  these are secreted by adrenal glands

     Thyroid produces thyroxine, which regulates cellular metabolism


     Genotype is combinations of genes, phenotype is observable result

     Know about dominant and recessive traits, Punnett squares, etc.

     Part of nature vs nature debate

     Down's syndrome=defect in 21st chromosomal pair

     Huntington's chorea causes muscle impairment after age 40 because of degeneration of basal ganglia in brain



      sensation is taking in information, perception is how we recognize, interpret, and organize our sensations


     Detection thresholds is what it takes for someone to notice something.  Absolute threshold in minimal mount needed to detect it and cause neurons to fire 50% of the time

     Signal detection theory takes into account biases that affect likelihood of getting a HIT, MISS, FALSE ALARM, OR CORRECT REJECTION

     Discrimination threshold=being able to detect differences.  Just Noticeable Difference is smallest possible difference that can be detected

     Weber's Law:  JND is a proportion of stimulus intensity

     Subliminal perception:  preconscious information may be available but difficult to access.  PRIMING

     Receptor cells detect types of energy from the area around them called the receptive field

     Transduction:  stimulus is converted to impulses

     Thalamus relays this information.  In the contralateral shift sensory input from one side of the body travels to the opposite side of the brain.

     Sensory coding=how transduction occurs

     Frequency is hue for light and pitch for sound; amplitude is brightness for light and loudness for sound; complexity is saturation for light and timbre for sound.

     Single cell recording is how firing rate and pattern of a receptor cell change with varying stimulus


     Distal stimulus is how object exists; proximal stimulus is image of that object on the retina

     KNOW YOUR EYE ANATOMY.  rods (low light), cones (bright light and color), fovea (center of retina, lens, retina, bipolar/amacrine cells, ganglion cells/optic nerves.

     Optic nerves cross at optic chiasma between brain halves

     Sight is processed in PARALLEL PROCESSING. 

     Feature detector neurons look for specific shapes and pattern parts

     Young-Helmholtz/trichromatic theory:  cones are activated by blue, red, and green

     Opponent process theory:  black/white, red/green, and blue/yellow pairs are used to see color.  when one color is seen, the other is switched off


     Eardrum=tympanic membrane.  The ossicles (small bones after eardrum) are:  malleus=hammer; incus=anvil; stapes=stirrup

     The cochlea is inside the basilar membrane and the organ of Corti.   Place theory says that sound waves generate activity at different places in the cochlea. Frequency theory says that rate of neural impulses is equal to the frequency of a particular sound.

     2 kinds of deafness:  conductive (damage to outer or middle ear structures) ofr sensorineural (problem between cochlea and auditory cortex).

     Gustation is a fancy way of saying taste.  Sweet, salty, bitter, and sour are the four tastes.  Taste buds located on thte papillae.

     For touch:  skin has cutaneous and tactile receptors (whatever that means) that provide information on pressure, pain, and temperature.  Temperature receptor cells have cold fibers and warm fibers.

     Vestibular sense=sense of balance

     Kinesthesis=position of limbs and body parts


     Adaptation:  temporary change in response to environmental stimuli.  The adaptation level is the new reference standerd of stimulation against which new stimuli are judged.

     Habituation:  We become accustomed to and stop noticing a stimulus.

     Dishabituation:  Stimulus changes and we notice it again.

ATTENTION:  processing through cognition of a select portion of sensory input; allows for focus

     Selective attention:  attending to one thing while ignoring another.

     "Cocktail party phenomenon":  example of selective attention.  You can focus on just one conversation, but you can also detect someone saying your name.

     Filter theories:  stimuli must pass through a filter to enter attention, but filter is not at receptor level

     Attentional resource theories:  only a fixed amount of attention, whic can be divided up as required.

     Divided attention is most difficult when attending to multiple stimuli that activate the same sense.

Perceptual processes:

     Bottom-up achieves recognition by breaking it down into component parts; top-down relies on prior experience and is faster but not necessarily as accurate.

     Visual perception:  (this is really complicated and probably not very useful but I'll put it in anyway)

          Depth Perception:

               Monocular depth cues: things where we only need one eye to detect depth

                    Relative size (things get smaller as they get further)

                    Texture gradient:  textured appear to grow more dense as they get further

                    Interposition:  closer objects block further ones

                    Liner perspective:  parallel lines seem to get closer together as they go away to a vanishing point

                    Aerial perspective:  atmospheric moisture and dust tend to obscure far-off objects; explained by relative clarity

                    Motion parallax:  distant objects seem to move slower.  only monocular cue that involves motion

               Binocular depth cues:  you need two eyes

                    Steriopsis:  the 3-D image from using two eyes

                    Retinal convergence:  eyes must turn inward to focus on near objects

                    Binocular disparity:  the closer the object, the less similar the information ariving will be

           Eleanor Gibson and Richard Walk did the visual cliff experiment with the babies crawling on the glass tables to see if depth perception was nature or nurture.

          Gestalt approach:  based on top-down theory.  It has several principles:

               Proximity:  the tendency to see objects near to each ohter as forming groups

               Similarity:  the tendency to prefer to group like objects

               Symmetry:  the tendency to perceive preferentially forms that make up mirror images

               Continuety:  the tendency to perceive flued or continues formes over jagged/irregular ones

               Closure:  the tendency to "close up" objects that are not complete.

          Law of Pragnanz:  we tend to see objects in their simplest forms

          Constancy:  we know that stimulus remains the same even if it seems to change (like knowing things are the same size when they are far away)

          Motion detection:  two processes.  One records how the object moves across the retina; the other tracks how the head moves to follow the stimuli>

          Apparent motion:

               phi phenomenon:  blinking lights give the appearance of movement

               stroboscopic effect:  still pictures move fast enough to imply movement (animated films)

               autokinetic effect:  still light appears to twinkle in darkness


CONSCIOUSNESS:  a state of consciousness is an awareness of the environment with an awareness that we are doing this

     Preconscious level:  contains information that is available to consciousness, but is not always in consciousness.  Automatic behaviors like riding a bike are here

     Unconscious/subconscious level:  information stored that is too difficult to deal with consciously.  Moving information that makes us anxious there is called repressionFreudian slips are how this information leaks out.

     The continuum of consciousness starts at controlled processing and then moves on to automatic processing, then to daydreaming and meditation, then to sleep, then to coma and unconsciousness


     Sleep is not entirely understood, but there is some link to melatonin.

     If you miss three sleep cycles, hallucinations and illusions can begin, but symptoms of sleep deprivation disappear when a person is allowed to sleep

     Circadian rhythm= 24-hour physiological rhythm.  Free-running rhythm occurs when all external cues are lost and the body shifts to a 25-HOUR RHYTHM

     Brain waves can be measured with electroencephalograms (EEGs).


          BATD:  Beta waves are when you are alert, alpha when sleepy, theta in stages 1 and 2, and delta in stages 3 and 4.

     Sleep spindles (bursts of brain activity) occur in STAGE 2 sleep 

    A person goes down to stage four, then back up to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in 90-minute cycles durng the night.  As the night goes on, there is less stage four sleep and more REM

     Aserinsky and Kleitman discovered REM sleep. It is where most dreaming occurs.  Called paradoxical sleep, since it is very deep but brain emits theta and beta waves, which are usually made near consciousness

     William Dement studied efficts of deprivation of REM sleep.  Found that REM rebound occurs, which is when people make up REM sleep they have lost.

     Know about Insomnia (can't sleep), narcolepsy (can't help sleeping), and sleep apnea(breathing stops during sleep).  Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) could be linked to sleep apnea

     Sleepwalking (somnambulism) occurs during stages 3 and 4.  Night terrors occur during stage 4, and is different from nightmares, which occur during REM.

     Activation-synthesis hypothesis of dreaming says that dreams are product of making sense of neural activity during sleep

     Manifest content:  what's in the dream.  Latent content:  What Freudians would interpret the dream as

HYPNOSIS- a state of relaxation in which a person is open to suggestions


          Just a state of relaxation

          Not actually an effect, just people living up to expectations

          Neodissociative theory/Hilgard's theory of the hidden observer:  MInd is divided into an obedient part and an observer

     Posthypnotic suggestion:  intstructions to be done after hypnosis; have had limited success in helping people


     Depressants:  Slow you down, e.g. alcohol (decreases dopamine), barbiturates/tranquilizers like zanaz or valium, opiates/narcotics

     Stimulants:  speed you up, e.g. caffeine (decreases adenosine), amphetamines (increases dopamine/norepinephrine, Ritalin is one), cocaine (increases dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine), nicotine (stimulates acetylcholine), ecstasy

     Hallucinogens:  May increase serotonin, e.g. LSD

     Dependence=addiction, tolerance=it takes more to gett high, withdrawal=process of getting of drug


LEARNING- a relatively permanent or stable change in behavior as a result of experience

     Classical conditioning (Pavlovian conditioning):  neutral stimulus gains meaning by happening before a meaningful stimulus

          Conditioned stimulus (CS) is initially neutral stimulus (bell goes ding)

          Unconditioned stimulus (US) is initially meaningful stimulus (dog is presented with food)

          Unconditioned response (UR) naturally occurs after US (dog salivates)

          Conditioned response (CR) is response to CS after conditioning (dog salivates after bell)

     Forward conditioning is when CS is presented before the US

          Delay conditioning is when CS is present until US begins

          Trace conditioning is when CS is removed some time before US is presented

     Backward conditioning is when US is presented before the CS, and is typically ineffective, except in certain instances, such as when illness occurs after eating certain food

     Know about Watson/Rayner and Little Albert:  how he was conditioned to be afraid of white rats by being scared whenever he saw one.  He was also afraid of other white fluffy objects.  Here, generalization occured, because he did not distinguish between different stimuli.  Discrimination would involve not reacting to similar but distinct stimuli

     Acquisition is when the CS alone will produce the CR.  Eventually, extinction can occur, but conditioning can be remembered with spontaneous recovery.  

Second-order conditioning   is when the previous CS is used as a US.  It is difficult to go past this level.

Conditioned taste aversion:  remember the experiment with Garcia feeding the rats radioactive food.  CTA is very resistant to extinction.  However, rats did not react negatively with other stimuli like light.

Theories about classical conditioning:

     Contiguity approach:  Pavlov and Watson believed it happened because CS and US are assiciated by their pairing in time

     Contingency approach:  Rescorla believes that CS comes to predict US.

OPERANT CONDITIONING aka instrumental conditioning:  involves an organism's learning to make a response in order to onbtain a reward.  B.F. Skinner pioneered this study, but it was first proposed by Thorndike and his law of effect.  The Skinner box taught rats to press a lever to get food

Shaping:  gradually getting an organism closer to do the desired behavior with rewards.  Done through differential reinforcement/successive approximations

Primary reinforcement islike food; while secondary reinforcement is learned (like money or token economy)

Positive reinforcement:  Reward that increases response

Negative reinforcement:  Taking away aversive event to increase response.

Punishment:  adding an aversive event to decrease a certain response

Omission training:  taking away a reward to decrease a certain response

Schedule of renforcement:

     Continuous:  every correct response is rewarded, but has rapid extinction

     Partial/intermittent:  divideded into...

          Fixed-ratio:  Reward after certain number of correct responses; strong learning but extinction is quick

          Variable-ratio:  Rewards after random number of correct response; takes longer but slower extinction

          Fixed-interval:  As long as there is at least one response, reward comes after a certain time.  Like a salary

          Variable-interval:  Reinforcement presented after different time periods.  Like pop quizzes.

Learned helplessness:  if subjects cannot get rewards, they will stop trying


     Donald Hebb proposed tha human learning happens when neurons form/strengthen connections

     Eric Kandel studied the sea slug aplysia to test conditioning, and found that neuromodulators strengthen synapses between sensory neurons and motor neurons, and new synapses were created.  This is known as long-term potentiation (LTP)

SOCIAL LEARNING aka vicarious learning

     Bandura had the BOBO DOLL experiment where he showed that modeling changes behavior (the children became more aggressive after seeing adults punch an inflatable doll).

     For observational learning:

          1.  Learner must pay attention

          2.  Observed behavior must be remembered

          3.  There must be a motivation for the learner to reproduce the behavior

          4.  Learner must be able to reproduce the behavior


Skinner dismissed cognition, but it is likely that it is involved in learning. 

     Pigeons pecked at pictures of trees that they had never seen before to obtain a reward when they only knew to peck at trees.  They had a concept of trees.

     Edward Tolman:  Showed that latent learning can occur (did experiment with rats and their cognitive maps)



SENSORY MEMORY-gateway between perception and memory.  Limited store.

     Iconic information is visual, lasts for a few tenths of a second.  Visual persistence is when things moving fast seem to be in multiple places at once.

          George Speriling experimented on icornic memory by briefly flashing a matrix of letters, with each row paired with a high, medium, or low tone.  The tone increased their memories of lines.

     Echoic information is auditory, lasts for 3-4 seconds

SHORT-TERM MEMORY- lasts for a few seconds to a minute, mainly acoustically coded

Stores 7 plus or minus two items at a time

Maintained by rehearsal

     Maintenance rehearsal is simple repetition

     Elaborate rehearsal is organizing and understanding the information to make it long-term

     Decay and interference cause items to be forgotten

          Retroactive interference is when new information pushes the old out

          Proactive interference is when old information makes it difficult to learn new information

Serial position effect is made up of primacy (remembering first items) and recency (remembering last items)

Chunking is grouping information (this book doesn't mention method of loci, peg-word system, and other mnemonics, but know them anyway)

LONG-TERM MEMORY-lasting memories, can last forever and is unlimited

Encoded either semantically (meaning), visually, or acoustically

Can be stored in different ways:

     Episodic memory

     Semantic memory (declarative/explicit)- Facts and general knowledge

     Procedural memory (implicit)- habits and skills.  Stored in cerebellum

State-dependent theory:  Information is easier to be recalled in an environment similar to where it was encoded (like remembering things better underwater if they were learned there)

Flashbulb memory:  vivid memory from an EMOTIONAL event

Working memory:  Sort of a mix between short-term and long-term; not included in the standard model

Reconstruction:  fitting together pieces of an event that seem

     Source Amnesia:  one cause of memory reconstruction; event is attributed to a different source

     Framing is changing a memory by suggisting questions; think Elizabeth Loftus believing that she found her drowned aunt, but she actually didn't.  Children are bad eyewitnesses because of framing


1.It is arbitrary (words don't usually sound like ideas they convey)

2.  Structure is additive

3.  Has multiplicity of structure, so it can analyzed in different ways

4.  Productive, since there are virtually endless combinations of words

5.  Dynamic, since it it constantly changing and evolving.

Broken down into phonemes (smallest units of sound), which go into morphemes, which are the smallest units with meaning.

     Grammar is the rules, broken into syntax and semantics

          Syntax:  Used in arrangement of morphemes into sentences (word order)

          Semantics:  Meaning or word choice

     Prosody:  Tones and inflections impact meaning

Infants learn language in stages:

     Cooing stage is all phonemes

     Babbling uses phonemes within household language; other phonemes drop out

     Holophrases are one-word phrases with meaning

          Overextension can occur here, which is when infants use a limited vocabulary to address something they don't have the words for

     Telegraphis, two-word speech comes next

     By age three, vocabulary is asbout 1,000 words, overgeneralization, where children say things like "I goed to the story" instead of "I went to the story," happens.

     By age 10, language is essentially that of an adult's

     Noam Chomsky came up with the concept of transformational grammar.  That differentiates between the surface structure of language (arrangement of words) and the deep structure of language (meaning).  He proposed that everyone is born with a language acquisition device that allows children to pick up language.

     B.F. Skinner thought language was just operant conditioning.

     Benjamin Lee Whorf and Edward Sapir came up with the theory of linguistic relativity, which states that different languages cause cognitive systems

CONCEPTS- a way of classifying or grouping objects

Typicality- the degree to which an oject fits the average

     Superordinate concepts are very broad (like "food")  

     Basic concepts is smaller and more specific (like "bread")

     Subordinate concepts are more specific (like "rye bread")

COGNITION-thinking; not easily defined

Reasoning: drawing conclusions from evidence

     Deductivve reasoning: Drawing logical conclusions from general statements

          Syllogisms are deductve conclusions drawn from two premises

     Inductive reasoning:  drawing general inferences from specific observations; not as airtight as deductive


Problems divided into two types:

     Well structured:  clear path to the solution

     Ill structured:  no single, clear path tot the solution

Ways to solve problems:

     Divergent thinking: Coming up with multiple correct answers

     Convergent thinking:  Finding the one right answer

Heuristics:  intuitive shortcuts; may be innacurate

     Availability heuristic:  judgment of a problem by what answers first come to mind

     Representative heuristic:  judgment of a problem by how closely answer choices match a prototype

Algorithms:  Systematic approaches that guarantee a correct answer

Insight is the sudden "aha!" moment when a problem is solved.  Wolfgang Kohler used chimpanzees in an experiment to demonstrate insight (using a short stick to reach a long stick to get bananas).

Obstacles to problem solving:

     Mental set:  A fixed frame of mind that makes it difficult to have insight

          Functional fixedness:  An example of a mental set where people assume objects can only be used one way

     Confirmation bias:  Search for information that supports a certain conclusion

     Hindsight bias:  tendency to think that you knew a problem afterwards

     Belief perserverance:  Ignoring contrary evidence

     Framing:  the way a question is asked can alter outcome of problem solving/decision making

Creativity:  process of producing something novel yet worthwhile; difficult to pin it down though


Princeton Review Part 2




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