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Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition

Discovering Psychology provides an overview of historic and current theories of human behavior.

A video instructional series on introductory psychology for college and high school classrooms and adult learners; 26 half-hour video programs 

Highlighting major new developments in the field, this updated edition of Discovering Psychology offers high school and college students, and teachers of psychology at all levels, an overview of historic and current theories of human behavior. Stanford University professor and author Philip Zimbardo narrates as leading researchers, practitioners, and theorists probe the mysteries of the mind and body. Based on extensive investigation and authoritative scholarship, this introductory course in psychology features demonstrations, classic experiments and simulations, current research, documentary footage, and computer animation. This series is also valuable for teachers seeking to review the subject matter.

Series Overview

The Discovering Psychology telecourse and educational video series first premiered in 1990 as a visual resource for teaching introductory psychology. The 26 video programs review the history of the field, including the work of early and contemporary theorists, practitioners, and researchers, illustrating their work with footage of classic experiments and modern studies. They tell the story of psychology through demonstrations, classic experiments and simulations, current research, documentary footage, and computer animation all based on extensive investigation and superior scholarship.

The Updated Edition, released in 2001, highlights major new developments in the field, and new areas of inquiry by the leading researchers. In addition to the new and updated video programs, Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition includes this interactive website providing video program extensions including interviews with researchers, essays, and details on experiments. In addition, the site offers five interactive explorations of facets of psychology including its history, research methods, the human brain, human development, and approaches to treatment. The three new video programs of the Updated Edition are Applying Psychology in Life, which explores the role of psychology: in law, conflict negotiation, ergonomics, and space travel, and human performance; Cognitive Neuroscience presenting new ideas in brain research and the application of brain mapping technology, and Cultural Psychology which probes a complex field integrating social and personality psychology, anthropology and other social sciences. Complete program titles are available on the site map.

Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition enables students, as well as general viewers, to learn psychology’s history, observe psychology in practice, and better understand its relevance to their own lives.

Series Audience

Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition may be used as a video resource for classes, libraries, and media centers or as a telecourse for distant learners. 


About the Host

Series Host: Philip G. Zimbardo

Philip G. Zimbardo, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, is an internationally acknowledged researcher, teacher, and author. He has published more than two dozen text and trade books and more than 200 professional articles on a wide range of topics in many areas of animal and human behavior. Professor Zimbardo has received numerous awards for his distinguished teaching, creative research, dedicated social action, and career-long contributions to psychology. He helped to create both the original Discovering Psychology telecourse and the revision and update of this influential learning experience. Professor Zimbardo has been teaching introductory psychology for more than 40 years.

How to Use This Series

Designed for use as either a free-standing, one semester telecourse or as a supplement to existing courses, Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition surveys the major areas of psychology, explains the scientific method of gathering and evaluating evidence about the causes of behavior, and shows how psychological knowledge can be applied to improve the quality of life. A flexible educational resource, it may be used in a variety of ways:

  • As a complete college-credit course fulfilling a one-semester requirement in psychology.
  • As supplemental material for introductory and upper-level psychology courses.
  • As an offering for adult or continuing education students.
  • As an important addition to library video collections.
  • As a resource for teacher inservice programs.

Individual Unit Descriptions

  1. Past, Present, and Promise

This introduction presents psychology as a science at the crossroads of many fields of knowledge, from philosophy and anthropology to biochemistry and artificial intelligence. With Dr. Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard University and Dr. Emanuel Donchin of the University of Illinois. 

  1. Understanding Research

This program examines the scientific method and the ways in which data are collected and analyzed — in the lab and in the field — with an emphasis on sharpening critical thinking in the interpretation of research findings. With Dr. Christina Maslach of the University of California, Berkeley, and Dr. Daryl Bem of Cornell University. Updated. 

  1. The Behaving Brain

This program discusses the structure and composition of the brain: how neurons function, how information is collected and transmitted, and how chemical reactions determine every thought, feeling, and action. With Dr. John Gabrieli of Stanford University and Dr. Mieke Verfaellie of Veterans Medical Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. Updated. 

  1. The Responsive Brain

How the brain controls behavior and, conversely, how behavior and environment influence the brain’s structure and functioning are the focus of this program. With Dr. Michael Meaney of McGill University and Dr. Russell Fernald of Stanford University. Updated. 

  1. The Developing Child

This program traces the nature vs. nurture debate, revealing how developmental psychologists study the contributions of both heredity and environment to child development. With Dr. Renee Baillargeon of the University of Illinois and Dr. Judy De Loache of the University of Illinois.

  1. Language Development

The development of language has many facets to explore. This program looks at how developmental psychologists investigate the human mind, society, and culture by studying children’s use of language in social communication. With Dr. Jean Berko-Gleason of Boston University and Dr. Ann Fernald of Stanford University. 

  1. Sensation and Perception

This program demonstrates how visual information is gathered and processed, and how our culture, previous experiences, and interests influence our perceptions. With Dr. David Hubel of Harvard University and Dr. Misha Pavel of the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology. 

  1. Learning

Prominent researchers — Pavlov, Thorndike, Watson, and Skinner — have greatly influenced today’s thinking about how learning takes place. This program examines the basic principles of classical and operant conditioning elaborated by these renowned figures. With Dr. Howard Rachlin of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Dr. Robert Ader of the University of Rochester. Updated. 

  1. Remembering and Forgetting

This program looks at the complex process called memory: how images, ideas, language, and even physical actions, sounds, and smells are translated into codes, represented in the memory and retrieved when needed. With Dr. Richard Thompson of the University of Southern California and Dr. Diana Woodruff-Pak of Temple University. Updated. 

  1. Cognitive Processes

This program is an exploration into the higher mental processes — reasoning, planning, and problem solving — and why the “cognitive revolution” is attracting such diverse investigators from philosophers to computer scientists. With Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University and Dr. Michael Posner of the University of Oregon. 

  1. Judgement and Decision Making

Exceedingly complex processes are involved in the making of judgements and decisions. This program examines how and why people make good and bad judgements, and the psychology of taking risks. With Dr. Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University and the late Dr. Irving Janis of Yale University. 

  1. Motivation and Emotion

This program reviews what researchers are discovering about why we act and feel as we do, from the exhilaration of love to the agony of failure. With Dr. Norman Adler of Yeshiva University and Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. 

  1. The Mind Awake and Asleep

Our varying levels of consciousness empower us to interpret, analyze, and direct our behavior in flexible ways. The nature of sleeping, dreaming, and altered states of consciousness are explored in this program. With Dr. Ernest Hartman, formerly of Tufts University, and Dr. Robert McCarley of Harvard Medical School. 

  1. The Mind Hidden and Divided

This program shows how experiences that take place below the level of consciousness alter our moods, bias our actions, and affect our health — as demonstrated in repression, discovered and false memory syndromes, hypnosis, and split-brain cases. With Dr. Jonathan Schooler of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Michael Gazzaniga of Dartmouth College. Updated. 

  1. The Self

Psychologists systematically study the origins of self-identity and self-esteem, the social determinants of self-conceptions, and the emotional and motivational consequences of beliefs about oneself. This program explores their methods of discovery. With Dr. Hazel Markus of Stanford University and Dr. Teresa Amabile of Harvard University. Updated. 

  1. Testing and Intelligence

This program peers into the field of psychological assessment — the efforts of psychologists and other professionals to assign values to different abilities, behaviors, and personalities. With Dr. Claude Steele of Stanford University and Dr. Robert Sternberg of Yale University. Updated. 

  1. Sex and Gender

This program explores the ways in which males and females are similar and different, and how gender roles reflect social values and psychological knowledge. With Dr. Michael Meaney of McGill University and Dr. Eleanor Maccoby of Stanford University. 

  1. Maturing and Aging

What really happens, physically and psychologically, as we age? This program looks at how society reacts to the last stages of life. With Dr. Laura Carstensen of Stanford University and Dr. Sherry Willis of Penn State University. Updated. 

  1. The Power of the Situation

This program examines how our beliefs and behavior can be influenced and manipulated by other people and subtle situational forces, and how social psychologists study human behavior within its broader social context. With Dr. Ellen Langer of Harvard University and Dr. Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University.

  1. Constructing Social Reality

Many factors contribute to our interpretation of reality. This program demonstrates how understanding the psychological processes that govern our behavior may help us to become more empathetic and independent members of society. With Steven Hassan, M.Ed., of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center and Dr. Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University. Updated. 

  1. Psychopathology

The major types of mental illness are presented. Schizophrenia, phobias, and affective disorders are described, along with the major factors that affect them — both biological and psychological. With Dr. Irving Gottesman of the University of Virginia and Dr. E. Fuller Torrey of the National Institute of Mental Health. Updated. 

  1. Psychotherapy

This program surveys the relationships among theory, research, and practice, and how treatment of psychological disorders has been influenced by historical, cultural, and social forces. With Dr. Hans Strupp of Vanderbilt University and the late Dr. Rollo May. 

  1. Health, Mind, and Behavior

This program presents a rethinking of the relationship between mind and body. A new bio-psychosocial model is replacing the traditional biomedical model. With Dr. Judith Rodin of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Neal Miller of Yale University. Updated. 

  1. Applying Psychology in Life

Psychology is currently being applied in innovative ways to practical situations in the areas of human factors, law, and conflict negotiation. With Dr. Malcolm Cohen of NASA Ames Research Center, Dr. Stephen Ceci of Cornell University, and Dr. James Maas of Cornell University. New. 

  1. Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive neuroscience represents the attempt to understand mental processes at the level of the brain’s functioning and not merely from information-processing models and theories. It relies heavily on an empirical analysis of what is happening in the brain, and where, when a person thinks, reasons, decides, judges, encodes information, recalls information, learns, and solves problems. Cognitive neuroscience allies psychologists, biologists, brain researchers, and others in what is perhaps the most dramatic advance in the last decade of psychological research. With Dr. John Gabrieli of Stanford University and Dr. Stephen Kosslyn of Harvard University. New. 

  1. Cultural Psychology

This newly emerging field is integrating cross-cultural research with social and personality psychology, anthropology, and other social sciences. Its main new perspective is centered on how cultures construct selves and other central aspects of individual personality, beliefs, values, and emotions — much of what we are and do. This area has become more important in both psychology and American society with the globalization of our planet, increasing interaction of people from different cultural backgrounds, and emerging issues of diversity. With Dr. Hazel Markus of Stanford University, Dr. Kaipeng Peng of the University of California, Berkeley, and Dr. Ricardo Munoz of the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital. New.

Series Participants

All interviews for Discovering Psychology, updated edition, are new unless otherwise indicated.

Program 1: Past, Present, and Promise (Updated)

Emanuel Donchin, University of South Florida, Tampa (1989 interview: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Robert Rosenthal, University of California-Riverside (1989 interview: Harvard University)
Mahzarin R. Banaji, Harvard University

Program 2: Understanding Research (Updated)

Jerome D. Frank, The John Hopkins University School of Medicine
Daryl Bem, Cornell University
Christina Maslach, University of California, Berkeley
Leonard Saxe, Brandeis University (1989 interview: Boston University)

Program 3: The Behaving Brain (Updated)

Roy E. John, Director, Brain Research Lab, New York University School of Medicine
Joe Martinez, University of California, Berkeley
John D.E. Gabrieli, Stanford University
Mieke Verfaellie, Director, Memory Disorders Research Center, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston VA Healthcare System

Program 4: The Responsive Brain

Tiffany Field, Ph.D., Director, The Touch Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine (1989 interview: Director, “Infant Massage” Study)
Saul Schanberg, Duke University
Michael Meaney, McGill University
Russell Fernald, Stanford University
Robert Sapolsky, Stanford University

Program 5: The Developing Child

Renee Baillargeon, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Judy DeLoache, University of Virginia (1989 interview: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Jerome Kagan, Harvard University
Steven Suomi, National Institutes of Health

Program 6: Language Development

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jean Berko Gleason, Boston University
Anne Fernald, Stanford University
Dan Slobin, University of California, Berkeley

Program 7: Sensation and Perception

David H. Hubel, Harvard Medical School
Misha Pavel, OGI, Oregon Health & Science University (1989 interview: Stanford University)

Program 8: Learning (Updated)

Robert Ader, University of Rochester Medical School
Howard Rachlin, State University of New York at Stony Brook
B.F. Skinner, deceased (1989 interview: Harvard University)

Program 9: Remembering and Forgetting (Updated)

Gordon Bower, Stanford University
Richard Thompson, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Diana S. Woodruff-Pak, Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Temple University

Program 10: Cognitive Processesed

Howard Gardner, Harvard University
Herbert Simon, deceased (1989 interview: Carnegie-Mellon University)
Michael Posner, University of Oregon
Robert Glaser, Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh (L.R.D.C.), University of Pittsburgh

Program 11: Judgement and Decision Making

Amos Tversky, deceased (1989 interview: Stanford University)
Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University (1989 interview: University of California, Berkeley)
Irving Janis, deceased (1989 interview: Yale University)
Max Bazerman, Northwestern University

Program 12: Motivation and Emotion

Norman T. Adler, Dean, Yeshiva College, Professor of Psychology, Yeshiva University (1989 interview: University of Pennsylvania)
Martin E.P. Seligman, University of Pennsylvania

Program 13: The Mind Awake and Asleep

Ernest L. Hartmann, Tufts University School of Medicine
Robert W. McCarley, Professor and Head, Harvard Department of Psychiatry/VA Boston Healthcare System (1989 interview: Harvard Medical School)
Steven LaBerge, Stanford University

Program 14: The Mind Hidden and Divided (Updated)

Jonathan Schooler, University of Pittsburgh
Michael Gazzaniga, Dartmouth College, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience (1989 interview: Dartmouth Medical School)

Program 15: The Self (Updated)

Patricia L. Ryan, Stanford University
Hazel Rose Markus, Stanford University
Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School (1989 interview: Brandeis University)

Program 16: Testing and Intelligence (Updated)

W. Curtis Banks, deceased (1989 interview: Howard University)
Claude M. Steele, Stanford University
Howard Gardner, Harvard University
Robert Sternberg, Yale University

Program 17: Sex and Gender

Michael Meaney, McGill University
Jeanne Block, deceased (1989 interview: University of California, Berkeley)
Eleanor Maccoby, Stanford University

Program 18: Maturing and Aging (Updated)

Daniel Levinson, Yale University Medical School
Laura L. Carstensen, Stanford University
Sherry Willis, Pennsylvania State University
Werner Schaie, Pennsylvania State University

Program 19: The Power of the Situation (Updated)

John Darley, Princeton University

Program 20: Constructing Social Reality (Updated)

Steven Hassan, M.Ed. LMHC, Freedom of Mind Resource Center Inc.
Robert Rosenthal, Harvard University Medical School
Alex Gonzalez, President, California State University, San Marcos (1989 interview: California State University, Fresno)
Robert Cialdini, Arizona State University, Tempe

Program 21: Psychopathology (Updated)

David Rosenhan, Stanford University
E. Fuller Torrey, Executive Directory, Stanley Foundation Research Program (1989 interview: National Institute of Mental Health)
Irving I. Gottesman, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Teresa La Framboise (1989 interview: Stanford University)

Program 22: Psychotherapy

Hans Strupp, Vanderbilt University
Enrico Jones, University of California, Berkeley

Program 23: Health, Mind, and Behavior (Updated)

Judith Rodin, President, University of Pennsylvania, Professor of Psychology (1989 interview: Yale University)
Neal Miller, Yale University
Thomas J. Coates, University of California, San Francisco

Program 24: Applying Psychology in Life (New)

James B. Maas, Cornell University
Malcolm M. Cohen, NASA AMES Research Center
Nick Kanas, M.D., University of California, VA Medical Center, San Francisco
Stephen J. Ceci, Cornell University
Jared R. Curhan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management

Program 25: Cognitive Neuroscience (New)

John D.E. Gabrieli, Stanford University
David Heeger, Stanford University
Stephen M. Kosslyn, Harvard University
Paula Tallal, Rutgers University, Newark
Mahzarin R. Banaji, Yale University

Program 26: Cultural Psychology (New)

Kaiping Peng, University of California, Berkeley
Hazel Rose Markus, Stanford University
Shinobu Kitayama, Kyoto University
James M. Jones, University of Delaware
Joseph E. Trimble, Harvard University
Ricardo F. Muñoz, University of California, San Francisco


Alfred Adler (1870-1937)
Major Works: Problems of Neurosis (1929), The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology (1927)
Adler modified and expanded many of Freud’s theories. He proposed that people were motivated primarily by feelings of inferiority rather than sexual instinct.

Gordon Allport (1897-1967)
Major Works: The Nature of Prejudice (1954), Pattern and Growth in Personality (1965), The Person in Psychology (1968)
Allport, a social psychologist, studied the complexity and persistence of prejudice.

Albert Bandura (1925-
Major Works: Adolescent Aggression (1959), Social Foundations of Thought and Action (1986)
A social psychologist, Bandura’s research includes studies in observational learning.

Edwin Boring (1886-1968)
Major Works: History of Experimental Psychology (1929), Psychologist at Large (1961)
An early historian of psychology, Boring conducted key research on sensation.

Gordon Bower (1932-
Major Work: “Mood and Memory,” in American Psychologist (1981)
A cognitive psychologist, Bower’s research explores the role of emotion in information processing.

Noam Chomsky (1928-
Major Works: Syntactic Structures (1957), Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965)
A linguist, Chomsky’s work focuses on the biological basis of language.

Albert Ellis (1913-
Major Works: How to Live with a Neurotic: At Home and at Work (1957), A Guide to Rational Living (1961), Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy (1962)
Ellis, a cognitive psychologist, developed Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), a system for transforming the irrational beliefs that cause undesirable, highly charged emotional reactions.

Erik Erikson (1902-1994)
Major Works: Childhood and Society (1950), Insight and Responsibility (1964) Identity, Youth, and Crisis (1968)
Erikson, a student of Sigmund and Anna Freud, developed a psychosocial stage theory of development.

Leon Festinger (1919-1990)
Major Work: Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1957)
Festinger formulated the concept of cognitive dissonance, proposing that people are motivated by the tension-producing effects of incongruous cognitions.

Anna Freud (1895-1982)
Major Work: The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense (1936)
Freud modified and expanded the work of her father, Sigmund, focusing on child development and ego psychology.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Major Works: The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1904), Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)
Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, developed numerous psychoanalytic theories, concepts, and therapeutic approaches.

G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924)
Major Works: The Study of Children (1883), Founders of Modern Psychology (1912)
Hall helped found the American Psychological Association, serving as its first president. He was also among the first psychologists to offer graduate instruction in the field.

Karen Horney (1885-1952)
Major Works: Self-Analysis (1942), Neurosis and Human Growth (1950)
Horney modified and expanded Freud’s views, challenging his theories on female sexual and moral development.

William James (1842-1910)
Major Work: The Principles of Psychology (1890)
James’s The Principles of Psychology is regarded by many as one of the most important psychology texts ever written. His work helped establish psychology as an academic discipline.

Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Major Works: Psychology of the Unconscious (1912), Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961), Man and His Symbols (1961)
Jung expanded and modified Freud’s views of the unconscious, proposing the concepts of the personal unconscious, collective unconscious, and archetypes.

Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987)
Major Work: The Philosophy of Moral Development (1941)
Kohlberg expanded Piaget’s theories on children’s cognitive development to include moral development.

Kurt Lewin (1890-1947)
Major Works: A Dynamic Theory of Personality (1935), Frontiers in Group Dynamics (1946)
The founder of social psychology, Lewin pioneered field theory, an interdisciplinary method of observing and interpreting social phenomena.

Eleanor Maccoby (1917-
Major Works: Patterns of Child Rearing (1957 with Robert Sears), Psychology of Sex Differences (1974), and Adolescents after Divorce (1996)
Maccoby’s work explores the development of children’s social behavior as it relates to gender, family functioning, and parental child-rearing methods.

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)
Major Works: Motivation and Personality (1954), Toward a Psychology of Being (1968)
Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, proposed a model outlining humans’ hierarchy of needs model.

David McClelland (1917-1998)
Major Works: The Inner Experience (1967), Human Motivation (1987)
McClelland’s work included research into motivation and entrepreneurship.

Stanley Milgram (1933-1984)
Major Work: Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (1983)
Milgram’s most famous work was a series of experiments on obedience to authority, conducted at Yale University.

Gardner Murphy (1895-1979)
Major Work: Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology (1949)
Murphy, a historian of psychology and key figure in biosocial research, was president of the American Society for Psychical Research from 1965 to 1971.

Henry Murray (1893-1988)
Major Work: Explorations in Personality: A Clinical and Experimental Study of Fifty Men of College Age (1938)
Murray devised the Thematic Appreciation Test (TAT), a projective personality test in which the subject is given a picture and asked to tell a story about it.

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)
Major Works: Lectures on the Work of the Principal Digestive Glands (1897), Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes(1928)
Pavlov, a founder of behaviorism, pioneered the study of classical conditioning.

Carl Rogers (1902-1987)
Major Works: Psychotherapy and Personality Change (1954), Client-Centered Therapy (1951), On Becoming a Person (1961), A Way of Being (1980)
Rogers, a humanistic psychologist, developed client-centered (now Rogerian) therapy, greatly impacting the ways in which therapists work with their clients.

Martin E. P. Seligman (1942-
Major Works: Helplessness (1975), What You Can Change & What You Can’t (1993)
Seligman’s research explores psychopathology, helplessness, and optimism.

Muzafer Sherif (1906-1988)
Major Works: The Psychology of Social Norms (1936), Social Interaction, Process and Products (1967), Social Psychology (1969)
Sherif, an early pioneer in social psychology, studied group processes and conflict.

Burrhus Frederic (B.F.) Skinner (1904-1990)
Major Works: Walden Two (1948), Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), About Behaviorism (1974)
Skinner, a radical behaviorist, expanded the work of Watson, Thorndike, and Pavlov to include the concept of operant conditioning.

Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949)
Major Works: Educational Psychology (1903), Mental and Social Measurements (1904)
Through his studies on human and animal learning, Thorndike formulated the Law of Effect, the founding principle of instrumental learning.

John B. Watson (1878-1958)
Major Works: “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It,” in Psychological Review (1913), Psychological Care of Infant and Child (1928)
Watson founded behaviorism, challenging traditional psychoanalytic views and arguing for a psychological model that focuses on observable behavior.

Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920)
Major Work: Lectures on Human and Animal Psychology (1896)
Wundt founded the first psychological laboratory, helping to establish the field as an experimental science.


Acculturation: The process of acquiring or adapting to a new culture, its traditions, customs, and patterns of daily living.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): A severe immunological disorder caused by a virus that destroys the body’s immune system and weakens the ability to fight harmful bacteria.

Activation Synthesis Theory: The idea that during sleep, an automatic activation system in the brain produces a series of random electrical discharges that the sleeper roughly ties together by creating a storyline. An opposing theory to the traditional Freudian idea that dreams are secrets, fears, and the like rising from the unconscious.

Addiction: The physical and mental state of dependence on a substance or stimulus, to the point where withdrawal symptoms occur whenever the substance is not present in the body.

Affective Disorders: Any disorder in which the primary symptoms are associated with mood disturbances, such as extreme depression, excessive elation, or both.

Agoraphobia: An extreme fear of public places or open spaces.

Amygdala: A portion of the limbic system considered to be the center for certain memories, as well as for emotional reaction, such as aggression.

Anxiety Disorder: A mental disorder in which an individual experiences physiological arousal and feelings of tension, tremor, shaking, and general apprehension without obvious reason or provocation.

Apnea [sleep] : Heavy, disruptive snoring with repetitive pauses in breathing. Results include fatigue, memory loss, impotence, and high blood pressure.

Autonomic Arousal: The involuntary change in bodily activities that relates to the peripheral nervous system, such as a person’s heart rate or sweating, in response to physical or psychological stimuli.

Availability Heuristic: A general principle used in reasoning under conditions of uncertainty; based on dependence on one’s personal experiences.

Behavior Therapy: Treatment which focuses on the environment that surrounds the patient, as well as reinforcement and conditioning principles that affect the patient and his or her illness.

Behaviorism: A framework for understanding human behavior through observable, measurable data. This view emphasizes objective stimulus and response over more subjective analysis of internal states. Key figures in behaviorism include American psychologists John B. Watson (1878-1958) and B.F. Skinner (1904-1990).

Biofeedback: The process of acquiring voluntary control over non-conscious biological functions, such as those of internal organs and disease. Revolutionized by Neil Miller.

Biological Biasing: The idea that people are genetically “primed” for a disorder, and therefore more likely to get it than others in the general population.

Biological Senescing: The process of growing older physically.

Biomedical Therapy: Therapy used to treat psychological disorders by associating the disorders with changing biological or physical mechanisms, i.e., treating mental disorders as diseases and administering medical treatment.

Biopsychosocial Model: The concept of treating not just the body, but the whole person in his or her social context. A synthesis of biomedical and psychoanalytical approaches to treatment; also called the holistic approach.

Brain Stem: The main structure of the nervous system that connects the brain to the spinal cord.

Chunking: The process of taking single items of information and collecting them based on similarity, association, or other organizing principles, into larger wholes.

Circadian Rhythm: Consistent pattern of cyclical body activities which lasts approximately 24 hours; also known as the biological clock.

Classical Conditioning: A form of learning in which behavior (conditional response) comes to be elicited by a stimulus (conditional stimulus) that has acquired its power through an association with a biological stimulus, such as food, and repetition. Also called Pavlovian conditioning, after the Russian physiologist, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, whose experiments with dogs revolutionized the concept of memory and response.

Cognitive Control: The ability to create subjective realities for oneself, or as directed by a leader; the power of an individual or group to give different meanings to situations.

Cognitive Dissonance: The theory that tension is created between what we think and what we do, and that the discontent created motivates groups or individuals to reduce that tension in whatever way necessary.

Cognitive Illusion: An error in judgement caused by a systematic way of thinking.

Cognitive Psychology: The study of higher mental processes and structures, such as the storage, transformation, and manipulation of information.

Cognitive Tests: Tests that measure an individual’s learning in a specific subject area and quantify aspects of one’s mental abilities.

Computer Assisted Tomography (CAT scan): An instrument for measuring and analyzing the brain’s structure.

Corpus Callosum: The connecting nerve bundle that bridges the two halves of the brain and provides continuity between the right and left hemispheres as electrical impulses pass to each side.

Crystallized Intelligence: The facet of intelligence involving a person’s acquired knowledge and her or his ability to access it.

Dementia: A severe deterioration of cognitive abilities, such as memory, reasoning, judgement, and other higher mental processes.

Dendrites: The branched fibers of neurons that receive signals from other neurons. One of the parts of the physical brain known to respond to stimulus, such as touch, by growing and expanding over time.

Depth Perception: The ability to understand the relationship among objects in space. Human beings develop a sense of depth perception as infants.

Developmental Psycholinguistics: The study of language and its development in children, as seen from a psychological point of view.

Disassociation: The functioning of consciousness at different levels without the awareness of relevant information on other levels.

Displacement: The phenomenon of redirecting one’s anger or frustration towards individuals other than the ones who are the source of anger.

Distal Stimulus: A distant stimulus, as opposed to the proximal, or near, stimulus. An object, such as a tree, which reflects light waves, is a distal stimulus with respect to the eye.

Double-Blind Procedure: An experimental technique used to determine the effect of a treatment or stimulus, while eliminating biased expectations. In the process, all parties are unaware of which participants are the subjects and which are the controls in an experiment.

Drapetomania: A fictitious mental illness believed to cause slaves to run away from their masters and obsessively seek freedom. An example of the misuse of the medical model of psychopathology.

Dyslexia: A condition in which the high-speed language processing area of the brain fails to activate, causing difficulty in reading and deciphering particular sounds.

Ego: In Freudian theory, the aspect of the personality involved in self-preservation activities, and directing instinctual drives (the id) into appropriate social channels. The moderator between the id and the superego.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): Treatment in which an electric current is applied to a patient’s temples in order to induce upheaval in the central nervous system; also called shock therapy.

Electroencephalogram (EEG): The process of recording the brain’s electrical activity by attaching electrodes to the scalp and analyzing wave patterns.

Engram: The hypothesized chemical change in the brain resulting from the storing of memory information; also called memory traces.

Event-Related Potentials (ERP): An instrument used to measure and record brainwaves during specific cognitive events.

Explanatory Style: How individuals describe their successes and failures to others, indicating an optimistic or pessimistic bent, which researchers believe tells much about the teller’s psychological state.

Fluid Intelligence: The aspect of intelligence involving the ability to see, infer, and analyze relationships and solve problems.

Formal Operational Thought: The capacity for abstract, scientific thinking.

Free Association: The principle technique in Freudian psychoanalysis in which patients give a running account of thoughts, feelings, mental images, and physical sensations as they occur, in order to derive a repressed or hidden motivation for their psychological disorder.

Functional Amnesia: A severe type of memory loss caused by psychological factors such as anxiety, hysteria, or repression.

Functionalism: The perspective on mind and behavior that focuses on the examination of the organism’s interactions with its environment. The study of the contents of consciousness, associated with William James.

Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE): The dual tendency of observers to underestimate the impact of situational factors, and to overestimate the influence of dispositional factors on an actor’s behavior.

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS): A pattern of non-specific adaptational physiological mechanisms that occurs in response to a serious stressor.

Genetic Variability: The biological reality that offspring of any given species will differ from its parents, and that some offspring will survive by adapting to changing conditions.

Group Think: The tendency of a decision-making group to filter out undesirable input in order to reach a consensus, especially if it is in accordance with the leader’s viewpoint.

Habituation: The change in one’s response when a stimulus is presented repeatedly.

Hypnagogic State: An alternate state of consciousness at the onset of sleep, and the perceptions, fantasies, and energy levels provoked by that state.

Id: In Freudian theory, the primitive, unconscious part of the personality that operates irrationally and acts on impulse, passion, and animalistic urges.

Implicit Attitudes Test (IAT): A method of measuring biological and psychological reaction time when a pair of values are presented.

Individuation: The process of separation and unique personal growth, i.e., the gradual separation and independence of a child from its mother.

Inherited Behavioral Differences: Human characteristics, such as shyness, which may result from inherited genetic traits.

Instrumental Conditioning: Learning about the relationship between a response and its consequences.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ): Index derived from standardized tests of intelligence. Originally obtained by dividing an individual’s mental age by his or her chronological age and then multiplying by 100; now directly computed as an IQ test score.

Job Burnout: The deterioration of one’s job performance due to factors such as stress and lack of support.

Language Acquisition Device (LAD): Proposed biologically based mental structure that theorists believe plays a major role in children’s language learning. Linguist Noam Chomsky revolutionized the idea that an infant’s innate ability to understand a language structurally, before actually being able to speak it, allows for the possibility that children can learn any language intuitively before a certain age.

Law of Effect: The basic law of learning that states that the power of a stimulus to evoke a response is strengthened when the response is rewarded, and weakened when it is not rewarded.

Life-Span Development: The study of the continuities, stabilities, and changes in psychological and physical processes that characterize human functioning, from conception through the final phases of life.

Lucid Dreaming: The state of being consciously aware, while sleeping, that you are dreaming.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A technique for exploring the human brain, using magnetic fields and radio waves to generate and record energy pulses within the brain.

Mid-Life Crisis: A personal identity conflict that comes during middle adulthood, usually around one’s forties. The result of feelings of worthlessness and unresolved problems with intimacy and identity; frequently manifested in self-indulgent acts reflective of adolescent behavior.

Mind Guarding: The tendency for members of a group to protect the leader or other decision-makers from input that might influence the leaders to change their minds or raise questions, therefore disrupting the harmony of the organization.

Mnemonic: Technique or device used to aid in memorization.

Motivation: The process of starting, directing, and maintaining physical and psychological activities; includes preferences for one activity over another and persistence of responses.

Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD): A dissociative disorder in which different aspects of a personality function independently of one another, creating the appearance of two or more distinct personalities within an individual.

Mutual Constitution: The reciprocal way in which an individual is shaped by the surrounding culture and simultaneously shapes the culture with his or her behavior. The two modes of mutual constitution are independent (focus on the uniqueness of the individual, being unique) and interdependent (focus on group or community, sense of connection, and responsibility to larger group).

Myelination: The process in which the brain�s neural fibers are coated with an insulating fatty sheath (called myelin), facilitating quicker, more efficient transmission of messages.

Nature vs. Nurture Debate: The persistent controversy about whether behavior or other human characteristics are genetically predetermined, or if they are shaped predominantly by the environment and events in an individual’s life.

Nerve Impulse: An electrical discharge passed along a neuron’s internal fiber.

Neuroethologist: A psychologist who specializes in applying the methodologies of brain science to the study of animal behavior.

Neuron: The basic element of the nervous system; a cell that allows rapid communication between adjacent cells, including receiving, processing, and transmitting information.

Neurotransmitter: A chemical messenger, released from neurons, that crosses the synapse and interacts with receptors.

Nonverbal Communication: Communication between people without the use of words.

Object Permanence: The understanding that physical objects continue to exist even though we cannot see them; an early stage in the psychological development of a child.

One-Word Stage: The stage in a child’s language development when the elemental aspects of speech have been mastered, and complete words are used to express relationships between people and objects. In other words, the understanding and use of words as symbols, usually at the end of a baby’s first year.

Operant Behavior/Conditioning: A variation on instrumental conditioning in which behavior operates upon the environment and produces consequences, and conditioning manifests as the change that takes place when those consequences have a particular effect.

Organic Amnesia: A permanent form of memory loss, resulting from biological devastation to the brain, such as disease, alcoholism, chemical poisoning, and senility.

Parietal Cortex: The part of the brain that determines where objects are in space, and consequently how one needs to react to them.

Personality Tests: Tests that measure the non-cognitive parts of human personality, such as interests, values, and personality traits.

Phobia: An intense, irrational aversion to something; an overwhelming fear of an objectively harmless stimulus that interferes with normal functioning.

Placebo Effect: The clinical response to a treatment that occurs independent of its physiological effect. In medicine, a placebo is a substance that has no direct pharmacological effect, such as a sugar pill.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET): A method of obtaining detailed pictures of activity in the living brain. Involves injecting a radioactive substance that is taken up by the active neurons, and allows one to view the blood flow in localized areas of the brain as certain tasks are preformed.

Post-Hypnotic Amnesia: Forgetting selected events due to suggestion while under hypnosis, including the suggestion itself.

Practical Intelligence: The idea of a general cognitive, physical, and spatial awareness that is innate in individuals, and which allows them to navigate spaces and social situations.

Prefrontal Lobotomy: An operation that severs the nerve fibers that connect the brain’s frontal lobe to the thalamus. Performed on individuals with severe mental disorders that have not responded to other treatments.

Protestant Ethic: A phrase that describes and relates to early American culture, emphasizing individual achievement, personal responsibility, self-sufficiency, and control over the environment.

Prototype: A representative example of a category, or its most typical member.

Proximal Stimulus: A near stimulus, that acts directly on an aspect of the nervous system. The effect of the light waves on the retina of the eye is an example of proximal stimulus (see Distal Stimulus).

Psychoanalytic Therapy: Freudian technique of exploring unconscious motivations, conflicts, and repressed emotions for a prolonged period of time; an alternative to biomedical treatment.

Psychological Adolescing: The process of growing up to full adulthood and realizing the personal potential of oneself; one part of the aging process that develops along with growing older physically.

Psychological Androgyny: Individuals with both male and female psychological characteristics; a blend of masculinity and femininity that results in a greater behavioral adaptability.

Psychometric Research: Studies in the field of psychology that specialize in mental testing and developing standardized methods for collecting data and assessing psychological phenomena.

Psychometrics: Mental testing and measurement.

Psychopathology: The study of mental disorders, or any significant behavioral or psychological syndrome that is an impairment to an individual’s areas of functioning.

Psychosocial Dwarfism: A syndrome in which children’s normal development is inhibited by traumatic psychological surroundings or events. For instance, physical growth may be stunted when young children experience stress due to family trauma, abandonment, or lack of human touch. Also known as stress dwarfism.

Psychology: The scientific study of behavior and mental processes.

Psychosurgery: Surgical procedures performed on brain tissue to alleviate psychological disorders.

Pygmalion Effect: Positive change in a person’s performance or perception of a situation, based on expectation and encouragement by others.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM): Reliable behavioral sign that a sleeper’s mental activity is centered around dreaming.

Reflex: A natural reaction to an external stimulus which causes a physical response. Also an unlearned response induced by specific stimuli that have biological relevance to the organism.

Repression: Freudian theory of expelling or excluding painful thoughts or memories from conscious awareness by storing them in the subconscious.

Retina: The interior rear surface of the eye, containing light-sensitive cells, called photoreceptors, which collect information and transfer it to other parts of the brain for processing and comprehension.

Retinotopic Mapping: The process of recording images photographically in the visual cortex for visual processing.

Schizophrenia: A psychotic disorder consisting of the breakdown of integrated personality functioning, withdrawal from reality, emotional disturbance, or all of the above.

Scientific Method: A framework of approaches and procedures for forming a hypothesis and gathering and interpreting objective information through experimentation. Seeks to minimize sources of bias and to yield dependable, and independently testable, information.

Selective Optimization: A strategy for fulfillment throughout the aging process, where one maximizes gains and minimizes losses associated with growing older. In other words, making the best of what you have.

Self-Concept: An individual’s awareness of his or her continuing identity as a person.

Serial Position Effect: A characteristic of retrieval in which a person’s recall of first and last items in a list is better than recall of other items.

Soma: The cell body of a neuron, containing the nucleus and cytoplasm of the cell.

Stereotype Threat: The theory that an individual’s sense of self and personal performance can be affected when the individual is reminded of a negative or positive stereotype of him or herself, including gender, race, and religion.

Strategic Self-Presentation: An individual’s awareness of the social aspects of self-concept; how people present themselves to others.

Structuralism: The view that all human mental experience can be understood as the combination of simple events or elements, and that the underlying structure of the human mind can be revealed by analyzing all basic elements of sensation. The study of the how and why of experience, associated with Wilhem Wundt.

Subconscious Awareness: The mental processes involving information not currently in consciousness but retrievable by special recall procedures, such as hypnosis.

Superego: In Freudian theory, the aspect of the personality representing the internalization of society’s values, standards, and morals; the inner consciousness, in direct opposition to the id.

Survival of the Fittest: A key concept in the theory of evolution; the idea that those organisms best adapted to their environment will be more successful than those who are not. Although a concept from biology, survival of the fittest, and natural selection began to be used in other spheres as early as 1900.

Symbolic Reasoning: The cognitive ability to relate one concept to another that represents it in some way. For example, a young child’s ability to reason symbolically can be tested by placing a small doll in a model room, and then asking the child to find the full-size doll in an analogous place in a normal-size room.

Synapse: The junction between one neuron and the membrane of the next neuron.

Telegraphic Stage: The last stage in early language development, when a child begins to form simple sentences and maintains a cognitive word order that can be understood as reflecting a native language.

Theory of Self-Efficacy: Albert Bandura’s concept of an individual’s belief that he or she can perform adequately in a particular situation.

Thought-Stopping: A behavior modification technique in which critical and independent thinking is discouraged or disallowed.

Trios: Psychologist James Jones’s theory that the residual influences and harsh experiences of slavery surface in some African-Americans’ conceptions of time, rhythm, improvisation, speech, and spirituality.

Two-Word Stage: The early stage of language development when a child begins to use phrases to express common functions, such as locating and naming objects, demanding and desiring things, questioning, modifying, and qualifying.

Universal Adaptability: In linguistics, the point (believed to be before the age of one) when an infant can distinguish sounds from any language and reproduce them. This flexibility is lost after the child begins to specialize in his or her native language.

Visual Cortex: Region of the brain’s cerebral cortex that processes visual information.

Volume Perception: The understanding that containers of different shapes or proportions may hold the same volume.

Advisory Board and Credits

The advisory board of nationally recognized experts from diverse areas of psychological knowledge has significantly contributed to creating this important telecourse.

Updated Edition:

John Darley, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Princeton University

Jane Halonen, Ph.D., Director, School of Psychology, James Madison University

James Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Delaware and Director of Minority Fellowships, the American Psychological Association.

Philip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Stanford University and President of the American Psychological Association, 2001-2002.

Advisory Board for the original series

Philip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

W. Curtis Banks, Professor of Psychology (deceased), Howard University

Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr., Professor of Psychology, Texas A&M University

Tom Bond, Sleep Disorder Specialist, Williamsburg Sleep Disorder Center

Freda Rebelsky Camp, Former Professor of Psychology, Boston University

Daniel Goleman, Psychologist, Journalist, Author

James B. Maas, Professor of Psychology, Cornell University

Margaret S. Martin, Associate Professor, Department of Health Professions Education, The Medical University of South Carolina

Joe L. Martinez, Jr., Director, Division of Life Sciences, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Fay-Tyler M. Norton, Retired President, Colleague Consultants in Higher Education

Michael Wertheimer, Retired Professor of Psychology, University of Colorado Boulder

WGBH Educational Foundation
WGBH Boston is the flagship station of the Public Broadcasting Service. It is internationally recognized for excellence and innovation in television and radio programming. WGBH provides nearly one-third of the prime-time lineup of public television with programs such as NOVA, Frontline, The American Experience, ZOOM, Between the Lions, Mystery!, and ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre. To extend the educational impact of our programs, WGBH creates and distributes a variety of learning materials from teacher’s guides to video modules, CD-ROM, DVD, and Web sites.

Annenberg Media (Annenberg Learner)
Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition is funded by Annenberg Media. Annenberg Media, a partnership between the Annenberg Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting uses media and telecommunications to advance excellent teaching in American schools. Annenberg Media funds educational series and teacher professional development workshops for the Annenberg Channel, which is distributed free by satellite to schools and other educational and community organizations nationwide. The notable series, workshops, and activities of Annenberg Media include Destinos, French in Action, Journey North, The Mechanical Universe, The Private Universe Project, the Teaching Math Libraries, and The Western Tradition.

Allyn & Bacon
Allyn & Bacon, a division of Pearson Education, is a publisher of college textbooks and professional resources for social sciences, education and humanities. Serving both college students and practicing professionals, Allyn & Bacon offers publications, technology resources and training, as well as professional development. Visit for more information on the companion text to this series, Psychology and Life by Richard Gerrig and Philip Zimbardo or for related student and faculty guides.

Production Staff (Video)

Updated Edition
Harlan Reiniger, Producer

Jayne Sportelli, Associate Producer

Kim Swensen, Production Assistant

Christine Herbes-Sommers, Senior Producer/Project Director

Michele Korf, Executive Producer

Original Series
Tug Yourgrau, Senior Producer

Thomas Friedman, Executive Editor

William C. Brennan, Executive Producer

Website Production Credits

The Discovering Psychology website is a production of WGBH Interactive for Annenberg Media.

Executive Producer

Ted Sicker


Arthur Smith

Content Producer

Meredith Nierman


Melanie MacFarlane

Meredith Nierman


David Crawford

Lisa Rosenthal 

Chris Wise


Kirsten Connelly

Additional Editorial Content 

Vanessa Hayes

Zach Nataf

Production Assistant

Jessica Cavano

Academic Advisors

Philip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

Jeff Fine-Thomas, M.A., L.M.F.T., Adjunct Professor, Southern Nazarene University

Jane Halonen, Ph.D., Professor, School of Psychology, James Madison University

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph. D., Professor of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Michael Stoloff, Ph.D., Professor and Undergraduate Psychology Director, School of Psychology, James Madison University



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