Psychological Dictionary

Consumer behaviour is the study of how people buy, what they buy, when they buy and why they buy. It is a subcategory of marketing that blends elements from psychology, sociology, sociopsychology, anthropology and economics. It attempts to understand the buyer decision making process, both individually and in groups. It studies characteristics of individual consumers such as demographics, psychographics, and behavioural variables in an attempt to understand people’s wants. It also tries to assess influences on the consumer from groups such as family, friends, reference groups, and society in general.

Belch and Belch define consumer behaviour as ‘the process and activities people engage in when searching for, selecting, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services so as to satisfy their needs and desires’.

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | PersonalityPhilosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Other fields of psychology: AI · Computer · Consulting · Consumer · Engineering · Environmental · Forensic · Military ·Sport · Transpersonal · Index

Main article: Forensic psychology

Legal psychology involves the application of the study and practice of psychology to legal institutions and people who come into contact with the law. Legal psychology is a field which takes basic social and cognitive theories and principles and applies them to issues in the legal system such as eyewitness memory, criminal and civil jury decision-making, investigations and interviewing. Most notably, legal psychologists have been involved in areas such as wrongful convictions and actual innocence cases, jury and trial consulting, as well as Department of Justice guidelines on eyewitness identification.

Legal psychology and forensic psychology together form the field more generally recognized as “psychology and law”. Following up on earlier efforts by psychologists to address legal issues, psychology and law became a field of study in the 1960s as part of an effort to enhance justice. The American Psychological Association‘s Division 41, the American Psychology-Law Society, is active, and there are similar societies in Britain and Europe.

There are now many legal psychology journals, including Law and Human BehaviorPsychology, Public Policy and LawPsychology, Crime, and Law, and Journal of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. Other journals such as Applied Cognitive Psychology and Journal of Applied Psychology have recently published research from this field.

The field of psychology and law has been criticized for retreating from its initial critical focus on the law’s role in maintaining injustice (see, e.g., article by Dennis Fox). While this criticism exists, it is rarely discussed and is basically irrelevant to the field as a whole. Many researchers do study injustice and similar issues, but as the field has grown researchers have determined ways to apply psychology specificially and empiricism more generally to legal issues. Many legal psychologists avoid the application of psychological “theory” and focus on demonstrating that legal questions can be answered through science.


Some interactions of psychology and law Edit

Expert witnessEdit

Psychologists specifically trained in legal issues, as well as those with no formal training, are often called by legal parties to testify as expert witnesses. In criminal trials, an expert witness may be called to testify about eyewitness memory, mistaken identity, competence to stand trial, the propensity of a death-qualified jury to also be “pro-guilt,” etc. Psychologists who focus on clinical issues often testify specifically about a defendant’s competence, intelligence, etc. More general testimony about perceptual issues (e.g., adequacy of police sirens) may also come up in trial.

Experts, particularly psychology experts, are often accused of being “hired guns” or “stating the obvious.” Eyewitness memory experts, such as Elizabeth Loftus, are often discounted by judges and lawyers with no empirical training because their research utilizes undergraduate students and “unrealistic” scenarios. If both sides have psychological witnesses, jurors may have the daunting task of assessing difficult scientific information.

Advisory rolesEdit

Legal psychologists may hold advisory roles in court systems. They may advise legal decision makers, particularly judges, on psychological findings pertaining to issues in a case. The psychologist who acts as a court advisor provides similar input to one acting as an expert witness, but acts out of the domain of an adversarial system.

Amicus briefsEdit

Psychologists can provide an amicus brief to the court. The American Psychological Association has provided briefs concerning mental illness, retardation and other factors. The amicus brief usually contains and opinion backed by scientific citations and statistics. The impact of an amicus brief by a psychological association is questionable. For instance, Judge Blackmun once called a reliance on statistics “numerology” and discounted results of several empirical studies. Judges who have no formal scientific training also may critique experimental methods, and some feel that judges only cite an amicus brief when the brief supports the judge’s predisposition.

Policy making/Legislative guidanceEdit

Psychologists employed at public policy centers may attempt to influence legislative policy or may be called upon by state (or national) lawmakers to address some policy issue through empiricism and research. A psychologist working in public policy might suggest laws or help to evaluate a new legal practice (e.g., the use of sequential lineups v.s. simultaneous lineups).

Trial ConsultingEdit

Legal consultants, especially psychologists, are often hired to help pick juries, conduct mock trials, prepare witnesses, etc. Consultants may work for a law firm, be hired by one side in the case, or even be hired by a party in the case.

Research and DisseminationEdit

Most legal psychologists work for research institutions, such as universities, doing empirical research and teaching. These psychologists work in a variety of psychological areas while focusing some or all of their research on psycholegal issues. The published work of these researchers may be cited by policy makers or expert witnesses. Expert witnesses often do a great deal of research in the field to become “experts,” and often utilize their own research results in forming an opinion in a particular case.

Research is also the best way for psychologeal scholars to get information to the public. Several journals publish research on psychology and the law, and newspapers often provide summaries of specific studies. Recently, a study concerning police lineups was the object of several news stories.


1. Sensory Memory

First, what is sensory memory? This is a very short term type of memory that really only lasts a few moments after the actual event has taken place. For example, if you touch a hot pan the sensation will stay for a moment after you’ve touched the pan but then it fades away. The pain that stays after the act is the sensory memory of the act.

2. Correlational Research

Correlational research is a study of how two (or more) things are related to one another. For example you may consider whether or not an increase in one variable impacts a second variable in either a positive correlation (both variables increase or decrease together), negative correlation (one increases while the other decreases) or zero correlation, there is no relationship between the two variables. This could be something like the correlation between height and favorite color. The two variables have nothing to do with one another and would be considered to have zero correlation. On the other hand the correlation between height and ability at shoe size may be found to have a high level of correlation.

3. Representativeness Heuristic

Described originally by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the 1970’s, this theory employs a strategy of making judgments based solely on something that already exists in the mind rather than weighing all of the facts. These strategies can often be wrong but they are often used because they are much faster than delving through all information to form a cohesive decision or judgment.

4. Drive Theory

Drive theory says that everyone (and everything) on the planet is born with intrinsic psychological needs. It also states that an organism will seek to achieve a level of homeostasis associated with achieving these needs. These needs include a need for food as well as protection, water, and a level of happiness and achievement. Without these proper levels an individual will continue to push themselves until the levels needed are achieved.

5. Arousal Theory

Under this theory every organism will seek to achieve a high level of excitement or arousal. This has little to do with sexual arousal and instead refers to the level of risk involved in behaviors as correlated to the level of arousal in an individual. Those with higher levels of arousal will complete tasks or activities that encompass or require a higher level of risk.

6. Correlational Research Design

A correlational research design uses the research mentioned above. In this model, one would create an experiment that would test the amount of dependence that different variables have on one another. This will determine the correlation between the two variables and enable a decision of positive, negative, or zero correlation. This can be used on any two variables where a correlation is assumed but not known.

7. Difference Threshold

The difference threshold is defined as the minimum noticeable difference that someone will be able to detect at least 50 percent of the time. For example, if the temperature increases slowly, the first temperature at which you recognize that there was a change is the difference threshold. This is considered to be an accurate threshold if it is believed that approximately 50% of people would notice the difference at the same period of time.

8. Ventromedial Hypothalamus

The ventromedial hypothalamus is the part of your body that makes you feel full after you’ve eaten. This hypothalamus will help you understand when you should stop eating and is the opposite of the lateral hypothalamus which tells you when you are hungry. These are related to hunger motivation and consider why an individual will act the way they do in regards to desiring or requiring additional food.

9. Two Factor Theory of Emotion

Introduced by Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer, this theory relies on the fact that the feeling of arousal interacts with the identification of that arousal. This is what causes emotions to occur because the individual needs to first feel the arousal but they are incapable of true emotion until they actually achieve an understanding of what the arousal is. They are then capable of experiencing an emotion of any type.

10. Biomedical Therapy

This type of therapy will focus on physiological intervention as a method of reducing psychological disorders. These types of therapy will use drugs, electroconvulsive treatment, and psychosurgery. Each of these can be used separately or they may be used conjunctively to achieve a positive outcome for the individual involved and to achieve the level of homeostasis that is required for happiness.

11. Instinct Theory

This theory considers why organisms will react and act the way that they do. It believes that all humans have a biological programming that will cause you to do what needs to be done in order to survive without outside influence needed. These activities include eating to relieve hunger or drinking to relieve thirst. They do not need to be explained to anyone because they are intrinsic and occur naturally in the body.

12. Lateral Hypothalamus

The lateral hypothalamus is responsible for telling you when you are hungry and need to eat. It is based in the hunger motivation which says that humans strive to get the nutrients that they need as a motivation for effort. With this hypothalamus is it possible to feel hunger which will drive the organism to action so that it can relieve hunger and return to a level of homeostasis.

13. Internal Working Model

Your internal working model (these are different for everyone) is your personality, the way that you think about and understand the entire world as it exists around you. The personality of each individual will impact the way that they behave and will also influence the way that they go about accomplishing a variety of different tasks. This is going to influence the ways of the world as well as your opinion of it.

14. Encoding Failure

When your brain is incapable of creating a link between information that you tell it and the short or long-term memory this is called an encoding failure. This is what is generally considered ‘forgetting’ but it can apply to many reasons for this loss of information including trauma or substance abuse. It can occur in a variety of different ways and is definitely important to consider when working towards better memory so that an individual will not experience these failures. It can occur in either aspect of memory either short or long-term.

15. Arousal Theory of Motivation

This theory states that human beings will do whatever it takes to achieve their optimum level of arousal. This means that they will engage in a variety of different activities or tasks designed to help the body feel most excited and aroused such as sky diving or other activities. This theory states that those who have a high amount of arousal (a high optimum level) will continue to increase the risk of their activities until they achieve that optimum level.

16. Drive Reduction

This theory was created by Clark Hull and Kenneth Spence and refers to why anyone will feel a drive to participate in an activity. It considers that human beings and other organisms will feel a drive (hunger, thirst, need for shelter, etc.) which they will seek to reduce and this is the reason for action. In order to do this, an organism will work to balance out the drive that they feel and the desires that they feel in a method of homeostasis which requires achieving the different desires and drives that they have.

17. Transduction Psychology

Transduction considers moving one type of energy (such as physical energy) into a different type (neural impulses). These types of energy are transduced so that different parts of the body can understand and interpret them. Different parts of the body utilize different types of energy and in order to use these different types it is essential to have each one connect and interact with one another. This requires some change of energy from one form to another.

18. Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis

This hypothesis considers the reasons that a particular individual will engage in helpful behavior. If empathy is felt then altruism will result, the individual will want to assist the other person without need for reward. An individual that is able to get a reward however, may also act in a seemingly empathetic way (the reward is to stop the suffering) and so it is often difficult to understand whether or not this hypothesis is in action or not.

19. Superego

There were three different parts to the mind according to this theory. An aspect of the mind and way of thinking described by Sigmund Freud, the superego is the part of your mind that comprises the conscience. It also looks at your ideal self and causes you to act in a positive way or react to a specific situation. This portion of the mind considers what needs to be done for the individual to feel the best about themselves or to achieve a level of success that is equivalent to their optimum positivity. The individual will seek to achieve a level of perfection in this aspect of the mind.

20. Next in Line Effect

This effect states that an individual will have less ability to remember the things stated by someone who spoke directly before or after they did. The individual will be incapable of remembering these things simply because they are the next in line and they are suffering from a state of concern or anticipation that makes it difficult to understand or devote energy or time to anything that is happening around them at the moment.

21. Perceptual Set

Under this theory perception is an active process which involves the individual being able to select, infer and interpret information about a given subject. An individual must be able to carry out all three of these things in order to completely understand what is happening and what they want to happen in a given situation or environment. They are capable of understanding what is happening around them at this period.

22. Critical Period

The critical period of life is a stage in which an organism is capable of achieving a specific skill that is required for their continued development and existence. These skills could be techniques of walking, running or speaking which are critical to an individual’s development and are typically learned in a particular sphere of time. If they are not learned in this period it is difficult for them to be learned to the same degree of effectiveness.

23. Absolute Threshold

The absolute threshold is the lowest level of something that can be detected. An example would be when the sun begins to rise. The first moment that an individual is able to recognize the light would be the absolute threshold. This is considered the baseline for anything and the perception of the entire world around the individual. In order to fully understand it is important to consider different things in the world that can be observed this way.

24. Instrumental Behavior

Created by B.F. Skinner, this theory considers the probability that a behavior will occur again based on whether reinforcement or punishment are used and in which ways. It states that a behavior which is reinforced (in either a positive or negative way) will continue while punishments will result in a behavior being completed less frequently.

25. Intelligence Quotient

This is a mathematical formulation used to understand the level of intelligence or smarts of a particular person based on others of the same age. It compares the abilities and the intelligence of a specific individual with similar scores and information that is obtained from watching and studying other children to determine an average baseline for that age group. What is “advanced” or “below average is then considered.

26. Environment

Much time has been spent in psychology considering the ways that the environment influences the way that an individual will grow up and how they will be able to impact themselves and the world around them. These environmental factors can include the surroundings of the individual including other people that they interact with. These environmental factors greatly influence the way that individuals develop and some would argue even more so than their intrinsic abilities and beliefs.

27. Psychosis

A psychosis is a specific symptom of a mental illness. It is generally used to describe a loss of connection with reality. This occurs in those who are already suffering from a psychotic break and generally will cause the individual to behave in a way that is considered abnormal or improper in regards to the situation that they are in.

28. Significance Level

Significance level is the level at which something has a level of statistical relevance and can be considered dependent upon or related to something else. In psychology this is generally anything above a threshold of 5% where differences greater than this amount are considered important statistically to the variable being measured.

29. Id

There are three different parts of the mind which control the behavior of an individual. According to Freud the id is the part of the mind that works to convince an individual to do the things that they want over what is best. This is the part of the mind that is selfish and designed to achieve what the individual wants over anything else. It considers only what it believes to be most important for complete happiness which is sometimes at the expense of others. This is why it is balanced by other parts of the mind.

30. Dependent Variable

A dependent variable is an aspect of a study or research that relies upon a different variable for its outcome. The dependent variable is the one that is being studied when any type of research is done because it is the variable that is likely (and expected) to change as the independent variable changes. For example, if you are trying to measure whether monkeys or cats like bananas best, the dependent variable would be the fondness for bananas. This is the variable that is going to change as a result of the change in independent variable (the animal).

31. Attribution Theory

This is an aspect of social psychological theory which relates to the way that a person will consider the behavior of another. They will ‘attribute’ the behavior to something that is either internal (an individual is not friendly) or external (something happened to them). This is not always thought about by the individual but it most definitely is occurring in the mind whether they are aware of it or not.

32. Ego

This is one of three parts of the mind to control and interpret behavior of an individual. The ego is another aspect of Freud’s theory and this is the part of the mind that is most capable of reasoning. It balances out the id and the superego to determine what should be done rather than what someone wants to have done. The ego is responsible for helping the individual act in a way that is best for everyone involved and will help the most people.

33. Milgram’s Obedience Experiment

This experiment considered the ways in which an individual will react to external influence by a figure that is perceived to have authority as compared to the internal influence of their own conscience. It asked individuals to administer a test to another individual and provide electric shocks of increasing intensity if the individual was incorrect. The authority figure in the room would continue to inform the individual that they must deliver the shocks, thereby challenging the internal conscience of the individual which told them to stop the treatment immediately. It was found that most people will continue to obey the authority figure even when their own mind and their own conscience is telling them that they must stop the behavior immediately.

34. Neocortex

The neocortex is actually part of the brain. This encompasses the entirety of the top layer of the cerebral hemispheres in the brain and everything that it is responsible for in regards to your abilities and interests. It is important to consider the neocortex as only applicable and only found within the brain of a mammal and not any other living creature.

35. Personality

Your personality is what makes you see things and understand things the way that you do. This personality is what truly makes you the individual that you are and it impacts the way that you react in different situations. It is what essentially makes you do the things that you do because you are interested in simply being yourself and taking care of yourself as well. This is the part of you that is difficult to suppress and change because it is intrinsic.