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Abnormal Behaviour: is behaviour that differs from the norm. Conventionally in Psychology and Psychiatry, abnormal behaviour is defined by one or more of 4 ways:-

  • Statistical Deviation – measured in standard deviations from the mean (average) in a set of scores of behavioural and/or linguistic responses in a population sample, this is a means of describing difference statistically
  • Deviation from Social Norms – though cultural relativism means social norms will vary from culture to culture and in sub-cultures
  • Failure to Function Adequately– in broad terms, not coping with life eg: not being able to hold down a job, sustain a relationship, etc
    This quite simple definition has been greatly expanded by David Rosenhan & Martin E P Seligman (1989) – though their enhancement of the definition has been quite heavily criticised
  • Deviation from Ideal Mental Health ‘ideal mental health’ being represented by the tendency to Self-Actualisation (the actualising tendency) found in the writings of Abraham Maslow (1943; 1956) and Carl Rogers (1961) and paralleled in Don Beck’s (2002a) concept of the prime directive

Abnormal behaviour, especially if accompanied by disturbed thinking, is often taken as a sign of mental illness.  ‘Abnormality’ is sometimes used as a alternative term for abnormal behaviour.

Abnormal Psychology: the branch of Psychology concerned with atypical or abnormal behaviour.

Acetylcholine: a neurotransmitter released in the brain and throughout the body that generally has an excitatory effect.
In the brain it is associated with the continuation of REM sleep. In the body it is released at the synapse between motor neurons and muscles.

Accommodation: the term has several different meanings in Sociology and Psychology:-
○ Robert Park & Ernest Burgess (1921) saw accommodation as a fundamental social process, analogous to biological adaptation, by which societies achieve adjustment to their environments.
○ a similar usage is applied in race relations where accommodation is a process in which ethnic groups adjust to each other’s existence and coexist without necessarily resolving underlying differences and conflicts. By contrast assimilation is the process by which a minority group adopts the values and patterns of behaviour of the majority group or host culture, ultimately being absorbed by the majority group. Not only will this process involve change for the minority group but the absorption will often bring about change in the majority group. The PURPLE vMEME, with its emphasis on tribal distinctions, will tend to accommodate rather than assimilate whereas GREEN, with its everybody-is-equal motif, will tend to demand assimilation.
○ the accommodation-assimilation contrast is also used by the great Swiss child psychologist Jean Piaget (1928) who explained that, when new information (incoming memes) will not fit with existing schemas – ie: it cannot be assimilated – then cognitive development takes place as a result of adaptation between the individual’s existing schemas and the environmental pressure to accommodate the new information. This results in the modification of existing schemas and/or the formation of new schemas. Effectively the individual has to fit in with the perceived realities of the external world.Of course, some minor adaptation will take place in assimilation.


Acculturation Strategy: the decisions and actions members of ethnic groups take in balancing the preservation of their own cultural identity with the amount of contact they have with other cultural groups.

Acetylcholine (ACh): a neurotransmitter which generally has an excitatory effect. It has been associated with REM sleep in that drugs which block ACh prevent the continuation of REM sleep while drugs that stimulate ACh synapses start REM sleep.ACh is also released at the synapse between motor neurons and muscles.

Action Frame of Reference: in Talcott Parson’s contributions to Structural Functionalism, the action frame of reference (1937) is a synthesis of core premises and categories that is fundamental to all sociological understanding.
The concept is centred on the idea that the ‘unit act’ represents any and all meaningful instances of human social behaviour. The 5 elements of the unit act – actors, ends, means, conditions and norms – are essential to all social action.

Action Potential: the wave of potassium-sodium ion changes that passes down an axon when a neuron fires. This is the basis of transmission in the nervous system.

Action Slip: an everyday error that occurs in the context of an action sequence – that is, a sequence of actions that we have practised so often they have become automatic. An action slip is a sort of absent-minded error that results in omitting a stage in the sequence or carrying out the sequence of part of it in the wrong order.

Actor-Observer Effect: a kind of attributional bias in which individuals tend to explain their own socially-undesirable behaviour in situational terms whereas, when observing the same behaviour in another, they would use dispositional terms.

Actualising Tendency: the term used by Carl Rogers (1961) and generally accepted and used in Humanistic Psychology for a motive that exists in everyone to develop their full potential and achieve the highest level of thinking – ie: they are self-actualised. This can be compared to Don Beck’s (2002a) concept of the prime directive. See: Self-Actualisation.

Adaptive Response:

Adaptive Value: The property of a given genotype that confers fitness to an organism in a given environment.

Adrenal Gland: an endocrine gland located adjacent to and covering the upper part of each kidney. The adrenal medulla (inner region) produces the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. The adrenal cortex (outer region) manufactures glucocorticoids like cortisol and sex hormones such as androgens.

Adrenaline: aka epinephrine, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands which increases physiological arousal and is a key enabler in the fight-or-flight stress response.

Adrenocorticotrophic Hormone (ACTH): a hormone released by the pituitary gland which stimulates the adrenal cortex to produce glucocorticoids. ACTH is produced in large amounts as part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis function when stress continues beyond the immediate sympathetic response.

Aetiology: the study of what causes a mental or physical disorder.

Aetiological Validity: the extent to which the cause of a disorder is the same for each sufferer.

Affectionless Psychopathy: see Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Agentic Shift Theory: Stanley Milgram (1974) posited that, when someone accepts the orders of another, they shift from being in an autonomous state and having free will to being in an agentic state and not having free will.
If the person giving the order has the right to give the order – ie: they have legitimate authority – then the person carrying out the order(s) is (theoretically) absolved of responsibility for the consequences of their actions – ie: “I do as I’m told. I’m just following orders.” Where PURPLE and especially BLUE are dominant in the individual or collective vMEME Stack, then this kind of blind obedience is likely to occur. However, those lower down in RED’s ‘power pecking order’ may also behave as agents of the more powerful to avoid potential unpleasant consequences.

Agentic State: the feeling of being under the control (an agent) of a ‘higher authority’ and having no choice other than to carry out the orders of that higher authority. In such a state the person carrying out the orders is theoretically not responsible for the consequences of their actions because they felt they had no choice.

Agonist: a drug which has the same effect as a naturally-produced neurotransmitter. Eg: Diazepam (Valium) decreases anxiety by enhancing GABA activity. Alcohol also acts as a GABA agonist – hence expressions such as “one to steady the nerves”.

Alienation: a psychological or social state characterised by one or another type of harmful separation, disruption or fragmentation which sunders people from groups they would normally belong to or feel identification with.
For example, members of the electorate might feel distanced from the political process and powerless in relation to it.
Karl Marx (1867) used the term particularly in relation to ‘modern wage labourers’ who, via the mechanics of Capitalism, have little or no ownership of their own lives or the products they create.

All Quadrants/All Levels: is one of the key constructs in the philosophy of Ken Wilber (1996). It provides a structure for mapping all levels or stages in any line of development through Wilber’s 4 Quadrants. In essence Wilber’s Quadrants are derived from the intersection of two lines, Exterior-Interior (aka Tangible-Intangible, Objective-Subjective) and Individual-Collective. This gives the 4 Quadrants of :-

  • Upper Right – Exterior Individual: can be read as the individual’s own behaviour (considered objectively) but is used more often to describe the physical development of the individual’s brain and nervous systems
  • Upper Left – Individual Exterior: the development of the individual’s subjective consciousness – which can go from pre-cognitive sensory awareness through the development of cognition and motivation and can include the transpersonal (spirit)
  • Lower Right – Exterior Collective: considers the structures and systems in which people live and operate, from the family to the planet – studied in Functionalism
  • Lower Left – Interior Collective: represents the cultural values, meanings, worldviews and ethics shared by the members of any form of collective grouping – studied in Symbolic Interactionism and Memetics

The 4 Quadrants are outlined and illustrated in Peter McNab’s Article, Aligning Neurological Levels – a Reassessment (1999). 4Q/8L can be viewed as an application or subset of All Levels/All Quadrants which uses the vMEMES of the Graves Model to map the development of motivation.
In 2006 Wilber proposed that each Quadrant has an inside – the subjective experience of being in that Quadrant – and an outside – how the Quadrant appears objectively from outside the experience. In this he is very much reflecting the work of George Herbert Mead (1934) and his concept of  I (the acting self)/me (the socially-perceived self).

Allele: one of the two or more forms of a gene.At the same position on each set of paired chromosomes is a gene for a particular characteristic such as eye colour. These two variations of the same gene are termed ‘alleles’.

Amygdala: see Limbic System.

Anal Retentive Personality: is one of the ‘psychosexual fixations’ identified in Psychoanalytic Theory – see Psychosexual Fixations & Personality. According to Sigmund Freud (1923),such a person is likely to be mean, stubborn, pedantic and obsessively tidy.
It may be that the BLUE vMEME locked into a Melancholic temperament would explain such characteristics. However, since Freud attributes the development of the anal retentive personality to the infant experiencing problems with toilet training – also a key developmental issue for Erik Erikson – then acceptance (or not) by the parents for success (or not) with toilet training would influence the health of the PURPLE vMEME. (The health of PURPLE laying the cognitive and emotional foundations for the entire Spiral.)

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome: the result of a genetic ‘male’ with XY chromosomes not being exposed to male sex hormones during development and thus developing female sex organs.

Androgenital Syndrome: the result of a genetic ’female’  with XX chromosomes being exposed to male sex hormones during development and thus developing male sex organs.

Androgens: male sex hormones responsible for the development of male sex characteristics.
For the first few weeks of pre-natal development all foetuses have the same undeveloped sex organs, both male (Wolffian system) and female (Műlerian system). 6 weeks into development of the male foetus, if there is an SRY gene present on the Y chromosome present the protein hormone H-Y Antigen is released which encourages the development of testes. The first hormone to be be released by the testes is Műlerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS) – which actively absorbs the female parts and thus prevents any further development of female sex organs. The testes then produce androgens which work to masculinise the foetus by stimulating the development of male sex organs, thickening the spermatic cord. After 3 months of pre-natal development, if there has been development of testes and, consequently, the production of male sex hormones, the Wolffian system will develop fully into male sex organs. In the absence of male sex hormones, the Műlerian system will develop fully into female sex organs.

Graphic copyright © 2008 Pearson Education Ltd

At puberty, under the influence of hypothalamic and pituitary hormones, male gonads release testosterone – amongst other androgens – which helps develops male sexual characteristics

Androgyny Theory: the argument put forward by Sandra Bem (1976) that being in a state of androgyny was more healthy psychologically than being restricted to rigid gender roles – eg: a man crying when emotionally upset (perceived typical female behaviour) would be better than keeping it ‘bottled up’ and unable to express himself emotionally.There is some linkage here with the anima/animus concept of Carl Gustav Jung (1917).

Animism: the belief that natural phenomena are endowed with ‘life’ or ‘spirit’, or the tendency to attribute supernatural or spiritual characteristics to plants, geological features, climatic phenomena, etc.

Anisogamy: sexual reproduction in which the gametes of the participating sexes are dissimilar – eg: in humans and most animal species where the male makes microscopic sperm in millions while the female produces a limited number of larger eggs. In Evolutionary Psychology anisogamy is considered to be the reason behind different attitudes towards sex (unconscious reproductive strategies for passing on their genes) between men (outrightly promiscuous to create as many offspring as possible) and women (needful of resources to nurture limited offspring but ready to cheat on the male provider to get better genes from another male).From an Integrated SocioPsychology point of view, while this accurately describes BEIGE reproductive imperatives, it is effectively sub-cognitive and ignores the more complex ways of thinking and motivation which can dominate higher up the Spiral.
‘Anisogamy’ is also used in Sociology and Anthropology for asymmetric marriage alliances – eg: the marriage of persons from different social status.

Anima/Animus: respectively the female and male archetypes in the writings of Carl Gustav Jung (1917). He argued that everyone had both components in the psyche and thus was capable of thinking and behaving in a characteristically male or female way.Popular sayings such as “You need to be more in touch with your feminine side” are derived from Jung’s concepts.

Anomie: a term first used by Émile Durkheim (1893), this is a situation where an individual or group no longer supports or follows the norms of society. It can also be used to describe a condition of normlessness in a society where the previous norms of behaviour have declined to the point where most of the population are uncertain and/or confused as to how they should behave. Durkheim linked this to rates of suicide.
Robert K Merton (1938) redefined the term much more specifically to mean a state where people are not able to achieve the goals society sets them through legitimate/approved means. This causes immense strain – see Strain Theory. Merton linked levels of strain to crime.

Antagonist: a drug that neutralises the effects of a naturally-produced neurotransmitter. Eg: Chlorpromazine blocks both dopamine and noradrenaline receptors. Lithium blocks noradrenaline receptors.

Anthromorphism: is the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, natural and supernatural phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts.
Subjects for anthropomorphism commonly include animals and plants depicted as creatures with human motivation able to reason and converse, forces of nature such as winds or the sun, components in games, unseen or unknown sources of chance, etc.

Anthropology: the study of humanity, with emphasis on origins, institutions and beliefs. Cross-cultural studies and cultural relativism are key components in the structure of modern Anthropology.
Biological-oriented/Physical Anthropology is concerned with the genesis and variation of hominoid species and draws on Evolutionary biology, Demography and Archaeology.
Social Anthropology investigates the cultures and structures of human societies.

Antidepressant: a stimulant drug which has an agonist effect by increasing the production of serotonin and/or noradrenaline.

Anti-Psychiatry: a movement begun by Thomas Szasz (1960), with the view that the Medical Model approach to mental illness is mistaken and dangerous.  ‘Mental illness’ is portrayed as a myth. Szasz proposed that socially-expressed symptoms should be seen as problems in living and appropriate support provided. He was supported in this by R D Laing (1967) while Michel Foucault (1973-74/2006) states that the concepts of sanity and insanity are purely social constructs.

Anti-Psychotic: a drug used to reduce psychotic symptoms.Eg: Chlorpromazine for Schizophrenia; lithium for Manic-Depressive Psychosis.

Anti0-Social Behaviour:

Anxiety Disorder: mental disorder characterised by levels of fear and apprehension out of all proportion to the threat posed.Eg: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, phobias, etc.

Acquiescence Response: a respondent to a questionnaire or in an interview agrees with one item because they’ve agreed with the immediate previous items when, if asked about the item on its own, they might not have given the same answer.

Archetypes: according to Carl Gustav Jung (1919), inherited, unconscious ideas and images that are components of the Collective Unconscious.

Arousal: the body’s level of alertness and activation as reflected in certain physiological responses such as heart rate or muscle tension.

As If’ Frame: an NLP exercise in which the individual imagines they have already achieved a desired state or outcome or overcome a limiting belief (maladaptive schema). They then associate into that state, absorbing its qualities. The exercise gives powerful insights into how to achieve a desired state and on occasion may even free someone from a limiting belief.
The concept has its roots in the ‘As If’ philosophy of Hans Vaihinger (1924) who held that sensations and feelings are real but the rest of human knowledge consists of pragmatically justified ‘fictions’.

Ascending Reticular Activating System: see Reticular Activating System.

Ascription: the occupying of jobs, authority within the family and political roles on the basis of inheritance or fixed characteristics such as gender and race.Asperger’s Syndrome: see Autism.

Assimilation: see Accomodation.

Assimilation-Contrast Effect: developed by Don Beck (2003) from Social Judgement Theory (Muzafer Sherif & Carl Hovland, 1961; Muzafer Sherif & Carolyn Wood Sherif, 1968). The basis is thatt the more extreme someone’s views are in a conflict or disagreement, the more they will reject other views – even those which are more moderate versions of their own – such is the contrast they draw. On the other hand, someone with relatively moderate views is more likely to at least partially assimilate the views of moderates on the other side. Beck posits that BLUE and below are more likely to contrast while the emergence of ORANGE in the Spiral hierarchy substantially increases the possibilities of assimilation.

Attachment: a deep emotional bond between 2 or more people, often characterised by a desire for proximity.

Attachment Disorder: a behavioural disorder caused by the lack of an emotionally secure attachment to a caregiver in the first two years of life, characterised by difficulties in forming healthy relationships. Other common symptoms, especially in children, are poor impulse control, chronic anger, and antisocial tendencies. See also Reactive Attachment Disorder.
In Integrated SocioPsychology terms, the PURPLE vMEME has not had its safety-in-belonging needs met, resulting in RED dominating  in the selfplex as a compensation – usually in unhealthy ways.

Attachment Figure: the preferred object of attachment – eg: a parent for a young child.

Attention: the focusing of perception leading to heightened awareness of specific stimuli, resulting in further processing of the information.
In Richard Atkinson & Richard Schiffrin’s Multi-Store Model of Memory (1968), attention is the means of transferring information from the sensory stores to short-term memory.

Attribution Bias: a distortion in perception or judgement about the causes of our own or other people’s behaviour. The attributions people make are not always accurate due to these cognitive biases., leading to mistakes  in explaining both your own behaviour and the behaviour of others.

Attribution Theory: developed from the work of Fritz Heider (1958), this approach is about the attribution of causality and whether it is dispositional (you are the maker of your own fortunes) or situational (you are at the mercy of external forces). Building on Heider’s work, Julian Rotter (1966) established that people do tend to attribute one way or the other in most things throughout their lives – though the degree of directional attribution will vary (as on a scale) from issue to issue. Rotter concluded that an individual’s preference for dispositional or situational attribution may in part be due innate tendencies, with contextual reward or punishment refining the degree of attribution.
The concepts of Attribution Theory have influenced ‘positive thinking gurus’ from Dale Carnegie (1936) through to Stephen Covey (1989) and beyond. However, just using a dispositional/situational approach is often too simplistic for many people in many situations. The finer attributional structure of the Cognitive Triad enables much deeper analysis of how vMEMES influence meta-stating patterns.

Atypical Anti-Psychotic Medication: is a group of anti-psychotic drugs used to treat psychiatric conditions. Some atypical anti-psychotics, such as clozapine, are used in the treatment of Schizophrenia. Others are used to deal  with such conditions as Mania and psychotic agitation.
Atypicals are a group of unrelated drugs united by the fact that they work differently from typical anti-psychotics. Most share a common attribute of working on serotonin receptors as well as dopamine receptors.

Authority Figure:

Authoritarian Personality: the type of person famously identified by Theodore Adorno  et al  (1950) as part of their research into prejudiced persons. Such a person will have rigid beliefs, be hostile towards other groups and non-conformists and  be likely to be highly submissive to the legitimate authority.
In Integrated SocioPsychology terms, this kind of person would have a very high quotient of the BLUE vMEME dominating their selfplex, possibly working at times in a vMEME harmonic with PURPLE and quite possibly fuelled in extremes by the Psychoticism Dimension of Temperament.

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS): this controls involuntary muscles, such as those of the stomach and the heart – overriding the regular control of the medulla oblongata – and the endocrine system which produces and distributes hormones. There are two branches of the ANS which work antagonistically to maintain homeostasis:-

  • Sympathetic – arouses, driven by the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline
    Note: this is sometimes referred to as the sympathetic adrenal medullary system
  • Parasympathetic – relaxes

See What is Stress? for more on how the ANS works in a stressful situation. The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are particularly associated with the stress response (fight or flight) but any form of bodily arousal involves the sympathetic system and any form of resting/relaxation involves the parasympathetic system.

Axon: s single nerve fibre that projects from the cell body of a neuron and transmits the action potential to another neuron or target organ.
The more a neuron fires, the more the axon builds up an enclosing sheath of myelin, a white fatty substance that both protects the axon and speeds up transmission. Eventually the myelin sheath develops minute ridges called ‘Nodes of Ranvier’ which make transmission even faster still.