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random assignment: A method of assigning people to groups in an experiment that gives each person an equal chance of being in each group. The procedure helps to ensure that groups are comparable before the experimental manipulation begins.


rape: See forced rape.


rapid-smoking treatment: A behaviour therapy technique for reducing cigarette smoking in which the person is instructed to puff much more quickly than usual in an effort to make the whole experience aversive.


rapport: A close, trusting relationship, believed to be essential for effective psychotherapy.


rational-emotive behaviour therapy (REBT): New term for rational-emotive therapy.


rational-emotive therapy (RET): A cognitive-restructuring behaviour therapy introduced by Albert Ellis and based on the assumption that much disordered behaviour is rooted in absolutistic demands that people make on themselves. The therapy aims to alter the unrealistic goals individuals set for themselves, such as, "I must be universally loved."


rationalization: A defence mechanism in which a plausible reason is unconsciously invented by the ego to protect itself from confronting the real reason for an action, thought, or emotion.


Raynaud’s disease: A psychophysiological disorder in which capillaries, especially of the fingers and toes, are subject to spasm. It is characterized by cold, moist hands, is commonly accompanied by pain, and may progress to gangrene.


reaction formation: A defence mechanism whereby an unconscious and unacceptable impulse or feeling that would cause anxiety is converted into its opposite so that it can become conscious and can be expressed.


reaction-time test: A procedure for determining the interval between the application of a stimulus and the beginning of the subject’s response.


reactivity (of behaviour): The phenomenon whereby behaviour is changed by the very fact that it is being observed.


reading disorder: See dyslexia.


reality principle: In psychoanalytic theory, the manner in which the ego delays gratification and otherwise deals with the environment in a planned, rational fashion.


receptive aphasia: See aphasia.


receptor: Proteins embedded in the membrane covering a neural cell that interact with one or more neurotransmitters.


recessive gene: A gene that must be paired with one identical to it in order to determine a trait in the phenotype.


recovery time: The period it takes for a physiological process to return to baseline after the body has responded to a stimulus.


refractory phase: The brief period after stimulation of a nerve, muscle, or other irritable element during which it is unresponsive to a second stimulus; or the period after intercourse during which the male cannot have another orgasm.


regression: A defence mechanism in which anxiety is avoided by retreating to the behaviour patterns of an earlier psychosexual stage.


reinforcement: In operant conditioning, increasing the probability that a response will recur either by presenting a contingent positive event or by removing a negative one.


reliability: The extent to which a test, measurement, or classification system produces the same scientific observation each time it is applied. Some specific kinds of reliability include test-retest, the relationship between the scores that a person achieves when he or she takes the same test twice; interrater, the relationship between the judgments that at least two raters make independently about a phenomenon; split half, the relationship between two halves of an assessment instrument that have been determined to be equivalent; alternate form, the relationship between scores achieved by people when they complete two versions of a test that are judged to be equivalent; internal consistency, degree to which different items of an assessment are related to one another.


repression: A defence mechanism whereby impulses and thoughts unacceptable to the ego are pushed into the unconscious.


residual schizophrenia: Diagnosis given to patients who have had an episode of schizophrenia but who presently show no psychotic symptoms, though signs of the disorder do exist.


resistance: During psychoanalysis, the defensive tendency of the unconscious part of the ego to ward off from consciousness particularly threatening repressed material.


resistance to extinction: The tendency of a conditioned response to persist in the absence of any reinforcement.


resolution phase: The last stage in the sexual arousal cycle, during which sexual tensions abate.


response cost: An operant conditioning punishment procedure in which the misbehaving person is fined already earned reinforcers.


response deviation: A tendency to answer questionnaire items in an uncommon way, regardless of their content.


response hierarchy: The ordering of a series of responses according to the likelihood of their being elicited by a particular stimulus.


response prevention: A behaviour therapy technique in which the person is discouraged from making an accustomed response; used primarily with compulsive rituals.


response set: The tendency of an individual to respond in a particular way to questions or statements on a test—for example, with a False—regardless of the content of each query or statement.


reticular formation: Network of nuclei and fibres in the central core of the brain stem that is important in arousing the cortex and maintaining alertness, in processing incoming sensory stimulation, and in adjusting spinal reflexes.


retrospective reports: Recollections by an individual of past events.


Rett’s disorder: A very rare disorder found only in girls, with onset in the first or second year of life. Symptoms include decelerated head growth, lost ability to use hands purposefully, uncoordinated walking, poor speech production and comprehension, and poor interpersonal relations. Child may improve later in life, but usually will remain severely or profoundly mentally retarded.


reuptake: Process by which released neurotransmitters are pumped back into the pre-synaptic cell, making them available for enhancing transmission of nerve impulses.


reversal (ABAB) design: An experimental design in which behaviour is measured during a baseline period (A), during a period when a treatment is introduced (B), during the reinstatement of the conditions that prevailed in the baseline period (A), and finally during a reintroduction of the treatment (B). It is commonly used in operant research to isolate cause–effect relationships.


reward: Any satisfying event or stimulus that, by being contingent on a response, increases the probability that the person will make that response again.


Rh factor: A substance present in the red blood cells of most people. If the Rh factor is present in the blood of a fetus but not in that of the mother, her system produces antibodies that may enter the bloodstream of the fetus and indirectly damage the brain.


right to refuse treatment: A legal principle according to which a committed mental patient may decline to participate in treatment.


right to treatment: A legal principle according to which a committed mental patient must be provided some minimal amount and quality of professional intervention, enough to afford a realistic opportunity for meaningful improvement.


risk factor: A condition or variable that, if present, increases the likelihood of developing a disorder.


role-playing: A technique that teaches people to behave in a certain way by encouraging them to pretend that they are in a particular situation; it helps people acquire complex behaviours in an efficient way. See also behaviour rehearsal.


Rorschach Inkblot Test: A projective test in which the examinee is instructed to interpret a series of ten inkblots reproduced on cards.


Rosenthal effect: The tendency for results to conform to experimenters’ expectations unless stringent safeguards are instituted to minimize human bias; named after Robert Rosenthal, who performed many of the original experiments revealing the problem.


rubella (German measles): An infectious disease that, if contracted by the mother during the first three months of pregnancy, has a high risk of causing mental retardation and physical deformity in the child.


ruminative coping: A tendency to focus cognitively (perhaps to the point of obsession) on the causes of depression and associated feelings rather than engaging in forms of distraction.