AP Psychology Key Terms

April 1, 2024
AP Psychology Key Terms

Having a strong knowledge of the key terms you’ll come across on the AP Psychology exam will do more than boost your multiple-choice score; you’ll also be better prepared to respond to both the Concept Application and Research Design essay prompts. 

We’ve compiled lists of AP Psychology exam key terms for each unit. We recommend that you use these worksheets in three ways:

  1. As you first go through the AP Psychology material, print these worksheets and write down the definitions of key terms you come across in your own words. Reading the definitions and then writing them down will allow you to synthesize information more easily. 
  2. Turn the key terms and definitions into flashcards and review them as you study and learn new material. 
  3. When you near the AP Psychology exam, print a fresh batch of worksheets and write down all the definitions you can from memory. Then, find the definitions of the key terms you couldn’t remember and write them down in your own words. Repeat this exercise until you know definitions for all the key terms. 

AP Psychology Key Terms Worksheet Example

Here’s an example of what an AP Psychology worksheet might look like after you’ve filled out the definitions: 

  • Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920): Set up the first psychological laboratory in an apartment near the university at Leipzig, Germany. Trained subjects in introspection. Subjects were asked to accurately record their cognitive reactions to simple stimuli. Established the theory of Structuralism, which attempted to study thinking using the technique of introspection. Considered the “Father of Scientific Psychology.”
  • Introspection: Technique used by Wilhelm Wundt who asked subjects to accurately record their cognitive reactions to simple stimuli. Through this process, Wundt hoped to examine basic mental processes.
  • William James (1842–1910): Published The Principles of Psychology, the science’s first textbook. Established the Theory of Functionalism: How mental processes function in our lives. Brought psychology to the United States.
  • Functionalism: Theory described by William James. Examines how the mental processes described by Wilhelm Wundt function in our lives.
  • Max Wertheimer (1880–1943): Gestalt psychologist. Argued against dividing human thought and behavior into discrete structures. Gestalt psychology tried to examine a person’s total experience because the way we experience the world is more than just an accumulation of various perceptual experiences. Gestalt theorists demonstrated that the whole experience is often more than just the sum of the parts of the experience.
  • Sigmund Freud (1856–1939): Believed he discovered the unconscious mind—a part of the mind over which we do not have conscious control and which determines, in part, how we think and behave. Proposed that we must examine the unconscious mind through dream analysis, word association, and other psychoanalytic therapy techniques if we are to truly understand human thought and behavior. Has been criticized for being unscientific and creating unverifiable theories.
  • Margaret Floy Washburn (1871–1939): First woman to earn a Ph.D. in psychology (1894). Known for her experimental work involving animal behavior and sensation/perception processes.
  • John Watson (1878–1958): Declared that psychology must limit itself to observable phenomena, not unobservable concepts like the unconscious mind, if it is to be considered a science. Wanted to establish behaviorism as the dominant paradigm of psychology. Behaviorists maintain that psychologists should only look at behavior and causes of behavior—stimuli (environmental events) and responses (physical reactions)—and not concern themselves with describing elements of consciousness.
  • Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936): Performed pioneering conditioning experiments on dogs. These experiments led to the development of the classical conditioning model of learning.
  • B. F. Skinner (1904–1990): Expanded the basic ideas of behaviorism to include the idea of reinforcement and punishment—environmental stimuli that either encourage or discourage certain responses. Helped establish and popularize the operant conditioning model of learning. Skinner’s intellectual influence lasted for decades.
  • Mary Whiton Calkins (1863–1930): Student of William James. Became president of the American Psychological Association (1905). Completed her doctoral studies but Harvard refused to award her a Ph.D. because, at the time, they did not grant doctoral degrees to women.