Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

In the United States, the law requires that every bottle or can of beer, wine, or hard liquor that is sold must include the following information on its label: "(1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects; (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery and may cause health problems." The first warning refers to the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), the leading known cause of mental retardation in the United States. The good news is that this condition is 100 percent preventable as long as a woman does not drink alcohol while she is pregnant.


Sigmund Freud, one of the fathers of modern psychiatry, believed that the mind has defense mechanisms, or built-in ways of experiencing reality, that prevent it from being overwhelmed by worry or depression*. In fact, Freud believed that people are not even aware of the way their minds take care of them.

Gender Identity

There are psychological, cultural, and social characteristics associated with a person's gender identity. The terms feminine or masculine often are used to describe behaviors generally associated with females or males.

Gender Identity Disorder

Genetics and Behavior

At 13 years old, Jennifer is fit and trim. Her mother, however, has been told by her doctor that she is morbidly obese* and must keep to a strict diet and exercise plan to control her weight.

Habits and Habit Disorders

A habit is a learned behavior that a person repeats so often that he or she begins to do it without even thinking about it. Certain habits can be helpful, like the habit of brushing your teeth before going to bed or buckling your seatbelt when you get into a car.


A good magician can make audience members think that they are seeing something they really are not, such as an animal disappearing into thin air or a bouquet appearing from under a handkerchief. These tricks are often referred to as optical illusions.


Jon and Ryan went for a bike ride one day and were astounded to discover a group of people living in cardboard boxes at the edge of the county park. Before this, it had never occurred to them that at the edges of their suburban community were people who lived on the streets, dependent on social service agencies, charities, friends, and their own ingenuity to find shelter.


"Look deep into my eyes," said the hypnotist to his newest subject, 15-year-old Juan. "You are feeling very relaxed," he repeated over and over again in a low, calming voice.


Everyone has probably worried about their health from time to time. For example, a symptom such as chest pain can have many causes and is usually not serious.


To understand impulsivity, it is important to understand the word "impulse," which can be used in two different, although related, ways. With regard to behavior, an impulse is a sudden, strong, even irrational urge, desire, or action resulting from a particular feeling or state of mind.


Not every student will have the experience of taking an I.Q. (intelligence quotient) test.

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities differ from learning problems (which are less severe) and from mental retardation (which refers to more global learning difficulties). Not every learning problem is a true disorder or disability.

Love and Intimacy

While no one has ever made a scientific count, it is probably true that more songs, books, and poems have been written about love than about any other subject. Most of the world's religions place a high value on the experience and expression of love.

Lying and Stealing

*truancy means staying out of school or work without permission.


Although there are rare instances in which malingering may have a positive or useful purpose, such as faking illness as a prisoner of war, it is generally considered to be unacceptable behavior. Why then do people sometimes act this way?


Psychopharmacology (SY-koe-far-ma-KOL-o-jee) is the study of how medications affect moods, thoughts, and feelings. Psychopharmacology is an exciting new science.


It is hard to imagine what it would be like to live without memory. What if the things that people had just seen, learned, or heard simply passed out of their minds after just a few minutes?

Mental Retardation

The definition of mental retardation changes as researchers study its causes and develop new ways of understanding its effects. Current definitions focus on intelligence levels and on the skills and behaviors for everyday living that people develop as they grow.

Munchausen Syndrome

The disorder is named for Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Baron von Munchausen (1720-1797), a German nobleman, soldier, and huntsman who was known for making up exaggerated stories of his exploits and adventures. The disorder itself was not recognized and fully described until the twentieth century, however, when the simpler form of the name, "Munchausen," was applied to it.