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date: 29 January 2020


A Dictionary of Psychology

Andrew M. Colman

paramecium n. 

A freshwater, single-celled creature having a bean-shaped body covered with cilia that are used for swimming, the cilia being composed of bundles of microtubules. It moves about, avoiding obstacles by swimming round them, darts for bacterial food, retreats from danger, turns itself round to escape if enclosed in a glass tube, and is probably capable of learning from experience, according to the results of experiments dating back to 1908, though some authorities have disputed that it is capable of true learning. Yet it has no nervous system, its single cell not even being a neuron, which proves that rather complex behaviour can occur without a nervous system. See also cytoskeleton. paramecia pl. [From Greek paramekes elongated, from para beside or beyond + mekos length]