Deutsch: Verletzung / Español: Violación / Português: Violação / Français: Violation / Italiano: Violazione

A violation is a minor criminal offense, usually under a city ordinance, commonly subject only to a fine.

In psychology, violation refers to the breach or infringement of personal boundaries, social norms, or ethical guidelines. This concept is important in understanding how individuals perceive and respond to situations where their expectations or rights are compromised.


Psychological violations can occur in various forms, such as privacy violations, emotional boundaries being crossed, or the breaking of social contracts. These situations can lead to psychological distress, feelings of betrayal, and a decrease in trust and safety feelings. The concept is also relevant in the study of moral psychology, where it involves the transgression against moral or ethical standards.

In cognitive psychology, violation of expectations is a specific phenomenon where an individual’s cognitive prediction about the world is proven wrong. This can be used experimentally to study perception, cognition, and the flexibility of thought processes. For example, infants' surprise in response to unexpected events helps researchers understand their developing cognitive abilities.

Application Areas

Violation is examined in various contexts within psychology, including:

  • Clinical psychology: Helping individuals recover from the psychological impact of personal boundary violations, such as in cases of abuse or trauma.
  • Social psychology: Studying how people respond to breaches of social norms and what factors influence their reactions.
  • Cognitive development: Using violation of expectation methods to study cognitive development in young children.

Well-Known Examples

Examples of research and applications involving violations in psychology include:

  • Violation of expectation experiments in developmental psychology: These studies have shown that infants can display surprise when confronted with physical and social events that do not conform to their expectations, indicating early cognitive abilities to predict and understand the world.
  • Recovery from trauma: Psychological treatment approaches for helping individuals heal from violations such as emotional abuse or physical violence.

Treatment and Risks

Experiencing a violation can have serious psychological effects, including the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Therapeutic interventions might focus on helping individuals reestablish a sense of safety and trust, process their experiences, and rebuild healthy boundaries. Failure to address these issues can result in long-term psychological distress.

Similar Terms

Related psychological terms include:

  • Boundary violation: Specific type of violation concerning the crossing of emotional, physical, or psychological boundaries that are crucial for personal security and relationships.
  • Trust violation: When an expectation within interpersonal relationships is broken, leading to issues with trust and security.

Articles with 'Violation' in the title

  • Abstinence violation effect: Abstinence violation effect refers to the guilt and perceived loss of control that a person feels whenever he or she slips and finds himself or herself returning to drug use after an extended period of abstinence



In psychology, a violation involves any situation where there is an infringement on personal boundaries, rights, expectations, or norms. Understanding and addressing the consequences of such violations are crucial in fields ranging from clinical psychology to social and developmental psychology, helping individuals navigate and recover from these experiences.


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