PSYA02H3 Lecture Notes - Habituation, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Classical Conditioning

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1 Feb 2013
21 January 2013
There is uniqueness of the human infant because no other animal is born so helpless and so utterly
dependent on its parents. A lot of physical development occurs prior to birth, and it continues until long
thereafter. But perhaps as important is that the physical dependence sets the stage for social
development that continues throughout the lifespan.
Developmental Psychology is the study of continuity and change across the life span. Cross-Sectional
Approach is taking two groups and observes differences in abilities across them. Longitudinal Approach
follows an individual at various points in time as they age. Longitudinal approaches are better because
they allow you to follow the same individual and to escape things that may have changed across groups
but cross sectional is much easier.
The Prenatal Stage of development ends with birth, but it begins 9 months earlier when about 200
million sperm begin a hazardous journey from a woman’s vagina, through her uterus, and on to her
fallopian tubes (38 weeks of pregnancy). Zygote is a fertilized egg that contains chromosomes from both
a sperm and an egg. From the first moment of its existence, a zygote has one thing in common with the
person it will ultimately become: gender. Each human sperm cell and each human egg cell contain 23
chromosomes that contain genes, which provide the blueprint for all biological development. One of
these chromosomes (the 23rd) can come in two variations: X or Y. Some sperm carry an X chromosome,
others carry a Y chromosome. If the egg is fertilized by a sperm that carries a Y chromosome, then the
zygote is male; if the egg is fertilized by a sperm that carries an X chromosome, the zygote is female.
Germinal Stage is a two week period that begins at conception
o It is during this stage that the one-celled zygote begins to divide. The initial single begins
cell dividing and differentiating, eventually forming 200 different kinds of cells (blood
cells, nerve cells, muscle cells, bone cells) all with the same DNA
o The zygote migrates back down the fallopian tube and implants itself in the wall of the
uterus. About half of all zygotes do not complete it, either because they are defective or
because they implant themselves in an inhospitable part of the uterus
His mother called him Adi and showered him with affection, but his father was not so kind. Adi had a
passion for the arts and his mother, contrarily to his father, who wanted him to become a civil servant,
supported him and encouraged his gentler interest. Adi was 18 years old when his mother was
diagnosed with cancer. She passed away and Adi was grief stricken. He moved to the city and applied for
an art school but was flatly rejected. He was then motherless and penniless, wandering the streets for 5
long years desperately trying to sell his sketches. 10 years later he became famous and today his
painting collections are paid significant sums of money for them. The curator of the collection once
remarked, “I often looked at them and wondered, ‘What if? What if he had been accepted into art
school? Would World War II have happened?’” Why would the curator ask such a question? Because
while the artist’s mother called him Adi, the rest of us know him as Adolf Hitler.
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Embryonic Stage is the period of prenatal development that lasts from the second week until
about the eighth week. It begins when the zygote implants itself on the uterine wall (when it
begins to look like a baby)
o The zygote at this stage is known as an embryo
o When the heart begins to beat at a critical stage with respect to the avoidance of
teratogens (IE: Cocaine, tobacco, alcohol, and environmental toxins)
o When sexual differentiation occurs. Embryos that have one X chromosome and one Y
chromosome begin to produce a hormone called testosterone, which masculinises their
reproductive organs, and embryos that have two X chromosomes do not. Without
testosterone, the embryo continues developing as a female
Fetal Stage is a period that lasts from the ninth week until birth
o The embryo at this stage is known as a fetus
o When the skeleton and muscles that make it capable of movement begin to develop
o The size of the fetus increases rapidly. It develops a layer of insulating fat beneath its
skin, and its digestive and respiratory systems mature
o The cells that ultimately become the brain divide very quickly and begin to generate
axons and dendrites around the third and fourth week after conception, and this
process is more or less complete by 6 months
o Myelination, the formation of a fatty sheath around the axons of a neuron occurs
Why are human beings born with such underdeveloped brains when other primates are not?
The human brain has nearly tripled in size in just 2 million years of evolution, and bigger brains require
bigger heads to house them. If a newborn’s head were closer to its adult size, the baby could not pass
through its mother’s birth canal.
One of our species’ greatest talents is its ability to adapt to a wide range of novel environments that
differ (IE: Climate, social structure). The fact that our underdeveloped brains are specifically shaped by
the unique social and physical environment into which we are born allows us to be exceptionally
People naturally assume that genes influence development from the moment of conception and that
the environment influences development from the moment of birth; however, the womb is an
environment that influences development in a multitude of ways. Placenta is the organ that physically
links the bloodstreams of the mother and the developing embryo or fetus and permits the exchange of
materials. Foods a woman eats during pregnancy can affect her fetus. The children of mothers who
received insufficient nutrition during pregnancy tend to have both physical problems and psychological
problems, most notably an increased risk of schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder. Infants
tend to like the foods and spices that their mothers ate while they were in utero.
Teratogens are agents that damage the process of development also known as “monster makers. The
most common teratogen is alcohol. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a developmental disorder that stems
from heavy alcohol use by the mother during pregnancy resulting in distinctive facial features, brain
abnormalities, and cognitive deficits for their child. Tobacco using mothers (or those with second hand
smoke) have lower birth weights and more likely to perceptual and attention problems in childhood. The
embryo is more vulnerable to teratogens than the fetus.
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