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PSY100H1 Lecture Notes - Childhood Amnesia, Primitive Reflexes, Eric Lenneberg

Course Code
Dan Dolderman

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Chapter 11: Human Development
- Developmental psychology: concerned with changes, over the lifespan, in
physiology, in cognition and in social behavior
- Age-related changes in psychological capacities such as perception, language,
and thinking
What Shapes a Child?
- Environment also influences what happens throughout development
o Infant care
- Physically, at about the same periods in the lifespan, each human grows and
o Walking
Development Starts in the Womb
- Zygote into embryo fetus
Physical Development
- Basic brain regions begin to form by week 4
- Cells the form cortex are visible by week 7
- Thalamus and hypothalamus by week 10
- Left and right hemisphere by week 12
- Working nervous system by month 7
- Brain is always developing
- Hormones that circulate the womb affect the fetus
o Low thyroid lower IQ and diminished intellectual development
- Mother’s emotional state can also affect fetus
o High stress low birth weight and negative cognitive and physical
outcomes that can persist throughout life
- Teratogens: agents that can impair physical and cognitive development in the
womb (drugs, alcohol, bacteria, virus and chemicals)
o Language and reasoning may be apparent
- Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS): symptoms of which consist of low birth
weight, face and head abnormalities, slight mental retardation and
behavioral and cognitive problems
o Permanent brain damage neocortex, hippocampus and cerebellum
o Learning, attention, inhibition and regulation of behavior, memory,
casual reasoning, and motor performance
o Recreational drugs: premature birth
HOWEVER, not all babies born to a drug user will necessarily
be impaired

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Brain Development Promotes Learning
- Newborns’ perceptual skills increase tremendously over the first few months
of life
- Grasping reflex: holding finger
- Rooting reflex: turning
- Sucking reflex
Myelination and Neuronal Connections
- Specific areas within the brain mature and become functional
- Regions of the brain learn to communicate with one another through
synaptic connections
- Myelination: help brain circuits mature, which begins on the spinal cord
during the first trimester of pregnancy and on the brain’s neurons during the
o Occurs on different regions at different stages of development
o Nerve fibers are wrapped with a fatty sheath to increase speed for
transmitting signals
- Myelinated axons form synapses with other neurons
- Synaptic pruning: a process whereby the synaptic connections in the brain
that are frequently used are preserved and those that are not are lost
- Synaptic density is highest in the auditory cortex, age 3
o Visual cortex, age 1 and 2
o Prefrontal cortex, age 6 (critical for reasoning)
- Progression of learning is tied closely to brain development, presents a new
and exciting approach for research energized by the biological revolution in
psychological science
- High plasticity
o Early childhood nutrition have more myelination
Sensitive Learning Periods
- Key to learning is the creation of connections among certain neurons and
that certain connections are made most easily during particular times in
- Eric Lenneberg: critical periods: biologically determined time periods for the
development of specific skills
o Sensitive periods: biologically determined time periods when specific
skills develop most easily
Attachment Promotes Survival
- 4 -6 weeks: first social smile
- Attachment: a strong emotional connection that persists over time and
across circumstances
o Heightened feelings of safety and security

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o John Bowlby: innate repertoire of attachment behaviors motivate
adult attention
o Attachment is adaptive
Attachment in Other Species
- Imprinting: Konrad Lorenz: Within 18 hours, birds will attach themselves to
an adult and then follow them
- Money clung to the cloth mother and went to it in times of threat, but
approached the wire mother only when hungry
Attachment Style
- Separation Anxiety: become distressed when they cannot see or are
separated from their attachment figures
- Mary Ainsworth: Strange-Situation test: Secure, avoidant and anxious-
ambivalent child attachments
o Secure: majority, who are readily comforted when their caregiver
returns after a brief separation
o Avoidant: 20-25%, ignore caregiver when they return and may be
comforted by the stranger
o Anxious-ambivalent: 10-15%, becomes extremely upset when they
leave but will seek attention and rejects them when they return
- Disorganized attachment mixed responses
- Children with behavioral problems tend to me anxious ambivalent or
Chemistry of Attachment
- Oxytocin is released
o Social acceptance and bonding and sexual gratification
o Higher = better attachment
How Do Children Learn about Their Words?
Perception Introduces the World
Infant-Research Techniques
- Preferential-looking technique: show two objects, if one is looked at longer,
researchers know that the infant can tell the difference and finds one more
- Orienting reflex: human’s tendency to pay more attention to new stimuli than
to stimuli to which they have become habituated, or grown accustomed to
- If the infant looks at the new stimulus the same amount of time as the old, it
is assumed that the infant doesn’t know the difference
- Visual acuity: infants respond more to objects with high contrast patterns
o The smaller the stripes, the less contrast, the more infants can’t tell
the difference between the gray patches and that
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