PSYC 352 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Ontogeny

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Published on 7 Sep 2020
Evolutionary Perspective
The human mind has evolved probabilistic mechanisms to solve particular problems pertaining
to our survival and/or reproductive success -> Special ways we process particular types of
information in the world
o Safety/danger, trust/mistrust, etc.
Implicit in the idea that there are domain-specific mechanisms is that there are constraints on
learning -> Constraints imply restrictions, restrictions are usually thought of as being bad
o Human cognition exceptional for its flexibility, not for its restrictiveness but constraints
enable learning rather than hamper it
Geary proposed that the mind is hierarchically organized
into domains, with lower-level modules designed to
process less-complex information, serving as building
blocks for higher-level more complex and flexible modules
o Two overarching domains social and ecological
with each tapping into a limited pool of domain-
general central executive resources and each
consisting of more-specific domains (self,
individual, and group for social // biological and
physical for ecological)
o Acknowledges list of domains isn’t complete and one could argue about the organization
of some domains -> Should language be organized within social, or is it best
conceptualized as a separate domain?
Although there’s no single answer on why humans have such an extended juvenile period, one
reason proposed by many evolutionary developmental psychologists is that the long period of
youth is necessary for children to master the complexities of human societies and technologies
o Human cognition must be flexible, adapted not to a highly specific environment but to a
broad range of potential environments
Three Types of Constraints on Learning
Architectural constraints
o Neurons in the brain have particular jobs and so the information they receive, at least
initially, can only be processed in a particular way
Chronotopic constraints
o Different parts of the brain have different maturational timetables, and different times at
which they are sensitive to experience i.e. critical periods
Representational constraints
o Same basic "ideas" about the way the world is organized might bias infants to process
information in particular ways
Evolved probabilistic cognitive mechanisms: information-processing mechanisms that evolved
to solve recurrent problems faced by ancestral
populations that are expressed in a probabilistic
fashion in each individual in a generation
o These mechanisms are universal in that they will develop in a species-typical manner
when individual experiences a species-typical environment over the course of ontogeny
o 3-5 year olds more readily identified snakes as fearful than 8-14 month olds -> Don’t
have innate fear but show tendency to associate them with fearful responses
Watched brief videos of snakes and other animals -> Initially showed no fear of
snakes, but when videos paired with happy or fearful voice, toddlers looked
longer at snakes when they heard fearful voice
No difference in looking time to voices when they saw videos of other animals
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