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PSYC 100

Week Four: Developmental Psychology Why do developmental theories matter? Early 20th-Century Theories Learning Theory Conditioning and Development:  Learning theories (such as Skinner’s and Pavlov’s theories on operant and classical conditioning) are important/influential to the study of human development because it is impossible to make claims about the way people learn without simultaneously talking about development  An example of this overlap is the Little Albert experiment – classical conditioning was used to make an infant between 8 and 11 months associate a rat with fear – he then generalized this fear to other stimuli similar to the rat (rabbits, dogs, furry objects, white mask, etc.)  B.F. Skinner (interested in motives of behaviour – reinforcement vs. punishment) discovered that receiving attention, even negative, is a powerful reinforcer for young children, and also that it is far more difficult to extinguish behaviour that has been intermittently reinforced than behaviour that has been consistently reinforced; he theorized that we reinforce unwanted behaviour in children by giving in to their demands, even occasionally  Basically, children’s behaviour is affected by their environment and interactions with it Piaget’s Steps Humans develop through a series of four stages that roughly map onto key ages  Cognitive abilities develop in stages and children of similar ages have similar cognitive abilities and make similar errors in problem-solving tasks  All typical children go through this sequence, and must become proficient/capable at each stage in order to progress to the next  Progression is marked by the building and rebuilding of schemata (schema: mental framework or body of knowledge that organizes and synthesizes information about a person, place, or thing) through the cyclic processes of: o Assimilation: new information incorporated into existing schema o Accommodation: new information incongruent, and so modifies existing schema o Equilibration: so much accommodation has occurred that the original schema no longer holds true and a new schema must be formed Sensorimotor Stage (birth – 2 years)  Infants build understanding of environment through sensory and motor abilities  Reflexes fade and are replaced by voluntary behaviour  Gain mental concepts such as object permanence Preoperational Stage (2 – 6 or 7 years)  Name emphasizes inability of child to perform operations, or reversible mental processes  Substantial development in symbolic representation, and the beginnings of logical reasoning  Egocentrism: often cannot understand that others have knowledge, beliefs, or even visual perspectives different from their own  Trouble with concept of conservation (quantity stays the same although the container changes) Concrete Operational Stage (7 – 11 or 12 years)  Mastering of conservation, multiple-variable problems (e.g. volume) less challenging  Growth in ability to understand feelings and thoughts of others (perspective taking)  Can comprehend more complicated cause-and-effect relationships and logical problem solving  Logic still challenging when not right in front of them (e.g. imagination, different problem) Formal Operational Stage (adolescence – adulthood)  Ability to think about abstract concepts and formulate/test hypotheses logically/scientifically  Cannot apply these forms of reasoning across all domains, only areas of expertise  This stage is not universal – many people will end at Stage Three CRITICISMS:  Doesn’t account for variability in child development (ages too fixed)  Underestimates cognitive capacity of infants  More emphasis on physical environment than social environment  Mechanisms of change (assimilation, accommodation, equilibration) too vague – they make sense but how they work is not clearly defined Socio-Cultural Theory (Lev Vygotsky) Places emphasis on environmental factors, including cultural influences  Intersubjectivity: understanding between two individuals of the topic they are discussing o Joint Attention: ability to share attention with another towards the same object/event o Social Referencing: tendency of a person to look to another in an ambiguous situation to obtain clarifying information  Social Scaffolding: mentor or guide supports a learner by matching his or her efforts to a child’s development level, changing the level of support to fit the child’s current performance – as a child’s competence increases, less guidance is given o Zone of Proximal Development: increased potential for problem solving an conceptual ability that exists for a child if expert mentoring and guidance are available  Language as a driving force behind development o Until age 7, children often talk aloud to themselves (e.g. “I will draw a dog”, then do it) o Piaget would say this self-talk is an egocentric function – children in the preoperational stage do not understand speech’s true communicative function, just something we do o Vygotsky would say that this declaration reflects their construction of a mental plan of action, and is a form of mental progression – a way to internalize linguistic processes before language is mastered and can remain verbal thought rather than speech More Recent Approaches How do theories affect the way that we frame questions or accept answers? Erikson’s Eight Stages of Crisis Viewed lifespan development as a series of stages defined by the resolutions to “crises” faced by the developing child regarding how to deal with his or her environment 1. Trust vs. Mistrust (birth – 12 months)  Infant relies totally on others to look after his/her well-being  Positive: if needs are met, infant learn
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