PSYC 2450 Chapter 2: Chapter 2

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Developmental Psychology Textbook Notes
Chapter 2: Theories of Human Development
The Nature of Scientific Theories
Theory: set of concepts and propositions designed to organize, describe, and
explain an existing set of observations
o Help us organize our thinking about the aspects of experience that interest
Parsimony: a criterion for evaluating the scientific merit of theories; a
parsimonious theory is one that uses relatively few explanatory principles to
explain a broad set of observations
Falsifiability: a criterion for evaluating the scientific merit of theories; a theory is
falsifiable when it is capable of generating predictions that could be disconfirmed
Heuristic: a criterion for evaluating the scientific merit of theories; a heuristic
theory is one that continues to stimulate new research and discoveries
Good theories survive because they continue to generate new knowledge, much
of which may have practical implications that truly benefit humanity
The Psychoanalytic Viewpoint
Freud’s Psychosocial Theory
Freud was a practicing neurologist who formulated his theory of human
development from his analyses of his emotionally disturbed patients’ life histories
o Relied heavily on such methods as hypnosis & dream analysis because
they gave some indication of unconscious motives that patients had
Unconscious motives: feelings, experiences, and conflicts that
influence a person’s thinking and behaviour but lie outside the
person’s awareness
Repression: a type of motivated forgetting in which anxiety-
provoking thoughts and conflicts are forced out of conscious
Concluded that human development is a conflictual process: as biological
creatures, we have basic sexual and aggressive instincts that must be serve,
yet society dictates that many of these drives are undesirable and must be
o The way in which parent’s manage these urges in the first years of
childhood have a major role in shaping a child’s life
Three Components of Personality
Freud propose that three components of personality develop and gradually
become integrated in a series of five developmental psychosexual stages
Id: psychoanalytic term for the inborn component of the personality that is driven
by the instincts
o Present at birth; will try to satisfy instincts immediately
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Ego: the conscious, rational component of the personality that reflects the child’s
emerging abilities to perceive, learn, remember, and reason
o Begin to find realistic ways to gratify their needs
Superego: seat of the conscience; consists of one’s internalized moral standards
o Between ages 3 and 6 as children internalize the moral values and
standards of their parents
o Will feel guilty or ashamed of their unethical conduct
The ego is clearly “in the middle”; it must strike a balance between the opposing
demands of the id and the superego while accommodating the realities of the
external world
Stages of Psychological Development
Freud thought that sex was the most important instinct because he discovered
that his patients’ mental disturbances often revolved around childhood sexual
conflicts that they had repressed
His view of sex was very broad; including sucking one’s thumb and urinating
Believed that as the sex instinct matured, its focused shifted form one part of the
body to another; which brought on a new stage of psychosocial development
Fixation: arrested development at a particular stage that can prevent movement
to higher stages
o Can occur if parent permits too much/little gratification of sexual needs
and would lead to the child to become obsessed with whatever activity
was strongly encouraged/discouraged
Contributions and Criticisms of Freud’s Theory
There is not much evidence that any of the early oral, and anal, and genital
conflicts predict adult personality
o But we should not reject all of Freud’s ideas; his greatest contribution was
his concept of unconscious motivation
Freud also focused on the influence of early experience on later development
Investigated the study of the emotional side of human development the loves,
fears, anxieties, and other powerful emotions that play important roles in our lives
Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development
Comparing Erikson with Freud
Erikson differed from Freud in two important respects:
1. Erikson stressed that children are active, curious explores who seek to
adapt to their environments, rather than passive slaves to biological urges
who are moulded by their parents
2. Erikson places much less emphasis on sexual urges and far more
emphasis on cultural influences
a. For this reason, we label Freud’s theory psychosexual and
Erikson’s theory psychosocial theory
Eight Life Crises
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Erikson believed that people face eight major crises or conflicts, which he
labelled psychosocial stages, during the course of their lives
Each conflict emerges at a distinct time dictated by both biological maturation
and social demands and developing people experience at particular points in life
Each crisis must be resolved to move on
Stages do not end at adolescence or young adulthood as Freud’s do
Contributions and Criticisms of Erikson’s Theory
Many people prefer Erikson over Freud’s because they do not believe that
people are dominated by sexual instincts
Can be criticizes be being vague about the causes of development
o His theory is really a descriptive overview of human social and emotional
development that does not adequately explain how or why this
development takes place
Psychoanalytic Theory beyond Freud and Erikson
Alfred Adler suggested that siblings are important contributors to social and
personality development
Harry Stack Sullivan wrote about close, same-sex friendships during middle
childhood set the stage for intimate love relationships later in life
John B. Watson claimed that he could take a dozen healthy infants and mould
them to be whatever he chose doctor, lawyer regardless of their background
or ancestry
o Behaviourism: a school of thinking in psychology that holds that
conclusions about human development should be based on controlled
observations of overt behaviour rather than speculation about
unconscious motives or other unobservable phenomena; the philosophical
underpinning for the early theories of learning
Watson’s Behaviourism
Basic premise of Watson’s behaviourism is that conclusions about human
development should be based on observations of overt behaviour rather than on
speculations about unconscious motives or cognitive processes that are
Believed that well-learned associations between external stimuli and observable
responses (called habits) are the building blocks of human development
Viewed the infant as a tabula rasa (blank slate) to be written on experience
Development is viewed as a continuous process of behavioural change that is
shaped by a person’s unique environment and may differ dramatically from
person to person
Watson and Rosalie Raynor presented a gentle white rat to a 9-month named
o His initial reactions were positive; he crawled toward the rat and played
with it as he had previously with a dog and a rabbit
o Two months later, Watson attempted to instill a fear response
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