PSY100 Chapter 11.docx

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15 Apr 2012

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Chapter 11 Human Development
1970 mother and daughter walked into a welfare office after seeking help after escaping an
abusive and mentally ill husband
o “Genie” daughter, was suffering from autism (4’6”, 13 yrs old)
o Father locked her in a dark room and caged in a crib at night
o Raised with no normal human contact and no stimulation
Developmental psychology is concerned with changes, over the lifespan, in physiology, in
cognition, and in social behaviour
o Focused on age-related changes in psychological capacities such as perception,
language, and thinking
o Socialization affects human characteristics such as morality, gender, and identity
During prenatal period, the body develops in a fixed sequence
o Roll over, to sit up, to crawl, to stand, to walk, and to talk (in that order)
Children often achieve developmental milestones at different paces, depending on the cultures
in which they are raised
o Healthy children in Uganda tend to walk by 10 months, whereas children in France often
do not walk before 15 months
Process begins at the moment of conception, when the sperm from the male unites with the egg
from the female to create the zygote, the first cell of a new life
o From about two weeks to two months, the developing human is known as an embryo
the internal organs such as, the heart, lungs, kidneys, sex organs, and nervous system
begin to form
o After two months it is called a fetus
Genes in combination with the environment in the womb govern much of the human nervous
system’s prenatal development
o Basic bran areas begin to form by week 4; the cells that will form the cortex are visible
by week 7; those of the thalamus and hypo-thalamus by week 10; and those of the left
and right hemispheres by week 12
Hormones that circulate the womb influence the developing fetus
o If the mother’s thyroid does not produce sufficient amounts of hormones, the fetus is at
risk for lower IQ and diminished intellectual development
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Some environmental influences adversely affect the developing fetus
o Teratogens: environmental agents that can impair physical and cognitive development
in the womb, include drugs, alcohol, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals
the physical effects of exposure to certain teratogens may be obvious at birth,
but disorders involving either language or reasoning may not become apparent
until the child is older
exposure to a tertogen at about four weeks of age can interfere with the proper
development of basic brain structures
example: 1950’s women were prescribed the drug thalidomide to ease
pregnancy symptoms: thalidomide caused various birth defects, especially limb
deformities, the precise nature of which depended on when the mother took
the drug
o Excessive consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome
(FAS), the symptoms of which consist of low birth weight, face, and head abnormalities,
slight mental retardation, and behavioural and cognitive problems
Newborns normally come into the world able to see, smell, hear, taste, and respond
o Two-hour-old infants prefer sweet tastes to all other tastes
Although newborn infants cannot survive on their own, they are not completely helpless
o Newborns have various basic reflexes that aid survival: grasping reflex when a baby
holds your finger, some believe this reflex is a survival mechanism that has persisted
from our primate ancestors
o Rooting reflex, the turning and sucking that infants automatically engage in when a
nipple or similar object touches an area near their mouth
Early brain growth has two important aspects: specific areas within the brain mature and
become functional, and regions of the brain learn to communicate with one another through
synaptic connections
o Brain circuits mature through myelination, which begins on the spinal cord during the
first trimester of pregnancy and on the brain’s neurons during the second trimester
A way of insulting its “wires”: nerve fibres are wrapped with a fatty sheath,
much like the plastic coating around electrical wire, to increase speed with
which they are able to transmit signals
o The myelinated axons form synapses with other neurons
The brain adopts a very strict “use it or lose it” policy, the frequently used
connections are preserved; the unused ones decay and disappear
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This process, synaptic pruning occurs in different areas of the brain at different
Psychological scientists believe that the key to learning is the creation of connections among
certain neurons and that certain connections are made most easily during particular times in
development, assuming the right stimuli are provided
o German linguist Eric Lenneberg theorized that during biologically determined time
periods, which he called critical periods, young animals, including young humans, are
able to acquire specific skills and specific kinds of knowledge
o If these skills and these kinds of knowledge were not acquired during their critical
periods, they could not be acquired
However in the case of “Genie” shows that the critical period for language
(generally estimated to be before age 12) is not so rigid she learned some
aspects of language at a later age
Sensitive periods: biologically determined time periods when specific skills
develop most easily
Attachment: a strong emotional connection that persists over time and across circumstances
o Infant attachment leads to heightened feelings of safety and security and motives
infants and caregivers to stay close in contact
Imprinting: within 18 hours after hatching birds will attach themselves to an adult (usually to
their mother) and then follow the object of their attachment
o Fly Away Home movie
Experiment: Monkey clung to surrogate cloth monkey that could not give milk rather a wired
surrogate mother that could give milk
o Approached the wire one only when they were hungry
Separation anxiety in which infants become very distressed when they cannot see or are
separated from their attachment figures
o Experiment: strange-situation test, the test involves observing, through a one-way
mirror, the child, the caregiver, and a friendly but unfamiliar adult in a series of eight
semistructured episodes in a laboratory playroom
o Standard sequence of separations and reunions between the child and each adult
o Over the course of the eight episodes, the child experiences increasing distress and a
greater need for caregiver proximity
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