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Chapter 3


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Ian Spence

Chapter 3 Recent Perspectives on Social and Personality Development • Freud’s psychoanalytic theory had strong biological implications. His theory was based on both inborn instincts and maturation of sex instincts (which was said to determine the course of social and personal development). • Gesell argued that human development was largely a matter of biological maturation- children followed a developmental timetable and how parents raised their kids were of little relevance. • Ethology is the scientific study of the evolutionary basis of behavior and the contributions of such evolved responses to a species survival and development. • According to Lorenz and Tinbergen, members of all animal species are born with a set of biologically programmed behavior that are products of evolution and are adaptive for survival. These biologically programmed characteristics are believed to have evolved as a result of natural selection. • Human ethologists such as Bowlby believed that children display a set of preprogrammed behaviors; they also claim that the responses to their behaviors, promote a particular kind of experience that will help the individual survive and develop normally. For instance, the cry of the child calls for the caregiver’s attention. This probably saved them from predators in the past. • Caregivers who suffer from trauma may be inattentive or neglectful to an infant’s cries causing the infant to become shy and unresponsive to others. • Critical period is very important in the development of a child. The critical period is the short period of a child’s life during which the developing organism is uniquely sensitive or responsive to specific environmental influences. A sensitive period is a time that is optimal for the emergence of particular behaviors in which the individual is particularly sensitive to environmental influences. According the Bowlby, sensitive period occurs in the first 3 years of our lives. • Modern Evolutionary theorists believe that preselected adaptive motives and behaviors are those that ensure survival and spread of individual genes. Eg a father who saves his children from fire has ensure the survival and spread of his genes even though he may die in the process. Individuals act altruistically towards members of his family over others in order to promote the survival of genes. • Ethologists believe that infants are inherently sociable creatures who are capable of promoting and sustaining social interactions from the day they were born. This is in contrast to the viewpoint of behaviorists who see infants as tabula rasa or Piaget’s “asocial” infant who is said to enter the world equipped with only a few reflexes. • One of the flaws of evolutionary theories is that it can explain what has already happened, but cannot predict what is likely to happen in the future. • Behavioral genetics is the scientific study of how genotypes interact with the environment to determine behavioral attributes such as intelligence, personality and mental health. Genotype is the set of genes one inherits. Phenotype is one’s observable characteristic and behaviors. Behavioral geneticists claim that most behavioral attributes are the end products of a long and involved interplay between hereditary predispositions and environmental influences. They focus on the biological basis for variation among members of a species. • The two major strategies for assessing hereditary contributions to behavior are selective breeding and family studies. • Selective breeding is a method of studying genetic influences by determining whether traits can be bred in animals through selective mating. • Family studies persons in the same household are compared to see how similar they are on one or more attributes. If an attribute is heritable, then the similarity between any two pairs who live in the same environment should increase as a function of their kinship (the extent to which two individuals have genes in common). Family studies can also help us estimate the extent to which various abilities and behaviors are influenced by the environment. There are two types of family design: the twin design (studies) and the adoption design. • The twin design is a study which sets of twins that are raised in different environments are compared to determine the heritability of an attribute. If identical twins reared together are more alike on an attribute than identical twins reared apart. We can infer that the environment plays a role in determining that attribute. • The adoption design is a study in which adoptees are compared with their biological relatives and their adoptive relatives to estimate the heritability of an attribute. If adoptees resemble their biological parents in temperament or personality, even though these parents did not raise them, then genes must be influential in determining such attributes. • Concordance rate is the percentages of pairs of people (twins) in which both members of the pair display the trait if one member does. The concordance rate is higher in identical twins than fraternal twins. • Hereditability coefficient is a statistical technique used to estimate the amount of variation in a trait that is attributable to hereditary factors. • Non-shared environmental influence (NSE) are environmental influences that people living together do not share and that should make these individuals different form one another. • Shared environment influences (SE) are environmental influences that people living together share that should make these individuals similar to one another. • Introversion/extroversion, empathetic concern and altruism as well as other core dimensions of personality are mostly influenced by genetics. • The aspects of environment that contribute most heavily to personality are non-shared environmental influences. To the extent that siblings are not treated alike by parents, they will experience different environments, which will increase the likelihood that their personalities will differ. The greater the differences in parental treatment and other experiences that siblings report, the more dissimilar siblings are in their personalities. • Genes contribute to abnormal behaviors and conditions such as alcoholism, susceptibility to behavioral problems, criminality and delinquency, depression, hyperactivity, maniac-depressive psychosis and a number of neurotic disorders. People do not inherit disorders; instead they inherit predispositions to develop certain illnesses or deviant patterns of behavior. • Behavioral geneticists believe that our genes may influence the kinds of environments we are likely to experience in at least three ways: passive genotype/environmental correlation (the notion that rearing environments that biological parents provide are influence by the parent’s own genes and hence correlated with the child’s own genotype- here children have no choice on what environment they should be reared in), Evocative genotype/environmental correlation (the notion that out heritable attributes affect other’s behavior towards us and thus influence the social environment in which development takes place), and the active genotype/EC (this is the notion that our own genotypes affect the types of environment that we prefer and seek out- here the child creates its own environment). • Active gene influences explain why identical twins reared apart end up being so similar to each other. • Critics argue that behavioral genetics is merely a descriptive overview of how development might proceed rather than a well-articulated explanation of development. Also, because behavioral geneticists use the term environment in a very global way (making a few attempts to measure environmental influences directly), critics also contend that one has not explained development by merely postulating that unspecified environmental forces influence in unknown ways by our genes somehow shape our abilities, conduct and character. Social-learning theorists are better as explaining environment either. • Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological systems theory emphasizes that the developing person is embedded in a series of environmental systems that interact with one another and with the person to influence development. This theory is also called the Bioecological theory. Bronfenbrenner begins by assuming that the natural environments are the major source of influence on developing persons. He then proceeds to define environment as a “set of nested structures, each inside
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