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Chapter 4

PS102 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: Lev Vygotsky, Behavioural Genetics, Synaptic Pruning

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Joanne Lee

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Chapter 4 Human Development
Developmental Psychology – the study of changes in behaviour and mental processes over time
and the factors that influence the course of those constancies and changes
- Lifespan developmental psychology involves the study of the entire course of human life,
from conception to death
- Study how individual, genetic, social and historical forces influence development
Developmental Stages over the Lifespan
Stage Approximate Age
Prenatal Conception to Birth
Infancy & Toddlerhood Birth to 2 Years
Early Childhood 2 – 6 Years
Middle Childhood 6 – 12 Years
Adolescence 12 – 20 Years
Emerging Adulthood 20 – 25 Years
Young Adulthood 25 – 45 Years
Middle Adulthood 45 – 60 Years
Later Adulthood 60 Years to Death
How Is Developmental Psychology Studied?
Approach #1: Using Cross Sectional Design
- People of different ages are compared at a single point in time
- E.g. comparing 60 yr. olds to 30 yr. olds on a memory task to see how memory changes
- Easy, straightforward, & convenient for researchers and participants
- Assumes that any change found is a result of age
oE.g. Let’s say the memory task is computer based
oThe 30 year olds might just perform better because they are more familiar with
technology than the older people
oThese historical differences are called cohort effects
A cohort is any group of people born at about the same time
- As a result of when they were born, the developmental changes of people in a particular
cohort will be affected by the cultural and historical changes to which they were exposed
- War, recession, families, natural disasters etc. that provides particular cohorts with unique
experiences or challenges can influence development
Approach #2: Using Longitudinal Design
-Longitudinal Design: Follows the same people over a period of time by administering
the same tasks or questionnaires and seeing how their responses change
- Can be reasonably confident that the observed changes are a function of time and
developmental experiment
- Gives information about the stability and instability of traits
- Gives information about the effects of early experiences
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Chapter 4 Human Development
- Requires a lot of time and money
- Many participants drop out of the study because they lose interest, moved away or die
- Cohort effect poses a problem because individuals being followed belong to a single
cohort, although age effects can be observed there is no way to know whether the
observations can be generalized to other cohort groups
sequential Design: combination of cross-sectional and longitudinal research, designed to
look at how individuals from different age groups compare to one another and to follow
them over time
obecause of the age overlap among groups over time, they could also look at
differences that might result from age
Understanding How We Develop
-Maturation: the unfolding of development in a particular sequence and time frame
-Traits and behaviors are almost always influenced by an interaction between genes and
-Epigenetics: Changes in gene expression that are independent of the DNA sequence of
the gene
oExperience causes epigenetic changes to genes that can be passed down
-Nature-nurture issues apply not only specific questions about development but also to
ideas about intelligence, social behavior and psychological disorders
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Shifts in Development
-Stages: a distinct development phase in which organisms behave, think or respond in a
particular way that is qualitatively difference from the way they responded before
oinvolve discontinuous development with clear qualitative differences in thinking
or behavior between one stage and another
-Quantitative Change: gradual increase in some element, such as height or weight
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Chapter 4 Human Development
-Qualitative Change: not just that we are bigger, faster or more coordinated but that we
are different in some way
oExample: caterpillar turning into a butterfly
-According to theorist, development is the result of an ongoing acquisition of new
information and new experiences
oWhat may seem like a sudden developmental change may instead actually
represent the result of a gradual accumulation of many small changes
Do Early Experiences Matter? Critical Periods vs. Sensitive Periods
-Critical Periods: window of time in development during which certain influences are
necessary for appropriate formation of the brain
oPoint in development when the organism is extremely sensitive to a particular
environmental input that can either encourage or discourage the development of
certain brain functions
otimes when individuals are especially receptive to environmental input but not
rigidly so
-Today’s biologists believe critical periods today are best defined as sensitive periods
-Sensitive Periods: times when individuals are especially receptive to environmental
input but not rigidly so
oFor more complex cognitive and social development; theorists are less likely to
believe environmental experiences are during critical periods; INSTEAD, View
sensitive periods as largely experience-driven, flexible and with less well-defined
boundaries than a critical period
Heredity and Prenatal Development
-Prenatal Period: Period of development stretching from conception to birth (9 months
from conception)
-Gene: Basic building blocks of out biological inheritance
oEach gene is composed of a specific DNA sequence
oDNA and genes are arranged in Chromosomes: Strands of DNA, each human
being has 46 chromosomes distributed in pairs
oEach sperm and egg as 23 chromosomes
oMajority of conceptions containing errors in the number of chromosomes end in
-Genotype: Person’s genetic inheritance
-Phenotype: the observable manifestation of a person’s genetic inheritance
oObservable manifestation of that genotype
-Allele: Variation of a gene
oIf both parents contribute the same allele, then the person is homozygous for the
trait (AA or aa)
-Heterozygous: parents contribute different alleles to the offspring (Aa)
-when a person has a heterozygous combination:
ohaving a dominant trait and a recessive trait
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