PSYCHOLOGY - MR. DUEZ - Unit 6 - LEARNING TARGETS:  

DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY & PERSONALITY

PART 1 - DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY

If you learn only 5 things in this chapter:

1. Cognitive development refers to the ways in which our ability to think and reason change over our life spans.

2. Two theorists important in the area of cognitive development are Jean Piaget & Lev Vygotsky.

3. Social development refers to the changes in our ability to interact with others as we age.

4. Our primary caregiver provides us with our earliest social cues.

5. The stages of prenatal development.

Development is the study of how people change over their lifespan. Typically, psychologists are concerned with three forms of development: physical, social, and cognitive. Naturally, development occurs throughout the lifespan, though most psychology texts focus mostly on child development.   Physical Development: Children develop according to a fairly well-understood pattern of development. Here is a table that describes a typical pathway of prenatal development:

                

Brain development occurs during the entire process. The brain starts to develop early (around four weeks) and continues to develop both neurons and connections for the entire gestation period. However, once birth occurs, neural development slows down (some argue that it stops), and pruning occurs. During pruning, connections are made among cells, and connections that are redundant are “trimmed.”  After birth, other major maturation milestones include sitting up (by 7 months), walking (1 year), running (18 months to 2 years), and fine motor control (2-4 years). There is a great deal of variability in when children reach these milestones, but these are general guidelines.  Physical development continues throughout the life span, but little attention has been paid to development after puberty in the research literature.

Social Development

During the formative years, children are learning much about how to navigate the world. How to get along in a social environment is one of the many important issues that children learn. Attachment theory has been proposed as one way to understand social development.

According to Bowlby and Ainsworth, children develop an attachment style to their primary caregiver early in development. Attachment leads to an internal working model for relationships later on. Attachment is an emotional and cognitive set of behaviors that are tested through the strange situation.

In the strange situation, a child around age 1 is brought into the laboratory with the primary caregiver. The child is left in the room under a variety of conditions. First, the child is alone. Then, the researcher comes in. Finally, the primary caregiver is brought back in. The key to understanding attachment is to examine the reunion between the parent and the child.

If the child is upset but can be calmed, the child is said to be securely attached. This suggests that the child uses the parent as a safe base to explore the environment. The child can return if there is trouble or if he is upset. If a child is unable to be comforted or is violent or distant upon return, he may be insecurely attached.

These styles have been shown be related in later relationships. Children who are insecurely attached have more difficulty trusting others later in life. Securely attached people tend to be more comfortable in relationships.

Cognitive Development

One of the pioneers in development is Jean Piaget. Piaget noticed that his children were able to handle logical problems differently at different ages. Further, he noticed that as children age, their ability to handle logical problems changes. Piaget then spent years studying how cognitive development occurred on average. From this intensive study, Piaget developed a theory of cognitive development that describes how people are able to deal with logical problems differently at different points in their lives.

According to Piaget, the most important issue that children are concerned with is adapting to their environment (a process he called adaptation). To adapt, children use different strategies at different ages. This accommodation process relies on the notion that we develop a series of schemas (or schemes or schemata) to ease the adaptation process.  A schema is an organized body of knowledge. It can be knowledge based or action based. Most people have organized schemas for going to a restaurant, for instance. They understand that we enter a restaurant, get seated, order drinks, etc. This schema allows people to know what to do when they enter that situation. Schemas are not part of the inborn knowledge structures of children. Schemas need to be developed through experience. The process of developing a new schema is called accommodation. Early in life, children spend a great deal of time developing schemas, or accommodating. It is essential that the development process of accommodation happen early so that children have appropriate schemas to know appropriate situations.

Once we develop schemas, we spend a lot of time fitting new experiences into existing schemas. That process is called assimilation. If we have a schema for going to a restaurant and we enter a new restaurant, we typically know the correct set of behaviors or actions. Piaget argues that we both accommodate and assimilate throughout life.

Stage Theory

According to Piaget, we go through a variety of stages on our way to cognitive development. All human beings pass the stages in a fixed and invariant way. That is, we all go through the stages in the same order, and we all go through all the stages during our lifespan.

Stage 1: Sensorimotor

The first stage in development. Birth to 18 months (age can vary, but the order does not).

Child’s responses are sensory and motor - receives info through senses, & responses to those stimuli are purely motor. Operate in here-and-now and do not seem to plan or think about consequences of behavior. On average, children do not engage in internal representation until the end of this stage. In fact, children don’t even recognize an object is still present when the object is no longer in their visual field. Piaget referred to this as object permanence. (Why peekaboo is such a fun game for babies)

Stage 2: Preoperational

Around age 2 to 6. Child goes through rapid intellectual growth. Language learned, and through that process, many intellectual skills needed later in life are learned as well - internal representations, for instance, is learned, as evidenced by a child’s ability to engage in creative or imaginative play. One of the main skills that children learn in pre operational stage still lack is what Piaget called conservation. It is the principal that things stay the same no matter if the form changes. For example, when adults pour liquid from a short glass into a tall glass, they notice that the height of the liquid is greater in the tall glass. But they also understand that the amount of liquid remained the same. Children in stage 2 are quite confident that there is now “more” in the taller glass. This lack of conservation also can be seen in length, mass, and number, as well as volume.

Stage 3: Concrete Operational

Age 6 to 12, develop quite comprehensive logical skills. They are in school, learning many of the building blocks for higher-level intellectual functioning. Acquire logical skills, learn how to engage in organized problem solving, etc. During this stage, children develop a great number of schemas, and they spend much time assimilating into those existing schemas. Children do not have complete, higher-level cognitive structures, but they are r beyond the first two stages.

Stage 4: Formal Operational

The highest level of development, begins around age 12. Become able problem solvers in a systematic way, use reversibility, etc. This is a stage is pinnacle of cognitive development.

 

Critics of Piaget

Some believe Piaget greatly underestimated children’s skills on one end and greatly overestimated their skills at the other end. Several researchers rephrased Piagetian tasks and found that younger children were able to understand the questions and respond appropriately. In addition, the children seemed to have internal representation prior to preoperational age. And on the other end, another researcher gave a variety of Piagetian tasks to college freshmen and found that only 40% displayed characteristics of formal operations (Keating). Of course, 100% should have been in formal operations, according to Piaget. So perhaps children enter formal operations later in life.

Lev Vygotsky

An alternative approach to cognitive development, did not agree with Piaget that children moved through stages in an orderly fashion. Rather, he believed that children learn according to their own schedule. Children seem to have a range of abilities under which they are able to operate. By following an adult’s example, they eventually develop the ability to do certain tasks alone. The zone of proximal development (ZPD) defines the gap (difference) between what a child can do without help and what he can do only with support. We can use a process called scaffolding to help children move their ZPD. If children are moving forward in cognitive development, the ZPD needs to change. Scaffolding helps children to build higher-level cognitive functioning by isolating the ZPD and providing the assistance to allow children to solve more complex problems.

Although Vygotsky’s theory is not as structured as Piaget’s, it provides an alternative explanation for cognitive development. Many have argued that Vygotsky’s theory provides a better fit for the educational environment because of its focus on individual differences.

Questions to consider concerning Development:

1. According to Piaget’s theory, we develop schemas how?

during gestation, through experience, via instinct, during adolescence

2. According to Keating, many college students do not actually reach formal operations, even though Piaget’s theory suggests that they should. Keating makes this claim because college students couldn’t ____?

 answer abstract logical problems, conserve, equilibrate, respond to riddles

3. Child development occurs quickly from fetal stage into the development of a fully formed human. Which of the following development milestones occurs first?          

Skull fully forms, A blastocyst forms, Implantation happens, Rapid fetal growth

4. A child has a dog and refers to this dog as “doggie.” She then sees a kitten for the first time and calls out “doggie!” This process is called ____. evolution, formalization, accommodation, assimilation

5. Katie complained there were more meatballs on his brother’s plate than on his, but his mother explained that they each had the same number, it was just that Katie’s were closer together. According to Piaget, Katie would be in which stage of cognitive development? sensorimotor, preoperational, conventional

7. The gap between the skills that children have the ability to do alone versus that which they can do with support is called ____.   adaptation, zone of proximal development, scaffolding, accommodation

8. What is the difference between assimilation and accommodation?

9. According to Piaget, the most important process of development is ____. 

learning to solve problems, learning to speak, adapting to the environment, learning new words

10. The stage of prenatal development during which the developing organism is most vulnerable to injury is the __?

11. Five-year-old David watches you pour water from a short, wide glass into a tall, narrow one. He says there is now more water than before. This response demonstrates _____.

12. What task might be beyond the reach of a child in the preoperational stage?

13. Parents overwhelmingly rate __________ as the most difficult stage of child rearing.

14. At roughly what age would a child reach the stage of formal operations?

15. In which prenatal stage do most major birth defects probably have their origins?