Critical and Sensitive Periods

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  • Created by: Em
  • Created on: 12-05-16 09:31

Critical Periods

  • A specific period in development where an organism is most vulnerable to the deprivation of certain experiences 
  • Critical periods have identifiable start and end times and begin and end suddenly
  • A brain injury or not having a particular environmental input at specific times after birth can impact the development of neural pathways and it becomes harder to correct later on in life
  • Experiments in animals hae shown that if one eye of the animal is closed or isn't working properly for a certain time after birth, the visual cortex fails to develop properly causing the eye to be forever blind
  • Imprinting is another example of a critical period in development and the behaviour was discovered by Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz
  • Imprinting is the idea that a newly born duck will attach to or imprint the first noisy moving object it encounters after birth
  • American psychologist Edward Ness found that if the duckling was too young or old imprinting won't take place 
  • Psychologists have yet to identify any specific critical period for any human mental process or behaviour 
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Sensitive Periods

  • A period of time during development when an individual is more responsive ('sensitive') to certain types of environmental experiences or learning
  • Outside of this period the same environmental influences need to be stronger to produce the same negative or positive effects
  • It's the best time to learn a certain skill or knowledge as you can learn quicker and easier
  • Sensitive periods indicate that brain development goes through specific periods during the time when synaptic connections and neural pathways are most easily formerd
  • Learning is best during this time because there is an increase in the number of synapses during synaptogenesis 
  • Lasts for short periods of time for physical characteristics and long periods of time for psychological characteristics
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