Lancaster university Developmental Psychology

Lancaster university Developmental Psychology

Developmental Psychology - Overview

Overview of four general approaches related to the study of development. (covered in this course there are more)

  • Psychoanalysis.
  • Social Learning Theory.
  • Cognitive Developmental Theory.
  • Ethology.
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Developmental Psychology - Psychoanalysis


History:- Originated by Freud (1856-1939) developed at both treatment and theory. treated manly "hysterics" (mainly women) who had symptoms of illness (paralysis, epilepsy) yet no organic illness. Hard to back up scientifically but vary culturally influential, evidence mainly retrospective.

Psychosexual Stages:- Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Genital. Problems with passing though these stages can result in fixations later in life.

Developmental Process:- Creative Conflict between repressed, unconscious wishes and conscious, internalised rules give rise to the Id (unconscious desires), ego (representations of reality) and superego (internalised values). we are born all id and develop the ego and superego though socialisation.

Starting-point of Development:- The child is attributed a strong socially based emotional life from the start. however which can not be backed up, rich interpretation of child behaviour is not shared by other Developmental Psychologist.

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Developmental Psychology - Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory

History:- Rooted in behaviorism, a movement based on on Pavlov's these principles consisted of the pairing of a stimulus with a reward (Pavlov's classical conditioning), and a pairing of a behaviour with a reward (B.F. Skinner operant conditioning). Belive children to be blank slates that could be shaped into anything.

Developmental process:- SLT developed by Albert Bandura belived that punishment or reward alone is insufficient for the learning taking place in childhood. Young chimps appear to learn by observing and imitating behaviour. However this is complex involving, intelligent selection of aspects of the observed event to imitate, making a match between a present and a past situation, and associating similar events that have variable factors.

Starting-point of Development:- relatively minor role is given to the child's contribution to the developmental process. Emphasis on enviroment and parent as a teacher who shapes their behviour though reward and punishment.

"biological limits on what behaviours can be learnt are considered rather loose" From lcture notes

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Developmental Psychology - Cognitive Developmental

Cognitive Developmental Theory

History:- Developed by Jean Piaget (1896-1980) combining epistemology (study of the origins of knowledge) and zoology. Influenced by the philosopher Kant, who belived there were four fundamental categories of knowledge to make sense of the world (Time, Space, Causality and Object Permanence). Piaget believed this knowledge is not innate and constructed during development. Infant acts on the world and builds progressively better “theories” concerning the links between actions and objects

Starting-point of Development:- Piaget believed that newborns were a “Bundle of Reflexes” with no integration between the senses. As put by William James "blooming, buzzing, confusion". Piaget believed by 9 months infants had some idea of an object existing independently of their own perceptions i.e. gone from sight gone from the world. Bower's Multiple Mothers study used mirrors to display many mother to infant. Under 5 months smiled at all, over upset indicating object permanence.

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Developmental Psychology - Ethology


History:- Ethology study of animal behaviour in the natural environment. Reaction to behaviourists focus on learning processes at the expense of instinctual behaviour patterns(Hard wired due to evolution). Lorenz study into imprinting in ducks found that he could get them to imprint on himself showing signs of distress when separated also believed a similar bond was shared with the parents.

Developmental process:- biologically channelled influences in both offspring and parental behaviour Gould (1980) evolution of Mickey Mouse made more child like to widen his appeal.

Starting-point of Development:- innate biological endowments shaped by evolution. However to what extent and how much freedom we have is debatable.

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Developmental Psychology- Attachment

John Bowlby (1951/1971) Post WW2 (or the World Health Organisation) Study due to many orphans suffering in care

Concludedinfant and young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother-substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment

  • How continuous is continuous ?
  • Does the care have to be provided by one individual (mother) ?
  • This parenting method a departure from strict methods at the time.

Outline of Bowlby’s model of attachment.

Based on psychoanalysis & ethology. Biological predisposition to attach to mother in the form of proximity maintenance. Attachments generated by "warm and loving holding and face-to-face interactions". Harlow & Harlow (1961) “holdability” was a more critical than food. Anderson (1972) infants showed a pattern of exploratory behaviour coupled with checking that the “secure base” (mother/carer)

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Developmental Psychology - Attachment (Types)

Ainsworth et al (1978) Strange Situation Test

Study into individual differences in attachment by causing a stressful situation for baby 12-18 months old. Involved being separated from there mother and left with a stranger.

Concluded:- Found three basic patterns of attachment

  • secure (65%) upset by separation but happy on mother return
  • anxious-ambivalent (15%). Upset by separation however were not comforted by mother return
  • anxious-avoidant (15%) Did not get upset did not seek comfort and showed little preference between parent or stranger

Ainsworth et al. (1978) and Belsky, Rovine and Taylor (1984) latter studies found a link between “sensitive mothering” & secure attachment. Avoidant behaviours correlated with “distant” parenting. Ambivalent correlated with earlier inconsistent patterns of care. Also correlated with later measures of sociability in toddlers and school achievement (Clarke-Stewart, 1989)

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Developmental Psychology - Attachment (Daycare)

Belsky & Rovine (1988)

Concluded:- Analysis of several studies indecated 20 hrs of full-time daycare before the age of 1 resulted in insecure attachment (43%) versus 26% in infants without the >20hrs daycare experience.


  • Clarke-Sterwart (1989) difference not large, day-care children being more used to separations so seek less comfort appearing aviodent. Quality of daycare and positive aspect's (higher income due to employment) should also be accounted for
  • NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (1997) found that there were no differences between children with a high degree of day care and those with a low amount in attachment security and no difference in terms of quality of care. however if low maternal sensitivity was more likely to lead to avoidant classifications if day care quality was also poor
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Developmental Psychology - Prosocial Behavior

Definition:- Pro-social behaviors were defined as those behaviors directed towards another person that promote or sustain positive benefit to that person" (Radke-Yarrow et al 1993). This definition focuses on observable and measurable behaviours.

Empathy in Infants:-

  • Sagi & Hoffman (1976) newborns cry when hearing another baby cry.
  • Field et, al. (1982) baby's can imitate expressions of surprise and happiness and argue that is is mediated by empathetic responses.
  • Pfeifer et al. (2008) Mirror Nurons System allow us to experience other's action by just observation and have been liked to observing and executing emostional expression.
  • Zahn-Waxler et al. (1992) study where baby were observed when mother acts distressed in there home (self report). 1-2 year old's did show pro-social behavior (hugging, helping, etc) 10% for 1 year olds and 50% for 2 year olds
  • Fables et, al. (1993) empathy requires optimal regulation to turn into helpful concern.
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Developmental Psychology - Prosocial Behavior

Self-other Distinction:-

  • Dondi et al (1999) newborns can distinguish between there own crying & the crying of other baby's displaying Self-Other Distinction before 1 year old.
  • Warneken & Tomasello (2006) also found infants 14-18 months can display helping behaviour.

Perspective taking skills:-

  • Underwood & Moore (1982) found that there was a weak but significant association between perspective-taking tasks & pro-social behaviour
  • Stewart & Marvin (1984) effective helping is aided by role-taking abilities that increase in sophistication throughout childhood.
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Developmental Psychology - Prosocial Behavior

Holfman's model for pro-social development (1984; 1987)

  • 1 Year Old:- Global empathy / No Self-Other Distinction
  • 2 Year Old:- Egocentric Empathy / Limited Perspective taking skills / Self appropriate Comforting
  • 3 Year Old:- Other Oriented Empathy / Perspective taking skills / Other Appropriate Comforting

Holfman believed that empathy is the motivational core for pro-social acts. Two major Cognitive developmental changes 1. The Self other Distinction 2. Perspective Taking Abilities

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Developmental Psychology - Prosocial Behavior

Individual differences in pro-social behavior

  • Zhan-Waxler et al. (1978) parental behaviours were associated with the prosocial behaviours of individual children
  • Zhan-Waxler et al. (1992) twin study shows a possible genetic link
  • Scarr (1992) children “create” their own environments - for example a child with an easy temperament creates a different environment for parents than a child with a more difficult one etc..could suggest ways in which genetic and environmental determinants of prosocial behaviour might interact.
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Developmental Psychology - Aggression

Defintion:- Distinction made between intentions, behaviours & consequences. A behaviour which damages another person accidentally is not considered an aggressive behaviour. while trying to hit someone and missing is.


  • Rough-&-Tumble Play:- Playful intention (not anger) from 3 years to young adults. involves running, jumping & wrestling etc. facial expression are pla(yfull as aposed to frowns.
  • Instrumental Aggression:- obtain some valued resource (a desired toy for example).
  • Hostile Aggression:- Intention appears to be to cause harm to another (for its own sake).

Possible that alternative causal mechanisms underlie distinction.(explanations of hostile aggression different for instrumental aggression). Ethologists point out evolutionary explanation for Instrumental Aggression but not Hostile Aggression. Aggression can occur spontaneously from age 2-3 (untaught) but by middle childhood stable & large individual differences can be seen(socialisation experience).

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Developmental Psychology - Aggression - Screen Vio

Bandura and Walters (1963):- Bobo doll study. children watch a adult perform a violent act on a doll. Found that children would carry out more aggressive act if watched a adult perform them. (children are learning aggression through imitation of adult models)

Leyens, Camino and Parke (1975):- Boys in a young offenders institution watched "action movies" or non-violent movies. The boys who saw the action films displayed more aggression that the boys watched non-violent films.

Eron, Huesmann, Lefkowitz and Walder (1972):- studied the viewing habits 8/9 year in a whole community longitudinally, found that amount of violence viewed predicted aggression ratings by peers ten years later

  • Ordinary TV viewing does not have these demand characteristics (Bobo Doll).
  • Really aggressive, or best characterised as rough-&-tumble (young offenders).
  • People with violent tendencies are likely to seek violent films (Viewing Habits).
  • Perhaps TV models influence in terms of "copy-cat" violence (not the cause but dictates the form)
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Developmental Psychology - Aggression

Leach (1993):- reviews studies showing by adulthood, individuals who were physically punished regularly in childhood are likely to believe it did them good, and are more likely to use physical punishment as a form of discipline with their own children.

Patterson (1986):- The coercive cycle, Letting the child use non-compliance, the child is rewarded and continues to be non-compliant. This finally becomes such an aversive environment for the parent they lash-out in an explosive outburst which brings the reward of temporary relief. However, this creates a more aversive environment for the child who responds by with more non-compliant behaviour.

Dodge (1986):- Social information-processing model of aggression, consistis of 5 steps. encoding of an event; interpreting the event; a response search; a response decision; and finally an enactment of a response. Highly aggressive kids tend to interpret acts as having hostile intentions due to early limitations in processing and interpreting social cues mis-read ambiguous situations.

both these theories result in peer rejection which leads to more aggression which leads to more peer rejection and stable patterns of aggression

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Developmental Psychology - Aggression

Schonfeld (1990):- delinquent children and adolescents are poor on verbal IQ scores relative to non-verbal IQ, suggesting specific cognitive deficits in more social areas.

Dodge & Nix et al. (1999):- later belived that some children’s misreading of social cues as aggressive might be their early family experiences.

Crick and Dodge (1996):- make a distinction between reactive (perceived provocation) and proactive (gaining specific goals) aggression, suggesting that although many aggressive children show both these forms of aggression, some show predominantly one or the other. reactive aggressive children found to read situations in more aggressive ways. Proactive aggressive children use aggression to gain objectives, and generally have less “social” goals than either reactive aggressive children or non-aggressive peers.

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Developmental Psychology - Enviro/Genetics

Judith Harris (1995):- past research that shows that parents have effect on children overlooks genetics and concentrated on shared home environment to explain. Behavioural genetics showed home environment didn't influence adult characteristics & variability due to genetic factors account for 40-50% of the variance, Harris beleved the remaining 50% was peer groups.

  • 1.Children (and adults) show context-specific behaviour, that is can behave differently at home and in the outside world
  • 2.As children get older, the outside behavioural system is more determining of their personality that in-the-home behaviour
  • 3.Children identify with the peer group, not with adults, and therefore try to be successful within the peer group
  • 4.Peer groups develop their own culture, which can involve contrasting with adult demands
  • 5.Within-group processes will make children more similar (conformity) and more different (hierarchies and niches within the group). This is what makes generations more similar to each other than other generations, but at the same time yields differences in roles and personality.
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Developmental Psychology - Enviro/Genetics

Behavioural genetics:- Outcome is measured, and the contribution of genetics and environment to variability within a population (not between) can be estimated. example's twin studies (comparing monozygotic & dizygotic same environment different gene's), adoption studies (Same Gene's different environment)

DeFries, Plomin & LaBuda (1987):- Identical twins reared together were no more similar than identical twins reared apart. Interestingly from a developmental point of view, shared environment is more important during childhood, but then becomes less so during adulthood for many characteristics, including IQ

Criticisms of Harris work

  • not either/or situation genes, families and peers are all important in shaping personality.
  • Parke et al. (2002):- parents are actively involved in children’s choice of peers
  • Genetic makeup may mean that you interact differently to the same environment as someone else would.
  • Genotype-environment interactions:- high genetic extroversion + restrictive your home environment = Adult high extrovert. low genetic extroversion + less controlling environment = Adult high extrovert
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Developmental Psychology - Gender

Maccoby and Jacklin (1974):- no differences in cognitive performance except a small female advantage on some verbal skills tasks and a small male advantage on some visuospatial tasks.

Hyde and Linn (1988) Hyde et al (1990):- suggests that most of the variance was explainable through non-biological factors. possible exception on visuospatial tasks.

Hyde (1984):- higher incidence of physical aggression in boys (5% of the variance accounted for by sex). self/parental/teacher report studies show difference compaired to experiments. There does not seem to be a difference when verbal aggression is measured.

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Developmental Psychology - Gender -Social learning

Social learning perspective:- focuses on three transmission mechanisms between children and the environment, reinforcement, observational learning and imitation. We will review some of the research findings concerning these mechanisms.


Maccoby & Jacklin (1974):- Did not find strong evidence for differential treatment of boys and girls by mothers. except. exception in the area of sex-typed behaviours, boys received more discouragement than girls for cross-sex-typed activity.

Lytton & Romney (1991):- clear difference between treatment of boys and girls in encouragement of sex-typed activities. Fathers make stronger distinctions than mothers. observational/experimental studies show stronger effects than self-report studies, parents not fully aware of how much they emphasise certain activities are for boys or girls.

Weisner and Wilson-Mitchell (1990):- found that in families with strong egalitarian beliefs about sexual equality, parents nevertheless admitted that they at most tolerated doll-play in boys, whereas it was encouraged in girls.

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Reinforcement continued:-

Baby X studies:- these involve using androgynous baby (exp. dressed in yellow) and see if being told a gender (true or false) results in difference in the interaction or perception.

Seavey, Katz & Zalk (1975):- participants were asked to interact with Baby X using a doll, football or ring. results found that knowing being told the gender informed the types of interaction the participants had(female = doll, male = ring).

Condry and Condry (1976):- participants interpret the emotional expressions of a baby girl reacting to a jack-in-the-box. they interprested girl= fear, boy= anger

Stern and Karraker (1989):- found largest differences in the behaviour of adults towards babies labelled as girls received more face-to-face interactions whereas "boys" received more play involving being tossed.

The baby X studies show that parents start to reinforce toy choices and preferences before any actual differences can be observed. however this could just be how participants act on default with unknown baby's not there own

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Developmental Psychology - Gender

Observational learning:- children internalise patterns of behaviour by observing the people around them, without necessarily having to have experienced reinforcement for spontaneous behaviours of their own.

Huston (1983):- parental sex stereotypes are poor predictors of children's sex-typed behaviour, families with maternal employment find more androgynous patterns of behaviours & interests in girls not boys.(more studies on father with less traditional role)


Huston (1983):- boys and girls tend to "help" the same sex parent around the house

Masters et al, (1979) Perry & Bussey 1979):- There is some evidence that boys and girls imitate same-sex models more than other-sex models, but only if perceive that model as carrying out "gender-appropriate" activities.

Golombok and Fivush (1994):- social learning and cognitive theories of gender development has narrowed so not meaningful to separate the two. and is shown in latest research

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Cognitive-developmental perspective/Schema theory

Kohlberg (1966):- developed the concept of gender constancy (based on Piaget Cog-dev model) children need to realise sex or gender is fixed for life and does not alter if a man suddenly puts on a skirt etc.

Bem (1989):- gender constancy based on sex being defined biologically. in cultures where this is less obvious to children (cloths) there will be a delay in acquiring gender constancy.

Slaby and Frey (1975):- developed and interview to test for gender conistance. this had three parts that test for gender identity, gender stability & gender consistency (all of which make up Gender Constancy) then found children accuierd gender identity at 2, gender stability at 3/4 & gender consistency at 5. they found gender constancy lead children to pay more attention to (and imitate) same sex models (correlation/causation)

  • Marcus & Overton (1978) repeated this and did not find the same results
  • Siegal & Robinson (1987) found when gender constancy interview was in reverse order higher levels of performance were obtained. (demand chariteristics)
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Gender Identity:- being able to label yourself and others as boy/girl

Fagot and Leinbach (1989):- observed a group of 18-month-olds ,They subsequently observed the same children at 27 months, half passed gender identity tests Those that did pass showed more sex-typed behaviours at 27 months although their expressed toy preferences were not different to "late labellers" however could be the result of a third factor

gender schema theory:- Schema's are use to classify and understand incoming information anything outside the understanding we tend to distort and mis-remember

Cordura, McGraw & Drabman (1979):- found 5-6-year old children remembered videos of schema-consistent roles (male doctor, female nurse for example) more than inconsistent ones (female doctor, male nurse) (not clear if gender schemas causes differences in behaviour, or whether they are the result of other factors like parent intervention)

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Biological factors:- We might need to consider the possibility that parental reinforcement is interacting with some pre-existing potential preferences for particular activities.

Snow, Jacklin & Maccoby (1983):- toy preferences by infants are displayed remarkably early. in the presence of their fathers, one-year-old baby boys played less with dolls and moved towards 'forbidden" objects (ash trays etc) more than one-year-old girls.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) In females causes high levels of androgens lead to masculinized external genitalia at birth. The study of girls with CAH syndrome could tell us whether pre-natal exposure to a male hormonal environment can affect the behaviour.

Dittmann et al (1990):- girls with CAH thought of themselves (and were described by their mothers) as being more tom-boyish. however Archer (1976) that cortisone replacement therapy itself could lead to high energy and activity levels, accounting for the psychological differences between CAH girls and controls

Pasterski et al (2005) found that parents did not treat their CAH children differently from sibling controls (using observational measures), confirming that the toy and activity preferences of CHA girls are due to internal factors.

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Developmental Psychology - Macoby’s integrative mo

Macoby’s integrative model

Maccoby (1990):- Boys hang-out with boys, girls with girls this can be seen at 3yrs reaching its peak at 11 yrs. coincides with children engaging in social play. due to "behavioural compatibility". boys more direct in influenceing peers, and have large play groups where dominance issues play a strong role. Girls, more focused on the intimacies of "best friend" alliances, less directive in their attempts to influence each other. Maccoby argues that this accounts for adult differences between men and women i.e. women finding it harder to assert themselves in a hierarchical group situation, and men finding it harder to have intimate friendships, at least with other men.

Jacklin and Maccoby (1978):- compared the behaviour of single sex pairs of 3-year-old children with mixed pairs, in a room with attractive toys. girls were no more passive than boys, but they were significantly more passive in mixed pairs than in single sex pairs.

La Freniere el al (1984):- point out that it can be observed in primate groups as well, again with no clear account put forward as yet to explain it.

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Developmental Psychology - Piaget's

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development

  • Interactions (between “nature” & “nurture”)
  • Constructivist (child plays active role in constructing knowledge by interacting with environment)
  • Knowledge is neither given (inborn)/copy of reality (learned passively)

Piaget saw child as a "mini scientist" who interacts with his environment using evidence from "experiments" on objects and events to construct & test Schema's. the child then Assimilates new knowledge (fitting it into already formed schema's) or Accommodate (changing existing schema's or crating new one's to fit the new knowledge).

Piaget's stages (Invariant order but variation in rate of development)

  • Sensori-motor (birth-2yrs)
  • Pre-operational (2-7 yrs)
  • Concrete operational (7-11 yrs)
  • Formal operational (11 yrs and upwards)
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Developmental Psychology - Piaget's

Sensori-motor (birth - 2 years old)

  • Practical intelligence - Schema's involving real action on real objects
  • Profoundlly Egocentric - learns the differentiate self from object
  • Beginnings of capacity for mental representation (Object Permanence)

in this stage the child learns that object permanency which is the ability to learn that once a object is out of sight it still continues to exist (need the study)

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Developmental Psychology - Pre-operational

Preoperational (2 - 7) years old

  • Development of Symbolic Function - e.g. language, symbolic play
  • Beginning to Represent Action Mentally - not in a coordinated, coherent way
  • Egocentric - can't distinguish & coordinate alternative viewpoints. can consider only on perspective/dimension at a time
  • Thinking is intuitive rather than logical - influenced by current,superfical appearances

???????? (?????) conservation of numbers task:- if you have two rows of coins and the gap between each coin is equal a child under 7 can identify the two rows are equal. if one of the rows is more spread out however then the same child will believe that there are more coins in that row. due to lack of understanding of some logical principles i.e. Revesibility, compensation and identity.

????????? (????) 3 mountains task:- children under 7 are shown a model of 3 mountains all diffrent sizes. a doll sits across from them and are asked to pick a picture of what the doll can see but the child usally picks the picture of what they can see. peaget argues are egocentir or unable to decentre.

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More evedence for pre-operational thinking

  • Other forms of consevation:- e.g liquid, mass. inequality as well as quality
  • Class inclusion:- reasoning about classes & sub classes e.g. are there more yellow flowers of more flowers? more yellow flowers.
  • Causality:- cause not distinguished from effects e.g. he fell off his bike because..... he broke his leg
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Concrete operational (7-11 yrs)

  • child can reason logically about changes. can also coordinate different perspectives but only with respect to "concrete objects (real, observable)
  • need direct, sensory access

Formal Operational period (11 yrs onwards)

  • Logical thinking about abstract concepts and possibilities
  • Systematic Testing of Hypotheses e.g. changing one variable while keeping others constant
  • Ability to Reason in Purely Symbolic Terms
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Critiques of Piagetian Theory

  • Underestimates childrens's abilities
  • overestimates age differences in thinking
  • vagueness about the process of change
  • underestimates the role of social environment
    • tests were done on western european kids Vygotsky argued culture and social interaction were critical to development
  • lack of eveidence for qualitatively defferent stages

sometimes pre-operatinal children fail piagetean tasks. explanation for this could be limited information-processing abilities, limited knowledge/experience of the world, limited linguistic skills, influence of social/interactional context.

Markman (1979):- revisited number conversation and found that if he referred to his rows as arm's of soldiers he would get different responses (framing of question is important)

Case (1985) & Siegler (1976):- belived developmental changes are due to increases in information processing. young children use stragies that use less demand of working memory & attention

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Developmental Psychology - Theory Of Mind

Theory of Mind

  • being able to infer the full range of mental states that cause action
  • Develops once an individual is able to reflect on the contents of own mind and minds of other
  • Generally believed to be fully developed by 4yrs old

Theory of Mind is used to make seance of and predict behavior and is essential in communication requiring understanding of what the other person dose or dose not know.

Wimmer & perner (1983) Firth (1989):- sally-anne task involves a child watching a play with dolls where one doll hides something under box1 then another doll switches it to box2 then child is then ask where will the first doll look. box1=ToM box2=No ToM. this

Appearance-Reality Task:- a child is shown a sponge that looks like a rock. after the child understands this it is ask what will other children think it is. 3yrs old's answer a sponge. both these represent a child inability to understand that other would hold a False Belief

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Animacy & human preference

  • Newborn infants preferred standard faces over scrambled infants followed the standard face further than the control stimuli
  • Pattern Perception:- 3-4 mth-olds recognize human motion. (Bertenthal 1993) point light display of humans walking infants prefer human movements as opposed to controles
  • Woodward (1998):- By 5 months, infants expect human behavior to be goal-oriented. human hand will reach to same object not direction if arm is mechanical then they expect the same direction
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Understanding effect and emotions

  • Cohn & Tornick (1983):- 3-mounts olds are sensitive to flat Vs animated affect. if mother acting emotionally flat child will attempted to elicit a reaction. after time infants became negative of disinterested with implication for depressive mother
  • Visual cliff and social referencing:- a baby is placed at one side of a cliff with glass over it so it cant fall in it looks to it mother for emotional cues. mum fearful= wont cross, mum happy= will cross (emotional cues to interpret new things)
  • Tomasello, Strosberg, & Akhtar (1996):- "lets find the Gazzer" 18-month old children could identify a novel object named the "Gazzer" by view the facial expression of the experimenter smiling at the Gazzer and frowning at the others. demonstrating that they had used the adult’s cues

Gaze Following

  • Low level tracking from birth
  • (D’Entremont et,al.1997) can follow other people's gaze to a target by 6-months
  • Use it as a cue for word-referent mapping by 18-months
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Joint attention

  • (Tager-Flusberg) Early indicators of joint attention predict later language scores
  • (Tomasello) Following the child’s lead predicts language ability
  • Baldwin (1993):- used the gaze of an adult speaker to discern appropriate referent of novel word. child and experimenter hold novel objects, while the experimenter looks at there object he gives it a novel name "peri". when asked which object is "peri" children above 15 months knew to name the object in the experimenters gaze. below 15 months but did not map the name to the experimenters gaze
  • May help to explain rapid language learning
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Developmental Psychology - Language


  • Levels of language structure:- Phonology (speech sound system) Semantics (meanings) Syntax & morphology (grammar) Pragmatics (communicative purposes)
  • Language Comprehension:- Understanding what others say (or certain aspects)
  • Language Production:- Actual speaking (or manually producing) those aspects
    • Language comprehension precedes production

Timescale of spoken language development

  • 1st word at about 1 year
  • most rapid changes from 1 to 5
    • these occur without explicit tuition
    • word combination around 18-months
  • development continues thought childhood & into adulthood
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Preparing to talk

  • 1. Pre-Linguistic communication
    • joint attention, sharing meanings, turn-taking
  • 2. preference for child-directed speech. 4 month old infants prefer recordings of women talking to child then to adult (Fernald & Simon, 1984)
  • 3. comprehending words in context from about 8 months

How do we acquire knowledge

  • Skinner (1957):- language is learnt though reinforcement (classical conditioning)
  • Chonsky:- humans are genetically programmed to acquire language. LAD unique to humans contains innate knowledge of universal grammar & parameters on which language vary
    • near universality of language in humans
    • uniqueness of language to humans
    • rapid acquisition of language
    • children's error e.g. goed
    • adults reinforce meaning rather then grammar
    • children seem impervious to explicit attempts to correct their grammar
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Critical period

Genie was raised in total darkness with no or vary little exposure to language. at 13 years old psychologist attempted to teach her language. after 7 months she could recognise hundreds of words, however language never progressed beyond 'telegraphic' speech.

What is acquired in language development?

  • Complex structured knowledge (rules/patterns/regularities)
  • powerful cognitive tool
  • A powerful communicative/social tool

How might language development be explained?

  • Innate factors & facilitation by adults are not mutually exclusive – likely that both play a role.
  • children probably have some sort of specialized capacity for language likely that this interacts with other aspects of their developing social, cognitive & perceptual
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Developmental Psychology - Autism


  • Pervasive Neurodevelopmental disorder (Kanner,1943, Asperger, 1944)
  • Increasingly prevalent (1 in 100; Baird et al. 2006) 4:1 ratio Boy to Girl
  • Associated learning disability, 30-40% functionally non-verbal (spectrum disorder)

Triad of Impairments

  • Behavioural/Imagination
  • Socialisation
  • Communication
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Autism & Theory of Mind

defect in theory of mind across autistic spectrum in the following areas:-

  • Gaze Following
  • False Belief
  • Appearance reality
  • Any task involving monitoring of communicative intent
    • Baron-Cohen, et al. (1995), Baldwin (1993)

Baron-Cohen et al (1997):- normal adults reads wide range of mental states from facial expression. adults with autism significantly impaired relative to normal adults. but can recognize gender from eye's also simple emotional expression on the basis of whole face information

ToM uniquely human?:- chimps have shown evidence. hiding objects to deceive, brush lipstick from own forehead, use basic gestures to direct behaviours. however this could be the result of associative learning. ToM may be a continuum of abilities which people and animals have different levels of understanding

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