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Chapter 1: Introduction to Developmental Psychology
Transcript of Chapter 1: Introduction to Developmental Psychology
What is Developmental Psychology?
Developmental Psychology :
A field of study devoted to understanding constancy and change throughout the lifespan
Change example =
Developmental Psychology must be :
scientific, applied, interdisciplinary, have a positive focus on aging, promote healthy lifestyle trends.
Psychologists have realized that to understand human behavior we must trace the path of development to further understand how our body also influences the mind.
Developmental psychology always follows the scientific method!
The Scientific Method
Defining a problem
Make a hypothesis
Build a theory
What's in a theory?
A testable, educated guess in the form of a statement that determines the relationship between two or more variables
A theory describes, explains, and predicts behavior
Theories must rely on scientific verification
No theory is or will ever be perfect
Theories are continuously discarded and replaced with newer theories.
the only statement "better" than a theory. Laws happen EVERY time, not just most of the time like theories.
There are no laws in psychology as of now.
Famous Issues in Development
One path <-----> Multiple paths?
Nature <------> Nurture?
Lifespan development :
the perspective of studying the developmental process as one continuous stage. The goal is to find similarity between the various developmental stages.
Lifespan Development covers ALL STAGES of life.
Requirements and characteristics of development :
lifelong, multidimensional, multidirectional, highly plastic, and influenced by multiple, interacting factors.
means growth occurs due to multiple factors (e.g., growth occurs due to hormones AND diet).
developmental psychologists study growth AND decline.
most development adapts to the environment the organism lives in.
Multiple factors :
it is nearly impossible to claim one factor as the cause of development.
Typical Periods of Development
Age-Graded Influences :
the most common in America. Examples include birthday parties, graduation, puberty, driving, etc. Can be biological or social.
Historical (Cohort Influences) :
Specific developmental influences due to generational differences. Think of developing without electricity compared to now. Another example would be if developmental occurred differently for a specific group (e.g., Baby Boomers).
Non-normative Influences :
influences that occur out of chronological order or happen at unexpected times (e.g., teenage pregnancy, children dying before parents, losing your parents at age 4, entering college at age 14, etc.).
Evolution & Development
Darwin's "On The Origin of Species" was influential to developmental psychology.
Natural Selection :
the process by which organisms that have advantages in their environment survive while weaker organisms die out.
Survival of the fittest :
occurs after natural selection. The organisms that survive their environments reproduce and pass on their genes. The organisms that cannot adapt die out and do not reproduce.
The Normative Period
Normative Approach :
First widespread, scientific research on human development. The was primarily started by G. Stanley Hall.
Research recruited hundreds of participants to produce an “average” developmental process
Most of the research conducted focused on motor capabilities, social behaviors, personality traits, and average physical traits (e.g., height, weight, age of spermarche/menarche, etc).
The mental testing movement resulted due to the normative period.
Psychoanalytic perspective :
movement which acknowledged that the mind can heavily influence the body and vice-versa. This is very important to development.
Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson are primarily responsible for the Psychoanalytic Perspective.
Freud's Personality Theory:
Proposed that all people have an ID, Ego, & Superego. 99% debunked in modern times.
Erikson's Psychosocial Stages :
one of the most important Developmental theories. We will spend the WHOLE semester going over this theory. It spans the complete human lifespan. People either pass/fail each of the developmental stages.
Piaget's Cognitive Development Theory
Cognitive Developmental Theory :
second most famous theory that explains how children mentally develop during childhood. We will spend at least half of the class going over these stages.
(Birth – 2 years)
(2 – 7 years)
(7 – 11 years)
(11 years +)
Post-Formal Operational Thought:
Piaget's theory is still highly valued and respected today even with many flaws.
Current Developmental Trends
the study of brain development during the lifespan. Research field is no more than 25 years old.
Information-Processing theory :
our brain functions just like a computer and our memory is analogous to the parts of the computer.
studying development with the focus on "why is this behavior necessary for survival?". Highly focused on evolutionary research. Examples include: Why did imprinting occur in ducks? How did children learn to cry when they are hungry?
Multidisciplinary research :
current trends support multiple developmental fields (e.g., Gerontology, Medicine, Psychology, & Sociology) working together to gain more knowledge.
Critical & Sensitive Periods
Critical Periods :
point in development where an organism is ready to learn a new skill but must be exposed to environmental stimulation or they will not learn the skill
If the skill is not learned within a specific timeframe, the skill will never be acquired
Sensitive Period :
is less restrictive than a critical period. Development is most efficient during the sensitive period, but can still occur before or after (but is usually harder to develop)
Humans have more sensitive periods than critical periods, but critical periods are typically much more important!
Most common social science tool
Can recruit large amounts of people
Questions should not elicit researchers expectations; bias-free questions
(e.g., Most people support the idea of governmental checks and balances. What do you think of separating power in the government?)
The question is leading
There are two main types of questions
Open and Closed Ended Questions
Closed - ended questions:
assigned set of responses
Demographic Questions: Age = (1-10),(11-20),(21-30)..; Sex = Male or Female; Marital Status = Single, Married, Divorced, Widowed; Pet Owner = Yes or No; etc)
Likert Scale Responses: What do you think of the use of nuclear weapons? Select support or not support on the following scale:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Open - ended questions:
answer however they want
In your own words, why do you support the republican/democratic party?
What is your religion? ___________
Developmental Research Designs
the study of how the environment influences our genes. The basic premise is that scientists know that certain genes never become "activated" if they are not exposed to environmental influences.
One example would be alcoholism (gene DRD2) and living in a country that makes alcohol illegal. What would you expect to happen?
The term used to explain that different people are influenced by the environment in different ways due to their genetic make-up.
For example, if humans do not develop limbs in the womb by day 54, the fetus typically will not survive. This illustrates critical periods of human development.
Accent free speech:
the concept that a majority of people cannot learn a new language after puberty without inserting their native accent and dialect into the foreign language. This is a sensitive period example.
oftentimes researchers were quick to state if a participant does not follow the average, "something is wrong". Today, researchers view this as making biased assumptions.
Additional Methods of Research
observing participants in the actual setting of the behavior. Lowest amount of experimental control. Less likely to be used by psychologists.
Small participant samples where you study very few participants in relation to a rare topic. Examples include: people with dissociative identity disorder, people with amnesia, people who speak 20+ languages. Instead of trying to find hundreds of participants you focus on a small amount. May not be generalizable to the whole population. Most common in clinical psychology.
Studying something using already published data. Examples include historical events, population data, income data, CDC data, etc.
a term used to explain that a particular behavior is common across everybody on the planet. This typically means that the behavior is related to our DNA/Genetics.
A Sociological and Psychological research method that analyzes different forms of data (e.g., movies, books, advertising, video games, etc) to examine recurring patterns and overarching messages.
The Most Reliable Online Data Sources
General Social Survey :
U.S. Census Bureau :
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics :
National Health for Center Statistics :
National Center for Education Statistics :
World Health Organization :
Gallup Poll :
Pew Research Center :
FBI Database :
Experimental Research Requirements
Empirical evidence and research:
conducting research using the scientific method and following commonly accepted research practices. Empirical evidence is more reliable than personal opinions or anecdotes. Empirical research is
Systemic research :
establishing strict guidelines
conducting research and sticking to these rules throughout the whole study.
if the study has been systemic, multiple people should be able to conduct the same study and produce identical (or highly similar results).
Scientific research using experimentation is the ONLY way to determine that one variable causes another (causation).
Experimental research uses a control and treatment group. Make sure you know the difference!
variable that is manipulated to see if it has an influence.
variable that is being measured and influenced by the Independent Variable
Examples of Experimental Research
Independent Variable examples:
effect of caffeine
on test performance,
effect of exercise
effect of reading
the impact of colors
Dependent Variable examples:
Test scores, weight, IQ scores, emotional responses on survey
Dependent variables have to be something you can measure on a numerical scale OR binary responses (yes = 1, no = 2, present = 1, absent = 2).
group you are studying (e.g., college students, people who play football, people who wear glasses, people who are married).
selected people from the population you are studying
randomly selected participants from a list of the population. All members must have an equal chance of being selected. Usually picked by utilizing a random number table or computer software.
Exceptions to Experimental Research
research conducted where it is impossible or unethical to randomly assign participants to the control or treatment conditions.
Examples of factors that cannot be (traditionally) manipulated:
age, race, sex, gender, income, physical or mental abilities, occupation, religion.
Let's say we want to experimentally test if people who make $100,000 or more a year are more likely to donate than people who do not. We cannot randomly assign some people to the "rich" condition and others to the control condition. They are coming into the study with characteristics that cannot be changed.
ALL medical research on humans about the dangers of smoking and lung cancer are quasi-experimental studies. We cannot ethically assign some people to the "smoking" group and others abstain from smoking.
When we cannot use experimental forms of research, we try to determine if two variables are related to each other. This is referred to as
Examples of correlational research:
cigarette smoking and cancer, child abuse and future violent behavior, drug use and level of well-being, marriage and divorce rates, sexual orientation and eating disorders.
It would be unethical to test any of these subjects with experimental research. Therefore, we study participants that have these specific characteristics. We then study them to determine if averages show other variables related (correlated) to them.
The two variables are related and when one changes direction, the other does as well. Examples include: eating and weight gain, reading and vocabulary, practice and accuracy, temperature and ice cream sales.
The two variables that are related go in opposite directions. Examples include: exercising and weight, low self-esteem and not using protection, fashion magazines and self-image, religious beliefs and fear of death.
How we statistically express correlational relationships with numbers. They are expressed numerically on a range from
= +1.0 (perfect positive correlation) to -1.0 (perfect negative correlation). A correlation coefficient of
= 0 means there is no relation between the two variables.
A serious error is to state that one variable causes another when they are correlated. The famous scientific statement is
"Correlation does NOT equal causation".
Ethics in Research
Researchers must be honest with participants and reporting results
Participants must know they are being researched
Participant names should not be released
Sources should always be cited; this is a collaborative field.
Protected Participants are groups of people who have undue pressure to be a participant (make sure you understand this).
Protected Participants include:
minors, pregnant women, prisoners, people who are homeless, and people who are unable to give consent.