Developmental Psychology
• Developmental psychology is the study of how
and why people change over time in the way
they behave, think, and relate to others.
• Developmental psychology focuses on
developmental themes such as identity,
attachment and adolescence.
• It is important to gain an understanding of
the extent to which early experience may
influence later development and if there are
critical periods in development.
• Knowledge about the influence of biological,
social and cultural factors in people’s lives is
helpful not only for families but also in
childcare and education to create good
opportunities for children and young people
all over the world.
• Controversies related to developmental
psychology include the extent of the impact of
early experiences and why some children
seem to be more resilient than others after
stressful experiences in childhood.
• In recent years knowledge about resilience
has been used to develop programmes that
can increase resilience.
Learning Outcomes
• General framework (applicable to all topics in
the option)
• To what extent do biological, cognitive and
sociocultural factors influence human
• Evaluate psychological research (that is, theories
and/or studies) relevant to developmental
Learning Outcomes 6.1
Cognitive development 6.1
• Evaluate theories of cognitive development
(for example, Piaget, Bruner, Vygotsky, brain
development theories).
• Discuss how social and environmental
variables (for example, parenting, educational
environment, poverty, diet) may affect cognitive
Research used in Developmental
Laboratory experiments
Case study
• Could you describe them? Evaluate them?
Research used in Developmental
• Want to study the child’s physical and social
context, cultural factors (child-rearing
practices, customs) – the child’s ecology
(developmental niche)
• Longitudinal research is often used – describe
it and give + and –
• Counter act some –
use cross-sectional design
Cognitive Development
• Heated debate: Nature vs. Nurture!
Cognitive Development
• Biological development (brain)
• Cognitive (Piaget’s)
• Sociocultural (Vygotsky’s)
Biological Development (brain)
• Some universal characteristics (inborn reflexes
usch as sucking and grasping)
• How does our brain develop (from a biological
• Synaptic growth – most significant in the year
of life
• neuroplasticity
Biological Development (brain)
• The brain’s activity increases with synaptic
• Support: Rosenzweig and Bennet 1972
• Correlational research (no cause and effect)
Cognitive Development
• Piaget’s theory
• Lived: 1896 –1980
Swiss developmental psychologist
• Based his theory on observations and openended interviews
• Believed that children and adults think differently
• Formal logic is the highest (last stage) in our
Cognitive Development
• There are two major aspects to his theory: the process of
coming to know and the stages we move through as we
gradually acquire this ability.
• Process of Cognitive Development. As a biologist,
Piaget was interested in how an organism adapts to its
environment (Piaget described as intelligence.) Behavior
(adaptation to the environment) is controlled through
mental organizations called schemata (schema) that
the individual uses to represent the world and designate
action. This adaptation is driven by a biological drive to
obtain balance between schemes and the environment
• Piaget hypothesized that infants are born with schema
operating at birth that he called "reflexes." In other
animals, these reflexes control behavior throughout life. In
human beings as the infant uses these reflexes to adapt to
the environment, these reflexes are quickly replaced with
constructed schemata.
Adaption (learning) take two forms:
• Piaget described two processes used by the individual
in its attempt to adapt: assimilation and
accomodation. Both of these processes are used
though out life as the person increasingly adapts to
the environment in a more complex manner.
• Assimilation is the process of using or transforming
the environment so that it can be placed in
preexisting cognitive schemas. Accomodation is the
process of changing cognitive structures in order to
accept something from the environment. Both
processes are used simultaneously and alternately
throughout life.
• An example of assimilation would be seeing a dog for
the first time will be categorized as animal. An
example of accomodation would be seeing or learning
something completely new – changing ones
Stages of Cognitive Development. Piaget identified
four stages in cognitive development (universal theory)
• Sensorimotor stage (Infancy 0-2 years)
• In this period intelligence is demonstrated through
motor activity without the use of symbols.
• Knowledge of the world is limited (but developing)
because its based on physical interactions /
• Children acquire object permanence at about 8 months
of age (memory). Physical development (mobility)
allows the child to begin developing new intellectual
abilities. Some symbollic (language) abilities are
developed at the end of this stage.
Pre-operational stage
• (Toddler and Early Childhood 2-7 years). In this
period intelligence is demonstrated through
the use of symbols, language use develops,
and memory and imagination are developed,
but thinking is done in a nonlogical,
nonreversable manner. Egocentric thinking
Concrete operational stage
• (Elementary and early adolescence 7-11). In
this stage (characterized by 7 types of
conservation: number, length, liquid, mass,
weight, area, volume), intelligence is
demonstrated through logical and systematic
manipulation of symbols related to concrete
objects. Operational thinking develops
Egocentric thought diminishes.
Formal operational stage
• (Adolescence and adulthood 11-15). In this
stage, intelligence is demonstrated through
the logical use of symbols related to abstract
• Early in the period there is a return to
egocentric thought. Only 35% of high school
graduates in industrialized countries obtain
formal operations; many people do not think
formally during adulthood.
• Piaget and Inhelder 1956 – the mountain task
• Hughes 1975 – variation of that study using
policemen and a doll
• Piaget’s conservation task (classic): the glasses
of water
• Li et al. 1999: conservation task but in China
• Many pre-school and primary programs are modeled
on Piaget's theory, which, as stated previously,
provided part of the foundation for constructivist
learning. Discovery learning and supporting the
developing interests of the child are two primary
instructional techniques. It is recommended that
parents and teachers challenge the child's abilities,
but NOT present material or information that is too
far beyond the child's level. It is also recommended
that teachers use a wide variety of concrete
experiences to help the child learn (e.g., use of
manipulatives, working in groups to get experience
seeing from another's perspective, field trips, etc).
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRF27F2bn-A
Evaluate Piaget’s theory
Use the handout p 117:
The theory
The methods
Sociocultural Development
• Lev Vygotsky
• Russian psychologist
• 1896-1934
• The major theme of Vygotsky's theoretical
framework is that social interaction plays a
fundamental role in the development of
• Culture provides knowledge, and it teaches
children what to think and how to think
(notice the ToK link??)
• Interaction and cultural tools
• A second aspect of Vygotsky's theory is the idea
that the potential for cognitive development
depends upon the
"zone of proximal development" (ZPD): a level of
development attained when children engage in
social behavior.
• Full development of the ZPD depends upon full
social interaction. The range of skill that can be
developed with adult guidance or peer
collaboration exceeds what can be attained
• If you would use and apply Vigotsky’s theory
into today’s schools (education system),
society – what would that look like?
do we use it?
How one teaches today
Mentor programmes (one called mentor)
Free school (public) so everyone can attend
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx84hi3w8U#t=12
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX8lRh1u5
• Cole and Scribner 1974 can be used as
support of Vykotsky’s theories.
Compare Vygotsky vs. Piaget
1: Vygotsky places more emphasis on culture
affecting/shaping cognitive development - this
contradicts Piaget's view of universal stages and content
of development (Vygotsky does not refer to stages in the
way that Piaget does).
2: Vygotsky places considerably more emphasis on social
factors contributing to cognitive development (Piaget is
criticized for underestimating this).
3: Vygotsky places more (and different) emphasis on the
role of language in cognitive development (again Piaget is
criticized for lack of emphasis on this).
Create a mind-map
answering this LO
• To be handed in
• http://childpsych.umwblogs.org/development