Developmental Psychology

Developmental Psychology
Developmental psychology is the study of mental structures and learning through experience. This is the interest between characteristics, the individual?s behaviour and environmental factors including social context and their impact on developments Piaget and Vygotsky had many similarities in their ideas they both looked at children?s cognitive development of knowledge and had the theory that there are things beyond a Childs understanding but their approaches to these ideas were different. They believed that it was important for children to participate in their learning and they also both looked at social factors concerning children?s cognitive development

However Piaget had many ideas and thoughts? that differed from Vygotsky. Piaget supposed that development leads to education and that children are only able to learn within four stages of development but there are factors that can dispel this theory, for example a child that suffers from autism or has special needs could not get through all of Piaget?s development stages. Piaget conducted a test called the ?Swiss mountains scene? (Gross, 2005) to back up his theory for one of his stages called Pre-operational stage in which he believed that children possess egocentrism perception (Flavell 2000 p15) but it was said by Flavell (1999) that ?preschoolers are not as egocentric as Piaget thought?, ?most three and four- year olds can take on another person?s perspective? (Wade &ump;Travis 2005).

In addition he also didn?t put emphasis on the societal interaction of children with their peers and family, underestimating the significance this could have on their development. His concept was that everyone was educated in the same way and he thought that children developed individually from exploring their environment and schemas that accommodated new information. He also believed that regardless of culture everyone absorbed knowledge in the same way but can this really be true as cultures can vary in how they focus on what is important in education. In future years because of his experiences, Piaget changed the way he conducted his research to include more importance on child activity.

In comparison Vygotsky didn?t rely upon time he believed that children?s learning should be taken further by looking at their actual capabilities and then seeing how much more potential they have, this was called the ZPD (zone of proximal development). He stated that teaching is only good when it ?awakens and rouses to life those functions which are in a stage of maturing which lie in the ZPD? (Dunphy &ump; Dunphy 2003, p49). Vygotsky also believed in social interactions for development with the emphasis upon communications, language (the inner voice) and the role of experts. He believed that when a child is challenged and is helped with these challenges it will obtain new knowledge and skills. A criticism of Vygotsky?s could be that he really didn?t have any research to back up his theories, and he was constantly changing his ideas. Perhaps changing his ideas was his way of taking on board any criticisms and updating his thinking to improve upon his work. Vygotsky, however, did realise that Piaget?s theories were quite important and he built his theories upon the information obtained by him.
My evaluation of Piaget and Vygotsky is that although Piaget?s studies lacked correct controls (Martin, G 2007) he has made an important foundation for the future of education today. Although Vygotsky based his theories on Paiget he has taken it a step further by showing his theories to be about potential and ?how cultural variables especially language, influence cognitive development? (Martin, 2007).
Paiget also studied biological processes early in his career and stressed that development is based on biological capabilities and their interactions in the environment.
There has been a deliberation as to the validity of two theories, whether environment or genetics have a significant role in human development.
Some scientists believe in the biological approach to learning. They also believe that hormone activity can affect personality traits such as aggression in males and emotionality in females and this is known as the nature argument. Men are considered aggressive because of their hormones and women are seen as sensitive and gentle because of their hormones, however there are exceptions to this rule that could challenge this idea. Biological identity is thought to contribute towards the developmental differences between boys and girls, it is suggested that sexual orientation is genetic. Colt, (1991) introduced the idea we have a component to sexual orientation. There was a study conducted by McGinley, (1974) of a family where four of the children were born appearing to be females. At about the age of twelve they developed male genitals; they took on the role of males and married women (Eysenck, 2004). This shows biological factors can be more important than social influences. McGinley (1980) says ?it has been found that exposer of the brain to testosterone in utero neonatally and at puberty appears to contribute substantially to the formation of male gender identity. This shows in the absence of socio-cultural factors testosterone has an over riding of rearing as a girl?
The contrasting theory is how we are affected by our environment. Neuroscience Research has shown that ?experience plays a far larger role in the mind, brain and gene expression? (Adele Diamon, 2008) . Children encode behaviour and reproduce it in a way they think society sees appropriate and will imitate people they consider to be similar to them (same sex). One approach that shows this is the social learning theory. This theory demonstrates that parents, teachers and siblings can influence children in their development with reinforcement or punishment behaviour. For instance a girl will be encouraged to play with dolls and will be rewarded with praise however boys are discouraged and made to feel foolish. Fagot in 1978 conducted observations of interactions between parents and their two year olds to find out if they treated their children differently (McLeod, 2007). The experiment showed parents encouraged gender related activities. A criticism of this could be the influence of biological factors of males and females such as hormones were not taken into account. Also not all children conform to stereotype. In addition children can learn to do things through observation but they don?t always imitate it. For example girls may see their fathers shaving but do not often grow up to replicate it.
The social learning theory does show some valuable facts about gender stereotype although it doesn?t contain enough factors for it to be balanced. If in future we combined both social and biological factors and we changed society and the way male and females are treated perhaps gender identity wouldn?t be a problem. Our genes give us potential for our characteristics but both genes and environmental influences working together are both important in making us who we are.

Experimental, Non experimental Research Patch Three
An experiment is one of numerous research methods. It is a study that tests a casual hypothesis and the experimenter attempts to determine causation. It can be used to find cause and effect of problems but also relies upon control and creation of situations. However it is not always possible to have this kind of control and this is where non-experimental research becomes useful, although there are many advantages and disadvantages to each method.
Within experimental research the researcher changes an independent variable and measures the effect of the change on a dependent a variable. The independent variable will have two or more levels and may have more than one independent variable. A well designed and conducted experiment is an effective way of testing variables. The experimental variable can be controlled by the experimenter and is usually conducted in a lab although sometimes as a field experiment. The data collected is more accepted as well as less bias in its results and conditions apart from the experimental variable that might affect the dependant can be minimized if not completely eradicated. Another advantage of experiments is you can show cause and effect relationships, although an experiment is not always a satisfactory way of finding answers to questions. An example of this could be the study Wareing, Fisk Murphy (2000) carried out to see the long term effects of Ecstasy on users. It would not be possible to do an experiment for this type of study as it would be difficult to do under the experimental conditions needed. There may also be other variants, for instance they may have different reason for taking the drug. A good example of how experiments work is the experiment conducted by Darley and Batson (1978) studying altruistic behavior. The variables tested were the haste of participants and how occupied their minds were with other things.

In comparison non-experimental research variables are not directly manipulated by the researcher and it has methods that give a naturalistic study. It involves observing and measuring things as they are. This approach allows a researcher to collect a measure of the relationship between variables. It can be used to gain information from vast numbers of participants quite speedily. This can be done from questionnaires, correlation analysis and interviews and these methods are used when it is unethical or not possible to manipulate a variable. Although unlike experimental research cause and effect is not established and this could be seen as a disadvantage to this method.

A good balance has to be struck in both experimental and non experimental research. Although experimental research shows good results an artificial environment will only make results viable in the lab it may not mirror results in a real life situation. On the other hand non-experimental research although conducted in a naturalistic environment can also be ineffective if the experimenter does not have enough planning. There can be a risk of duplicating literature that has already been implemented.

Social cognition schemas
Social cognition is the way we perceive and interpret the behaviours of others in social situations. It is the processing encoding retrieval and storage of information in the brain. If we are to understand social cognition we need to understand how we obtain information and how it is applied by us. Social schemas have several uses. To help people fill in the blanks when they are trying to remember things, to help make sense of the world and to make sense of specific events. This can be done using schemas. A schema is a mental plan for social situations.
Schemas can be influenced and increased by cognitive processes these include salience, priming stereo-types and automatic. Salience is how a social object stands out relative to other social objects. A schema will be more accessible the higher the salience of an object. For example if there is a female within a crowd of males the female gender schema will be accessible and influence a groups thinking. Priming is non-conscious and has sensitivity to a situation where there has been a prior exposure to an experience. It is a way of measuring memory when a person reads or listens to information and sees if there is an affect of future performance. For instance you may be given a list of words to read that all begin with the same letters and then at a later date be asked to complete word stems with the same first letters of the words you could recall. Even if you could not recall the original list of words you would be more likely to replicate it than if you had not been primed to do so. Stereo-types are schemas we have about groups of people and these schemas are usually defined by gender, race and cultures. For instance if the word librarian or teacher was suggested it would bring forward a schema that you would associate with these types of people. Bern (1981, 1993) had a gender schema theory. She focused on the role of cognition organisation and socialization. Her theory was ?children define gender roles of men and women and internalize through gender schemas. The gender schemas are then used to organise further experiences, thus children will then add their own ideas into their gender schemas and adopt behaviour they believe suitable for their gender?

Developmental Psychology 7.7 of 10 on the basis of 2878 Review.