Developmental psychologists study how we grow throughout our life from early childhood to adolescence to adulthood. You can learn so much about we develop psychologically, emotionally, physically, and intellectually from their theories. Psychology fascinates me for many reasons but I think it’s important to learn about these developmental psychologists because what they studied affects us every day of our lives. Take a look at these specialists and what they have to say.
Developmental psychologist Noam Chomsky studied language and its development. He raises some interesting points when it comes to syntax, or the grammar we use in speech. He underlines that syntax isn’t genetic; it’s learned. You know this because kids are willing to say “I goed to the park” because they realize that the ending “ed” signifies the past and haven’t been taught to say “went” instead.
Harlow Harlow is most famously known for Harlow’s monkeys. He tested monkeys to learn about attachment. His studies shows that young monkeys when give the choice between a artificial cloth mother or a wire mother with food, the monkey would choose the cloth mother. Warmth and security are vital to babies to help them develop healthily. Monkeys that were forced to stay with the wire mother had aggression issues later in life.
Psychologist Jean Piaget studied children’s cognitive development. He identified that children recognize schemas, or building blocks of knowledge. For example, “animals” is a schema. From there, he observed that children assimilate new stimuli, such as a dog but accommodate changes and are able to distinguish between a cow and a dog, though both have four legs and are animals. Piaget also identified four stages of development, my favorite of which is object permanence. In the sensorimotor stage, children from birth to 2 learn that when an object is out of sight, that doesn’t mean it no longer exists.
Kohlberg studied moral development. He argued that there are six stages of moral development divided into subgroups of pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional. The stages ranged from obeying a rule simply to avoid punishment to disregarding a law in a situation where breaking it was the only way to save someone’s life. His theories were critiqued by Carol Gilligan who emphasized women’s moral development more than Kohlberg did.
Freud has his own theories on development, which, to no surprise, revolve around psycho-sexual development. He talked about the Oedipus Complex in which young boys sexually desire their mothers though they do not have the ability to act on those impulses. The reverse is named the Electra Complex for young girls. If you want to learn more about sexual development, look at the stages Freud observed.
Erik Erikson studied Freud’s psycho-sexual stages of development but turned his research towards psycho-social development instead. He pointed out eight stages including trust and identity. The first stage builds basic trust; however, if mistrust is formed, relationships are affected later in life. The trust stage also deals with overcoming stranger anxiety, as identified by Piaget. Adolescents develop their identity by expanding their view of the world and reason through what beliefs they value.
B.F. Skinner studied behaviorism. He developed a therapeutic approach to modify behaviors for improvement. He studied operant conditioning and its impact on modifying behavior. By using fixed-ratio schedules such as rewarding the participating child every 3rd time, you would see less enthusiastic participation than if you used a fixed-interval schedule where each reward occurred randomly. Variable-ratio schedules offer a reinforcement after an unpredictable number of responses whereas a variable-interval schedule reinforces the participant after a random about of time.
These developmental psychologists are well-known for their work in the field. Their studies have taught us so much about how we develop psychologically, emotionally, sexually, socially, and more. Which of these psychologists stand out to you?
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