Discussion #7, initial posting due 6/21 – Human Development

Can you believe we are almost half-way done with our class? Time flies when you’re having fun, right? 🙂 As you know, there are no exams – midterm or final – in this class so we’re just carrying on as usual. “Midterm” week is the week of July 4th, but there are no assignments due that week so take some time off and enjoy your summer!

But keep in mind that since the majority of your grade comes from these DBs (5% of your grade every week), you need to put in enough effort that warrants you earning that 5%. That means thorough initial responses in your own words and good responses to classmates. This isn’t a participation grade – you are graded on the quality of your responses.

Also, don’t forget that each RWP is worth 10% of your final grade and that you need pre-approval for Stage 1. Don’t wait until the last minute! RWP #2 stage 1 is due 6/19 and stage 2 is due 6/26.

Now on to this week’s topic – Human Development!

This week we are covering Chapter 8: Human Development. This is such a HUGE topic since it covers the time from before birth to death. We’ll cover the following sections in your textbook:

· Developmental Psychology

· Three Debates

· Three Methods

· Newborn Growth and Development

· Language Acquisition

· Piaget and Cognitive Development

· Vygotsky and Cognitive Development

· Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

· Death and Dying

Also great to understand are:

· Infographic 8.1: Research Methods in Developmental Psychology

· Infographic 8.2: Infant Brain and Sensorimotor Development

· Infographic 8.3: Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

When you think about how you have changed since you were born, it probably blows your mind!  You have changed physically, cognitively, socially, morally, and in so many different ways. Developmental Psychologists are interested in how people change throughout their lifespan, and usually focus on one (or two) area of change. How do our brains and bodies change as we age? How does the way we think and act evolve as we get older?

There are 3 general debates (Links to an external site.) in developmental psychology:

1. Stages or continuity – how do we change over time? Critical periods (Links to an external site.) are part of this debate.

2. Nature versus nurture – what is the source of our changes?

3. Stability and change – how much do we actually change or stay the same as we age?

There are 3 general methods (Links to an external site.) used in developmental psychology:

1. Cross-sectional method – measure changes in people of different ages; cohort effects (Links to an external site.) are important to consider when using this method

2. Longitudinal method – measures changes in the same people across time

3. Cross-sequential method – measure changes in people of different ages across time

Perhaps the most rapid period of growth happens when we are first born. After all, we need to learn everything – including how to see, walk, talk, etc. When humans are born, we are capable of only a few things, and even these things are reflexes, such as rooting and sucking reflexes which enable us to find food (see Table 8.2 for newborn reflexes).

Important concepts to understand here are critical periods (Links to an external site.) (as mentioned above) and synaptic pruning (Links to an external site.).

Consider the behavior of learning how to talk. Infants go through stages of development here that start with babbling and cooing (real scientific terms!) and end with a “language explosion (Links to an external site.)”! Well there’s no real end to language learning – you can always pick up a second (or third, or forth…) language no matter your age. There are several theories that have been developed to explain how we learn language and include concepts such as the language acquisition device (Links to an external site.) and parentese (Links to an external site.)/motherese. Some theories are presented here in this video from Khan Academy (Links to an external site.).

There are many theories that explain how we move through different cognitive stages – how does our way of thinking change over the lifespan? Piaget  (Links to an external site.)has a theory involving how our schemas are changed through accommodation and assimilation. Vygotsky  (Links to an external site.)talks about how scaffolding is important in the zone of proximal development.

I think the topic of moral development is especially important these days, but it’s always been important at YOUR stage in life as those moving from adolescence to adulthood. Essentially how do you know what is right? And how is your moral compass created and changed? Kohlberg’s theory of moral development (Links to an external site.), talks about how our reasoning changes as we age. He used hypothetical dilemmas like the Heinz Dilemma (Links to an external site.) (which has nothing to do with ketchup!) to examine how people reasoned through morally ambiguous situations.

Finally, there are those psychologists like Elizabeth Kübler-Ross (Links to an external site.) who have studied the various coping stages that people go through when dealing with grief and loss. Known as the 5 Stages of Grief (Links to an external site.), these stages explain the suffering people go through not only when someone they love dies, but when you lose something so profound that the pain is intense, like a break-up.

Hit reply and type your answers to the following: 

Announcements about upcoming assignments:

· Your RWP #2 stage 1 post is due Sunday, 6/19. Remember you need approval from me for Stage 1 before you go onto Stage 2. This is 10% of your final grade – don’t wait until the last minute.

· Don’t forget you have a research participation requirement (worth 5% of your final grade). Log on to Sona to find available studies, complete CITI training and/or write research papers. Any combination will work. All info is in the syllabus and under Modules. Please ask if you have questions.


1. Using the arguments of nature vs nurture, how do you explain how infants learn to talk so fast? Which approach seems to make the most sense to you? Support your answer with research from the text or from online sources (cite them). Some keywords to think about: critical period, language acquisition device, motherese/parentese.

2. Design a study using one of the developmental methods discussed above to study how people’s ideas about racism varies by age. Be sure to operationalize (i.e., define) how you will study the psychological construct of racism. Explain the method you are using, including the participants and the timeline of your study.

3. How would the 5 stages of grief be exhibited by a person who just lost a job they loved?

4. Choose ONE:

A. Compare and contrast Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s approach to the stages of cognitive development. Make sure you explain each theorist’s stages and how people move through each stage.

B. Using the Heinz Dilemma and Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, explain how a person who exhibits preconventional, conventional, and postconventional reasoning would explain their decision.

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