Monday, November 26, 2012

Life Span Development

Life Span Development

Developmental psychology studies patterns of growth and change over the course of a person’s life (McGraw-Hill, 2010). Psychologists have been developing theories to explain these patterns. Theories are important in developmental psychology for many reasons. Theories produce hypotheses, generate discoveries, and offer practical guidance (Berger, 2011). Theories in developmental psychology help psychologists understand how and why changes occur throughout the span of a person’s life.

Life Span Perspective of Development
Developmental psychologists developed the life span perspective. They believed that developmental changes occurred throughout the entire span of life (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). Some developmental psychologists say that development occurs in stages while others do not. Urie Brenfenbrenner developed the ecological – systems approach in life span development (Berger, 2011). This approach examines all the systems around a person. This approach takes in account systems such as family, peers, school and social conditions. From this approach developmentalists take all contexts into account when studying a person’s development. Cultures each have beliefs and habits unique to them. Learning these beliefs and habits is a part of a person’s development. Some characteristics can be molded yet durable. Characteristics can be changed. Developmental psychologists spend time studying ages and stages of a person’s development. From these studies, different theories have been developed to explain human development. 

Theories of Life Span Development
Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory
Sigmund Freud developed the psychoanalytic theory. His theory was centered on a person’s unconscious drives. Freud introduced the psychosexual stages, stating that development was characterized by sexual interest and pleasure centered on a certain body part (Berger, 2011). His theories on infantile sexuality is one reason his theories met resistance. In infancy, a human experiences the oral stage centered on the mouth. In early childhood, the anal stage is experienced and centered on the anus. The phallic stage develops during the preschool years and centers on the penis. According to Freud, there are two stages following the phallic: latency and genital. According to Freudian psychoanalysts, personality patterns are determined by how a person experienced and reacted to these stages (Berger, 2011). Since Freud did not believe that new stages developed during adulthood, he concluded that personalities were influenced by a person’s earlier stages. Unconscious conflicts such as smoking or attraction to an older person may be caused by problems reacting to a childhood stage (Berger, 2011).
Freud also had a stage theory for the development of personality. The three parts are the id, superego and ego. The id is developed during infancy. According to Freud, the id includes a person’s unconscious thoughts. The pleasure principle works within the id (McGraw-Hill, 2010). The superego develops during the phallic stage. The conscience forms during this stage and traits are learned from parents and society. The final stage is the ego, formed during adulthood. This part of personality includes the conscious self. The reality principle works with the ego. Defense mechanisms are used in the ego in order to control the id and the superego (Berger, 2011).  While some psychologists, like Freud, use stages to explain development, others do not.

            Psychologists subscribing to the behaviorism theories of development rejected the psychoanalytic theories. Behaviorism studies observable behavior and can also be called learning theories (Berger, 2011). Behaviorists did not subscribe to the stage theory or the unconscious theories. John Watson believed developmental psychologists should study only what they could see: observable behavior (Berger, 2011). He believed that irrational thoughts and hidden urges the psychoanalysts used in theories were not easily measured in developmental psychology. The behaviorist theories described the laws and processes by which a person learned. The most common process was by conditioning, or the way responses were linked to stimuli. The two most popular forms of conditioning were classical and operant.
            Ivan Pavlov performed the most popular experiment in classical conditioning. His study revealed the link between a stimulus and a response. In his study a stimulus is connected with a neutral stimulus, which had no meaning before. B.F. Skinner felt that classical conditioning explained some behavior. He performed operant conditioning research. In this conditioning, an action was followed by a reward or punishment. If a reward was given, it was more likely that the action would be repeated. However, if a punishment was received, it was more likely the action would not be repeated.

Effects of Heredity and Environment
Both heredity and environment influence the behavior of a person. The genetics that a person inherits may play a role on the way his or her brain functions in relation to behavior. A person’s outside influences may also play a role in how a person behaves. While some psychologists believe that either heredity or environment has the largest impact on behavior, there is a third group that have an interactionist view (McGraw-Hill, 2010). This view states that both factors play an equal role in behavior. Based on heredity, each person has a certain potential. However, based on environment, each person depends on outside influences in order to reach that potential. It is important for developmental psychologists to study both heredity and environment to understand how each factor influences a person’s behavior.

A person begins developing during the fetal stage before birth and continues developing until death (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). Because of this view in developmental psychology,                                                               the expression “from womb to tomb” was coined. A person develops physically, cognitively and socially through the different stages in life. A person’s genetics influences his or her physical changes, cognitive changes as well as behavioral changes. A person’s environment influences his or her behavioral changes and is important in helping them achieve his or her genetic potential.


Berger, K. S. (2011). The developing person through the life span (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

McGraw-Hill (2010). Psychsmart. New York, NY: Author.

Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). The world of psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/ Allyn & Bacon.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.

Monday, November 19, 2012



How a person communicates is a complex mental process. Grammar is used in this process. Grammar is defined as “the system of rules that determine how our thoughts can be expressed” (McGraw-Hill, 2011 p.174). Most people acquire the basics of communication without being aware. The process of language begins in infancy and progresses throughout the early years. The complexity of communication, as well as the cognitive processes involved in the development and use of language, is an important topic in cognitive psychology.

Language and Lexicon
Language is a method of communicating thoughts and feelings. Communicating through language is by a system of symbols, usually sounds, signs or written symbols, arranged according to rules of grammar (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). In order to understand the structure and rules of language, researchers study psycholinguistics. Psycholinguistics is the study of how language is “acquired, produced and used” (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011 p.230). Lexicon is also important to a person’s use of language. Lexicon is a mental dictionary of language (Willingham, 2007). The lexicon contains several representations of known words. These representations include pronunciation, spelling and part of speech. The lexicon aids a person in the matching process of a spoken word and its meaning.

Key Features of Language
Language is complex but has key characteristics (Williamson, 2009). Language has systematicity. This means that language has a regular, orderly method of communicating ideas, thoughts and emotions. Language is governed by rules. Language is structure dependent. There is a patterned structure as to how language is produced. Displacement is found in language (Williamson, 2009). Displacement allows a person to think of and communicate about something or someone that is not present. These characteristics can be found in all the languages of the world and make all languages similar.

Levels of Language Structure
There are four levels of language structure. These four levels are phonemes, morphemes, syntax and semantics. Phonemes are the smallest units of spoken language. These are sounds used to form words. Among the world’s languages, more than eight hundred phonemes have been identified (McGraw-Hill, 2011). However, only around fifty-two phonemes are used in the English language. Phonemes do not provide meaning; morphemes do. Morphemes are comprised of two or more phonemes (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). There are exceptions to this in the English language such as the words I and a. Morphemes are the words of a language. Morphemes can be singular or plural. Two morphemes can be combined to create words. The next level of language is syntax. In this level, sentences and phrases are formed. Each language has its own rules of how sentences are formed. In English, the adjective comes before the noun. However, in Spanish the noun comes before the adjective. Semantics is the fourth level of language. In this level, meaning is derived from words and sentences. This is commonly referred to as text. The rules of semantics allow a person to use words to express his or her thoughts (McGraw-Hill, 2011). 

Language Processing
Language comprehension precedes language production (McGraw-Hill, 2011). Language processing begins around three months old. At this time a baby begins to babble. Babbling is meaningless, speech like sounds and lasts until usually a year old. Researchers say that babies that babies can produce the sounds found in all languages as well as can distinguish among all the known phonemes (McGraw-Hill, 2011). As the babbling stage advances, the infant begins to sound more like the language spoken in their environment. The infant’s ability to recognize all the phonemes also decreases. Neurons in the brain reorganize to respond only to the specific phonemes routinely heard therefore specializing in their own language. Some studies show that if a child is isolated from communications have a difficulty learning the language. This deficit is difficult to overcome (McGraw-Hill, 2011). After age one, children stop producing sounds not in their language and learn the more complicated forms of language. A child’s vocabulary increases and they speak in telegraphic speech. Telegraphic speech is sentences where words not critical to the message are left out (McGraw-Hill, 2011). There are several reasons as to why language processing becomes difficult. One is differences in phonemes. This reason makes it difficult for a person to learn a different language. Word perception is another reason language processing is difficult. Words can be taken in different contexts. 

Language Acquisition Theories
There are three main theories of language acquisition (McGraw-Hill, 2011). The first of these is the Learning Theory. This theory suggests that language acquisition follows the principles of reinforcement and conditioning. However, this theory does not explain how children learn language without being reinforced or conditioned.  The second theory is the Nativist Theory. This theory states that a genetically determined, innate mechanism directs language acquisition. This means that a person has a natural instinct to learn language. Noam Chomsky developed the theory of universal grammar (McGraw-Hill, 2011). He believed that all the world’s languages share a common underlying structure. Chomsky also developed the theory that a person has a language-acquisition device (McGraw-Hill, 2011). This device was in the neural system of the brain. Neuroscientists have concluded that the ability to use language is tied to neurological developments (McGraw-Hill, 2011).  The third theory was the Interactionist theory. This theory states that language is developed through genetically predisposition and environment. The interactionist theory can be supported by research done on children who were isolated from language. These children have the genetic predisposition to learn language, but lack the environmental cues to aid their learning.

In conclusion, language is a complex process. Language acquisition begins soon after birth and continues well into childhood. Language processing is done through the learning of the levels of structure. It is believed that all languages have some similar characteristics. Cognitive psychologists research to understand the process of language and the structure of language. In fact, psychologists have devoted considerable time to the study of language (McGraw-Hill, 2011). Language is an important process in humans.


McGraw-Hill (2011). Psychsmart. New York, NY: Author.

Williamson, G. (2009). Key Properties of Language. Retrieved from

Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: the thinking animal (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). the world of psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.