The Beginning of Human Life
Because infants cannot describe their experiences, psychologists must find clever ways to take advantage of responses that infants can make, such as sucking and moving their eyes, to draw inferences about their capabilities and preferences.
Can the fetus learn?
Twice a day, during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, mothers in one study read aloud the same passage from Dr.Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. Two or 3 days after birth, infants were able to turn on a recording of their mother reading either the Cat in the Hat, or an unfamiliar rhyme by sucking on a sensor-equipped nipple at different rates.
Compared with infants in a control condition, these newborns more often altered their sucking rate in whichever direction (faster or slower) selected the familiar rhyme.
Physical Development: Reflexes, Movement
Although at birth an infant can make only jerky, limited voluntary movements,
during the first year of life the ability to move independently grows enormously.
Physical Development: Vision
A infant’s vision is initially limited to following objects with their eyes without being able to see details, but by the end of their first year they can see clearly.
Seeing through an infant’s eyes.
These three images approximate the visual acuity of an infant at 1 month, 3 months, and 12 months of age.
Physical Development: Senses
Newborns’ facial responses tell us that they have a reasonably well-developed sense of taste.
- Newborns respond to touch and distinguish different odors.
- Hearing is fairly well-developed, newborns prefer human voices to other sounds and can distinguish their mother’s voice from that of a female stranger.
(DeRegnier et al., 2002)
Cognitive Development: Piaget’s Stages
Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1926, 1977) spent over 50 years exploring how a child’s thought processes develop.
First stage: Sensorimotor, 0-2 years
- Motor Skills: Reflexive and Voluntary, enables infants to explore the new world around them.
- Object Permanence: Ability to form cognitive representation that objects exist even when they are out of sight.
Emotional and Social:
- Neonates: Only capable of surprise, pleasure, and distress.
- Infancy: Introduces further emotions of anger, shyness, and fear.
- At 9 months: An infant will become anxious when separated from their caregiver.
- By 2 years: Infants can display emotions of guilt or being ashamed.
Cognitive Development: Vygotsky’s Theory
According to Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, the culture in which we are raised significantly affects our cognitive development.
- Cognitive development occurs as a consequence of social interactions in which children work with others to jointly solve problems.
- Children’s cognitive abilities increase when they encounter information that falls within their zone of proximal development (ZPD).
ZPD is the level at which a child can almost, but not fully, comprehend or perform a task on his or her own. When children receive information that falls within the ZPD, they can increase understanding or master a new task.
Stages of Language Development
Infants learn language early on through reinforcement and imitation from their parents or care givers.
By the end of two years, infants are displaying Telegraphic Speech (vocabulary approximately 300), but sentence structure is limited; “Milk all gone”, or “Daddy silly”.
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Feldman, R. (2013). Essentials of understanding psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2012), Personality: classic theories and modern research (5th ed). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
McGraw-Hill.McGraw Hill Higher Education (2013), The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.
Ryckman, R. M. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.