Social & Developmental Psychology

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Social & Developmental Psychology
Week 1 – Topic Introduction
Penny Hyams
This Week’s Topics
1. Welcome & Course Overview/Structure/ Assessment.
2. Lifespan Developmental Psychology? History & Focus.
3. Some Key Debates & Themes in Developmental Psychology.
4. What is Social Psychology?
5. Historical Development and Foci Social Psychology.
6. Summary & Conclusions.
This Session’s Learning Objectives
After this lesson, and undertaking some supporting private study, you will be
able to:
1. Display an overview knowledge and understanding of a range of
Developmental Psychology issues and topics.
2. Display an overview knowledge and understanding of Social Psychology.
Lifespan Developmental Psychology
Two Pre-Empirical Perspectives on Human Development
• St Augustine of Hippo (354-430
• Educated Roman-North African.
• Joined the clergy after a period of
rather unsettled living.
• The human soul exercised free
will, and was thus in slavery to sin
– although the end was predestined (by God).
• Conceptualised man as born
inherently bad – must seek
redemption in lifetime.
• Early Christian philosophical
standpoint – enduring influence.
• Jean-Jaques Rosseau (1712-
• French Political Philosopher –
influenced the Enlightenment.
• Inspired the French Revolution.
• Considered man to be born good –
“uncorrupted morals prevail in the
state of nature“.
• Rousseau juxtaposed the ‘noble
savage’ against the tainted
‘civilized man’.
• Society’s negative influence led to
undue pride.
Discussion Topic 1
• Reflect upon your own
perspectives about human
• Do you believe as Augustine did,
that human beings are born
inherently bad?
• Or do you agree with Rousseau
that people are born inherently
• These two perspectives come from
different philosophical traditions –
Where do you think your own
perspective comes from?
Developmental Psychology as a Sub-Discipline
• Developmental Psychology is a scientific approach which aims to explain
growth, change and continuity throughout the lifespan.
• It explores age and stage-related changes in thinking, feeling, Personality
and behaviour change throughout a person’s life.
• Developmental Psychologists study a wide range of theoretical areas,
including biological, social, emotional and cognitive processes.
• Initially, Developmental Psychologists focused upon childhood – especially
the ‘mind’ of the child.
• Key Aim = improving education and learning.
• Developmental changes during adulthood are a more recent area of
• Why?– possibly stimulated by increasing lifespans – reflecting better
nutrition, living/working conditions, advances in medical science etc.
What Does Developmental Psychology Do?
Three key goals of Developmental Psychology (Baltes, Reese, & Lipsitt,
(i) Describing human development – both normative and individual
(idiographic) patterns of change.
(ii) Explaining human development in relation to those normative and
individual processes of change. Typically easier to describe
change than to explain how it occurs!
(iii) Optimizing human development – applying empirically-based theories
to support the optimization of individuals’ development over the lifespan
Charles Darwin
• 1877 – Biographical Sketch of an
Infant – described the
development of ‘innate’ forms of
• Based upon systemized (scientific)
observations of his eldest infant
son (Doddy).
• In it, Darwin documented the
similarities between his son’s
development and his theory of the
development of the human
• Darwin is often credited with
conducting the first rigorous and
systematic study of Developmental
Wilhelm Preyer 1803 – 1889
The emergence of developmental psychology
as a discrete discipline is often linked
to Wilhelm Preyer (German physiologist).
He published a book entitled The Mind of the
Child (1882), describing the development of
his own daughter from birth to two and a half
Importantly, Preyer used rigorous scientific
procedure throughout.
1888: translated into English.
By this time, Developmental Psychology as a
discipline was flourishing – with a further 47
empirical studies from Europe, North America
and Britain.
G. Stanley Hall (1846 – 1924)
Pioneering American Psychologist & Educator – first
President of the American Psychological Association.
Enthusiastic proponent of Evolutionary theory and
Co-founder of the ‘Child-Study’ Movement in the 1880’s.
Developed the concept of ‘norms’ or average ages
when milestones of development occur
Hall’s work on Adolescence (1904) portrayed it as a
period of ‘Sturm & Drang’ (storm & stress) which could
render adolescents like ‘savages’.
Leta Hollingsworth (1924) counter-argued that
adolescence was typically a period of continuity, others
like Daniel Offer (1963) & Albert Bandura (1966) also
supported the continuity hypothesis.
Hall’s vision was also challenged by later
anthropological (Margaret Mead’s study of Samoan
Islanders) and clinical work (Erikson’s concept of
‘identity diffusion’).
Arnold Gesell (1880 -1961)
• Student of G. Stanley Hall.
• Systematic (quantitative) study of
children’s development from birth
to adolescence. Used camera &
one way mirror in standard
• Leant towards genetic
determinism, whilst acknowledging
that child matured in an
• Underpins a developmental
approach to explaining human
behaviour in Psychology.
• First theorist to propose growth &
development proceeding through
predictable stages or sequences.
Pacing of development influenced
by internal and external
(environmental) factors
Gesell Maturational-Development Theory
• Development unfolds in a pre-determined manner for any induvial child.
• Personality and temperament may have small influence on development.
• Development proceeds through pattered changes e.g. in eye movement,
manual dexterity.
• Growth as a cyclical spiral – developmental changes through
equilibrium/disequilibrium (c.f. Piaget?).
• Twin studies – evidence that environmental changes for one twin had only
a marginal effect.
• Introduction of ‘Development Schedules’ with standardized ‘norms’ for
children 4 months to 6 years, assessing:
• (1) Motor skills, (2) Adaptive (Cognitive) skills, (3) Language capacity, &
(4) Personal-Social behavior. .
Group Workshops
In exploring key figures, we have principally focused on child development.
Human Development doesn’t cease as childhood ends!
In your group, find some information on one of these important contributions
to theories of lifespan and adult development:
Group 1: Erik Erikson (Psychosocial Theory)
Group 2: Daniel Levinson (The Seasons of Man)
Group 3: Paul & Margaret Baltes (model of Successful Aging).
Make notes as you discover – try and place them in a logical order for
feeding back to the class.
Please regroup in 20 minutes to share our results.
Nature-Nurture Debate
• When trying to explain human
development, it is important to consider
the relative contribution of both nature
and nurture.
• Nature: the process of biological
maturation inheritance and maturation.
• One of the reasons why the development
of human beings is so similar is because
our common specifies heredity (DNA)
guides all of us through many of the
same developmental changes at about
the same points in our lives.
• Nurture: refers to the impact of the
environment, which involves the process
of learning through experiences.
Nature-Nurture Debate II
Some Key Questions – please contribute your answers
and ideas to the group Discussion Forum.
1.How much weight does each contribute to human
2. How do nature and nurture interact in the developing
Continuity vs Discontinuity in Development
Normative development is typically viewed as a continual and cumulative
Some Key Questions in this debate:
1. Is there a predictable pattern individuals follow in thought, language and
social development?
2. Do children go through gradual changes – or are they abrupt changes?
2 key positions:
1. Continuity: The continuity view says that change is gradual.
Children become more skillfull in thinking, talking or acting much the
same way as they get taller. Developmental stages (periods of life)
initiated by clear transitions in physical or psychological functioning.
2. Discontinuity: This perspective characterises development as
more abrupt- a succession of biologically-induced changes that
produce different behaviours in different ages and stages. People go
through the same stages, in the same order, but not necessarily at
the same rate. e.g. Gesell’s theory of stages.
Stability vs. Change
A debate that is often played out in the field of
Personality Development.
Stability implies personality traits present
during present during infancy endure
throughout the lifespan. For example, Freud
believed that development in the first five years
largely predicted adult personality
Change theorists argue that potentially
genetically-transmitted propensities in
personality are modified by interactions with
the child’s environment e.g. family, education
and acculturation (e.g. Vygotsky,
The concept of ‘developmental plasticity’ refers
to changes in neural connections during
development as a result of environmental
interactions and learning.
For example, Rutter (1981) discovered than
sombre babies living in understaffed
orphanages often became cheerful and
affectionate when placed in socially stimulating
adoptive homes.
Social Psychology
What is Social Psychology?
Floyd Allport defines Social Psychology as:
‘an attempt to explain how the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of
individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of
(1954, p. 5; my emphasis)
Antecedents : ‘The Crowd’
French polymath Gustav Le Bon (1885) observed the revolutionary ‘mob’ in
France and theorised causes of their behaviour.
His work was to influence the later development of both Sociology &
‘Contagion Theory’ focused upon the differences between
individual behaviour and that as part of a crowd.
“By the mere fact that he forms part of an organised crowd,
a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization.
Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd he is
a barbarian – that is, a creature acting by instinct.”
‘Hypnotic behavior’ in crowd, which offers anonymity and diffusion of
responsibility (deindividuation).
Evaluation of Le Bon’s Thesis
1. Foundational Theory: Early attempt to explain people’s
differences in behaviour across social contexts.
2. Hypothesis Development: A key resource for the
development of group theory in Psychology.
3. Replication: key ideas confirmed in more recent studies e.g.
Steve Reicher football fans, Turner ‘Emergent Norms’
1. Representative?: Overlooks individual differences. Violence
not inevitable in all crowd contexts, but unusual levels of
emotional expression not uncommon (e.g. Princess Diana’s
2. Validity? – potential subjectivity of ethnographic
3. Contemporary relevance?: Modern surveillance technology
and jurisprudence allows more participants to be held to
account for their behaviour in crowd contexts.
Auguste Comte 1798 – 1857
• French philosopher known as the
founder of Sociology and of
• Positivists considered that all
factual knowledge is gained from
the properties and relations
between natural phenomena.
• It is based on the “positive”
information gained from
observable experience.
• This view of knowledge was to
profoundly influence Psychological
science its methodologies.
• G. Stanley Hall and a student (JM
Cattell) popularized this approach
in areas of Developmental
Psychology, especially in relation
to the pseudoscience of Eugenics.
The Scientific Study of Human Social Life
Social Psychology emerged with a number of other scientific disciplines that
observe and explain human social life.
These include:
Economics: monetary behavior and interactions between ‘economic agents’.
Social Anthropology: the study of interactions and culture in human societies.
Sociology: the study of human societies, their interactions, and the processes
that preserve and change them.
Sociolinguistics: the study of language and communication in a social context.
It also has developed links with other areas of Psychology including:
Developmental Psychology
Cognitive Psychology
Personality Health Psychology
Floyd Henry Allport 1890 – 1979
Brother of Gordon Allport (Personality Psychologist).
‘Social Psychology’ (1924) – powerful influence on the contemporary and
current field.
Developed a more individual and behaviour-centred version of social
experience supported by experimental and survey data.
Eschewed sociological determinism:
‘There is no Psychology of groups which is not essentially and entirely a
Psychology of individuals’ (1924 p. ).
‘The Fallacy of the Group Mind’ – critique of Le Bon’s analysis of collective
Offered alternative account explaining the effects of collective behaviour
based on 6 experiments.
Developed the concept of ‘Social Facilitation’ (individuals perform tasks
better under group conditions than they do alone).
He also developed enhanced techniques to measure attitudes, and with his
brother, linked Social Psychology with Personality theories.
Some Key Concerns of Modern Social Psychology
1. Using scientific methods to discover
and interrogate data about human
2. Discovering, researching and
explaining the many ways in which
social influence emerges and operates.
3. Representing humans operating in and
manipulating their social world rather
than as ‘disembodied rationalizing
heads’ (a critique of some cognitive
4. Addressing and responding to pressing
social concerns of an era – e.g. how to
explain the acts perpetrated by Nazis in
5. Exploring how we can improve our
experience and social relationships in
our social worlds, e.g. in a recent reorientation from studying aggressive
behaviour to pro-social behaviour like
What is Social Influence?
• Social influence is the persusive effect that individuals
or groups have on others – includes changes in
attitude, behaviour, affect etc
• Three important areas in which it has been studied are
conformity, compliance, and obedience.
• Its effects may be direct – e.g. advising your best friend
about whom she should date – or mediated e.g.
receiving Government advice on Social Distancing via
the media. .
• Social Influence can operate without us being
consciously aware of it e.g. in diverse sources such as
the design of buildings, the law, stories, social media,
workplace practices…the list is endless!
Social Psychology Workshop
Working in pairs:
1. Write a list of ten sources of social influence that you think most affect
your decision making in everyday life.
2. Explain how you think that influences operates.
3. Try to account for why you yield to social influence.
4. Are you more influenced by the novel (unusual, unexpected stimuli in
your environment) or the familiar (e.g. a parent’s advice).
Please be ready to feedback to the class in 20 minutes.
Social Norms
Modern life operates largely by unspoken
‘Social norms’ are tacit rules that we orient to in
our everyday behavior – often unconsciously.
We typically plan our actions in relation to what
we would expect others to do, feel, believe etc.
In any society, there are unlimited numbers of
norms to which influence how members of that
society operate. Sometimes these are codified
into ‘laws’ , others just form part of cultural
Think About It!
Imagine how you might feel if a complete
stranger walked into your home and started to
cook a meal!
Or how your parents might feel if you behaved
like an invited dinner guest in their home!
The Group In Social Psychology
• Much research and inquiry in Social Psychology has focused on
individuals’ behaviour in group contexts.
• Social Psychologist think about groups in terms of two or more people
interacting with each other.
• Social influence in groups can operate in terms of peer pressure,
advertising, conformity to group (social) norms etc.
• Social Psychologists have studied both human behaviour and interactions
within groups and between groups.
• Intergroup conflict and cooperation have been recurrent themes in Social
Psychological research.
Summary of Today’s Lesson
1. Developmental Psychology emerged as a distinctive field of Scientific
Study in the late 19th & early 20th Centuries in the work of Darwin, Preyer, G.
Stanley Hall, Gesell and others.
2. The early focus was upon childhood, wider interest in adult development
and the Psychology of Aging emerged later.
3. As individual research interests integrated into the distinct discipline,
there were debates around the relative contributions of nature & nurture,
continuity & discontinuity, stability & change etc.
4. Social Psychology formed a distinct niche in the wider interest in human
social relations and behaviour that was stimulated by the work of the ‘father
of positivism’ Auguste Comte (amongst others).
5. It explores the role and operation of social influence, and its expression
via social norms and group behaviour.
6. Social Psychology & Developmental Psychology overlap in some key
topics, including children’s socio-emotional development.
Some Additional References……
Baltes, P. B., Reese, H., & Lipsett, L. (1980) Lifespan developmental
psychology, Annual Review of Psyschology 31: 65 – 110.
Darwin, C. (1877). A Biographical Sketch of an Infant. Mind, 2, 285-294.
Preyer, W.T. (1882). Die Seele des Kindes: Beobachtungen über die
geistige Entwicklung des Menschen in den ersten Lebensjahren. Grieben,
Preyer, W.T. (1888). The soul of the child: observations on the mental
development of man in the first years of life.
Rutter, M. (1981). Stress, Coping & Development: Some Issues &
Questions. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 22(4), 323-356.
THANK YOU – Please Remember to Share Your Thoughts
and Questions on Our Discussion Forum!

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