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Development

AQA GCSE Psychology

This Chapter Covers:

Chapter 3: Development

  • Early brain development
    • A basic knowledge of brain development, from simple neural structures in the womb, of the brain stem, thalamus, cerebellum and cortex, reflecting the development of autonomic functions, sensory processing, movement and cognition
    • The roles of nature and nurture
  • Piaget’s stage theory and the development of intelligence
    • Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development including concepts of assimilation and accommodation
  • The role of Piaget’s theory in education
    • The four stages of development: sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational. Application of these stages in education. Reduction of egocentricity, development of conservation
  • McGarrigle and Donaldson’s ‘naughty teddy study’; Hughes’ ‘policeman doll study’
  • The effects of learning on development
    • Dweck’s Mindset Theory of learning: fixed mindset and growth mindset
    • The role of praise and self-efficacy beliefs in learning
    • Learning styles including verbalisers and visualisers
    • Willingham’s Learning Theory and his criticism of learning styles

Navigation:

Chapter 1: Memory

  • Processes of memory
    • Different types of memory
      • Episodic memory
      • Semantic memory
      • Procedural memory
    • How memories are encoded and stored
  • Structures of memory
    • The multi-store memory model
      • Sensory memory store
      • Short-term memory store
      • Long-term memory store
    • The features of each store
      • Encoding
      • Capacity
      • Duration
  • Primacy and recency effects
    • The effects of serial position
    • Murdock’s serial position curve study
  • Memory as an active process
    • The Theory of Reconstructive Memory, including the concept of ‘effort after meaning’
    • Bartlett’s War of the Ghosts study
    • Factors affecting the accuracy of memory, including interference, context and false memories

Chapter 2: Perception

  • Sensation and perception
    • Sensation
    • Perception
  • Visual cues and constancies
    • Monocular depth cues: height in plane, relative size, occlusion and linear perspective
    • Binocular depth cues: retinal disparity, convergence
  • Gibson’s direct theory of perception and the influence of nature
    • Role of motion parallax in everyday perception
    • Evaluating Gibson’s direct theory of perception and the influence of nature
  • Visual illusions
    • Explanations for visual illusions: ambiguity, misinterpreted depth cues, fiction, size constancy.
    • Examples of visual illusions: the Ponzo, the Müller-Lyer, Rubin’s vase, the Ames Room, the Kanizsa triangle and the Necker cube
  • Gregory’s constructivist theory of perception and the influence of nature
    • Evaluating Gregory’s theory of perception
  • Factors affecting perception
    • Perceptual set and the effects of the following factors affecting perception: culture, motivation, emotion, expectation
    • The Gilchrist and Nesberg study of motivation and the Bruner and Minturn study of perceptual set

Chapter 4: Research Methods

  • Formulation of testable hypotheses
  • Types of variable
  • Sampling methods
  • Designing research
  • Correlation
  • Research procedures
  • Planning and conducting research
  • Ethical considerations
  • Quantitative and qualitative data
  • Primary and secondary data
  • Computation
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Interpretation and display of quantitative data
  • Normal distributions

Chapter 5: Social Influence

  • Conformity
  • Obedience
  • Prosocial behaviour
  • Crowd and collective behaviour

Chapter 6: Language, Thought and Communication

  • The possible relationship between language and thought
  • The effect of language and thought on our view of the world
  • Differences between human and animal communication
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Explanations of non-verbal behaviour

Chapter 7: Brain and Neuropsychology

  • Structure and function of the nervous system
  • Neuron structure and function
  • Structure and function of the brain
  • An introduction to neuropsychology

Chapter 8: Psychological Problems

  • An introduction to mental health
  • How the incidence of significant mental health problems changes over time
  • Effects of significant mental health problems on individuals and society
  • Characteristics of clinical depression
  • Theories of depression
  • Interventions or therapies for depression
  • Characteristics of addiction
  • Theories of addiction
  • Interventions or therapies for addiction

Development

The development topic for GCSE psychology focuses mostly on the brain and its development, its structures and also begins to introduce theories as to how we learn. We will learn about the work of Piaget and his cognitive development theory and how this has affected education in the UK. We will also look at the effects of learning on development and Dweck’s Mindset theory of learning as well as learning styles and Willingham’s learning theory.

Early Brain Development

Simple neural structures in the womb

The development of the brain begins in the third week of pregnancy with cells multiplying to form a structure called the neural plate. This then folds onto itself to form a tube-shaped structure called the neural tube. During the fourth week, the neural tube starts to divide into a spinal cord, forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain. At the sixth week, the forebrain divides into two areas one of which forms the cortex and the other develops into the thalamus. Neurons and synapses begin to develop in the spinal cord allowing the foetus to move and react to its environment. At the fifteenth week the cerebellum forms the hindbrain and by the sixth month of pregnancy, the brain is fully formed although not at its full size. The last three months sees folds begin to form on the cortex which gives the brain its wrinkled appearance. The brain is 25% the size of an adult brain at birth.

PICTURE OF BRAIN***

The brain stem, thalamus and cerebellum

The brain stem is shaped like a widening stalk and connects the spinal cord to the brain. It controls basic autonomic functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and sleeping. At the sixth week of pregnancy, the baby’s heart beats regularly and blood pumps through the main vessels.

The thalamus is found at the centre of the brain and can be viewed as a sensory processing station. It receives messages from the senses and translates them into appropriate behavioural and motor responses. All sensory information will pass through the thalamus on its way to the cortex where cognition takes place.  

The cerebellum is located at the back of the brain behind the brain stem. It is responsible for coordinating movement and balance and receives information from the cortex and other areas of the brain. Once received, it will “fine tune” this information into a motor activity such as walking. Damage to the cerebellum can cause difficulty with muscle coordination, maintaining balance and with fine motor skills i.e. difficulty typing or riding a bicycle.

The Cortex

The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of the brain and begins to function as soon as the baby is born. The cortex is responsible for higher cognitive processes and is divided into four lobes with each lobe associated with a different function. The four lobes in the cortex are:

  • Occipital lobe – This processes visual information.
  • Temporal lobe – This is involved with hearing.
  • Parietal lobe – The processing of information related to touches on the skin, heat, cold and pain.
  • Frontal lobe – This is linked to cognitive activities such as thinking, planning and problem solving.

PICTURE OF THE CORTEX****

The roles of nature and nurture

The role of nature and nurture are debated heavily among psychologists.  On the nature side of the argument, psychologists believe your characteristics and behaviour are inherited from your parents while those on the nurture side argue that they are influenced by the environment and develop after birth and shaped dependent on the individual’s experience. To study the effects of nature and nurture in brain development, psychologists use twins, newborn babies as well as animals.

Twins share exactly the same genetic makeup whereas non-identical twins do not. If identical twins are found to have similar characteristics then this is seen as evidence which supports nature as the cause. Some research studies have shown that IQ between identical twins is very similar which implies nature plays a significant role in intelligence. Other research studies have found personality is also shaped by nature; one study compared the behaviours of identical twins which were raised apart. They were found to be very similar when they met for the first time when aged 39. Both of them drove the same car, went on holiday to the same place as well as bit their nails. This study showed some support for nature shaping personality.

Criticism: Twin studies can be useful however care still needs to be taken when analysing the results. Identical twins may have twins may appear to have similar characteristics and it can be easily thought to be down to nature but this may not be the case. Identical twins may be treated similarly by people such as parents or peers and therefore their behavioural similarities may be due to nurture (and being treated the same) rather than their genes.

Newborn babies are useful to study as there is little chance for nurture (environmental influences) to have impacted the child. Psychologists have found that besides being able to cry, they can also recognise faces. This would suggest that nature is responsible for these abilities. As babies are not able to talk until much later, it is believed that nurture is responsible for the development of language.

Animal studies have been used to demonstrate how nurture is important for early brain development. One study compared two groups of rats with one group having toys to stimulate them while the other did not. The results found that the rats that lived with the stimulating toys developed bigger brains and showed better problem-solving skills compared to rats living on their own without stimulation. This shows how nurture can affect brain development.

Criticism: Animal studies also have their limitations as we have to be careful when we draw conclusions on human development based on the findings of animal-based studies. This is because what applies to animals may not necessarily generalise to humans because human development is very complex and could be different. Animal studies are useful however as they allow us to conduct tests which would not be possible on humans due to ethical reasons. This can help us understand how biological mechanisms in humans may work and provide us with insights which may not have been possible otherwise.

Piaget’s Stage Theory Of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget’s developed his stage theory of cognitive development proposing that schemas were key to cognitive development and developed as a child grew. Piaget saw cognitive development as a result of two influences which were maturation and the environment. Maturation refers to the effects of the biological process of ageing. As children age, certain mental operations become possible for them and through their interactions with the environment, their understanding of the world becomes more complex too.

Schemas

Schemas were defined by Piaget as blocks of knowledge which develop in response to our experiences from the world. Piaget believed that babies were born with simple schema’s for sucking and grasping and as they grew, new schemas developed. Schemas can be behavioural such as grasping an object or cognitive such as classifying objects. The processes involved in the development of schemas was through assimilation and accommodation.

Assimilation

A child may initially try to understand new information in terms of their already existing knowledge about the world. A baby that is given a new toy may initially try to grasp it or suck is in the same way as their rattle. Assimilation occurs when an already existing schema (such as sucking or grasping) is used on a new object and therefore involves the incorporation of new information into an existing schema.

Accommodation

Accommodation occurs when a child or person adapts an existing schema in order to understand new information that does not appear to fit in with their current understanding of things. An example of accommodation may be how a person who is used to driving a manual car (with gears) then must adapt to drive an automatic car. While assimilation is the processing of fitting new information and experiences into already existing schemas, accommodation is the process of changing existing schemas or forming new ones when new information cannot be assimilated.

The four stages of development

Piaget believed there were four stages to a child’s intellectual development and all children passed through these stages in the same order roughly at the same ages.

Sensorimotor stage: 0-2 years

This stage sees children learn about the world through their senses and by doing things (hence the name sensory and motor being combined to form sensorimotor). The main feature of this stage is that the child develops object permanence which is the understanding that objects still exist even when they are out of sight. Object permanence was tested by Piaget through giving children a toy to play with. Piaget would then take the toy and hide it under a blanket while the child was still watching. He would then watch to see if the child would search for the toy. His research found that children under the age of 8 months did not search for the toy however children older than 8 months did. The conclusion Piaget drew was that children older than 8 months had developed object permanence.

Pre-operational stage: 2-7 years

The main feature of the pre-operational stages is the egocentric nature of children. Piaget investigated this by showing children a model of three mountains and then placed a doll somewhere beside the model.

PICTURE OF THREE MOUNTAINS EXPERIMENT** OR VIDEO?! YOUTUBE IT!

The child was then shown photos that had been taken from each side of the model and asked to choose the photo that represented the dolls viewpoint. Piaget found that children younger than seven years old chose a photo that showed their own viewpoint, however, children older than this tended to be able to choose the dolls viewpoint. He concluded that children are no longer egocentric from the age of seven upwards.

Concrete operational stage: 7-11 years

Piaget believed that by the age of seven onwards, children developed the ability to conserve (conservation) and were acting in the concrete operational stage. Conservation means children know that the amount of something may stay the same, even if its appearance may change. To investigate conservation, Piaget showed children two identical rows of counters. He then asked the child if there were the same amount of counters in each row. When a child agreed there were, he spread out one row while the child watched and asked the question again (if there were the same amount of counters between the two rows). Children under the age of seven said there wasn’t while children over the age of seven said there was.

PICTURE OF COUNTERS TOGETHER AND SPREAD PAGE 53.*** OR VIDEO FROM YOUTUBE.

Formal operational stage: 11+ years

The main feature of the formal operational stage is that children can now solve problems in a systematic way. Piaget tested this by giving children different lengths of string and a number of weights that could be attached to the string. The child’s task was to investigate what factor affected how fast the pendulum would swing and this involved the child varying the length of the string and the number of weights attached. Piaget found that children under the age of 11 would attempt to change both the weight and length of the string at the same time however after the age of 11, children would solve the problem in a systematic way. For example, they would keep the length of the string the same while they changed the weights in turn from the lightest to the heaviest. The conclusion drawn by Piaget here was that the main feature of this stage was the ability to solve problems systematically.

Key Terms:

  • Accommodation:
  • Assimilation:
  • Cognitive development:
  • Equilibration:
  • Schema:

The role of Piaget’s theory in education

Jean Piaget believed that a child’s intelligence developed from them discovering things for themselves and they needed to explore objects and situations to learn about them. Piaget also believed that children needed to be ready to learn and that they could only gain new concepts and understanding if they were at the right stage of their development as predicted by his stage theory of cognitive development.

In response to his theory nurseries and primary schools place a heavy focus on discovery-based learning where children are given a variety of objects and allowed to explore them in their own way. For example, children may be encouraged to play with water and discover for themselves which objects float and sink. Children may also be given science problems to solve either on their own or in a group to allow them to learn from their experiences.

Teachers can also look to present opportunities for children to learn new concepts only when they are at the right stage of intellectual development and ready to learn. Children may be provided materials and taught in a child-centred way where they discover answers for themselves.

Evaluating Piaget’s Theory Of Cognitive Development

Piaget’s cognitive development theory and its stages have been heavily criticised. Other psychologists have shown that the ages Piaget said children could certain tasks was incorrect. More recent studies have shown how babies develop object permanence before eight months (Hughes “Policeman Doll” study 1978) and children can lose their egocentric thinking and conserve before the age of seven (McGarrigle and Donaldson’s Naughty Teddy study 1974). There is also now the belief that children enter the formal operational stage much later than age 11, and some never reach this stage at all.

Other criticisms of Piaget’s theory focus on how he conducted his experiments. For example, in the conservation tasks, he asked children the same question more than once before and after the counters had been moved. This could have resulted in researcher bias as the children may have believed that their first answer may be incorrect and so changed this.

There is also criticism in the way Piaget collected his data. Small samples were used and a lot of research was done using his own children. Some argue small samples may be unrepresentative of most children and the questions he asked children were not standardised as each child was treated differently. Therefore the way in which the questions were asked could be a confounding variable for the results.

Despite these criticisms Piaget’s theory has enjoyed a lost of mainstream support. His experiments were easy to replicate and his research had a major impact on early years education where his ideas are still used to this day.

Hughes “Policeman Doll” Study 1978

Aim: To see if children are able to see things from another person’s perspective at an earlier stage than Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggested.

Study design: The study was conducted in a laboratory where there was control over extraneous variables. All of the procedures were standardised to ensure the study could be replicated to check for reliability. Thirty children between the ages of 3.5yrs and 5yrs took part in the study.

Method: The children were shown a model with two intersecting walls that formed a cross with a policeman doll placed on the model. The child was asked to hide a “boy doll” and position it in such a way the policeman would not be able to see him.

The policeman was placed in different positions on the model, and the child was then tasked with hiding the boy doll each time. If the child made mistakes, although rare, they were told of this and allowed to try again. After some trials, the actual experiment was conducted but this time with two policeman dolls with the child tasked with placing the boy doll in such a way that neither police doll could see it. The experiment was conducted three times so that a different section of the grid was left as the only hiding place each time.

***PICTURE OF POLICEMAN DOLL STUDY**

Results: 90% of the children aged between 3.5yrs and 5yrs were able to hide the boy doll from the two policeman dolls.

Conclusion: The children aged between 3.5yrs to 5yrs old were able to see things from other peoples point of views when the situation was familiar to them and the task made sense. This was in contradiction to Piaget’s findings that children were egocentric until the age of 7yrs.

Evaluating Hughes “Policeman Doll” Study

Hughes believed that the three mountains task created by Piaget was too difficult as it required children to both choose the doll’s view and then match it to a photograph. The policeman task was easier because it only required the child to hide the doll from the policeman’s view. Further research supports this viewpoint as other studies have recreated the three mountain task but with children’s television characters. The study found children aged three and 4 were able to answer the questions correctly supporting this viewpoint by Hughes and adding criticism to Piaget’s theory of development. This suggests children younger than seven are not always egocentric however this study also has its criticisms.

The setup of the study which involves the hiding of dolls from a policeman is not a situation young children are likely to have experienced. For example, if it involved hiding from a parent, sibling or other children this may have resulted in even more correct responses as the study would have greater external validity to more real-life situations that children can relate to.

McGarrigle and Donaldson’s “Naughty Teddy” Study 1974

Aim: To see if children developed conservation skills at an age that was earlier than Piaget’s theory predicted if the change to the materials (counters) was accidental.

Study design: A laboratory setting was used where there was control over some of the extraneous variables. All procedures were standardised to ensure replicability and reliability of findings. Eighty (80) children between the ages of 4yrs and 6yrs old took part in the study.

Method: The children were shown two rows of counters and asked if they were the same in both rows. A glove puppet named “Naughty Teddy” was introduced and shown to “accidentally” mess up one of the rows in front of the child so the counters were spread out and the row looked longer. The experimenter pretended to be annoyed at “Naughty Teddy” and told the hand puppet off. The children were then asked if there were the same amount of counters in each row.

PICTURE OF NAUGHTY TEDDY STUDY***

Results: 62% of children aged 4yrs to 6yrs stated that the counters remained the same in each row, therefore displaying their ability to conserve. Only 16% of children in this age range answered correctly when an adult made this change in Piaget’s conservation of numbers study.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that children younger than the age of 7yrs can conserve if they perceive the change to materials (counters) to be accidental. When they witnessed “Naughty Teddy” to spread the counters out, younger children knew the counters had not changed.

Evaluating McGarrigle and Donaldson’s “Naughty Teddy” Study 1974

Other researchers have found evidence to support McGarrigle and Donaldson’s findings when replicating Piaget’s conservation of numbers study. In one such study psychologists asked the children only once in terms of how many counters there were and the study was conducted in complete silence. They showed children two rows of counters and then spread one row out asking the child only once “is there the same amount in each row?”. This study found that more 6yr olds got the answer correct than Piaget had found demonstrating that children can conserve before the age of seven (7).

McGarrigle and Donaldson’s study can also be criticised as it involved children being tested by a stranger in an unusual environment, therefore, lacking any ecological validity or external validity to real-world situations. If the person asking the questions or the environment was familiar, more children between the ages of 4yrs and 6yrs may have shown the ability to conserve.

McGarrigle and Donaldson’s Naughty Teddy study was important as it demonstrated that children younger than the age of seven (7) could conserve which contradicted Piagets theory. There were limitations however as over 30% of children still failed to conserve when Naughty Teddy made the changes. Subsequent replication of the study has also found similar findings although the results were not as high as McGarrigle and Donaldson’s original findings.

The Effects Of Learning On Development

Dweck’s Mindset Theory Of Learning

Dweck developed his Mindset Theory of Learning which attempts to explain how students can achieve success in their learning. Dweck’s theory specifically links to mathematics and science although can be generalised to other subjects and sporting activities. Dweck proposed that there were two types of mindsets with individuals; Fixed mindset and Growth mindset.

  • Fixed Mindset – Individuals with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence is unchanging and down to genetics, therefore nothing they can do will be able to change this.
  • Growth Mindset – Individuals with a growth mindset believe their intelligence derives from hard work and can be increased by putting in more time and effort into learning.

When faced with challenges, the individual’s mindset will affect how they proceed to deal with it. Dweck believed that a fixed mindset would be more likely to give up more quickly however an individual with a growth mindset would keep on trying, which would increase their chances of succeeding.

The Role Of Praise In Learning

Dweck believed that the type of praise received by students, whether positive or negative, affected their mindset. She suggested two types of praise existed which were Person praise and Process praise.

  • Person praise: This would see the student praised for their intelligence i.e. if they were told they were clever, or if they were told they were a great psychologist for example.
  • Process praise: This would see the student praised on their efforts and the processes they used when completing a task. This could focus on the strategies used or progress they have made.

Students who receive person praise may come to believe their success and failures are down to factors beyond their control. Alternatively, students who receive process praise may come to believe their successes and failures are due to the amount of effort they have put in.

One study looked to test this using an online maths game that students could play, which gave feedback on their effort, strategy and progress. This was different to the usual mathematical games that provided a score as feedback. The study found that with this new game, students made more effort, used more strategies and persevered for longer than normal. The conclusion drawn was that the type of praise a student receives has a significant impact on their learning.

Evaluating Dweck’s Mindset Theory Of Learning

Carol Dweck’s theory helped us understand how students could increase their exam grades and helped us see that mindsets could be changed and provided us methods of implementing the changes. Other studies have also provided research evidence in support of Dweck’s findings suggesting it has validity.

The Role Of Self-Efficacy Beliefs In Learning

Self-efficacy is defined as the belief you have in your own ability to succeed at a task. A student with a strong sense of self-efficacy would put in the efforts required to achieve their goals, challenging themselves with difficult tasks and are thus more likely to be successful. A student with a low sense of self-efficacy believes they will not be successful, so they are unlikely to try and therefore avoid challenging tasks which makes them less likely to achieve their goals.

Self-efficacy can be increased by students by doing the following:

  • Being successful at something.
  • Observing other people succeed at something due to their efforts.
  • Being persuaded they can achieve by a role model such as a teacher or parent.
  • By being guided through a task.

Learning Styles Including Verbalisers and Visualisers

Learning styles are the different ways people can process information. Vak theory (Visual, auditory and Kinaesthetic)  states there are three (3) learning styles which are visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.

 

  • Visual learners learn best by reading or seeing pictures. They like to see what they are learning and remember things based on what they look like.
  • Auditory learners learn best by listening and they prefer to hear something or speak it to learn it. They remember best based on what they have heard.
  • Kinaesthetic learners learn best by doing something. They like to move or make what they are learning. They remember best when there is some form of physical activity involved.

Verbalisers and Visualisers

Another theory for a different type of learning styles is a set of learners that are either verbalisers or visualisers.

  • Verbalisers process information verbally preferring written information and to write things down. They will think using words.
  • Visualisers process information in a visual way and prefer to learn from pictures and diagrams. They will think using pictures.

Willingham’s Learning Theory and His Criticism Of Learning Styles

People believe that if you teach a student in a way they learn best based on their preferred learning style, they should learn better. An example of this is if you have a Kinaesthetic learner, the tutor can make sure the lesson incorporates activities instead of them being required just to sit and listen. Visual learners can be taught using pictures and diagrams to illustrate points and concepts.

Willingham disagreed with this and believed that learning styles do not exist in the ways suggested. As part of his learning theory, he pointed out that there was no experimental support for their existence or effectiveness. Other research studies have also shown that teaching in a students preferred learning style has no effect on their exam results.

Willingham agreed the visual and auditory memory may be better within students but this did not help in the classroom environment. Willingham argued this was because teachers want students to learn the meaning of things rather than what they sound or look like. Regardless of whether the information was presented visually, actively or audibly, the student still needed to extract the information and its meaning to effectively learn. This would then explain why teaching in a students preferred learning style appears to have no effect on their exam results. A students ability to store the information is ultimately more important than how they learn this information.

Willingham believed that students should be taught using the best method based on the content they were being taught. For example, if students are being taught about the structures of the brain, all the students should see diagrams of the brain rather than only those with a visual learning style.

Similarly, if students were in a language lesson, all students should hear how the words are pronounced, not just those with an auditory learning style. If a student struggled with taking in a particular form of information, they then need to be given the chance to practice dealing with that information too.