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Brain and Social Learning Theory Essay

1. What aspect of behaviorism made it attractive to critics of the psychoanalytic perspective? How did Piaget’s theory respond to a major limitation of behaviorism? Psychoanalytic theory emphasized on the individual’s unique life. However the theory was criticized because many of its ideas were too vague to be measured or tested for. They mainly focused on case studies. Behaviorism studied directly observable behaviors through stimuli and responses, thus allowing researchers to be measure and test behaviors. Piaget’s theory acknowledged the biological aspect of learning in a child’s development, which was a major limitation in behaviorism. He also argued that children take an active part in their learning.

2. Although social learning theory focuses on social development and Piaget’s theory on cognitive development, each has enhanced our understanding of other domains. Mention an additional domain addressed by each theory.

Social learning theory is also known as imitation or observable learning, it is a powerful source of development. Bandura made huge contributions to the social learning theory. His experiment explained the reasoning behind why children modeled others. Children imitated others based on their history of reinforcement or punishment for a behavior. He then revised his theory because cognition also played a huge role in this theory. He theory soon to be known as the social-cognitive theory. Social-cognition theory ​is the view that people learn by watching others. In psychology, it explains personality in terms of how a person thinks about and responds to one’s social environment​. Children gradually become more selective with imitation because through watching others self-praise or self blame and through feedback, a child develops personal standards and self-efficacy. (belief that their own abilities will help them succeed). In Piaget’s cognitive-development, a social aspect can be recognized in his stages.

He believed that children’s learning depended on reinforces, for example rewards from adults. Piaget believed that as the brain develops, a child’s experience expands. He characterized these stages into four broader stages based on distinct ways of thinking (sensorimotor/preoperational/concrete operational/formal operational). Not only did he explore how children understood the physical world, but he also looked into their reasoning of the social world. Through developing the stages, it also sparked the research for how children saw themselves, other people and human relationship.

3. A 4-year-old becomes frightened of the dark and refuses to go to sleep at night. How would a psychoanalyst and a behaviorist differ in their views of how this problem developed?

A psychoanalyst believes that fears are from experienced events or the fear is a symbol of something that happened in the past. So if a child was afraid of the dark maybe the child was left at a young age and is afraid of being alone. Freud theorized that all phobias are a direct result of unresolved conflicts between the id and the superego. The id is the part of our brains that acts solely based on emotions, while the superego is our conscience, the part of our brain that acts based on value judgements; acting contrarily to the judgements of the superego will create a sense of guilt, and  that sense of guilt can lead to unwanted behavior, like phobic behavior. More specifically, Freud theorized that phobias result from the superego repressing the desires of the id, and one of the most common repressions is the desire.

A behaviorist believes that a child acts a certain way due to a response that has been rewarded. In other words if the child acts scared of the dark, he or she is expecting to be able to have a light on or be comforted by the adult. That is what happened the previous time. According to a behaviorist the way a child reacts to something can be ultimately affected by conditioning. To explain why the child has now become afraid of the dark, many would look to the parents for an answer.

If the child relates an event or occurrence that happened in the dark it may then cause a long lasting fear in that child’s mind. An example could be something as simple as a book that the child’s father read about monster’s under the bed which could then lead the child to believe that there really are monster’s under their own bed. A behaviorist would suggest for the parent to reassure the child that being in the dark is in fact not scary and reinforce the idea until the child lets go of this fear. Behaviorists will want to diffuse the behavior and then educate the child on how to control that behavior.

4. Explain how each of the following recent theoretical perspective regards children as active contributors to their own development: information-processing, evolutionary developmental psychology, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, ecological systems theory, and dynamic systems perspective.

● Information processing – The theory states that at the time information is presented to the senses at input until it emerges as a behavioral response at output. The information we obtain is continuously being coded for, transformed and organized. Therefore children actively engage in thinking processes where they decided what action they should pursue for the task they are accomplishing.

● Evolutionary development – Focuses on seeking understanding the adaptive values of species-wide cognitive, emotional and social competencies as they change with age. Evolutionary psychologist believes that human’s large brain and extended childhood resulted from the need to master complexities of human group life. Therefore, newborns play an active role as they continue to grow and explore the world around them. The brain continues to be stimulated through experiences that contribute to many other factors such as emotion and social interaction.

● Vygotsky’s Sociocultural theory – Children actively acquire their ways of thinking and behavior that make up community’s culture through social interaction. In particular through conversation with knowledgeable members of society. Adults and peers help children master culturally meaningful events. Children are active and constructive beings, but in regards to Vygotsky’s theory, cognitive development relies more so on social interaction.

● Ecological Systems Theory – Focuses on a bidirectional relationship between the child and aspects in his environment from four levels: the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and macrosystem. The child is an active contributor to their environment through the bi-directionality of their relationship with their environment. For example, an  easy-going and happy child will receive more positive stimulation from their parents, and other aspects of the environment.

● dynamic systems perspective- It is a system that combines the child’s mind, body and physical and social worlds form an integrated system that guides mastery of new skills. Stage like transformations occur as children reorganized their behavior so components of the system work as a functioning whole.

5. Why might a researcher choose structured observation over naturalistic observation? How about the reverse? What might lead the researcher to opt for clinical interviewing over systematic observation?

Researchers may choose structured observation over naturalistic observation due to their ability to control the experiment. In naturalistic observations, researchers are limited to observe particular behavior in everyday life, due to the limitations of this technique. By setting up a laboratory situation, structured observations allow the researchers are able to evoke the behavior of interest and also allowing participants an equal opportunity for them to display the reaction. One would choose clinical interviewing over systematic observation for several reasons. Clinical interviewing allows participants to think as close as possible to their everyday lives and large amounts of information can be collected in a short period of time. Whereas in systematic observation the accuracy of the study can be reduced by observer influence and observer bias.

6. Explain why, although a research method must be reliable to be valid, reliability ​ does not guarantee ​ validity. Reliability is referred to consistency or repeatability of a measures of behavior. In order to be reliable, observations and evaluations cannot be unique to a single observer. Reliability does not guarantee validity, because reliability cannot be measured. For it to be a valid study, the experiment must be able to be measured. Often times, it is difficult to measure clinical and ethnographic studies because it does not yield quantitative scores. In order to guarantee validity researchers must examine the content of the observations and self-reports to make sure all behaviors of interest are included. In regards to research designs, there are two broader types of validity used. Internal validity refers to the participant influencing the result, but not any other unwanted variable. Whereas external validity refers to the extent that research can be generalized or extended to others.

7. Why are natural experiments less precise than laboratory and field experiments? Often times when researchers cannot randomly assign participants or manipulate conditions in the real world, they use the natural experiment to avoid these limitations. Natural experiment use treatments that already exist, which are compared. The participants are carefully picked for groups in order to get the most similar characteristic. Creating an opportunity for the desired situation can prove problematic in a naturalistic experiment..

There also isn’t a way to have a control in a natural experiment, so the results cannot be compared as easily. Natural experiments are less precise because it is harder to isolate one variable than in a laboratory or field experiment. In field experiments, participants are randomly assigned to treatment condition in a natural setting. However in laboratory experiments, researchers assigned participants equally to two or more treatment conditions. There are two variables being tested for, independent and dependent variables. They are categorized through events and behaviors of interest.

8. Explain how cohort effects can distort the findings of both longitudinal and cross-sectional studies. How does the sequential design reveal cohort effects? The cohort effects both longitudinal and cross-sectional studies because it dismisses their findings because it does not represent the entire population. In longitudinal studies, there are chances of a bias sampling therefore the participants in this particular experiment may only represent the population who are interested in this experiment.

Often times, selective attrition takes place where participants either drop out or withdrawal from the experiment. Longitudinal may study different ages over time, but it does not take into consideration of the participants in different cultures. Whereas in the cross-sectional studies, it doesn’t account for an individual’s development, since people are studied in groups this causes a cohort effect. Through sequential design, cohort effects can be dismissed by comparing multiple experiments which present the same ages at different years. If both longitudinal and cross-sectional studies are similar, comparisons of both experiments can too be compared and further adding confidence to the data.

9. Cite evidence indicating that both heredity and environment contribute to the development of children with PKU and Down syndrome. PKU is caused by the inheritance of two recessive alleles which causes inhibit individuals from digesting the amino acid, phenylalanine. If left untreated, the child can become mentally retarded by the of age 1. However, in the US, all babies are given a blood test for PKU and if the disease is found, the child is placed on a diet low in phenylalanine. Even the smallest amount of phenylalanine can be damaging. Children with PKU often show deficits in cognitive skills like memory, planning, decision making, and problem solving. If the diet low in phenylalanine is kept persistent than those affected by PKU can show average intelligence and normal development.

st​ Down Syndrome is caused by inheriting an extra 21​ chromosome. Brian studies of those affected by down syndrome shows reduced brain size, along with mental retardation, memory, and speech problems, and slow motor development. Most individuals affected by down syndrome who live over the age of 40 usually contract alzheimer’s, which is linked to the 21st chromosome. Environmental factors that could affect down syndrome are the mother’s age and health. Children with Down syndrome smile less readily, show poor eye contact, and explore less than those without. For this reason, it is very important for caregivers to encourage their child to be more engaged in their surroundings. This encouragement can help them to develop better. These children also benefit from intervention programs, which helps them develop better socially and emotionally, however not as much intellectually.

10. Referring to ecological systems theory, explain why parents of children with genetic disorders often experience increased stress. What factors, within and beyond the family, can help these parents support their children’s development? In the ecological system, the relationship between the child and and the parents (part of the mesosystem) is seen as bidirectional. The parent’s of child with genetic disorders would feel increased pressure and stress from their child, because the may demand more from their  environment. The parents can benefit from support from third parties outside of their system. However, its also important that parents receive support within their system, their spouse. Children with genetic disorders tend to have behavioral issues that could affect their parent’s marriage. If the parents have an unstable relationship, it can cause problems for the child. If the parents have a stable relationship, than more positive attitudes will be projected towards the child.

Positive attitudes will positively impact the child’s development. It is also helpful for a family to have a positive neighborhood connections and environment, especially in low income families, for support. 11. Why is the period of the embryo regarded as the most dramatic prenatal period? Why is the period of the fetus called the “growth and finishing” phase? The period of the embryo is regarded as the most dramatic prenatal period because this is the most rapid prenatal changes. During this stage, the groundwork is laid out for all body structures and internal organs. Since all parts are developing, this would be consider the most vulnerable stage for the embryo and it would be most susceptible to teratogens and serious defects. The period of the fetus is referred to as growth and finishing phase because this is the stage in where the organism is rapidly growing in size. Not only will the organism grow rapidly in size during the fetus period, but towards the end of pregnancy will mark the finishing product after the fetus is fully grown. the muscle and nervous system become more refined. Sex of the fetus can also be detected.

12. How is brain development related to fetal capacities and behavior? What implications do individual differences in fetal behavior have for the baby’s temperament after birth? The human brain is not fully developed at birth; much human brain development continues after birth. Nevertheless, a baby is not a blank slate; they come equipped with a surprising range of abilities and capacities. Babies have the beginnings of sophisticated sensory capabilities; sensitive to range of frequencies of women’s voices; sensitive sense of smell.

Brain development is related to fetal capacities and behavior because babies come into the world with a built-in learning capacities that permits them to only profit from experience immediately. Infants are only capable of two basic forms of learning, classical and operant learning. They also learn through natural preferences for novel stimulation and eventually through observing others. Infants have an impressive statistical learning where they can rapidly analyze speech stream for patterns. The acquire a stock of speech structures for which they will later learn meanings, long before they can start to talk. Immediately after birth, babies demonstrate differences in temperament (inclination to engage in a certain style of behavior)

• Approach (react positively to new stimuli) vs. withdrawal (react negatively to new stimuli, i.e.: cry, fuss, etc.)
• Easy (don’t cry as often, not as demanding) vs. difficult (fussy, demanding)
• Some aspects of temperament tend to remain stable over the course of development, as a result of early nurturing experiences

13. What is epigenesis, and how does it differ from gene–environment interaction and gene–environment correlation? Provide an example of each. Gene-environment interaction means that because of a person’s genetic-makeup, individuals differ in responses to qualities environment. For example, in an experiment to test intelligence, Ben would score a higher score as the stimulus was enriched, whereas Linda’s would rise and then fall sharply due to the enriched stimulus and Ron would only respond to the environment as it becomes more stimulating.

Gene-environment correlation is a concept that states our that our genes influence our environments. There are three categories to explain this idea. Passive correlation refers to a child having no control over their genes and the environment. Instead, parents play a huge role in passive correlation for they may encourage their to be athletic because they both grew up playing sports, thus assuming their child would too have the same preference. Evocative correlation refers to the responses a child elicit from others are influenced through heredity.

Thus this stimulation strengthens the child’s original style. For example an active baby will gain more attention and social stimulation than a child who is passive and quiet. Active correlation refers to children being actively engaged in their experience and environment. This is process that is described as niche-picking. Both of these theories focus on a one direction exchange. Epigenesis sees development as a bidirectional exchange, the environment influencing the genes and the genes influencing the environment.

For example, an aggression gene found on the X chromosome in males showed no correlation of them being more aggressive than the ones without the gene, UNLESS, the child with the gene was exposed to child abuse. The combination of both the gene and the environmental factors contribute to the expression of aggression. The more aggressive a child acts, the more maternal anger or criticism they would receive, this shows how the environment can act on a gene and vice versa. External and internal stimulation both affect the expression of a gene. 14. How do the diverse capacities of newborn babies contribute to their first social relationships?

Newborns are considered to have plastic brains because they are able to mold into their environment or recover from traumatic experiences due to the plasticity of their brain. Neurons are yet assigned a location in the brain to perform specific functions, therefore their first social interaction is crucial in the first few moments that newborns are brought into the world. Their first social relationship is extremely important to create a bond with whom the child first meets, for example, their mother.

15. Cite evidence that motor development is a joint product of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Environmental – Parental encouragement plays a huge role in a child’s motivation to complete the task they set forth to accomplish. With constant praise and reinforcement, a child will continue to strive to complete more tasks. As new skills are being acquired, there is a joint process occurring  when mastery these motor skills. The central nervous system, body movement capacities, the goal the child has in mind and the environment supports the skill being developed. Biologically – In the early weeks of life brain and body growth are especially important as infants achieve control over the head, shoulders, and upper torso.

Psychological – Through curiosity, a baby will be motivated to explore their surroundings, therefore desiring to master new task. A baby’s goal to get a toy or crossing the room will motivate them to accomplish the task. Through multiple attempts and practice, the infant will eventually master that particular motor skill and continue to integrate and redefined their already mastered skill.

16. Explain why either too much stimulation or too little stimulation over an extended time negatively disrupts early development. Early stimulation and late stimulation can both be harmful to newborns. Early stimulation on newborns can enhance one specific skill, but also hinder many other skills in future development. Stimulation too late in development can also hinder skills because they lag behind other developmenting babies due the lack of stimulation. This refers to the developmental aspect of the brain where pruning occurs. Information that is not stimulated enough that is crucial for further development will be negatively affected.

17. What implications do findings on children from Eastern European orphanages have for the controversy over the lasting impact of early experiences on development? Studies done on children adopted from Romanian orphanages show significant findings in their physical and cognitive development. The majority of the orphans adopted before 6 months that were adopted all catch up in physical and cognitive development.

Whereas, babies who were adopted after the 6 months period were unable to catch up physically and cognitively, which subsequently impaired their intellectual abilities. Thus the findings found indicate that early, prolonged institualization leads to a generalized reduction in activity in the cerebral cortex, especially in the prefrontal cortex which governs complex cognition and impulse control. 18. How does stimulation affect brain development? Cite evidence at the level of neurons and at the level of the cerebral cortex.

Stimulation is vital when the brain is growing most rapidly. Stimulation allows the neurons to create synapses within the brain to stored newly learned information. However, information which are continually stimulated will more likely to remain in long term memory rather those that are not, also known as pruning Formation of synapses are most rapid during the first 2 years, especially in auditory, visual and language areas.

The cerebral cortex is the largest brain structure and the last structure to stop growing, therefore it is the more sensitive to environmental influences. It also contains the greatest number of neurons and synapses. The prefrontal is responsible for movement and thought, this particular area in the brain undergoes rapid myelination and formation and pruning  of synapses during preschool and school years also followed by another accelerated growth in adolescence, when it reaches an adult level of synaptic connections.

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