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About this book


How does a fertilized egg become a person? How do the processes which shape the common features of human development also produce the rich variety of individual diversity? Understanding Human Development explores these questions in a lively and wide-ranging survey of the subject, offering both a topical and a chronological view of development.

The author critically reviews research on human development from the earliest studies to the theories and issues of the 21st century, including recent breakthroughs in neuropsychology, cross-cultural psychology and in the application of dynamic systems theory. Coverage of methodology and ethics combined with thorough revision summaries in each chapter make this an invaluable introduction for students of developmental psychology.

Table of Contents

Studying Human Development

Chapter 1. Studying Human Development

Abstract
You and I are members of an extraordinary species: a species that has a capacity far beyond any other to create and use tools and technologies, to think in abstract and hypothetical ways, to analyse and communicate our thoughts, to plot and plan, fall in and out of love and reflect on our experience in music, painting, poetry.
Stephanie Thornton

The Beginning of Life

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. Bodies and Brains

Abstract
Human intelligence and personality are embodied. That is to say, these things (we) exist in a physical body that has an evolutionary history, is composed of biological processes and is constrained by the natural forces of the physical world. The fact that we are embodied in this way has important implications for who we are and how we develop.
Stephanie Thornton

Chapter 3. Infant Minds: Perception, Inference and Understanding in the First 18 Months

Abstract
We take the existence of our minds for granted: we’ve got a brain, and it therefore seems natural that we have a mind. But in fact, if you reflect on it, this is probably the most puzzling of all phenomena. How can anything as astonishing as human intelligence derive from a lump of organic material like the brain? How can it develop in the individual brain?
Stephanie Thornton

Chapter 4. Growing Emotions: Social and Personal Development in the First 18 Months

Abstract
Just as philosophers have long been intrigued by the problem of how human intelligence could arise in a blob of flesh, the single cell of a fertilized egg, so we have puzzled over how all the rich emotions that characterize human experience could emerge from such a simple start.
Stephanie Thornton

Cognitive Development from Infancy to Adulthood

Frontmatter

Chapter 5. Language

Abstract
Think back over your day. From start to finish, you have been bathed in language: in words you have spoken to yourself or to other people, words you have heard or read. Can you imagine life without language?
Stephanie Thornton

Chapter 6. Reasoning and Conceptual Understanding

Abstract
As impressive as our human capacity for language is, it would be of very little use without our even more extraordinary ability to reason, to draw inferences and to reach conclusions that ‘go beyond the information given’ as Jerome Bruner (1975c) puts it. This ability to analyse the implications of what we know, to extrapolate and to draw conclusions from a few facts and so to discover new ideas, is the foundation of all our human knowledge, from the complexities of science and technology to the speculations of philosophy and religion. And even from early childhood, it’s at the root of our everyday understanding of the world, our everyday intelligence, as the examples in Box 6.1 show.
Stephanie Thornton

Chapter 7. Memory, Problem Solving and Mechanisms of Cognitive Development

Abstract
The previous chapter looked at the way our minds are structured: the way our conceptual understanding develops from infancy and through to adult life, and the way this changing knowledge allows us to develop new tools for reasoning and making sense of the world. This chapter looks in more detail at the processes involved in using knowledge and tools for reasoning. How do we remember the experiences, the knowledge that we have? How do we use knowledge in solving problems? What are the processes through which our conceptual understanding and strategies for reasoning grow?
Stephanie Thornton

Chapter 8. Individual Differences in Cognition

Abstract
Every normal child recalls past events, develops a rich conceptual understanding of the world, learns to speak, to reason, to plan and to solve problems. But within this universal framework there are very marked differences in the way individual minds function. Faced with the same information two minds may come up with very different interpretations. Given the same problem to solve, two minds may make very different plans for solving it and may find very different strategies.
Stephanie Thornton

Social and Emotional Development from Infancy to Adulthood

Frontmatter

Chapter 9. Understanding Other People

Abstract
We human beings are a profoundly social species. We depend on others to survive the long period of helpless infancy that is the price of our high intelligence. And as we have seen in Part II, the knowledge, skills, strategies and style that make up that intelligence are, to an important extent, socially constructed through shared ideas and activities, observation, tuition and collaboration.
Stephanie Thornton

Chapter 10. Personality and Identity

Abstract
By the time they reach their second birthday toddlers are already complex individuals with an impressive repertoire of social skills and emotional understanding, and a degree of self-awareness (Chapter 4). They have formed important attachments (however secure or otherwise these may be) to key people (Chapter 4). They are beginning to have a degree of insight into other minds, to understand that other people have feelings and desires (Chapter 9), to empathize and show sympathy. The 2-year-old has made enormous progress over the reflexive social and emotional responses of the newborn baby. Nevertheless, by comparison with older children, adolescents and adults, the 2-year-old is still simple, unformed and naïve.
Stephanie Thornton

Chapter 11. Social Relationships

Abstract
The interactions we have with other people play a key part in shaping our personalities and identities, our sense of who we are and what we value, as we’ve seen in Chapter 10. Central to these interactions are the relationships we develop with our families and friends, and the romantic connections we later experience. How do these relationships develop and change through childhood and adolescence? How do we learn to form friendships, to fall in love, to treat one another (and ourselves) with compassion and respect? How does the deepening nature of our relationships affect our emotional development, our self-esteem, our understanding of self? These are the questions explored in this chapter.
Stephanie Thornton

Chapter 12. Prosocial and Antisocial Behaviour

Abstract
Human beings are capable of acts of enormous compassion and kindness, acts which may even involve altruistic self-sacrifice of one kind or another. Even in everyday life we have a striking propensity to be supportive to others, to offer comfort and help, to shape our behaviour for the good of the community. But at least some members of our species also display the opposite tendency: a propensity for violence, vandalism and theft, for social disorder. A few are capable of acts of grotesque cruelty which amount to evil.
Stephanie Thornton

A Final Comment

Frontmatter

Chapter 13. Toward a New View of Development

Abstract
Developmental psychology has come a long way in recent decades. Some of this progress has been brought about by new methods — for example, the techniques that have allowed us to study the living brain and to map the human genome, the methodologies for studying infant perceptions, and for studying the moment by moment dynamics of problem solving. Some new insights have come more or less by accident — the discovery of the mirror neuron system, for example. Often reality has intruded, producing results that we couldn’t have predicted and can’t explain, forcing us to adapt our methods and theories — Patrick Rabbitt (2006) provides a fascinating example of this kind of effect in a long-term research project. But it is the steady evolution of theoretical ideas through systematic research that plays the leading part in driving the boundaries of knowledge forward.
Stephanie Thornton
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