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Themes and Theories

accommodation

In Piagetian theory, a component of adaptation; process of modification in thinking (schemes) that takes place when old ways of understanding something no longer fit.

adaptation

In Piagetian theory, the inborn tendency to adjust or become more attuned to conditions imposed by the environment; takes place through assimilation and accommodation.

assimilation

In Piagetian theory, a component of adaptation; process of interpreting an experience in terms of current ways (schemes) of understanding things.

behaviorism

Learning theory perspective that explains the development of behavior according to the principles of classical and operant conditioning.

bioecological model

Bronfenbrenner's theory that development is influenced by experiences arising from broader biological, social, and cultural systems as well as a child's immediate surroundings.

chronosystem

In Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, the constantly changing temporal component of the environment that can influence development.

cognitive-developmental theory

Theoretical orientation, most frequently associated with Piaget, emphasizing the active construction of psychological structures to interpret experience.

development

Physical and psychological changes in the individual over a lifetime.

developmental psychology

Systematic and scientific study of changes in human behaviors and mental activities over time.

developmental science

The interdisciplinary field of research and theories concerned with studies and explanations of human development.

dynamic systems theory

Theoretical orientation that explains development as the emerging organization arising from the interaction of many different processes.

empiricism

Theory that environmental experiences shape the individual; more specifically, that all knowledge is derived from sensory experiences.

equilibration

In Piagetian theory, an innate self-regulatory process that, through accommodation and assimilation, results in more organized and powerful schemes for adapting to the environment.

ethology

Theoretical orientation and discipline concerned with the evolutionary origins of behavior and its adaptive and survival value in animals, including humans.

exosystem

In Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, environmental settings that indirectly affect the child by influencing the various microsystems forming the child's immediate environment.

identity

In Eriksonian psychosocial theory, the acceptance of both self and society, a concept that must be achieved at every stage but is especially important during adolescence.

imprinting

Form of learning, difficult to reverse, during a sensitive period in development in which an organism tends to stay near a particular stimulus.

individual differences

Unique characteristics that distinguish a person from other members of a larger group.

information processing

Theoretical approach that views humans as having a limited ability to process information, much like computers.

learning

Relatively permanent change in behavior as a result of such experiences as exploration, observation, and practice.

macrosystem

In Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, major historical events and the broad values, practices, and customs shared by a culture.

mesosystem

In Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, the environment provided by the interrelationships among the various settings of the microsystem.

microsystem

In Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, the immediate environment provided in such settings as the home, school, workplace, and neighborhood.

nature-nurture debate

Historically, the theoretical controversy over whether development is the result of the child's genetic endowment or environmental influences.

observational learning

Learning that takes place by simply observing another person's behavior.

organization

In Piagetian theory, the inborn tendency for structures and processes to become more systematic and coherent.

psychosocial theory of development

Erikson's theory that personality develops through eight stages of adaptive functioning to meet the demands framed by society.

scheme

In Piagetian theory, the mental structure underlying a coordinated and systematic pattern of behaviors or thinking applied across similar objects or situations.

sensitive period

Brief period during which specific kinds of experiences have significant positive or negative consequences for development and behavior; also called critical period.

social learning theory

Theoretical approach emphasizing the importance of learning through observation and imitation of behaviors modeled by others.

social policy

Programs and plans established by local, regional, or national public and private organizations and agencies designed to achieve a particular social purpose or goal.

sociocultural theory

Vygotsky's developmental theory emphasizing the importance of cultural tools, symbols, and ways of thinking that the child acquires from more knowledgeable members of the community.

stage

Developmental period during which the organization of thought and behavior is qualitatively different from that of an earlier or later period.

systems views

Theories of development that are concerned with the effects of a broad range of biological, physical, and sociocultural settings on the process of development.

theories

Sets of ideas or propositions that help to organize or explain observable phenomena.

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