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Vocabulary terms from unit on Developmental Psychology. Includes items from Myers for AP 2e as well as from accompanying class presentations.


stage in prenatal development from conception to 2 weeks


stage in prenatal development from 2 to 9 weeks, wherein organs and primary sex characteristics begin to develop


stage in prenatal development from 9 weeks to birth


harmful environmental agents that disrupt proper development (e.g. alcohol)


decreasing responsiveness to an unchanging stimulus; used to assess infant cognition

rooting reflex

infant reflex wherein the baby will, when touched on the cheek, turn its head toward the direction of the touch and search for a nipple

sucking reflex

when an object is placed in the baby's mouth, he will begin to suck on it

grasping reflex

when touched on the palm of the hand, a baby will wrap his fingers tightly around the stimulus

Moro reflex

infant startle response; when alarmed, the baby will fling his limbs outward, then retract them and hold them close to his body

Babinski reflex

when stroked on the bottom of the foot, a baby will spread its toes

Jean Piaget

most famous for his 4-stage model of cognitive development


concept or framework that organizes and aids in interpretation of information


physical (or biological) process of growth; believed to occur in mostly universal sequence, though timing varies from individual to individual


interpreting new information with the context of existing schemas


adjusting or changing one's schema's to account for new information


principle that certain properties of matter (e.g. mass, volume, number) remain the same despite changes in appearance; exhibited during the concrete operational phase

object permanence

awareness that things continue to exist even though they are not perceived; develops at 6-8 months of age


in Piaget's theory, the stage (from birth to 2) during which infants know the world mostly in terms of their impressions and motor activities


in Piaget's theory, the stage (from about 2 to 6/7) during which a child learns to communicate using symbols (language) but does not demonstrate mental operations of concrete logic.


the inability of preoperational children to take the perspective of another


belief, often demonstrated by preoperational children, that inanimate objects have thoughts and feelings

magical thinking

cognitive feature of preoperational children; unconstrained by adult understandings of reality, they may believe, for example, that it is possible to turn into a racecar

theory of mind

people's ideas about their own and others' mental states (about their feelings, perceptions, and thoughts and the behavior these might predict)

categorization inability

the inability of preoperational children to group items according to rules or criteria

concrete operational

in Piaget's theory, the stage of cognitive development (from 6/7 to 11/12) during which children gain the mental operations that allow them to think logically about real or "concrete" events

formal operational

in Piaget's theory, the stage of cognitive development which begins about age 12 and is characterized by the ability to think logically about abstact concepts

social development theory

Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development which emphasized the importance of other people (more knowledge others) in our mental growth

Lev Vygotsky

most famous for social development theory (of child cognitive development)

More Knowledge Other (MKO)

In Vygotsky's theory, another person who possesses expertise and can help you learn something

zone of proximal development

In Vygotsky's theory, the context in which learning takes place; the gap between when a child can accomplish with assistance and when he can do something independently

stranger anxiety

fear of people other than those with whom the infant is familiar; appears around 8 months and peaks at 13 months


an emotional tie with another person; shown in infants by their seeking closeness with caregivers and displaying distress upon separation

critical period

time frame during which exposure to a particular stimulus must take place in order for proper development to occur


rigid, inflexible attachments demonstrated by some animal species (e.g. ducks, sheep)

Konrad Lorenz

Nobel Prize-winning researcher famous for his imprinting studies, and for advocating the study of animals in their natural environments

Harry Harlow

presented infant monkeys with a choice between two artificial mothers; the monkeys preferred the warm, cloth mothers to cold ones with food

Mary Ainsworth

researcher who described attachment styles in infants as measured by the "strange situation" test

secure attachment

demonstrated when infants seem to view their caregiver as a "secure base" for exploration, seeking closeness to him/her and being upset at separation.

strange situation

test developed by Mary Ainsworth to assess attachment style in infants; involves separation and reunion with a parent

anxious attachment

demonstrated by babies who seem constantly afraid of potential separation from the caregiver; they cling to caregivers in strange settings and display intense distress upon separation

avoidant attachment

demonstrated by babies who seem to avoid contact and closeness with caregivers

basic trust

in Erikson's model, this attitude develops as a result of secure attachment; babies come to view the world as safe & predictable and believe that others will reliably meet their needs

Diana Baumrind

researcher who developed a model of parenting styles that included authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive


parenting style (in Baumrind's model)characterized by high levels of demandingness and low warmth; they impose rules and expect obedience


parenting style (in Baumrind's model) characterized by high demandingness and high warmth; these parents explain reasons for rules and are open to negotiation (with older children)


parenting style (in Baumrind's model) characterized by low demandingness and high warmth; they submit to their children's desires, make few rules, and use little punishment


onset of menstruation; key marker of onset of puberty for females

Lawrence Kohlberg

used moral dilemmas to assess moral thinking in children; most well-known for his description of levels of morality (preconventional, conventional, postconventional)


stage of moral development in which children seek to avoid punishment or gain reward when determining right from wrong


stage of moral development wherein individuals seek to gain social approval or maintain the social order (follow rules and laws)


stage of moral development wherein individuals use abstract reasoning to determine right from wrong, often by citing agreed-upon rights (e.g. "the right to live") or personal ethical principles

Jonathon Haidt

countered Kohlberg's theory with "Social Intuitionist" theory; believed we make moral choices based on emotional reactions ("moral feeling") not cold logic

trust v. mistrust

1st stage in Erikson's model; infants must learn to view the world as a predictable, safe place or face a future of guarded skepicism

autonomy v. shame & doubt

2nd stage in Erikson's model; toddlers must be able to exercise some independence or will be ashamed and uncertain of their abilities

initiative v. guilt

3rd stage in Erikson's model; preschoolers must learn to start and direct creative tasks, or they may feel guilty about asserting themselves

industry v. inferiority

4th stage in Erikson's model; children must master the skills valued by their society or feel inferior

identity v. role confusion

5th stage in Erikson's model; adolescents must develop a sense of identity or suffer lack of direction

intimacy v. isolation

6th stage in Erikson's model; young adults must form close, satisfying relationships or suffer loneliness

generativity v. stagnation

7th stage in Erikson's model; in middle age, adults must discover a sense of contributing to the world or they may feel a lack of purpose

integrity v. despair

8th stage in Erikson's model; when reflecting at the end of life, an older adult must feel a sense of satisfaction or experience despair (feelings of having wasted one's life)

Erik Erikson

famous for his 8-stage model of psychosocial development; neo-Freudian

G. Stanley Hall

founder of the APA; known for his work in developmental psych, particularly for defining adolescence as a period of "storm and stress"

emerging adulthood

developmental stage proposed by Jeffrey Arnett; period between adolescence and assumption of typical adult roles (18-29, perhaps?)

Alzheimer's disease

progressive and irreversible brain disorder characterized by gradual deterioration of memory, reasoning, language, and physical functioning; linked to deterioration of neurons that produce acetylcholine

cross-sectional study

study in which people of different ages are compared with one another

crystallized intelligence

one's accumulated knowledge and verbal skills; tends to increase with age

fluid intelligence

one's ability to reason speedily and abstactly; tends to decrease during late adulthood

social clock

culturally preferred timing of social events such as marriage, parenthood, and retirement

prospective memory

The ability to remember to perform actions in the future; declines with age

retrospective memory

involves remembering events from the past or previously learned information; not as vulnerable to age-related declines

autism spectrum disorder

A disorder characterized by deficits in social relatedness and communication skills that are often accompanied by repetitive, ritualistic behavior.

neurocognitive disorder

An age-related disorder caused by brain dysfunction that affects thinking processes, memory, consciousness, and perception. Formerly called "dementia".

longitudinal study

A research approach that follows a group of people over time to determine change or stability in behavior.


A person's characteristic emotional reactivity and intensity.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

A medical condition in which body deformation or facial development or mental ability of a fetus is impaired because the mother drank alcohol while pregnant

social identity

The "we" aspect of our self-concept; the part of our answer to "Who am I?" that comes from our group memberships.


Cessation of menstruation; marks end of reproductive capactiy for women, typically occurring around age 50

Carol Gilligan

moral development studies to follow up Kohlberg. She studied girls and women and found that they did not score as high on his six stage scale because they focused more on relationships rather than laws and principles. Their reasoning was merely different, not better or worse


Combination of culturally determined female and male characteristics in one person.


the enduring behavior, ideas, attitudes, and traditions shared by a large group of people and transmitted (via learning) from one generation to the next

fraternal birth order effect

Men with older brothers are more likely to demonstrate a homosexual orientation, increasing with the number of older brothers. This is presumed to be the result of changes to the prenatal environment that accompany successive male pregnancies.


A socially and culturally constructed set of distinctions between masculine and feminine sets of behaviors that is promoted and expected by society

gender identity

one's sense of being male or female

gender role

set of expected behaviors for males and females

gender schema theory

The theory that children learn from their cultures a (mental) concept of what it means to be male and female and they adjust their behavior accordingly.


the acquisition of a traditional masculine or feminine role


the interplay that occurs when the effect of one factor (such as environment) depends on another factor (such as heredity).


refers to persons born with intermediate or atypical combinations of male and female physical characteristics (e.g., both male and female reproductive organs)

Mark Rosenzweig

demonstrated the neurological consequences of being raised in an "impoverished" versus and "enriched" environment (in rats).


an understood rule for accepted and expected behavior

primary sex characteristics

sex characteristics present at birth; the body structures that make sexual reproduction possible


When applied to brain development, the process by which unused connections in the brain atrophy and die.


set of expectations (norms) about a social position, defining how those in the position ought to be behave

secondary sex characteristics

nonreproductive sexual characteristics that appear as one reaches puberty, such as female breasts and hips, male voice quality, and body hair

sexual orientation

an enduring sexual attraction toward members of either one's own sex (homosexual orientation) or the other sex (heterosexual orientation)

social learning theory

The theory that we learn social behavior by observing and imitating and by being rewarded or punished. For example, this may contribute to the acquisition of gender roles.


male sex hormone; both males and females have it, but additional amounts of it in males stimulates growth of male reproductive organs in a fetus and development of male characteristics during puberty


an umbrella term describing people whose gender identity or expression differs from that associated with their birth sex

X chromosome

The sex chromosome found in both men and women. Females have two; males have one.

Y chromosome

the sex chromosome found only in males.

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