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developmental psychology

a branch of psychology that studies physical, cognitive, and social change throughout the life span.


the fertilized egg; it enters a 2-week period of rapid cell division and develops into an embryo


the developing human organism from about 2 weeks after fertilization through the second month


the developing human organism from 9 weeks after conception to birth


agents, such as chemicals and viruses, that can reach the embryo or fetus during prenatal development

fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)

physical and cognitive abnormalities in children caused by a pregnant woman's heavy drinking. In severe cases, symptoms include noticeable facial misproportions.

rooting reflex

a baby's tendency, when touched on the cheek, to open the mouth and search for the nipple


biological growth processes that enable orderly changes in behavior, relatively uninfluenced by experience


a concept of framework that organizes and interprets information


interpreting one's new experience in terms of one's existing schemas


adapting one's current understandings (schemas) to incorporate new information


all the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing and remembering

sensorimotor stage

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

object permanence

the awareness that things continue to exist even when not perceived

preoperational stage

in Piaget's theory the stage (from about 2 to 6 or 7 years of age) during which a child learns to use language but does not yet comprehend the mental operations of concrete logic


the principle (which Piaget believed to be a part of concrete operational reasoning) that properties such as mass, volume, and number remain the same despite changes in the forms of objects


in Piaget's theory, the inability of the preoperational child to take another's point of view

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

concrete operational stage

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

formal operational stage

in Piaget's theory, the stage of cognitive development (normally beginning at age 12) during which people begin to think logically about abstract concepts.

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