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(As it appears in course notes)

Developmental Psychology
The area of psychology that documents, the course and causes of peoples social, emotional, moral, and
intellectual development over the life span.
Tabula rasa
The hypothetical primary blank or empty state of a newborns mind, before receiving any outside
impressions. Latin, for blank slate/tablet.
Natural growth or change, triggered by biological or genetic factors, that unfolds in a fixed sequence
relatively independent of environmental conditions.
Traits or characteristics inherited by offspring/s from parent/s.
The collective impact of all environmental factors, affecting growth and behavior.
The biological transmission of genetic characteristics from parent/s to offspring/s.
The total physical and social surroundings of an individual organism.
The degree or extent to which two numerical values are related to another.
The fundamental unit of life forming the least structural unit of living matter. Capable of functioning
The threadlike structures within the nucleus of a cell, containing genetic information. There are 23 pairs
of chromosomes in human somatic cells. The female ovum contains XX and the male sperm XY.
The mature female sex cell.
The mature male sex cell. Also, Spermatozoon (pl. spermatozoa) or semen.
The ejection of semen/spermatozoon during an orgasm.
The impregnation of an ovum by a spermatozoon. Also, conception.
Prenatal period
The nine months between conception and birth. Divided into three developmental stages: the zygote, the
embryo and the fetal stage.

The fertilized egg cell formed when the male sperm and female ovum unite. It is the first stage in
prenatal development. This period lasts for about ten days after conception and is characterized by rapid
cell division where internal organs begin to form.
The living organism during the second stage of prenatal development. From two weeks after conception,
and ending about eight weeks. During this period the heart begins to beat, the brain starts to function, and
most of the major body structures begin to form.
The living organism in the final stage of prenatal development, which lasts about seven months. During
this period bone tissue are developed and ends with birth.
The "life supporting organ" consisting of embryonic and maternal tissue to which the fetus is attached via
the umbilical cord. Through this organ the fetus receives oxygen, food substances and antibodies (from
the mother) and releases waste products.
The food substance consumed (eaten) and utilized by an organism. Usually reference is made to
good/healthy food/s.
The birth defects or abnormalities caused to the developing fetus by harmful external substance, such as
alcohol and drugs.
Critical period
A stage of early development during the embryonic stage, in which, an organism is susceptible to certain
influences. During which, important irreversible patterns of behavior are acquired.
Fetal alcohol syndrome
Retarded growth of the developing fetus and infant caused by heavy consumption of alcohol by the
mother during pregnancy. May cause mental retardation, cranial, facial, and limb abnormalities.
The stage/period between birth and twelve months of age.
A region in the center of the retina where cones are highly concentrated. In visual sensitivity, the fovea is
responsible for the clearest images and fullest experience of color.
Involuntary, unlearned reactions in the form of swift, automatic and finely coordinated movements in
response to external stimuli. Organized completely within the spinal cord.
The process of knowing. The thinking, judging, reasoning, and planning activities of the human mind.
Behavior is often explained as depending on the above mentioned processes.
Cognitive structures
Mental representations or rules that are used for understanding and dealing with the world and for
thinking about and solving problems.

A basic unit of knowledge; a generalization based on experience of the world. Schemas organize past
experience and provide a framework for understanding future experience. A coherent set of beliefs and
expectations that can influence the perception one has of other people and objects around him/her.
A way of classifying things according to shared common properties; rules, which describe these
The process of taking in new information about objects by trying out existing schemas on objects that fit
those schemas.
The process of modifying schemas as an infant tries out familiar schemas on objects that do not fit them.
Sensorimotor period
The infants mental activity confined to sensory perception and motor skills; the first stage in Piagets
cognitive development.
Object permanence
The knowledge resulting from an ability to form mental representations of objects that exist even when
they are not in view.
Defered imitation
The ability to imitate the actions observed. Piaget believed this to be the result from the childs
increasing ability to form mental representations of behavior performed by others.
Research studies whose designs approximate the control of a true experiment. They may not include
manipulation of the independent variable, random assignment of subjects to groups, or other elements of
experimental control. Quasi means resembling.
Any changeable factor/s or element/s in an experiment or research.
Independent variable
The variable manipulated by the researcher in an experiment.
Dependent variable
Factor/s or element/s affected by the independent variable, in an experiment.
Preoperational period
The stage during which, children begin to understand, create, and use symbols to represent things which
are not present; the second stage in Piagets cognitive development.
A self-centered view of the world, where an individual assumes that the only understanding of the world
is the one s/he possesses.
Concrete operations
The period in which, children can learn to count, measure, add and subtract. According to Piaget, the

third stage in cognitive development, where thinking is no longer dominated by visual appearances.
The ability to recognize and understand that specific important properties of objects or substance remain
constant, despite changes in height, shape, length, position, number, volume, or weight.
Symbolic thought
The use of symbols to represent things not present during pretence play, talk, and/or drawing.
Intuitive thought
Guess rather than engage in logical analysis. Children reason about events real and imagined.
Information processing
The procedure of taking in, remembering or forgetting, and using information. It is one model for
understanding peoples cognitive abilities.
Infantile amnesia
Memory loss of events and experiences, in very early life.
Mental representations of a familiar sequence of activities. Scripts affect childrens knowledge and
understanding of cognitive tasks and refer to particular settings or circumstances; e.g., village script,
beach script, etc.
The symbols, codes, and vocal gestures used by a given population to convey meaning to others. The
others must be able to decode these specific symbols/codes/vocal gestures in order to comprehend and
thus, communicate.
The totality of learned and shared beliefs, values and behavior patterns of a particular organized group. It
pertains to non-genetic transmission.
Primary (mental) abilities (PMA)
The basic and fundamental mental abilities of intelligence, learned by all children in all cultures, as they
play and interact with others. According to L. Thurstone, it includes verbal, word fluency, numerical,
space, memory, perceptual and reasoning.
Secondary (mental) abilities (SMA)
Mental abilities deliberately taught to children, such as reading, writing, algebra, geometry, physics, etc.
The strong emotional connection between two persons.
An individuals basic and/or natural disposition.
A deep, affectionate, close, and enduring relationship between an infant and caregiver, with whom, a
baby has shared many experiences. This spans both in time and space.
Stranger anxiety/situation
The wariness and fearful responses an infant exhibits in the presence of strangers. Usually expressed by
infants with crying or/and clinging on to caretaker.

Separation anxiety
A set of fearful responses an infant exhibits, when caretaker attempts to leave.
Secure attachment
A kind of attachment, in which, an infant uses caretaker as a base for exploring a new environment.
Infants will leave the caretaker to explore a "strange situation" but return periodically.
Resistant attachment
A kind of attachment in which, infants show mixed reactions to their caretakers. Infants may approach
their caretakers upon their return, but at the same time, continue to cry or even push their caretakers
away. Also seen as; anxious insecure attachment, avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized attachment.
The process through which, children are taught the social norms to be well-functioning members of
society. Parents, caretakers, siblings, peers, teachers and others contribute to the socialization of children.
Authoritarian parent/s
A firm, punitive, and unsympathetic parent, who values obedience from children, and authority for
him/herself. The result of this parenting style is often an unfriendly, distrustful, and withdrawn child.
Permissive parent/s
A parent, who gives the child complete freedom and any type of discipline, is non-existent. Children of
this style of parenting are often immature, dependent, and unhappy. Further, they lack self-reliance and
self-control, and seek parental help for even the slightest problem they encounter.
Authoritative parent/s
A parent, who reasons with the child, encourages "gives and takes," is firm, understanding and just.
Children of this style of parenting are usually friendly, cooperative, self-reliant, and socially responsible.
Gender identity
Ones very private sense of being a female or a male.
Gender role/s
Specific cultural expectations about the ways in which, females and males should think and behave.
Gender stereotype/s
A set of cultural beliefs; differences in behavior, abilities and personality traits, concerning females and
The period during which a females and males reproductive systems mature. The teenage adolescence
years; marking the beginning of the transition period from childhood to adulthood characterized by fuller
breasts and rounder curves in females and by broad shoulders and narrow hips in males. Also, facial,
underarm, pubic hair growth, voices deepen and acne may appear.
Identity crisis
The critical period during adolescence, where emotional upheaval and great uncertainty, vividly
experienced by teenagers. This crisis may occur at other times during life.
Formal operation period
The stage in cognitive development, appearing around the eleventh year (or later), characterized by the

ability to engage in hypothetical abstract thinking; Piagets fourth and final stage of cognitive
Principles, or the behaviors, which are manifestations of the principles, judged with respect to rightness
and wrongness. Morals have a very strong relationship with ethics; in fact, many treat the terms as
Preconventional moral reasoning
Reasoning not based on the conventions or rules that guide social interactions in society, in Kohlbergs
stages of moral reasoning.
Conventional moral reasoning
Reasoning that reflects a concern about other people, in Kohlbergs stages of moral reasoning. As well as
the belief that morality consists of following rules and conventions.
Postconventional moral reasoning
Reasoning that reflects moral judgment, in Kohlbergs stages of moral reasoning. Reasoning based on
personal standards or universal principles, such as, justice, equality, and respect for human life.
Moral realism
The early stage, during which, the child accepts as right and proper those rules given by authority. Found
in Piagets moral human development.
The third stage in human development; where individual physical development and maturation should be
completed. Early adulthood: age 20-40, middle adulthood: age 40-65 and late adulthood: age 65 plus.
Longitudinal research
Investigations of development, in which, the same subjects, are studied over and over again at different
ages. Subjects are compared with themselves, as they grow older. The purpose of such study is to identify
changes across different ages or eras.
Generativity (crisis)
The adults concern with producing or generating something that will outlast them. According to
Erickson, this is the period, when people want to leave something behind; through parenthood, job
achievement or social achievement.
Midlife transition
A point at around age forty, when adults take a close look at their lives. Where adults reappraise their
priorities, and, sometimes, modify their lives and relationships.
The condition in which, some male or female characteristics are present in the same individual.
Terminal drop
A sharp decline in mental functioning that tends to occur in late adulthood; usually a few years or months
before death.