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In Class - Pages from Scarr 1983

In Class - Pages from Scarr 1983 - Sean and McCartney The...

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The most widely accepted theories of development are vague about how new struc- tures arise; for example, Piaget (1980) fails to make the connection between organism and environment clear in his references to interaction. Nor is development well described by maturation alone (see GonnoUy & Prechtl, 1981). Neither Gesell and Ilg (1943) nor contemporary nativists (e.g., Ghomsky, 1980) appreciate the inextricable links of nature and nurture in a hierachically organized system of development. We suggest that the problem of new structures in development has been extraor- dinarily difficult because of a false parallel between genotype and environment, which, we argue, are not constructs at the same level of analysis. The dichotomy of nature and nurture has always been a bad one, not only for the oft-cited reasons that both ar^ required for development, but because a false parallel arises between the two. We propose that de- velopment is indeed the result of nature and nurture but that genes drive experience. Genes are components in a system that orga- nizes the organism to experience its world. The organism's abilities to experience the world change with development and are in- dividually variable. A good theory of the en- vironment can only be one in which experi- ence is guided by genotypes that both push and restrain experiences. Behavioral development depends on both a genetic program and a suitable environment for the expression of the human, species- typical program for development. Differences among people can arise from both genetic and environmental differences, but the pro- cess by which differences arise is better de- scribed as genotype —» environment effects. Like Ghomsky and Fodor (1980), we pro- pose that the genotype is the driving force behind development, because, we argue, it is the discriminator of what environments are actually experienced. The genotype deter- mines the responsiveness of the person to those environmental opportunities. Unlike Ghomsky and Fodor, we do not think that development is precoded in the genes and merely emerges with maturation. Rather, we stress the role of the genotype in determining which environments are actually experienced and what effects they have on the developing person. We distinguish here between environ- ments to which a person is exposed and environments that are actively experienced or Sean* and McCartney 425 "grasped" by the person. As we all know, the relevance of environments changes with de- velopment. The toddler who has "caught on" to the idea that things have names and who demands the names for everything is emeri- encing a fundamentally different verbal en- vironment from what she experienced before, even though her parents talked to her exten- sively in infancy. The young adolescent who played baseball with the boy next door and now finds herself hopelessly in love with him is experiencing her friend's companionship in a new way.
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