Glossary

accommodation: a term developed by psychologist Jean Piaget to describe what occurs when new information or experiences cause you to modify your existing schemas

assimilation: a cognitive process that manages how we take in new information and incorporate that new information into our existing knowledge

behavioral approach: the approach that suggests that the keys to understanding development are observable behavior and outside stimuli in the environment

bioecological model: the perspective suggesting that multiple levels of the environment interact with biological potential to influence development

chronosystem: the environmental events and transitions that occur throughout a child’s life, including any socio-historical events

classical conditioning: a type of learning in which an organism responds in a particular way to a neutral stimulus that normally does not bring about that type of response

cognitive approach: an approach that focuses on the process that allows people to know, understand and think about the world

concrete operational stage: the stage in which children can think logically about real (concrete) events, have a firm grasp on the use of numbers and start to employ memory strategies, lasts from about 7 to 11 years old

conservation: the idea that even if you change the appearance of something, it is still equal in size as long as nothing has been removed or added, usually develops during the concrete operational stage

contextual approach: a theory that considers the relationship between individuals and their physical, cognitive, and social worlds

ecological systems theory: Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theory stressing the importance of studying a child in the context of multiple environments, organized into five levels of external influence: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem

exosystem: the larger contexts of the community, including the values, history, and economy

evolutionary psychology: a field of study that seeks to identify behavior that is a result of our genetic inheritance from our ancestors

formal operational stage: the fourth, and last, stage in Piaget’s theory and lasts from about age 11 to adulthood. Children in the formal operational stage can deal with abstract ideas and hypothetical situations

humanism: a psychological theory that emphasizes an individual’s inherent drive towards self-actualization and contends that people have a natural capacity to make decisions about their lives and control their own behavior

hypothesis: a testable prediction

information-processing approach: an alternative to Piagetian approaches, a model that seeks to identify the ways individual take in, use, and store information

law of effect: behavior that is followed by consequences satisfying to the organism will be repeated, and behaviors that are followed by unpleasant consequences will be discouraged

macrosystem: cultural elements such as global economic conditions, war, technological trends, values, philosophies, and a society’s responses to the global community which impact a community

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals are motivated to attend to needs higher up

mesosystem: larger organizational structures such as school, the family, or religion

microsystem: immediate surrounds including those who have direct, significant contact with the person, such as parents or siblings

neurosis: a tendency to experience negative emotions

operant conditioning: a form of learning in which a voluntary response is strengthened or weekend by its association with positive or negative consequences

Piaget theory of cognitive development: a description of cognitive development as four distinct stages in children: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete, and formal

psychodynamic approach: the perspective that behavior is motivated by inner forces, memories, and conflicts that are generally beyond people’s awareness and control

psychosocial theory: the theory that emphasizes that social relationships that are important at each stage of personality development

reciprocal determinism: the interplay between our personality and the way we interpret events and how they influence us

reversibility: objects can be changed and then returned to their original form or condition, typically observed during the concrete operational stage

scaffolding: a process in which adults or capable peers model or demonstrate how to solve a problem, and then step back, offering support as needed

schemas: an existing framework for an object or concept

self-actualization: according to humanistic theory, the realizing of one’s full potential can include creative expression, a quest for spiritual enlightenment, the pursuit of knowledge, or the desire to contribute to society. For Maslow, it is a state of self-fulfillment in which people achieve their highest potential in their own unique way

social learning theory: learning by observing the behavior of another person, called a model

sociocultural theory: Vygotsky’s theory that emphasizes how cognitive development proceeds as a result of social interactions between members of a culture

theory: a well-developed set of ideas that propose an explanation for observed phenomena that can be used to make predictions about future observations

theory-of-mind (TOM): explains how children come to understand that people have thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that are different from their own, develops during the preoperational stage

zone of proximal development (ZPD): the difference between what a learner can do without help, and what they can do with help

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