Chapter 1. The People and the Field


Chapter 1: The People and the Field
A young girl playing the piano.
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In your book’s introductory chapter on lifespan development, you learned a lot about the various theories that are used to explain development through the lifespan. Each of these theories addresses an age-old question regarding development: Is it nature (genetics) or nurture (environment) that makes us who we are? Some of the theories view development as something that is purely genetic; we are born who we are and there is nothing that can change it. Others view development as purely environmental; we are who we are because of our experiences. Still others view development as a result of both genetic and environmental influences.

Each theory also differs in its focus: some focus only on infancy, others on childhood, and still others theorize about the entire lifespan. In this activity you will match the different theories and views to their theorist.

1.1 Activity


Drag and drop the theorist associated with each theory. Not every theory has a theorist associated with it. You may not change your answers after they have been placed.

John Bowlby
Erik Erikson
Urie Bronfenbrenner
Sigmund Freud
Jean Piaget
Albert Bandura
B. F. Skinner
Social Learning
Attachment Theory
Evolutionary Theory
Behavioral Genetics
Cognitive Developmental Theory
Developmental Systems
General laws of learning explain behavior in every situation at every time in life. It is vital to chart only measurable, observable responses. Developmentalists cannot study feelings and thoughts because inner experiences cannot be observed.
People learn by watching others. Our thoughts about the reinforcers determine our behavior.
Actions are dominated by feelings that we are not aware of. The roots of emotional problems lay in repressed feelings from early childhood. Self-understanding is the key to living a fulfilling adult life. Structures of the mind include the id, ego, and superego.
Being closely connected to a caregiver during early childhood is crucial to survival. Being attached to a significant other during the entire lifespan is important for survival.
Inborn, species-specific behaviors are contributors to human development and life.
Emphasis is on scientifically studying the role that hereditary forces play in determining individual differences in behavior.
There are eight stages in lifespan development. Each stage of development has a social crisis that must be mastered for optimal development.
From infancy to adolescence, children progress through four qualitatively different stages of intellectual growth.
Stresses the need to embrace a variety of theories in explaining development. All systems and processes interrelate.

1.2 Something to Consider

Regarding the age-old question of nature versus nurture, developmentalists now understand that nature and nurture are not independent of one another. Our genetic tendencies shape our wider-world experiences. Evocative forces refer to the fact that our inborn talents and temperamental tendencies produce certain responses from the world. Human relationships are bidirectional. Who we are as people causes other people to react to us in specific ways, driving our development for the good and the bad. Active forces refer to the fact that we actively select our environments based on our genetic tendencies. Because we choose activities to fit our biologically based interests and skills, what start out as minor differences between people in early childhood end up as huge gaps in talents and traits in adulthood (Scarr, 1997). Also, how genetic traits are expressed is dependent on environmental forces (Flynn, 2007; Pinker, 2011). Therefore, in order to promote our optimal potential we need the best person-environment fit.

People use theories almost daily in an attempt to understand human life and behavior. Theories attempt to explain what causes us to act as we do. They may allow us to predict the future. Ideally, they give us information about how to improve the quality of life.

What theory do you find most consistent with your views?


Flynn, J. R. (2007). What is intelligence? Beyond the Flynn effect. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. New York: Viking.

Scarr, S. (1997). Behavior-genetic and socialization theories of intelligence: Truce and reconciliation. In R. J. Sternberg & E. Grigorenko (Eds.), Intelligence, heredity, and environment (pp. 3–41). New York: Cambridge University Press.