Developmental Psychobiology: The Significance of Infancy

By Lewis P. Lipsitt | Go to book overview

Comments on "Infancy, Biology, and Culture"

Joseph J. Campos

In the last few years, developmental psychologists have been utilizing the heuristic procedure of reconceptualizing the direction of causality in some important psychological propositions. Three recent examples immediately come to mind. In the field of parent-child relations, child psychologists had always assumed that a child's behavior was a function of that of his parents. However, in 1968, Bell presented evidence to indicate that at least some parental behaviors were directly instigated by the behavior of their children. In perceptual development, most of us had learned to accept the hypothesis that the sense of touch was developmentally primary and that we learned to see form and depth by association of vision with touch. Now Bower ( 1974) has begun to investigate how it may be vision that is developmentally primary, that is, how it is dominant over touch even in the very young infant. In the field of learning, ethologists have taken studies of conditioning of the smile in the infant and have concluded that the smile may not be so much a function of reinforcing social consequences as elicited by them.

Freedman seems to adopt a similar strategy to reconceptualize one aspect of the persistent nature-nurture controversy. He presents evidence that culture, an ultimate explanatory construct of the nurturists, may well be determined by the genetic traits that a newborn brings to the world, traits that result from selective inbreeding in racial subgroups, such as Chinese-American and European-American subjects. In the battle between the nativists and empiricists, this argument constitutes an attack behind the front lines of the empiricists, it seems to me.

Freedman's argument is ingenious and plausible. Nevertheless, some aspects of it require much supporting research before it can be given great

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