A History of Developmental Psychology in Autobiography

By Dennis Thompson; John D. Hogano | Go to book overview

8
Lewis P. Lipsitt

Prologue

I do not think I have it in me to write a chapter with a whole lot of sentences beginning with "I," but apparently I cannot help myself. Writing this piece is an experience like so many other risk-taking ventures in my life. I am approaching this task with great trepidation. I know I often do not do things quite like most others. With rather a lot of anxiety and with some anticipation of pride at the end of the arduous and onerous response chain, I have accepted this challenge, knowing full well I don't have time to do it, for I have agreed, characteristically, to do too many things at once.

If I make it to the end of my task having satisfied some aspect of my inner yearnings for self-understanding and historical veritude, as from finding some obscure truth (or even an inconsequential fact!), then I will be delighted with the accomplishment and will have a sense of fulfilling closure. That "rush" is what I often find myself working for. It charges my imagination and provides the motivational power to barge ahead, even (sometimes) in the face of danger to my personhood.

I have come to understand in recent years that in different phases of my scientific life I have been especially concerned with and have focused my attention on behavioral and developmental phenomena that have been of special concern to me in rather personal ways: (1) the effect of birth risk factors on later development; (2) the instrumental role of behavioral factors in survival, even of babies; (3) the effects of delayed reward on performance; (4) the origins and consequences of prejudicial behavior, including false accusation; (5) the hedonic origins of basic approach and avoidance behaviors; (6) the life-span consequences of the pleasures and annoyances of sensation; (7) the origins of developmental delays and debilities, particularly learning disabilities, and, do I dare say it; (8) the ontogeny of danger-seeking or risk-taking behavior.

Each of the above themes has impinged on my own life history in ways that are interesting to me and have provided some of my motivation to study them. Fear of smothering, crib death, adolescent suicide, and, more generally, the role of behavioral misadventures in human life destinies have occupied much of my intellectual and professional life as scientist and administrator. I do understand that this creates the appearance of a person walking, in some respects, on the dark side.

-137-

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