Sensitive Periods in Development: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Sensitive Periods in Development: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Sensitive Periods in Development: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Sensitive Periods in Development: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Excerpt

Despite its contemporary diversity and high degree of specialization, psychology embraces many phenomena that are of interest across subdisciplines largely because of the generality and ubiquity of those phenomena. The sensitive period is one. Sensitivity to different kinds of experience varies over the life cycle of an organism. It has been found time and again and in widely different structural and functional systems that the presence or absence of certain experiences at particular times in the life span influences that system well beyond the time that they first occur. Examples of sensitive period effects may be found in neurobiology, animal behavior, and human development. Monocular deprivation during a sensitive period in the development of vision in the kitten results in anatomical degeneration of visual pathways innervated by the deprived eye and a concomitant domination of cortical physiology by the nondeprived eye. Likewise, deprivation of "contact comfort" during a sensitive period in the first year of life in rhesus monkey results in maladjustment of normal mature social behaviors. Similarly, inculcation of a "sense of trust" in the sensitive infancy period of human development is theorized to be critical to the differentiation of a healthy adult personality.

This range of application notwithstanding, several common issues about sensitive periods arise across subfields, as sensitive periods have been found to share several characteristics. They include: (a) the need for operationalization of parameters and the dissociation of sensitive periods from other continuous developmental sequences; (b) genetic preparation and constraints versus environmental controls over sensitive periods; (c) temporal features of sensitive periods, including age of onset and offset, duration, and . . .

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