Developmental Psychobiology: The Significance of Infancy

By Lewis P. Lipsitt | Go to book overview

6 Three Themes in Develomental Psychobiology

Jerome Kagan

Harvard University

The eras of an intellectual discipline are delineated by sets of central questions, each yoked to preferred methods of inquiry. Some questions are answered, if only temporarily; many are discarded because they were improperly framed; most are reworded to accommodate to new information. Physicists know why eclipses occur, do not worry about the "aether," and attempt to determine the number of basic particles rather than define an atom.

Psychologists too, have answered, discarded, or rephrased questions during the short history of the discipline. We now have some insight into the nature of color vision, do not ask about the essence of will, and probe the conditions that monitor the performance of a coherent set of actions rather than seek the intrinsic meaning of reinforcement. Developmental psychologists, in a field with an even shorter history, have clarified some puzzles that provoked brooding among sixteenth century scholars. Infants apparently see hues as adults ( Bornstein, 1975) and are afraid of events they do not understand ( Kagan, 1976). We have stopped looking for the spirits that bewitch infants, and have begun to substitute statements about the developmental course of specific competences in task contexts for principles about intelligence.

One of the most vital changes in perspective regards the role of experience. We used to ask, "How does experience alter the child's behavior?" because we assumed that all experience had some effect on the young child. We now entertain the possibility that maturational constraints

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Developmental Psychobiology: The Significance of Infancy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Contributors ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Heart Rate: A Sensitive Tool for the Study of Emotional Development in the Infant 1
  • Acknowledgments 26
  • References 26
  • Comments on "Heart Rate: A Sensitive Tool for the Study of Emotional Development in the Infant" 32
  • References 34
  • 2: Infancy, Biology, and Culture 35
  • References 53
  • Comments on "Infancy, Biology, and Culture" 55
  • References 57
  • 3: Genetic Determinants of Infant Development: An Overstated Case 59
  • References 77
  • Comments on "Genetic Determinants of Infant Development: An Overstated Case" 80
  • References 85
  • 4: From Reflexive to Instrumental Behavior 87
  • Acknowledgments 103
  • References 103
  • Comments on "From Reflexive to Instrumental Behavior" 105
  • References 106
  • A Reply to Freedman 107
  • References 108
  • 5: Developmental Psychobiology Comes of Age: A Discussion 109
  • References 126
  • 6: Three Themes in Develomental Psychobiology 129
  • References 137
  • Author Index 139
  • Topical Index 143
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