Lesson 3.3: Developmental Theories
Dr. C. George Boeree
Abraham Harold Maslow was born April 1, 1908 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the first of seven children born to his parents, who themselves were uneducated Jewish immigrants from Russia. His parents, hoping for the best for their children in the new world, pushed him hard for academic success. Not surprisingly, he became very lonely as a boy, and found his refuge in books.
To satisfy his parents, he first studied law at the City College of New York (CCNY). After three semesters, he transferred to Cornell, and then back to CCNY. He married Bertha Goodman, his first cousin, against his parents wishes. Abe and Bertha went on to have two daughters.
He and Bertha moved to Wisconsin so that he could attend the University of Wisconsin. Here, he became interested in psychology, and his school work began to improve dramatically. He spent time there working with Harry Harlow, who is famous for his experiments with baby rhesus monkeys and attachment behavior.
He received his BA in 1930, his MA in 1931, and his PhD in 1934, all in psychology, all from the University of Wisconsin. A year after graduation, he returned to New York to work with E. L. Thorndike at Columbia, where Maslow became interested in research on human sexuality.
He began teaching full time at Brooklyn College. During this period of his life, he came into contact with the many European intellectuals that were immigrating to the US, and Brooklyn in particular, at that time -- people like Adler, Fromm, Horney, as well as several Gestalt and Freudian psychologists.
In 1951, Maslow served as the chair of the psychology department at Brandeis for 10 years, where he met Kurt Goldstein (who introduced him to the idea of self-actualization) and began his own theoretical work. It was also here that he began his crusade for a humanistic psychology -- something ultimately much more important to him than his own theorizing.
One of the many interesting things Maslow noticed while he worked with monkeys early in his career, was that some needs take precedence over others. For example, if you are hungry and thirsty, you will tend to try to take care of the thirst first. After all, you can do without food for weeks, but you can only do without water for a couple of days! Thirst is a “stronger” need than hunger. Likewise, if you are very very thirsty, but someone has put a choke hold on you and you can’t breath, which is more important? The need to breathe, of course. On the other hand, sex is less powerful than any of these. Let’s face it, you won’t die if you don’t get it!
Maslow took this idea and created his now famous hierarchy of needs. Beyond the details of air, water, food, and sex, he laid out five broader layers: the physiological needs, the needs for safety and security, the needs for love and belonging, the needs for esteem, and the need to actualize the self, in that order.
1. The physiological needs. These include the needs we have for oxygen, water, protein, salt, sugar, calcium, and other minerals and vitamins. They also include the need to maintain a pH balance (getting too acidic or base will kill you) and temperature (98.6 or near to it). Also, there’s the needs to be active, to rest, to sleep, to get rid of wastes (CO2, sweat, urine, and feces), to avoid pain, and to have sex. Quite a collection!
Maslow believed, and research supports him, that these are in fact individual needs, and that a lack of, say, vitamin C, will lead to a very specific hunger for things which have in the past provided that vitamin C -- e.g. orange juice. I guess the cravings that some pregnant women have, and the way in which babies eat the most foul tasting baby food, support the idea anecdotally.
2. The safety and security needs. When the physiological needs are largely taken care of, this second layer of needs comes into play. You will become increasingly interested in finding safe circumstances, stability, protection. You might develop a need for structure, for order, some limits.
Looking at it negatively, you become concerned, not with needs like hunger and thirst, but with your fears and anxieties. In the ordinary American adult, this set of needs manifest themselves in the form of our urges to have a home in a safe neighborhood, a little job security and a nest egg, a good retirement plan and a bit of insurance, and so on.
3. The love and belonging needs. When physiological needs and safety needs are, by and large, taken care of, a third layer starts to show up. You begin to feel the need for friends, a sweetheart, children, affectionate relationships in general, even a sense of community. Looked at negatively, you become increasing susceptible to loneliness and social anxieties.
In our day-to-day life, we exhibit these needs in our desires to marry, have a family, be a part of a community, a member of a church, a brother in the fraternity, a part of a gang or a bowling club. It is also a part of what we look for in a career.
4. The esteem needs. Next, we begin to look for a little self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one. The lower one is the need for the respect of others, the need for status, fame, glory, recognition, attention, reputation, appreciation, dignity, even dominance. The higher form involves the need for self-respect, including such feelings as confidence, competence, achievement, mastery, independence, and freedom. Note that this is the “higher” form because, unlike the respect of others, once you have self-respect, it’s a lot harder to lose!
The negative version of these needs is low self-esteem and inferiority complexes. Maslow felt that Adler was really onto something when he proposed that these were at the roots of many, if not most, of our psychological problems. In modern countries, most of us have what we need in regard to our physiological and safety needs. We, more often than not, have quite a bit of love and belonging, too. It’s a little respect that often seems so very hard to get!
All of the preceding four levels he calls deficit needs, or D-needs. If you don’t have enough of something -- i.e. you have a deficit -- you feel the need. But if you get all you need, you feel nothing at all! In other words, they cease to be motivating. As the old blues song goes, “you don’t miss your water till your well runs dry!”
He also talks about these levels in terms of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the principle by which your furnace thermostat operates: When it gets too cold, it switches the heat on; When it gets too hot, it switches the heat off. In the same way, your body, when it lacks a certain substance, develops a hunger for it; When it gets enough of it, then the hunger stops. Maslow simply extends the homeostatic principle to needs, such as safety, belonging, and esteem, that we don’t ordinarily think of in these terms.
Maslow sees all these needs as essentially survival needs. Even love and esteem are needed for the maintenance of health. He says we all have these needs built in to us genetically, like instincts. In fact, he calls them instinctoid -- instinct-like -- needs.
In terms of overall development, we move through these levels a bit like stages. As newborns, our focus (if not our entire set of needs) is on the physiological. Soon, we begin to recognize that we need to be safe. Soon after that, we crave attention and affection. A bit later, we look for self-esteem. Mind you, this is in the first couple of years!
Under stressful conditions, or when survival is threatened, we can “regress” to a lower need level. When you great career falls flat, you might seek out a little attention. When your family ups and leaves you, it seems that love is again all you ever wanted. When you face chapter eleven after a long and happy life, you suddenly can’t think of anything except money.
These things can occur on a society-wide basis as well: When society suddenly flounders, people start clamoring for a strong leader to take over and make things right. When the bombs start falling, they look for safety. When the food stops coming into the stores, their needs become even more basic.
Maslow suggested that we can ask people for their “philosophy of the future” -- what would their ideal life or world be like -- and get significant information as to what needs they do or do not have covered.
If you have significant problems along your development -- a period of extreme insecurity or hunger as a child, or the loss of a family member through death or divorce, or significant neglect or abuse -- you may “fixate” on that set of needs for the rest of your life.
This is Maslow’s understanding of neurosis. Perhaps you went through a war as a kid. Now you have everything your heart needs -- yet you still find yourself obsessing over having enough money and keeping the pantry well-stocked. Or perhaps your parents divorced when you were young. Now you have a wonderful spouse -- yet you get insanely jealous or worry constantly that they are going to leave you because you are not “good enough” for them. You get the picture.
The last level is a bit different. Maslow has used a variety of terms to refer to this level: He has called it growth motivation (in contrast to deficit motivation), being needs (or B-needs, in contrast to D-needs), and self-actualization.
These are needs that do not involve balance or homeostasis. Once engaged, they continue to be felt. In fact, they are likely to become stronger as we “feed” them! They involve the continuous desire to fulfill potentials, to “be all that you can be.” They are a matter of becoming the most complete, the fullest, “you” -- hence the term, self-actualization.
Now, in keeping with his theory up to this point, if you want to be truly self-actualizing, you need to have your lower needs taken care of, at least to a considerable extent. This makes sense: If you are hungry, you are scrambling to get food; If you are unsafe, you have to be continuously on guard; If you are isolated and unloved, you have to satisfy that need; If you have a low sense of self-esteem, you have to be defensive or compensate. When lower needs are unmet, you can’t fully devote yourself to fulfilling your potentials.
It isn’t surprising, then, the world being as difficult as it is, that only a small percentage of the world’s population is truly, predominantly, self-actualizing. Maslow at one point suggested only about two percent!
The question becomes, of course, what exactly does Maslow mean by self-actualization. To answer that, we need to look at the kind of people he called self-actualizers. Fortunately, he did this for us.
He began by picking out a group of people, some historical figures, some people he knew, whom he felt clearly met the standard of self-actualization. Included in this august group were people like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, William James, Benedict Spinoza, and others. He then looked at their biographies, writings, the acts and words of those he knew personally, and so on. From these sources, he developed a list of qualities that seemed characteristic of these people, as opposed to the great mass of us.
These people were reality-centered, which means they could differentiate what is fake and dishonest from what is real and genuine. They were problem-centered, meaning they treated life’s difficulties as problems demanding solutions, not as personal troubles to be railed at or surrendered to. And they had a different perception of means and ends. They felt that the ends don’t necessarily justify the means, that the means could be ends themselves, and that the means -- the journey -- was often more important than the ends.
The self-actualizers also had a different way of relating to others. First, they had a need for privacy, and were comfortable being alone. They were relatively independent of culture and environment, relying instead on their own experiences and judgments. And they resisted enculturation, that is, they were not susceptible to social pressure -- they were, in fact, nonconformists in the best sense.
Further, they had what Maslow called democratic values, meaning that they were open to ethnic and individual variety, even treasuring it. They had the quality called Gemeinschaftsgefühl -- social interest, compassion, humanity. And they enjoyed intimate personal relations with a few close friends and family members, rather than more shallow relationships with many people.
They had an unhostile sense of humor -- preferring to joke at their own expense, or at the human condition, and never directing their humor at others. They had a quality he called acceptance of self and others, by which he meant that these people would be more likely to take you as you are than try to change you into what they thought you should be. This same acceptance applied to their attitudes towards themselves: If some quality of theirs wasn’t harmful, they let it be, even enjoying it as a personal quirk. Along with this comes spontaneity and simplicity: They preferred being themselves rather than being pretentious or artificial. In fact, for all their nonconformity, he found that they tended to be conventional on the surface, just where less self-actualizing nonconformists tend to be the most dramatic.
And these people had a certain freshness of appreciation, an ability to see things, even ordinary things, with wonder. Along with this comes their ability to be creative, inventive, and original. And, finally, these people tended to have more peak experiences than the average person. A peak experience is one that takes you out of yourself, that makes you feel very tiny, or very large, to some extent one with life or nature or God. It gives you a feeling of being a part of the infinite and the eternal. These experiences tend to leave their mark on a person, change them for the better, and many people actively seek them out. They are also called mystical experiences, and are an important part of many religious and philosophical traditions.
Maslow doesn’t think that self-actualizers are perfect, of course. There were several flaws or imperfections he discovered along the way as well: First, they often suffered considerable anxiety and guilt -- but realistic anxiety and guilt, rather than misplaced or neurotic versions. Some of them were absentminded and overly kind. And finally, some of them had unexpected moments of ruthlessness, surgical coldness, and loss of humor.
1902 - 1994
By: Dr. C. George Boeree
Erik Erikson was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 15, 1902. There is a little mystery about his heritage: His biological father was an unnamed Danish man who abandoned Erik's mother before he was born. His mother, Karla Abrahamsen, was a young Jewish woman who raised him alone for the first three years of his life. She then married Dr. Theodor Homberger, who was Erik's pediatrician, and moved to Karlsruhe in southern Germany.
We cannot pass over this little piece of biography without some comment: The development of identity seems to have been one of his greatest concerns in Erikson's own life as well as in his theory. During his childhood, and his early adulthood, he was Erik Homberger, and his parents kept the details of his birth a secret. So here he was, a tall, blond, blue-eyed boy who was also Jewish. At temple school, the kids teased him for being Nordic; at grammar school, they teased him for being Jewish.
After graduating high school, Erik focussed on becoming an artist. When not taking art classes, he wandered around Europe, visiting museums and sleeping under bridges. He was living the life of the carefree rebel, long before it became "the thing to do."
When he was 25, his friend Peter Blos -- a fellow artist and, later, psychoanalyst -- suggested he apply for a teaching position at an experimental school for American students run by Dorothy Burlingham, a friend of Anna Freud. Besides teaching art, he gathered a certificate in Montessori education and one from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. He was psychoanalyzed by Anna Freud herself.
While there, he also met Joan Serson, a Canadian dance teacher at the school. They went on the have three children, one of whom became a sociologist himself.
With the Nazis coming into power, they left Vienna, first for Copenhagen, then to Boston. Erikson was offered a position at the Harvard Medical School and practiced child psychoanalysis privately. During this time, he met psychologists like Henry Murray and Kurt Lewin, and anthropologists like Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Gregory Bateson. I think it can be safely said that these anthropologists had nearly as great an effect on Erikson as Sigmund and Anna Freud!
He later taught at Yale, and later still at the University of California at Berkeley. It was during this period of time that he did his famous studies of modern life among the Lakota and the Yurok.
When he became an American citizen, he officially changed his name to Erik Erikson. No-one seems to know where he got the name!
In 1950, he wrote Childhood and Society, which contained summaries of his studies among the native Americans, analyses of Maxim Gorkiy and Adolph Hitler, a discussion of the "American personality," and the basic outline of his version of Freudian theory. These themes -- the influence of culture on personality and the analysis of historical figures -- were repeated in other works, one of which, Gandhi's Truth, won him the Pulitzer Prize and the national Book Award.
In 1950, during Senator Joseph McCarthy's reign of terror, Erikson left Berkeley when professors there were asked to sign "loyalty oaths." He spent ten years working and teaching at a clinic in Massachussets, and ten years more back at Harvard. Since retiring in 1970, he wrote and did research with his wife. He died in 1994.
The first stage
The first stage, infancy or the oral-sensory stage, is approximately the first year or year and a half of life. The task is to develop trust without completely eliminating the capacity for mistrust.
If mom and dad can give the newborn a degree of familiarity, consistency, and continuity, then the child will develop the feeling that the world -- especially the social world -- is a safe place to be, that people are reliable and loving. Through the parents' responses, the child also learns to trust his or her own body and the biological urges that go with it.
If the parents are unreliable and inadequate, if they reject the infant or harm it, if other interests cause both parents to turn away from the infants needs to satisfy their own instead, then the infant will develop mistrust. He or she will be apprehensive and suspicious around people.
Please understand that this doesn't mean that the parents have to be perfect. In fact, parents who are overly protective of the child, are there the minute the first cry comes out, will lead that child into the maladaptive tendency Erikson calls sensory maladjustment: Overly trusting, even gullible, this person cannot believe anyone would mean them harm, and will use all the defenses at their command to retain their pollyanna perspective.
Worse, of course, is the child whose balance is tipped way over on the mistrust side: They will develop the malignant tendency of withdrawal, characterized by depression, paranoia, and possibly psychosis.
If the proper balance is achieved, the child will develop the virtue hope, the strong belief that, even when things are not going well, they will work out well in the end. One of the signs that a child is doing well in the first stage is when the child isn't overly upset by the need to wait a moment for the satisfaction of his or her needs: Mom or dad don't have to be perfect; I trust them enough to believe that, if they can't be here immediately, they will be here soon; Things may be tough now, but they will work out. This is the same ability that, in later life, gets us through disappointments in love, our careers, and many other domains of life.
The task is to achieve a degree of autonomy while minimizing shame and doubt.
If mom and dad (and the other care-takers that often come into the picture at this point) permit the child, now a toddler, to explore and manipulate his or her environment, the child will develop a sense of autonomy or independence. The parents should not discourage the child, but neither should they push. A balance is required. People often advise new parents to be "firm but tolerant" at this stage, and the advice is good. This way, the child will develop both self-control and self-esteem.
On the other hand, it is rather easy for the child to develop instead a sense of shame and doubt. If the parents come down hard on any attempt to explore and be independent, the child will soon give up with the assumption that cannot and should not act on their own. We should keep in mind that even something as innocent as laughting at the toddler's efforts can lead the child to feel deeply ashamed, and to doubt his or her abilities.
And there are other ways to lead children to shame and doubt: If you give children unrestricted freedom and no sense of limits, or if you try to help children do what they should learn to do for themselves, you will also give them the impression that they are not good for much. If you aren't patient enough to wait for your child to tie his or her shoe-laces, your child will never learn to tie them, and will assume that this is too difficult to learn!
Nevertheless, a little "shame and doubt" is not only inevitable, but beneficial. Without it, you will develop the maladaptive tendency Erikson calls impulsiveness, a sort of shameless willfulness that leads you, in later childhood and even adulthood, to jump into things without proper consideration of your abilities.
Worse, of course, is too much shame and doubt, which leads to the malignancy Erikson calls compulsiveness. The compulsive person feels as if their entire being rides on everything they do, and so everything must be done perfectly. Following all the rules precisely keeps you from mistakes, and mistakes must be avoided at all costs. Many of you know how it feels to always be ashamed and always doubt yourself. A little more patience and tolerance with your own children may help them avoid your path. And give yourself a little slack, too!
If you get the proper, positive balance of autonomy and shame and doubt, you will develop the virtue of willpower or determination. One of the most admirable -- and frustrating -- thing about two- and three-year-olds is their determination. "Can do" is their motto. If we can preserve that "can do" attitude (with appropriate modesty to balance it) we are much better off as adults.
From three or four to five or six, the task confronting every child is to learn initiative without too much guilt.
Initiative means a positive response to the world's challenges, taking on responsibilities, learning new skills, feeling purposeful. Parents can encourage initiative by encouraging children to try out their ideas. We should accept and encourage fantasy and curiosity and imagination. This is a time for play, not for formal education. The child is now capable, as never before, of imagining a future situation, one that isn't a reality right now. Initiative is the attempt to make that non-reality a reality.
But if children can imagine the future, if they can plan, then they can be responsible as well, and guilty. If my two-year-old flushes my watch down the toilet, I can safely assume that there were no "evil intentions." It was just a matter of a shiny object going round and round and down. What fun! But if my five year old does the same thing... well, she should know what's going to happen to the watch, what's going to happen to daddy's temper, and what's going to happen to her! She can be guilty of the act, and she can begin to feel guilty as well. The capacity for moral judgement has arrived.
Erikson is, of course, a Freudian, and as such, he includes the Oedipal experience in this stage. From his perspective, the Oedipal crisis involves the reluctance a child feels in relinquishing his or her closeness to the opposite sex parent. A parent has the responsibility, socially, to enourage the child to "grow up -- you're not a baby anymore!" But if this process is done too harshly and too abruptly, the child learns to feel guilty about his or her feelings.
Too much initiative and too little guilt means a maladaptive tendency Erikson calls ruthlessness. The ruthless person takes the initiative alright; They have their plans, whether it's a matter of school or romance or politics or career. It's just that they don't care who they step on to achieve their goals. The goals are everything, and guilty feelings are for the weak. The extreme form of ruthlessess is sociopathy.
Ruthlessness is bad for others, but actually relatively easy on the ruthless person. Harder on the person is the malignancy of too much guilt, which Erikson calls inhibition. The inhibited person will not try things because "nothing ventured, nothing lost" and, particularly, nothing to feel guilty about. On the sexual, Oedipal, side, the inhibited person may be impotent or frigid.
A good balance leads to the psychosocial strength of purpose. A sense of purpose is something many people crave in their lives, yet many do not realize that they themselves make their purposes, through imagination and initiative. I think an even better word for this virtue would have been courage, the capacity for action despite a clear understanding of your limitations and past failings.
The task is to develop a capacity for industry while avoiding an excessive sense of inferiority. Children must "tame the imagination" and dedicate themselves to education and to learning the social skills their society requires of them.
There is a much broader social sphere at work now: The parents and other family members are joined by teachers and peers and other members of he community at large. They all contribute: Parents must encourage, teachers must care, peers must accept. Children must learn that there is pleasure not only in conceiving a plan, but in carrying it out. They must learn the feeling of success, whether it is in school or on the playground, academic or social.
A good way to tell the difference between a child in the third stage and one in the fourth stage is to look at the way they play games. Four-year-olds may love games, but they will have only a vague understanding of the rules, may change them several times during the course of the game, and be very unlikely to actually finish the game, unless it is by throwing the pieces at their opponents. A seven-year-old, on the other hand, is dedicated to the rules, considers them pretty much sacred, and is more likely to get upset if the game is not allowed to come to its required conclusion.
If the child is allowed too little success, because of harsh teachers or rejecting peers, for example, then he or she will develop instead a sense of inferiority or incompetence. An additional source of inferiority Erikson mentions is racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination: If a child believes that success is related to who you are rather than to how hard you try, then why try?
Too much industry leads to the maladaptive tendency called narrow virtuosity. We see this in children who aren't allowed to "be children," the ones that parents or teachers push into one area of competence, without allowing the development of broader interests. These are the kids without a life: child actors, child athletes, child musicians, child prodigies of all sorts. We all admire their industry, but if we look a little closer, it's all that stands in the way of an empty life.
Much more common is the malignancy called inertia. This includes all of us who suffer from the "inferiority complexes" Alfred Adler talked about. If at first you don't succeed, don't ever try again! Many of us didn't do well in mathematics, for example, so we'd die before we took another math class. Others were humiliated instead in the gym class, so we never try out for a sport or play a game of raquetball. Others never developed social skills -- the most important skills of all -- and so we never go out in public. We become inert.
A happier thing is to develop the right balance of industry and inferiority -- that is, mostly industry with just a touch of inferiority to keep us sensibly humble. Then we have the virtue called competency.
Stage five is adolescence, beginning with puberty and ending around 18 or 20 years old. The task during adolescence is to achieve ego identity and avoid role confusion. It was adolescence that interested Erikson first and most, and the patterns he saw here were the bases for his thinking about all the other stages.
Ego identity means knowing who you are and how you fit in to the rest of society. It requires that you take all you've learned about life and yourself and mold it into a unified self-image, one that your community finds meaningful.
There are a number of things that make things easier: First, we should have a mainstream adult culture that is worthy of the adolescent's respect, one with good adult role models and open lines of communication.
Further, society should provide clear rites of passage, certain accomplishments and rituals that help to distinguish the adult from the child. In primitive and traditional societies, an adolescent boy may be asked to leave the village for a period of time to live on his own, hunt some symbolic animal, or seek an inspirational vision. Boys and girls may be required to go through certain tests of endurance, symbolic ceremonies, or educational events. In one way or another, the distinction between the powerless, but irresponsible, time of childhood and the powerful and responsible time of adulthood, is made clear.
Without these things, we are likely to see role confusion, meaning an uncertainty about one's place in society and the world. When an adolescent is confronted by role confusion, Erikson say he or she is suffering from an identity crisis. In fact, a common question adolescents in our society ask is a straight-forward question of identity: "Who am I?"
One of Erikson's suggestions for adolescence in our society is the psychosocial moratorium. He suggests you take a little "time out." If you have money, go to Europe. If you don't, bum around the U.S. Quit school and get a job. Quit your job and go to school. Take a break, smell the roses, get to know yourself. We tend to want to get to "success" as fast as possible, and yet few of us have ever taken the time to figure out what success means to us. A little like the young Oglala Lakota, perhaps we need to dream a little.
There is such a thing as too much "ego identity," where a person is so involved in a particular role in a particular society or subculture that there is no room left for tolerance. Erikson calls this maladaptive tendency fanaticism. A fanatic believes that his way is the only way. Adolescents are, of course, known for their idealism, and for their tendency to see things in black-and-white. These people will gather others around them and promote their beliefs and life-styles without regard to others' rights to disagree.
The lack of identity is perhaps more difficult still, and Erikson refers to the malignant tendency here as repudiation. They repudiate their membership in the world of adults and, even more, they repudiate their need for an identity. Some adolescents allow themselves to "fuse" with a group, especially the kind of group that is particularly eager to provide the details of your identity: religious cults, militaristic organizations, groups founded on hatred, groups that have divorced themselves from the painful demands of mainstream society. They may become involved in destructive activities, drugs, or alcohol, or you may withdraw into their own psychotic fantasies. After all, being "bad" or being "nobody" is better than not knowing who you are!
If you successfully negotiate this stage, you will have the virtue Erikson called fidelity. Fidelity means loyalty, the ability to live by societies standards despite their imperfections and incompleteness and inconsistencies. We are not talking about blind loyalty, and we are not talking about accepting the imperfections. After all, if you love your community, you will want to see it become the best it can be. But fidelity means that you have found a place in that community, a place that will allow you to contribute.
If you have made it this far, you are in the stage of young adulthood, which lasts from about 18 to about 30. The ages in the adult stages are much fuzzier than in the childhood stages, and people may differ dramatically. The task is to achieve some degree of intimacy, as opposed to remaining in isolation.
Intimacy is the ability to be close to others, as a lover, a friend, and as a participant in society. Because you have a clear sense of who you are, you no longer need to fear "losing" yourself, as many adolescents do. The "fear of commitment" some people seem to exhibit is an example of immaturity in this stage. This fear isn't always so obvious. Many people today are always putting off the progress of their relationships: I'll get married (or have a family, or get involved in important social issues) as soon as I finish school, as soon as I have a job, as soon as I have a house, as soon as.... If you've been engaged for the last ten years, what's holding you back?
Neither should the young adult need to prove him- or herself anymore. A teenage relationship is often a matter of trying to establish identity through "couple-hood." Who am I? I'm her boy-friend. The young adult relationship should be a matter of two independent egos wanting to create something larger than themselves. We intuitively recognize this when we frown on a relationship between a young adult and a teenager: We see the potential for manipulation of the younger member of the party by the older.
Our society hasn't done much for young adults, either. The emphasis on careers, the isolation of urban living, the splitting apart of relationships because of our need for mobility, and the general impersonal nature of modern life prevent people from naturally developing their intimate relationships. I am typical of many people in having moved dozens of times in my life. I haven't the faintest idea what has happened to the kids I grew up with, or even my college buddies. My oldest friend lives a thousand miles away. I live where I do out of career necessity and feel no real sense of community.
Before I get too depressing, let me mention that many of you may not have had these experiences. If you grew up and stayed in your community, and especially if your community is a rural one, you are much more likely to have deep, long-lasting friendships, to have married your high school sweetheart, and to feel a great love for your community. But this style of life is quickly becoming an anachronism.
Erikson calls the maladaptive form promiscuity, refering particularly to the tendency to become intimate too freely, too easily, and without any depth to your intimacy. This can be true of your relationships with friends and neighbors and your whole community as well as with lovers.
The malignancy he calls exclusion, which refers to the tendency to isolate oneself from love, friendship, and community, and to develop a certain hatefulness in compensation for one's loneliness.
If you successfully negotiate this stage, you will instead carry with you for the rest of your life the virtue or psychosocial strength Erikson calls love. Love, in the context of his theory, means being able to put aside differences and antagonisms through "mutuality of devotion." It includes not only the love we find in a good marriage, but the love between friends and the love of one's neighbor, co-worker, and compatriot as well.
The seventh stage is that of middle adulthood. It is hard to pin a time to it, but it would include the period during which we are actively involved in raising children. For most people in our society, this would put it somewhere between the middle twenties and the late fifties. The task here is to cultivate the proper balance of generativity and stagnation.
Generativity is an extension of love into the future. It is a concern for the next generation and all future generations. As such, it is considerably less "selfish" than the intimacy of the previous stage: Intimacy, the love between lovers or friends, is a love between equals, and it is necessarily reciprocal. Oh, of course we love each other unselfishly, but the reality is such that, if the love is not returned, we don't consider it a true love. With generativity, that implicit expectation of reciprocity isn't there, at least not as strongly. Few parents expect a "return on their investment" from their children; If they do, we don't think of them as very good parents!
Although the majority of people practice generativity by having and raising children, there are many other ways as well. Erikson considers teaching, writing, invention, the arts and sciences, social activism, and generally contributing to the welfare of future generations to be generativity as well -- anything, in fact, that satisfies that old "need to be needed."
Stagnation, on the other hand, is self-absorption, caring for no-one. The stagnant person ceases to be a productive member of society. It is perhaps hard to imagine that we should have any "stagnation" in our lives, but the maladaptive tendency Erikson calls overextension illustrates the problem: Some people try to be so generative that they no longer allow time for themselves, for rest and relaxation. The person who is overextended no longer contributes well. I'm sure we all know someone who belongs to so many clubs, or is devoted to so many causes, or tries to take so many classes or hold so many jobs that they no longer have time for any of them!
More obvious, of course, is the malignant tendency of rejectivity. Too little generativity and too much stagnation and you are no longer participating in or contributing to society. And much of what we call "the meaning of life" is a matter of how we participate and what we contribute.
This is the stage of the "midlife crisis." Sometimes men and women take a look at their lives and ask that big, bad question "what am I doing for?" Notice the question carefully: Because their focus is on themselves, they ask what, rather then whom, they are doing it for. Inn their panic at getting older and not having experienced or accomplished what they imagined they would when they were younger, they try to recapture their youth. Men are often the most flambouyant examples: They leave their long-suffering wives, quit their humdrum jobs, buy some "hip" new clothes, and start hanging around singles bars. Of course, they seldom find what they are looking for, because they are looking for the wrong thing!
But if you are successful at this stage, you will have a capacity for caring that will serve you through the rest of your life.
This last stage, referred to delicately as late adulthood or maturity, or less delicately as old age, begins sometime around retirement, after the kids have gone, say somewhere around 60. Some older folks will protest and say it only starts when you feel old and so on, but that's an effect of our youth-worshipping culture, which has even old people avoiding any acknowledgement of age. In Erikson's theory, reaching this stage is a good thing, and not reaching it suggests that earlier problems retarded your development!
The task is to develop ego integrity with a minimal amount of despair. This stage, especially from the perspective of youth, seems like the most difficult of all. First comes a detachment from society, from a sense of usefulness, for most people in our culture. Some retire from jobs they've held for years; others find their duties as parents coming to a close; most find that their input is no longer requested or required.
Then there is a sense of biological uselessness, as the body no longer does everything it used to. Women go through a sometimes dramatic menopause; Men often find they can no longer "rise to the occasion." Then there are the illnesses of old age, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart problems, concerns about breast and ovarian and prostrate cancers. There come fears about things that one was never afraid of before -- the flu, for example, or just falling down.
Along with the illnesses come concerns of death. Friends die. Relatives die. One's spouse dies. It is, of course, certain that you, too, will have your turn. Faced with all this, it might seem like everyone would feel despair.
In response to this despair, some older people become preoccupied with the past. After all, that's where things were better. Some become preoccupied with their failures, the bad decisions they made, and regret that (unlike some in the previous stage) they really don't have the time or energy to reverse them. We find some older people become depressed, spiteful, paranoid, hypochondriacal, or developing the patterns of senility with or without physical bases.
Ego integrity means coming to terms with your life, and thereby coming to terms with the end of life. If you are able to look back and accept the course of events, the choices made, your life as you lived it, as being necessary, then you needn't fear death. Although most of you are not at this point in life, perhaps you can still sympathize by considering your life up to now. We've all made mistakes, some of them pretty nasty ones; Yet, if you hadn't made these mistakes, you wouldn't be who you are. If you had been very fortunate, or if you had played it safe and made very few mistakes, your life would not have been as rich as is.
The maladaptive tendency in stage eight is called presumption. This is what happens when a person "presumes" ego integrity without actually facing the difficulties of old age. The malignant tendency is called disdain, by which Erikson means a contempt of life, one's own or anyone's.
Someone who approaches death without fear has the strength Erikson calls wisdom. He calls it a gift to children, because "healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death." He suggests that a person must be somewhat gifted to be truly wise, but I would like to suggest that you understand "gifted" in as broad a fashion as possible: I have found that there are people of very modest gifts who have taught me a great deal, not by their wise words, but by their simple and gentle approach to life and death, by their "generosity of spirit."
B. F. SKINNER
1904 - 1990
Dr. C. George Boeree
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born March 20, 1904, in the small Pennsylvania town of Susquehanna. His father was a lawyer, and his mother a strong and intelligent housewife. His upbringing was old-fashioned and hard-working.
Burrhus was an active, out-going boy who loved the outdoors and building things, and actually enjoyed school. His life was not without its tragedies, however. In particular, his brother died at the age of 16 of a cerebral aneurysm.
Burrhus received his BA in English from Hamilton College in upstate New York. He didn’t fit in very well, not enjoying the fraternity parties or the football games. He wrote for school paper, including articles critical of the school, the faculty, and even Phi Beta Kappa! To top it off, he was an atheist -- in a school that required daily chapel attendance.
He wanted to be a writer and did try, sending off poetry and short stories. When he graduated, he built a study in his parents’ attic to concentrate, but it just wasn’t working for him.
Ultimately, he resigned himself to writing newspaper articles on labor problems, and lived for a while in Greenwich Village in New York City as a “bohemian.” After some traveling, he decided to go back to school, this time at Harvard. He got his masters in psychology in 1930 and his doctorate in 1931, and stayed there to do research until 1936.
Also in that year, he moved to Minneapolis to teach at the University of Minnesota. There he met and soon married Yvonne Blue. They had two daughters, the second of which became famous as the first infant to be raised in one of Skinner’s inventions, the air crib. Although it was nothing more than a combination crib and playpen with glass sides and air conditioning, it looked too much like keeping a baby in an aquarium to catch on.
In 1945, he became the chairman of the psychology department at Indiana University. In 1948, he was invited to come to Harvard, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was a very active man, doing research and guiding hundreds of doctoral candidates as well as writing many books. While not successful as a writer of fiction and poetry, he became one of our best psychology writers, including the book Walden II, which is a fictional account of a community run by his behaviorist principles.
August 18, 1990, B. F. Skinner died of leukemia after becoming perhaps the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud.
B. F. Skinner’s entire system is based on operant conditioning. The organism is in the process of “operating” on the environment, which in ordinary terms means it is bouncing around it world, doing what it does. During this “operating,” the organism encounters a special kind of stimulus, called a reinforcing stimulus, or simply a reinforcer. This special stimulus has the effect of increasing the operant -- that is, the behavior occurring just before the reinforcer. This is operant conditioning: “the behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the organisms tendency to repeat the behavior in the future.”
Imagine a rat in a cage. This is a special cage (called, in fact, a “Skinner box”) that has a bar or pedal on one wall that, when pressed, causes a little mechanism to release a foot pellet into the cage. The rat is bouncing around the cage, doing whatever it is rats do, when he accidentally presses the bar and -- hey, presto! -- a food pellet falls into the cage! The operant is the behavior just prior to the reinforcer, which is the food pellet, of course. In no time at all, the rat is furiously peddling away at the bar, hoarding his pile of pellets in the corner of the cage.
A behavior followed by a reinforcing stimulus results in an increased probability of that behavior occurring in the future.
What if you don’t give the rat any more pellets? Apparently, he’s no fool, and after a few futile attempts, he stops his bar-pressing behavior. This is called extinction of the operant behavior.
A behavior no longer followed by the reinforcing stimulus results in a decreased probability of that behavior occurring in the future.
Now, if you were to turn the pellet machine back on, so that pressing the bar again provides the rat with pellets, the behavior of bar-pushing will “pop” right back into existence, much more quickly than it took for the rat to learn the behavior the first time. This is because the return of the reinforcer takes place in the context of a reinforcement history that goes all the way back to the very first time the rat was reinforced for pushing on the bar!
Schedules of reinforcement
Skinner likes to tell about how he “accidentally -- i.e. operantly -- came across his various discoveries. For example, he talks about running low on food pellets in the middle of a study. Now, these were the days before “Purina rat chow” and the like, so Skinner had to make his own rat pellets, a slow and tedious task. So he decided to reduce the number of reinforcements he gave his rats for whatever behavior he was trying to condition, and, lo and behold, the rats kept up their operant behaviors, and at a stable rate, no less. This is how Skinner discovered schedules of reinforcement!
Continuous reinforcement is the original scenario: Every time that the rat does the behavior (such as pedal-pushing), he gets a rat goodie.
The fixed ratio schedule was the first one Skinner discovered: If the rat presses the pedal three times, say, he gets a goodie. Or five times. Or twenty times. Or “x” times. There is a fixed ratio between behaviors and reinforcers: 3 to 1, 5 to 1, 20 to 1, etc. This is a little like “piece rate” in the clothing manufacturing industry: You get paid so much for so many shirts.
The fixed interval schedule uses a timing device of some sort. If the rat presses the bar at least once during a particular stretch of time (say 20 seconds), then he gets a goodie. If he fails to do so, he doesn’t get a goodie. But even if he hits that bar a hundred times during that 20 seconds, he still only gets one goodie! One strange thing that happens is that the rats tend to “pace” themselves: They slow down the rate of their behavior right after the reinforcer, and speed up when the time for it gets close.
Skinner also looked at variable schedules. Variable ratio means you change the “x” each time -- first it takes 3 presses to get a goodie, then 10, then 1, then 7 and so on. Variable interval means you keep changing the time period -- first 20 seconds, then 5, then 35, then 10 and so on.
In both cases, it keeps the rats on their rat toes. With the variable interval schedule, they no longer “pace” themselves, because they no can no longer establish a “rhythm” between behavior and reward. Most importantly, these schedules are very resistant to extinction. It makes sense, if you think about it. If you haven’t gotten a reinforcer for a while, well, it could just be that you are at a particularly “bad” ratio or interval! Just one more bar press, maybe this’ll be the one!
This, according to Skinner, is the mechanism of gambling. You may not win very often, but you never know whether and when you’ll win again. It could be the very next time, and if you don’t roll them dice, or play that hand, or bet on that number this once, you’ll miss on the score of the century!
A question Skinner had to deal with was how we get to more complex sorts of behaviors. He responded with the idea of shaping, or “the method of successive approximations.” Basically, it involves first reinforcing a behavior only vaguely similar to the one desired. Once that is established, you look out for variations that come a little closer to what you want, and so on, until you have the animal performing a behavior that would never show up in ordinary life. Skinner and his students have been quite successful in teaching simple animals to do some quite extraordinary things. My favorite is teaching pigeons to bowl!
I used shaping on one of my daughters once. She was about three or four years old, and was afraid to go down a particular slide. So I picked her up, put her at the end of the slide, asked if she was okay and if she could jump down. She did, of course, and I showered her with praise. I then picked her up and put her a foot or so up the slide, asked her if she was okay, and asked her to slide down and jump off. So far so good. I repeated this again and again, each time moving her a little up the slide, and backing off if she got nervous. Eventually, I could put her at the top of the slide and she could slide all the way down and jump off. Unfortunately, she still couldn’t climb up the ladder, so I was a very busy father for a while.
This is the same method that is used in the therapy called systematic desensitization, invented by another behaviorist named Joseph Wolpe. A person with a phobia -- say of spiders -- would be asked to come up with ten scenarios involving spiders and panic of one degree or another. The first scenario would be a very mild one -- say seeing a small spider at a great distance outdoors. The second would be a little more scary, and so on, until the tenth scenario would involve something totally terrifying -- say a tarantula climbing on your face while you’re driving your car at a hundred miles an hour! The therapist will then teach you how to relax your muscles -- which is incompatible with anxiety. After you practice that for a few days, you come back and you and the therapist go through your scenarios, one step at a time, making sure you stay relaxed, backing off if necessary, until you can finally imagine the tarantula while remaining perfectly tension-free.
This is a technique quite near and dear to me because I did in fact have a spider phobia, and did in fact get rid of it with systematic desensitization. It worked so well that, after one session (beyond the original scenario-writing and muscle-training session) I could go out an pick up a daddy-long-legs. Cool.
Beyond these fairly simple examples, shaping also accounts for the most complex of behaviors. You don’t, for example, become a brain surgeon by stumbling into an operating theater, cutting open someone's head, successfully removing a tumor, and being rewarded with prestige and a hefty paycheck, along the lines of the rat in the Skinner box. Instead, you are gently shaped by your environment to enjoy certain things, do well in school, take a certain bio class, see a doctor movie perhaps, have a good hospital visit, enter med school, be encouraged to drift towards brain surgery as a speciality, and so on. This could be something your parents were carefully doing to you, ala a rat in a cage. But much more likely, this is something that was more or less unintentional.
An aversive stimulus is the opposite of a reinforcing stimulus, something we might find unpleasant or painful.
A behavior followed by an aversive stimulus results in a decreased probability of the behavior occurring in the future.
This both defines an aversive stimulus and describes the form of conditioning known as punishment. If you shock a rat for doing x, it’ll do a lot less of x. If you spank Johnny for throwing his toys he will throw his toys less and less (maybe).
On the other hand, if you remove an already active aversive stimulus after a rat or Johnny performs a certain behavior, you are doing negative reinforcement. If you turn off the electricity when the rat stands on his hind legs, he’ll do a lot more standing. If you stop your perpetually nagging when I finally take out the garbage, I’ll be more likely to take out the garbage (perhaps). You could say it “feels so good” when the aversive stimulus stops, that this serves as a reinforcer!
Behavior followed by the removal of an aversive stimulus results in an increased probability of that behavior occurring in the future.
Notice how difficult it can be to distinguish some forms of negative reinforcement from positive reinforcement: If I starve you, is the food I give you when you do what I want a positive -- i.e. a reinforcer? Or is it the removal of a negative -- i.e. the aversive stimulus of hunger?
Skinner (contrary to some stereotypes that have arisen about behaviorists) doesn’t “approve” of the use of aversive stimuli -- not because of ethics, but because they don’t work well! Notice that I said earlier that Johnny will maybe stop throwing his toys, and that I perhaps will take out the garbage? That’s because whatever was reinforcing the bad behaviors hasn’t been removed, as it would’ve been in the case of extinction. This hidden reinforcer has just been “covered up” with a conflicting aversive stimulus. So, sure, sometimes the child (or me) will behave -- but it still feels good to throw those toys. All Johnny needs to do is wait till you’re out of the room, or find a way to blame it on his brother, or in some way escape the consequences, and he’s back to his old ways. In fact, because Johnny now only gets to enjoy his reinforcer occasionally, he’s gone into a variable schedule of reinforcement, and he’ll be even more resistant to extinction than ever!
Behavior modification -- often referred to as b-mod -- is the therapy technique based on Skinner’s work. It is very straight-forward: Extinguish an undesirable behavior (by removing the reinforcer) and replace it with a desirable behavior by reinforcement. It has been used on all sorts of psychological problems -- addictions, neuroses, shyness, autism, even schizophrenia -- and works particularly well with children. There are examples of back-ward psychotics who haven’t communicated with others for years who have been conditioning to behave themselves in fairly normal ways, such as eating with a knife and fork, taking care of their own hygiene needs, dressing themselves, and so on.
There is an offshoot of b-mod called the token economy. This is used primarily in institutions such as psychiatric hospitals, juvenile halls, and prisons. Certain rules are made explicit in the institution, and behaving yourself appropriately is rewarded with tokens -- poker chips, tickets, funny money, recorded notes, etc. Certain poor behavior is also often followed by a withdrawal of these tokens. The tokens can be traded in for desirable things such as candy, cigarettes, games, movies, time out of the institution, and so on. This has been found to be very effective in maintaining order in these often difficult institutions.
There is a drawback to token economy: When an “inmate” of one of these institutions leaves, they return to an environment that reinforces the kinds of behaviors that got them into the institution in the first place. The psychotic’s family may be thoroughly dysfunctional. The juvenile offender may go right back to “the ‘hood.” No one is giving them tokens for eating politely. The only reinforcements may be attention for “acting out,” or some gang glory for robbing a Seven-Eleven.
Lawrence Kohlberg's theory is based upon how children develop morally. His theory has three levels of moral development: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional.
1. Preconventional: children begin life with no sense of right or wrong. However, children learn quickly that certain behaviors are punished and other behaviors are rewarded. Therefore, they avoid behaviors that are punished and strive for behavior or acts that are rewarded.
2. Conventional: At approximately age 9, children learn to behave according to a sense of what others need or want. They will follow rules that have been established and respect authority. The children are now acting in regards to right and wrong. Basically, children have learned the typical or conventional ways of acting based upon what is right and what is wrong.
3. Post Conventional: around the age of 16, individuals mature morally. They respect human rights and develop individual principles to guide their behavior. The motivation to act a certain way comes from within. They have progressed beyond just following the rules.
1896 - 1980
Dr. C. George Boeree
Jean Piaget was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, on August 9, 1896. His father, Arthur Piaget, was a professor of medieval literature with an interest in local history. His mother, Rebecca Jackson, was intelligent and energetic, but Jean found her a bit neurotic -- an impression that he said led to his interest in psychology, but away from pathology! The oldest child, he was quite independent and took an early interest in nature, especially the collecting of shells. He published his first “paper” when he was ten -- a one page account of his sighting of an albino sparrow.
He began publishing in earnest in high school on his favorite subject, mollusks. He was particularly pleased to get a part time job with the director of Nuechâtel’s Museum of Natural History, Mr. Godel. His work became well known among European students of mollusks, who assumed he was an adult! All this early experience with science kept him away, he says, from “the demon of philosophy.”
Later in adolescence, he faced a bit a crisis of faith: Encouraged by his mother to attend religious instruction, he found religious argument childish. Studying various philosophers and the application of logic, he dedicated himself to finding a “biological explanation of knowledge.” Ultimately, philosophy failed to assist him in his search, so he turned to psychology.
After high school, he went on to the University of Neuchâtel. Constantly studying and writing, he became sickly, and had to retire to the mountains for a year to recuperate. When he returned to Neuchâtel, he decided he would write down his philosophy. A fundamental point became a centerpiece for his entire life’s work: “In all fields of life (organic, mental, social) there exist ‘totalities’ qualitatively distinct from their parts and imposing on them an organization.” This principle forms the basis of his structuralist philosophy, as it would for the Gestaltists, Systems Theorists, and many others.
In 1918, Piaget received his Doctorate in Science from the University of Neuchâtel. He worked for a year at psychology labs in Zurich and at Bleuler’s famous psychiatric clinic. During this period, he was introduced to the works of Freud, Jung, and others. In 1919, he taught psychology and philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris. Here he met Simon (of Simon-Binet fame) and did research on intelligence testing. He didn’t care for the “right-or-wrong” style of the intelligent tests and started interviewing his subjects at a boys school instead, using the psychiatric interviewing techniques he had learned the year before. In other words, he began asking how children reasoned.
In 1921, his first article on the psychology of intelligence was published in the Journal de Psychologie. In the same year, he accepted a position at the Institut J. J. Rousseau in Geneva. Here he began with his students to research the reasoning of elementary school children. This research became his first five books on child psychology. Although he considered this work highly preliminary, he was surprised by the strong positive public reaction to his work.
In 1923, he married one of his student coworkers, Valentine Châtenay. In 1925, their first daughter was born; in 1927, their second daughter was born; and in 1931, their only son was born. They immediately became the focus of intense observation by Piaget and his wife. This research became three more books!
In 1929, Piaget began work as the director of the Bureau International Office de l’Education, in collaboration with UNESCO. He also began large scale research with A. Szeminska, E. Meyer, and especially Bärbel Inhelder, who would become his major collaborator. Piaget, it should be noted, was particularly influential in bringing women into experimental psychology. Some of this work, however, wouldn’t reach the world outside of Switzerland until World War II was over.
In 1940, He became chair of Experimental Psychology, the Director of the psychology laboratory, and the president of the Swiss Society of Psychology. In 1942, he gave a series of lectures at the Collège de France, during the Nazi occupation of France. These lectures became The Psychology of Intelligence. At the end of the war, he was named President of the Swiss Commission of UNESCO.
Also during this period, he received a number of honorary degrees. He received one from the Sorbonne in 1946, the University of Brussels and the University of Brazil in 1949, on top of an earlier one from Harvard in 1936. And, in 1949 and 1950, he published his synthesis, Introduction to Genetic Epistemology.
In 1952, he became a professor at the Sorbonne. In 1955, he created the International Center for Genetic Epistemology, of which he served as director the rest of his life. And, in 1956, he created the School of Sciences at the University of Geneva.
He continued working on a general theory of structures and tying his psychological work to biology for many more years. Likewise, he continued his public service through UNESCO as a Swiss delegate. By the end of his career, he had written over 60 books and many hundreds of articles. He died in Geneva, September 16, 1980, one of the most significant psychologists of the twentieth century.
Jean Piaget began his career as a biologist -- specifically, a malacologist! But his interest in science and the history of science soon overtook his interest in snails and clams. As he delved deeper into the thought-processes of doing science, he became interested in the nature of thought itself, especially in the development of thinking. Finding relatively little work done in the area, he had the opportunity to give it a label. He called it genetic epistemology, meaning the study of the development of knowledge.
He noticed, for example, that even infants have certain skills in regard to objects in their environment. These skills were certainly simple ones, sensori-motor skills, but they directed the way in which the infant explored his or her environment and so how they gained more knowledge of the world and more sophisticated exploratory skills. These skills he called schemas.
For example, an infant knows how to grab his favorite rattle and thrust it into his mouth. He’s got that schema down pat. When he comes across some other object -- say daddy’s expensive watch, he easily learns to transfer his “grab and thrust” schema to the new object. This Piaget called assimilation, specifically assimilating a new object into an old schema.
When our infant comes across another object again -- say a beach ball -- he will try his old schema of grab and thrust. This of course works poorly with the new object. So the schema will adapt to the new object: Perhaps, in this example, “squeeze and drool” would be an appropriate title for the new schema. This is called accommodation, specifically accomodating an old schema to a new object.
Assimilation and accommodation are the two sides of adaptation, Piaget’s term for what most of us would call learning. Piaget saw adaptation, however, as a good deal broader than the kind of learning that Behaviorists in the US were talking about. He saw it as a fundamentally biological process. Even one’s grip has to accommodate to a stone, while clay is assimilated into our grip. All living things adapt, even without a nervous system or brain.
As he continued his investigation of children, he noted that there were periods where assimilation dominated, periods where accommodation dominated, and periods of relative equilibrium, and that these periods were similar among all the children he looked at in their nature and their timing. And so he developed the idea of stages of cognitive development. These constitute a lasting contribution to psychology.
The sensorimotor stage
The first stage, to which we have already referred, is the sensorimotor stage. It lasts from birth to about two years old. As the name implies, the infant uses senses and motor abilities to understand the world, beginning with reflexes and ending with complex combinations of sensorimotor skills.
Between one and four months, the child works on primary circular reactions -- just an action of his own which serves as a stimulus to which it responds with the same action, and around and around we go. For example, the baby may suck her thumb. That feels good, so she sucks some more... Or she may blow a bubble. That’s interesting so I’ll do it again....
Between four and 12 months, the infant turns to secondary circular reactions, which involve an act that extends out to the environment: She may squeeze a rubber duckie. It goes “quack.” That’s great, so do it again, and again, and again. She is learning “procedures that make interesting things last.”
At this point, other things begin to show up as well. For example, babies become ticklish, although they must be aware that someone else is tickling them or it won’t work. And they begin to develop object permanence. This is the ability to recognize that, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s gone! Younger infants seem to function by an “out of sight, out of mind” schema. Older infants remember, and may even try to find things they can no longer see.
Between 12 months and 24 months, the child works on tertiary circular reactions. They consist of the same “making interesting things last” cycle, except with constant variation. I hit the drum with the stick -- rat-tat-tat-tat. I hit the block with the stick -- thump-thump. I hit the table with the stick -- clunk-clunk. I hit daddy with the stick -- ouch-ouch. This kind of active experimentation is best seen during feeding time, when discovering new and interesting ways of throwing your spoon, dish, and food.
Around one and a half, the child is clearly developing mental representation, that is, the ability to hold an image in their mind for a period beyond the immediate experience. For example, they can engage in deferred imitation, such as throwing a tantrum after seeing one an hour ago. They can use mental combinations to solve simple problems, such as putting down a toy in order to open a door. And they get good at pretending. Instead of using dollies essentially as something to sit at, suck on, or throw, now the child will sing to it, tuck it into bed, and so on.
The preoperational stage lasts from about two to about seven years old. Now that the child has mental representations and is able to pretend, it is a short step to the use of symbols.
A symbol is a thing that represents something else. A drawing, a written word, or a spoken word comes to be understood as representing a real dog. The use of language is, of course, the prime example, but another good example of symbol use is creative play, wherein checkers are cookies, papers are dishes, a box is the table, and so on. By manipulating symbols, we are essentially thinking, in a way the infant could not: in the absence of the actual objects involved!
Along with symbolization, there is a clear understanding of past and future. for example, if a child is crying for its mother, and you say “Mommy will be home soon,” it will now tend to stop crying. Or if you ask him, “Remember when you fell down?” he will respond by making a sad face.
On the other hand, the child is quite egocentric during this stage, that is, he sees things pretty much from one point of view: his own! She may hold up a picture so only she can see it and expect you to see it too. Or she may explain that grass grows so she won’t get hurt when she falls.
Piaget did a study to investigate this phenomenon called the mountains study. He would put children in front of a simple plaster mountain range and seat himself to the side, then ask them to pick from four pictures the view that he, Piaget, would see. Younger children would pick the picture of the view they themselves saw; older kids picked correctly.
Similarly, younger children center on one aspect of any problem or communication at a time. for example, they may not understand you when you tell them “Your father is my husband.” Or they may say things like “I don’t live in the USA; I live in Pennsylvania!” Or, if you show them five black and three white marbles and ask them “Are there more marbles or more black marbles?” they will respond “More black ones!”
Perhaps the most famous example of the preoperational child’s centrism is what Piaget refers to as their inability to conserve liquid volume. If I give a three year old some chocolate milk in a tall skinny glass, and I give myself a whole lot more in a short fat glass, she will tend to focus on only one of the dimensions of the glass. Since the milk in the tall skinny glass goes up much higher, she is likely to assume that there is more milk in that one than in the short fat glass, even though there is far more in the latter. It is the development of the child's ability to decenter that marks him as havingmoved to the next stage.
Concrete operations stage
The concrete operations stage lasts from about seven to about 11. The word operations refers to logical operations or principles we use when solving problems. In this stage, the child not only uses symbols representationally, but can manipulate those symbols logically. Quite an accomplishment! But, at this point, they must still perform these operations within the context of concrete situations.
The stage begins with progressive decentering. By six or seven, most children develop the ability to conserve number, length, and liquid volume. Conservation refers to the idea that a quantity remains the same despite changes in appearance. If you show a child four marbles in a row, then spread them out, the preoperational child will focus on the spread, and tend to believe that there are now more marbles than before.
Or if you have two five inch sticks laid parallel to each other, then move one of them a little, she may believe that the moved stick is now longer than the other.
The concrete operations child, on the other hand, will know that there are still four marbles, and that the stick doesn’t change length even though it now extends beyond the other. And he will know that you have to look at more than just the height of the milk in the glass: If you pour the mild from the short, fat glass into the tall, skinny glass, he will tell you that there is the same amount of milk as before, despite the dramatic increase in mild-level!
By seven or eight years old, children develop conservation of substance: If I take a ball of clay and roll it into a long thin rod, or even split it into ten little pieces, the child knows that there is still the same amount of clay. And he will know that, if you rolled it all back into a single ball, it would look quite the same as it did -- a feature known as reversibility.
By nine or ten, the last of the conservation tests is mastered: conservation of area. If you take four one-inch square pieces of felt, and lay them on a six-by-six cloth together in the center, the child who conserves will know that they take up just as much room as the same squares spread out in the corners, or, for that matter, anywhere at all.
If all this sounds too easy to be such a big deal, test your friends on conservation of mass: Which is heavier: a million tons of lead, or a million tons of feathers?
In addition, a child learns classification and seriation during this stage. Classification refers back to the question of whether there are more marbles or more black marbles? Now the child begins to get the idea that one set can include another. Seriation is putting things in order. The younger child may start putting things in order by, say size, but will quickly lose track. Now the child has no problem with such a task. Since arithmetic is essentially nothing more than classification and seriation, the child is now ready for some formal education!
Formal operations stage
But the concrete operations child has a hard time applying his new-found logical abilities to non-concrete -- i.e. abstract -- events. If mom says to junior “You shouldn’t make fun of that boy’s nose. How would you feel if someone did that to you?” he is likely to respond “I don’t have a big nose!” Even this simple lesson may well be too abstract, too hypothetical, for his kind of thinking.
Don’t judge the concrete operations child too harshly, though. Even adults are often taken-aback when we present them with something hypothetical: “If Edith has a lighter complexion than Susan, and Edith is darker than Lily, who is the darkest?” Most people need a moment or two.
From around 12 on, we enter the formal operations stage. Here we become increasingly competent at adult-style thinking. This involves using logical operations, and using them in the abstract, rather than the concrete. We often call this hypothetical thinking.
Here’s a simple example of a task that a concrete operations child couldn’t do, but which a formal operations teenager or adult could -- with a little time and effort. Consider this rule about a set of cards that have letters on one side and numbers on the other: “If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other side.” Take a look at the cards below and tell me, which cards do I need to turn over to tell if this rule is actually true? You’ll find the answer at the end of this chapter.
It is the formal operations stage that allows one to investigate a problem in a careful and systematic fashion. Ask a 16 year old to tell you the rules for making pendulums swing quickly or slowly, and he may proceed like this:
A long string with a light weight -- let’s see how fast that swings.
A long string with a heavy weight -- let’s try that.
Now, a short string with a light weight.
And finally, a short string with a heavy weight.
His experiment -- and it is an experiment -- would tell him that a short string leads to a fast swing, and a long string to a slow swing, and that the weight of the pendulum means nothing at all!
Maybe it has already occured to you: It doesn’t seem that the formal operations stage is something everyone actually gets to. Even those of us who do don’t operate in it at all times. Abstract reasoning is simply not universal.
Arnold Gesell's theory is concerned with the physical development of children. Gesell observed hundreds of children and came up with the physical developmental age¬ norms. He determined the normal sequence of development and at what age children should be able to do certain things, like sit up, roll over, crawl, walk, grasp objects, etc. These age-norms are still used today by the medical profession, the psychology professions, and child related fields. These age norms give us a standard by which to monitor a child's development.
1856 - 1939
Sigmund Freud was born May 6, 1856, in a small town -- Freiberg -- in Moravia. His father was a wool merchant with a keen mind and a good sense of humor. His mother was a lively woman, her husband's second wife and 20 years younger. She was 21 years old when she gave birth to her first son, her darling, Sigmund. Sigmund had two older half-brothers and six younger siblings. When he was four or five -- he wasn't sure -- the family moved to Vienna, where he lived most of his life.
A brilliant child, always at the head of his class, he went to medical school, one of the few viable options for a bright Jewish boy in Vienna those days. There, he became involved in research under the direction of a physiology professor named Ernst Brücke. Brücke believed in what was then a popular, if radical, notion, which we now call reductionism: "No other forces than the common physical-chemical ones are active within the organism." Freud would spend many years trying to "reduce" personality to neurology, a cause he later gave up on.
Freud was very good at his research, concentrating on neurophysiology, even inventing a special cell-staining technique. But only a limited number of positions were available, and there were others ahead of him. Brücke helped him to get a grant to study, first with the great psychiatrist Charcot in Paris, then with his rival Bernheim in Nancy. Both these gentlemen were investigating the use of hypnosis with hysterics.
After spending a short time as a resident in neurology and director of a children's ward in Berlin, he came back to Vienna, married his fiancée of many years Martha Bernays, and set up a practice in neuropsychiatry, with the help of Joseph Breuer.
Freud's books and lectures brought him both fame and ostracism from the mainstream of the medical community. He drew around him a number of very bright sympathizers who became the core of the psychoanalytic movement. Unfortunately, Freud had a penchant for rejecting people who did not totally agree with him. Some separated from him on friendly terms; others did not, and went on to found competing schools of thought.
Freud emigrated to England just before World War II when Vienna became an increasing dangerous place for Jews, especially ones as famous as Freud. Not long afterward, he died of the cancer of the mouth and jaw that he had suffered from for the last 20 years of his life.
Freud didn't exactly invent the idea of the conscious versus unconscious mind, but he certainly was responsible for making it popular. The conscious mind is what you are aware of at any particular moment, your present perceptions, memories, thoughts, fantasies, feelings, what have you. Working closely with the conscious mind is what Freud called the preconscious, what we might today call "available memory:" anything that can easily be made conscious, the memories you are not at the moment thinking about but can readily bring to mind. Now no-one has a problem with these two layers of mind. But Freud suggested that these are the smallest parts!
The largest part by far is the unconscious. It includes all the things that are not easily available to awareness, including many things that have their origins there, such as our drives or instincts, and things that are put there because we can't bear to look at them, such as the memories and emotions associated with trauma.
According to Freud, the unconscious is the source of our motivations, whether they be simple desires for food or sex, neurotic compulsions, or the motives of an artist or scientist. And yet, we are often driven to deny or resist becoming conscious of these motives, and they are often available to us only in disguised form. We will come back to this.
The id, the ego, and the superego
Freudian psychological reality begins with the world, full of objects. Among them is a very special object, the organism. The organism is special in that it acts to survive and reproduce, and it is guided toward those ends by its needs -- hunger, thirst, the avoidance of pain, and sex.
A part -- a very important part -- of the organism is the nervous system, which has as one its characteristics a sensitivity to the organism's needs. At birth, that nervous system is little more than that of any other animal, an "it" or id. The nervous system, as id, translates the organism's needs into motivational forces called, in German, Triebe, which has been translated as instincts or drives. Freud also called them wishes. This translation from need to wish is called the primary process.
The id works in keeping with the pleasure principle, which can be understood as a demand to take care of needs immediately. Just picture the hungry infant, screaming itself blue. It doesn't "know" what it wants in any adult sense; it just knows that it wants it and it wants it now. The infant, in the Freudian view, is pure, or nearly pure id. And the id is nothing if not the psychic representative of biology.
Unfortunately, although a wish for food, such as the image of a juicy steak, might be enough to satisfy the id, it isn't enough to satisfy the organism. The need only gets stronger, and the wishes just keep coming. You may have noticed that, when you haven't satisfied some need, such as the need for food, it begins to demand more and more of your attention, until there comes a point where you can't think of anything else. This is the wish or drive breaking into consciousness.
Luckily for the organism, there is that small portion of the mind we discussed before, the conscious, that is hooked up to the world through the senses. Around this little bit of consciousness, during the first year of a child's life, some of the "it" becomes "I," some of the id becomes ego. The ego relates the organism to reality by means of its consciousness, and it searches for objects to satisfy the wishes that id creates to represent the organisms needs. This problem-solving activity is called the secondary process.
The ego, unlike the id, functions according to the reality principle, which says "take care of a need as soon as an appropriate object is found." It represents reality and, to a considerable extent, reason.
However, as the ego struggles to keep the id (and, ultimately, the organism) happy, it meets with obstacles in the world. It occasionally meets with objects that actually assist it in attaining its goals. And it keeps a record of these obstacles and aides. In particular, it keeps track of the rewards and punishments meted out by two of the most influential objects in the world of the child -- mom and dad. This record of things to avoid and strategies to take becomes the superego. It is not completed until about seven years of age. In some people, it never is completed.
There are two aspects to the superego: One is the conscience, which is an internalization of punishments and warnings. The other is called the ego ideal. It derives from rewards and positive models presented to the child. The conscience and ego ideal communicate their requirements to the ego with feelings like pride, shame, and guilt.
It is as if we acquired, in childhood, a new set of needs and accompanying wishes, this time of social rather than biological origins. Unfortunately, these new wishes can easily conflict with the ones from the id. You see, the superego represents society, and society often wants nothing better than to have you never satisfy your needs at all!
Repression, which Anna Freud also called "motivated forgetting," is just that: not being able to recall a threatening situation, person, or event. This, too, is dangerous, and is a part of most other defenses.
As an adolescent, I developed a rather strong fear of spiders, especially long-legged ones. I didn't know where it came from, but it was starting to get rather embarrassing by the time I entered college. At college, a counselor helped me to get over it (with a technique called systematic desensitization), but I still had no idea where it came from. Years later, I had a dream, a particularly clear one, that involved getting locked up by my cousin in a shed behind my grandparents' house when I was very young. The shed was small, dark, and had a dirt floor covered with -- you guessed it! -- long-legged spiders.
The Freudian understanding of this phobia is pretty simple: I repressed a traumatic event -- the shed incident -- but seeing spiders aroused the anxiety of the event without arousing the memory.
Other examples abound. Anna Freud provides one that now strikes us as quaint: A young girl, guilty about her rather strong sexual desires, tends to forget her boy-friend's name, even when trying to introduce him to her relations! Or an alcoholic can't remember his suicide attempt, claiming he must have "blacked out." Or a someone almost drowns as a child, but can't remember the event even when people try to remind him -- but he does have this fear of open water!
Note that, to be a true example of a defense, it should function unconsciously. My brother had a fear of dogs as a child, but there was no defense involved: He had been bitten by one, and wanted very badly never to repeat the experience! Usually, it is the irrational fears we call phobias that derive from repression of traumas.
Regression is a movement back in psychological time when one is faced with stress. When we are troubled or frightened, our behaviors often become more childish or primitive. A child may begin to suck their thumb again or wet the bed when they need to spend some time in the hospital. Teenagers may giggle uncontrollably when introduced into a social situation involving the opposite sex. A freshman college student may need to bring an old toy from home. A gathering of civilized people may become a violent mob when they are led to believe their livelihoods are at stake. Or an older man, after spending twenty years at a company and now finding himself laid off, may retire to his recliner and become childishly dependent on his wife.
Where do we retreat when faced with stress? To the last time in life when we felt safe and secure, according to Freudian theory.
As I said earlier, for Freud, the sex drive is the most important motivating force. In fact, Freud felt it was the primary motivating force not only for adults but for children and even infants. When he introduced his ideas about infantile sexuality to the Viennese public of his day, they were hardly prepared to talk about sexuality in adults, much less in infants!
It is true that the capacity for orgasm is there neurologically from birth. But Freud was not just talking about orgasm. Sexuality meant not only intercourse, but all pleasurable sensation from the skin. It is clear even to the most prudish among us that babies, children, and, of course, adults, enjoy tactile experiences such as caresses, kisses, and so on.
Freud noted that, at different times in our lives, different parts of our skin give us greatest pleasure. Later theorists would call these areas erogenous zones. It appeared to Freud that the infant found its greatest pleasure in sucking, especially at the breast. In fact, babies have a penchant for bringing nearly everything in their environment into contact with their mouths. A bit later in life, the child focuses on the anal pleasures of holding it in and letting go. By three or four, the child may have discovered the pleasure of touching or rubbing against his or her genitalia. Only later, in our sexual maturity, do we find our greatest pleasure in sexual intercourse. In these observations,
Freud had the makings of a psychosexual stage theory.
The oral stage lasts from birth to about 18 months. The focus of pleasure is, of course, the mouth. Sucking and biting are favorite activities.
The anal stage lasts from about 18 months to three or four years old. The focus of pleasure is the anus. Holding it in and letting it go are greatly enjoyed.
The phallic stage lasts from three or four to five, six, or seven years old. The focus of pleasure is the genitalia. Masturbation is common.
The latent stage lasts from five, six, or seven to puberty, that is, somewhere around 12 years old. During this stage, Freud believed that the sexual impulse was suppressed in the service of learning. I must note that, while most children seem to be fairly calm, sexually, during their grammar school years, perhaps up to a quarter of them are quite busy masturbating and playing "doctor." In Freud's repressive era, these children were, at least, quieter than their modern counterparts.
The genital stage begins at puberty, and represents the resurgence of the sex drive in adolescence, and the more specific focusing of pleasure in sexual intercourse. Freud felt that masturbation, oral sex, homosexuality, and many other things we find acceptable in adulthood today, were immature.
This is a true stage theory, meaning that Freudians believe that we all go through these stages, in this order, and pretty close to these ages.
Go to the Topic 3 area and complete the assignment that corresponds to this lesson.