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Chapter 5: Theories of Psychological Development. Part One: Introduction & Gibson’s Theory of Perceptual Development VCE Unit 1 Psychology 2012. Introduction. How have you changed and developed since birth? In what ways will you continue to change ?

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Chapter 5 theories of psychological development

Chapter 5: Theories of Psychological Development

Part One: Introduction & Gibson’s Theory of Perceptual Development

VCE Unit 1 Psychology 2012


How have you changed and developed since birth?

In what ways will you continue to change?

The answers to these questions can be found in many of the different developmental theories that have been constructed by psychologists

What is a theory
What is a theory?

A theory is a set of ideas which are proposed to organise, describe and explain a set of observations and the relationships between them. A psychological theory explains how and why certain things occur, usually on the basis of scientific evidence.

Stages of theory development
Stages of theory development

Why so many theories
Why so many theories?



Psychological Development




No single theory of development is comprehensive enough to explain all areas of development across the entire lifespan

Most theories focus on 1 specific aspect or area of development

Often there is more than one theory to explain a particular area of development

Why so many theories1
Why so many theories?


Bowlby, Ainsworth & Harlow



Psychological Development







This year we will cover the following areas of development:

Perceptual – Gibson

Emotional – Bowlby, Ainsworth, Harlow

Cognitive - Piaget

Moral -Kohlberg

Psychosocial – Erikson

Gibson s theory of perceptual development
Gibson’s theory of perceptualdevelopment

Human perceptual systems include sight, sound, touch, taste and smell

These are all functioning from birth and are important to survival

Perceptual development continues throughout the lifespan, however the greatest changes occur in the early years of life


American experimental psychologist

Eleanor Gibson (1910-2002)

Eleanor Gibson conducted many experiments on different aspects of perception, particularly on visual perception in infants

Gibson developed her theories based on her research findings

Gibson s theory
Gibson’s theory

Emphasised key processes involved in perceptual development. These include:

Role of the infant as an active explorer

The affordance (perceived qualities) of objects or events that are experienced

The way perceptual exploration becomes more and more specific and differentiated (selective) with age

According to Gibson (1983), the infant is an active explorer in the constantly changing environment.

When awake, it monitors what is happening in its environment and actively searches for and obtains information about it.

It then uses this information to guide its actions.

Gibson proposed that these activities are essentially what perception is.

Perceptual development
Perceptual development in the constantly changing environment.

The process of continuous modification and refinement of perceptual abilities through experience with incoming sensory information.

Generally self initiated by the infant- as the infants abilities develop it explores the environment more and learns more about people, events and objects

Perceptual development cont
Perceptual development cont. in the constantly changing environment.

Exploration and the search for affordances are important features of perceptual development

Affordances are the perceived and actual properties of something in the environment that suggest how it should be used.

Example in the constantly changing environment.

If a surface of land is perceived by the animal as nearly horizontal (instead of slanted), nearly flat (instead of convex or concave), having sufficient length and width (in relation to the size of the animal), and is rigid (can hold the weight of the animal), then the surface affords support. Since it is perceived as a surface of support, it can be considered ‘stand-on-able’, and therefore ‘walk-on-able’ and ‘run-overable’. It is not ‘sink-into-able’ like a surface of water or a swamp would be for a heavy land-dwelling animal. For a different animal, such as a water bug, the affordance of support would be different if the surface is water.

Affordance in the constantly changing environment.

Varies from one animal or person to another as it is a two way relationship between something in the environment and a person or animal (a persons relationship to something can differ from an animals relationship to something)

Affordances are discovered through ongoing interaction with the environment

When this happens differentiation occurs.

Differentiation is the ability to selectively perceive differences between things in the environment

Example the environment

A two-year-old child may initially confuse rabbits and cats because they are both furry animals about the same size. However, the child will eventually discover that rabbits have long ears — a distinctive feature that differentiates them from cats, guinea pigs, possums and other small, furry animals.

Differentiation the environment

We become more efficient at differentiation through experience and ongoing interaction with things in the environment.

So with greater experiences (as we become older) we become more efficient or better at differentiation