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Referat psihologie in engleza - NEW TRENDS IN DEVELOPMENT AND COGNITION
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1. Development cannot be reduced to psychological development. r8p3po
No matter how much we are professionally trained in (cognitive) psychology, we have to accept that, probably like no other field of research, the one of development cannot escape the need of converging lines of research into a unified framework, covering from neuroscience to anthropology.
There are even voices that suggest the need for training a future generation of scientists (Johnson, 1997) in developmental neurobiology, cognitive development and computational modeling, in order to be able reliably to approach the issues of developmental changes. So, future neural network models that will simulate the interaction of information processing with gene expression are more reliable tools that will approach the issues of developmental changes. Models in which interaction between information processing and gene expression can be simulated, then compared to real neurobiological systems, are likely to be more adequate and more informative about the contributions of heredity and environment (Johnson, 1997) in development.
The new emerging concept of “developmental cognitive neuroscience” is exactly a sample of this new way of interdisciplinary thinking (Johnson & Gilmore, 1996; Johnson, 1997). Not only the study of developmental change offers an opportunity to trace the interrelationships between brain functioning and cognitive processes, but it can also shed light on the neural basis of cognition in adults.
If we add to this approach a focus on evolutionary psychology, anthropology and cross-cultural psychology, there are high chances to build a more comprehensive foreseeable developmental science.
So, we advice any reader not to be “trapped” by the “cognitive” level of analysis as it is present in the title of the workshop.



Corrolary: Cognition is not only “cold” cognition
The links between cognitive processes concerning pure physical entities and those saturated in social cognition might be even stronger than we thought before. So, although in this book there are included topics about hard-core cognitive processes like categorization, there are also topics like temperament, defense mechanisms, or social-emotional development.

2. Development should not be any longer dramatically opposed to “mature” functioning.
Developmental biology is more and more aware of the fact that even the concept of development should be revised, as long as it becomes almost impossible to find a clear point at which development ends and mature function begins. If we look, for example, to molecular genetics, development is no longer distinct from adult functioning because adulthood should no longer be considered the static “terminus” point of development. We think that developmental psychology should become aware of this lesson, too.
In other words, the so much invoked plasticity of infant brain and behavior is no longer that unique as it has been claimed before. The adult neurogenesis is a strong argument favouring this interpretation.
On the oher hand, there are studies suggesting that another basic assumption, that of a basic network architecture of immature nervous systems undergoing progressive maturation to acquire adult properties, might be also questioned. The study of simpler organisms like Homarus gammarus, with only 30 neurons, helped Le Feuvre, Fénelon & Mayrand (1999) to show that the embryonic network, usually programmed to generate a single rhythmic pattern, can be programmed to produce multiple adult-like programs, distinctively different from the single output of the embryonic network. This was possible by removing the central inputs, and the restoration of flow of information descending reversed the adult-like pattern to the embryonic one.
The main implication of this study is that functional adult networks may therefore not be necessarily derived from progressive ontogenetic changes in network themselves, but may result from maturation of descending systems that unmask preexisting adult networks in an embryonic system. Or this very mechanism contrasts with already known ontogenetic mechanisms of progressive maturation of an embryonic network involving a progressive acquisition of synaptic as well as intrinsic properties of their constituent elements.
Would this kind of findings allow us to reconceptualize the findings about human infant early abilities, which undergo extinction before they re-emerge months later? Are we going to get a glimpse into the controversial issue of newborn imitation, for example? Or such mechanisms would be proved to be limited to inferior organisms?
A related theory on infant brain development (Johnson, 2000) goes on the same direction of contradicting a pure maturationist, stage-like development, in the virtue of so-called partial functioning of neural pathways. This new framework suggests that cortical regions are not silent before they mature neuroanatomically, but structural and functional changes in the cortex codevelop. In the first weeks after birth many brain pathways are partially activated by task situations, but most or all of the cortical pathways are unspecialized. Through competition, cortical structures become “recruited” -; so they become localized -; for computational functions in adults. So specialization progresses from cortical output regions toward those closer to input structures. The main implication of such a model is to figure out all cognitive acquisitions, including the developmental ones, in terms of multiple competing representations engaged by particular stimuli or task demands and competing to influence behavioral output.

3. Developmental issues are not only relevant for basic research -we can turn basic developmental knowledge into practice.
As McCall and Groark (2000) have wittfully suggested, behavioral sciences concerned with children, youth and families are in their late adolescence. A good prognosis for anticipating how an applied developmental science may become a key means through which behavioral and social scientists, and the universities that employ them may serve people in the next century (Eccles, 1996) -; by integrating research with actions that promote positive development and /or enhance the life chances of vulnerable children and families. This way a “Science for and of the people” (Lerner, Fisher & Weinberg, 2000), contributing to social justice, becomes possible.
However, there are a couple of potential dangers facing this attempt of translating fundamental into applied knowledge.
If we follow the exciting metaphor of Horowitz (2000), developmental science has to build its message dedicated to the society as if this recipient would be materialized in the “PITS”- the Person in the Street, a paraphrase of the “TCPITS” - the Common Person in the Street -; of William James. Who is this customer of psychological works? In a very simple definition, is the one who wants simple answers to simple questions, who is really puzzled by complex answers and has no patience in the faces of all nuances and qualifications of contemporary theories of development.



The urgency for simple, coherent and quick solutions coming from developmental theories is justifiable. Supplying exactly this kind of information without discernment is quite risky, because very attractive materials might be provided, yet contaminated with exaggeration and overgeneralization. For example, one of the most common error of these popularization works is the one of claiming the single-variable responsibility for developmental outcomes (only peers count, not parents, only genes count, not the environment, for shyness as well as intelligence).
We have nowadays a large database of empirical data, as well as theoretical perspectives on development, ranging from neurosciences to anthropology, which hopefully will become unified one day. Till that day, we have the duty of teaching the PITS to ask less simple questions and of teaching ourselves to communicate what we know and what are the limits of our knowledge. For example, terms like genes, innate, acquired have to be carefully used, in order to inform, but not oversimplify reality, thus limiting experience and opportunity of children. The concluding phrase of the authors of Rethinking Innateness (Elman et al., 1998) is highly responsible in this respect “If our careless, under-specified choice of words inadvertently does damage to future generations of children, we cannot turn with innocent outrage to the judge and say ‘But your Honor, I didn’t realize the word was loaded’ (apud Horowitz, 2000).
From this perspective, apparently radical conclusions have to be correctly understood - like that of John Bruer, the president of James S. McDonnell Foundation (which supports research in neuroscience and cognition) in “The myth of the first three years. A new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning” -; saying that none of the already available studies support the idea of a privileged life period in infancy. More specifically, he argues that the current state of knowledge of early development does not yet provide the basis for social policy recommendations.
This is not to say that, if currently there is still equivocal evidence for positive effects of early “enrichment”, that could promote optimal brain development, it is not clear that for developmental disorders early diagnosis and intervention may be more valuable than later in life. For example, even deficits in the development of attentional networks may be used in early detection of attention deficit disorder (Berger & Posner, in press) and other abnormalities of attention.
So, development, especially early development, should remain in the first line of research. We know that the human infant has the longest period of dependence upon caregivers of any mammal, during which he must gain control of his behavior and mental state. The slow progression of self control in early life allows society to influence the child’s own control mechanisms through socialization. Yet the acquisition of these regulatory mechnisms relies on a complex interaction between biology and socialization, prolonged even later into adolescence and adulthood, providing a basis for what is attempted in therapy (Posner & Rothbart, 1998). We belive that this conclusion should be generalized to other aspects of human development, beyond higher level attention. In light of these, the first years of life are crucial because what is learned during that interval provides the foundation for all subsequent learning and experience.
Yet, in order to corectly transmit knowledge from the academy to the worlds of social policy and human service one has to respect a couple of criteria -; the taxonomy proposed by Shonkoff (2000) being one of the most operational ones. He distinguishes between established knowledge, defined by the scientific community, highly rigurous yet relatively limited in volume; reasonable hypotheses, generated by scientists, policymakers and practitioners, that advance knowledge, have a greater flexibility yet are theoretically limitless; and unwarranted assertions, that can be propagated by anyone and are quite far from the boundaries of established knowledge, being at the extremes misinterpretations of the state-of-the-arte in science. On example of the last would be to conclude that children who are abused or wittness violence undergo ireversible changes in their developing brains, resulting in permanent emotional damage and inevitable violent behavior later in life. A more responsible message for the public would be that, in the light of present neurobiological and developmental data, early maltreatment and violence should be considered in the framework of “prevention is better than treatment, earlier is better than later, and it’s never too late to make a difference”.





AN OPEN WAY FOR BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH AND PRACTICAL WORK

There are a couple of strategies that might be taken into account when we foresee a way of merging basic and applied knowledge domains.
I. First, we might think of applied developmental research.
Three ways of doin applied developmental research have been proposed (Schwebel, Plumert and Pick, 2000):
1) to discuss the implications of basic research for applied issues.
There are already a couple of tentatives in this respect, like taking the representational changes as a framework when considering the questioning of young children about alleged sexual abuse incidents (DeLoache, Miller & Rosengren, 1997) or when considering childen’s suggestibility before trials (Welch-Ross, Diecidue & Miller, 1997) or even more interesting links like that between children’s difficulty with using three-dimensional objects as symbols and impediments in using manipulatives in math learning (Uttal, Scudder and DeLoache, 1997).
The second way of integration for basic and applied research is
2) to ground applied research in basic developmental findings and theory
Good examples of this kind of approaches are the extension of research and theory on parental scaffolding to the improvement of children’s mathematical skills (Shumow, 1998) or the use of ecological models that postulate a complex interplay among the individual, the family and other contexts in understanding risk factors for social abuse (Emery & Laumann-Billings, 1998).
Recently a third strategy of integration has emerged
3) to conduct basic research in the context of an applied problem
This strategy address the role of basic psychological processes in some type of problem behavior.
For example, Ornstein and his collegues have studied the development of memory abilities in the context of children’s eyewitness testimony (Baker-Ward et al., 1993, Greenhoot et al., 1999, Ornstein et al., 1998). In the same spirit Plumert and his collegues have examined children’s ability to judge affordances in the context of unintentional injuries (Plumert, 1995, Plumert & Schwebel, 1997, Schwebel & Plumert, 1999) -; assessing basic developmental changes as well as individual differencies in children’s judgements as related to injury proneness.
II. Intervention programms and social policies
Another strategy is that of testing hypotheses derived from fundamental research throuh interventions on reality.
One generic example of this kind is the research on how modifications in children’s relationships with family, school, community can reduce adolescence problems, the results being considered as answers to questions related to developmental dynamics or gene-environment relationships.
This way social policies and intervention programms are real natural experiments - planned interventions dedicated to institutions or individuals. The assessment of such activities become the main target of developmental research.
It is a basic shift because this way programms and politics are not only collateral secondary implications of basic research but part of the research itself.
The aims of such interventions are not only to reduce problem behaviors, to prevent problems and to promote health and positive behaviors, but mainly to promote “outreach” -; making value-added contriutions to community life.

III. Focus groups/work groups
The third strategy regards co-involvment of researchers and practitioners in order to answer the specific problems of the community.
Stronger links between academics and non-academic partners will make research not any longer top-down oriented, having community only as a target of investigations.
Different sources of information (laboratory research, natural experiments, conselling, observation of behavior in different contexts) can offer much more valid answers to hard questions like those concerning the applicability of research results.
Fragment din New trends in development and cognition, O. Benga, M. Miclea, “Development and Cognition” (editori O. Benga, M. Miclea, Presa Universitara Clujeana, Cluj-Napoca, 2001).






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