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Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson was the first professional to describe and use the concept of ego identity in his writings on what constitutes healthy personality development for every individual over the course of the life span. Basic to Erikson’s view, as well as those of many later identity writers, is the understanding that identity enables one to move with purpose and direction in life, and with a sense of inner sameness and continuity over time and place. Erikson considered identity to be psychosocial in nature, formed by the intersection of individual biological and psychological capacities in combination with the opportunities and supports offered by one’s social context. Identity normally becomes a central issue of concern during adolescence, when decisions about future vocational, ideological, and relational issues need to be addressed; however, these key identity concerns often demand further reflection and revision during different phases of adult life as well. Identity, thus, is not something that one resolves once and for all at the end of adolescence, but rather identity may continue to evolve and change over the course of adult life too.
Following Erikson’s initial writings, subsequent theorists have laid different emphases on the role of the individual and the role of society in the identity formation process. One very popular elaboration of Erikson’s own writings on identity that retains a psychosocial focus is the identity status model of James Marcia. While Erikson had described one’s identity resolution as lying somewhere on a continuum between identity achievement and role confusion (and optimally located nearer the achievement end of the spectrum), Marcia defined four very different means by which one may approach identity-defining decisions: identity achievement (commitment following exploration), moratorium (exploration in process), foreclosure (commitment without exploration), and diffusion (no commitment with little or no exploration). These four approaches (or identity statuses) have, over many decades, been the focus of over 1,000 theoretical and research studies that have examined identity status antecedents, behavioral consequences, associated personality characteristics, patterns of interpersonal relations, and developmental forms of movement over time. A further field of study has focused on the implications for intervention that each identity status holds. Current research seeks both to refine the identity statuses and explore their dimensions further through narrative analysis.
Amy E. Richardson and Elizabeth Broadbent
Cognitions about illness have been identified as contributors to health-related behavior, psychological well-being, and overall health. Several different theories have been developed to explain how cognitions may exert their impact on health outcomes. This article includes three theories: the Health Belief Model (HBM), the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), and the Common Sense Model (CSM), with the primary focus on the CSM. The HBM posits that cognitions regarding susceptibility to a health threat, the severity of the threat, and the benefits and costs associated with behavior, will determine whether or not a behavior is performed. In the TPB, behavior is thought to be a consequence of intention to act, which is shaped by attitudes regarding a behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. The Common Sense Model (CSM) proposes that individuals form cognitive representations of illness (known as illness perceptions) as well as emotional representations, which are key determinants of coping behaviors to manage the illness. Coping behaviors are theorized to have direct relationships with physical and psychological health outcomes. Cognitive representations encompass perceptions regarding the consequences posed by the illness, its timeline, personal ability to control the illness, whether the illness can be cured or controlled by treatment, and the identity of the illness (including its label and symptoms). Emotional representations reflect feelings such as fear, anger, and depression about the illness. The development of illness representations is influenced by a number of factors, including personal experience, the nature of physical symptoms, personality traits, and the social and cultural context. Illness cognitions can vary considerably between patients and health care professionals. There are a number of methods to assess illness-related cognitions, and increasing evidence that modifying negative or inaccurate cognitions can improve health outcomes.
Victoria M. Esses
Migration is the movement of people from one location to another, either within a country (internal migration between cities or regions) or between countries (international migration). Migration may be relatively voluntary (e.g., for employment opportunities) or involuntary (e.g., due to armed conflict, persecution, or natural disasters), and it may be temporary (e.g., migrant workers moving back and forth between source and receiving areas) or permanent (e.g., becoming a permanent resident in a new country). The term immigration refers specifically to international migration that is relatively permanent in nature. Immigrants are those individuals who have moved to a new country on a relatively permanent basis. Of importance, refugees are a particular type of immigrant, defined and protected by international law. They are individuals who have been formally recognized as having fled their country of residence because of a well-founded fear of persecution, armed conflict, violence, or war. Until they are recognized as such, these individuals are asylum seekers—individuals who have claimed refugee status and are waiting for that claim to be evaluated. Despite the relative permanence of immigration, advances in transportation and communication mean that immigrants are able to travel to, spend time in, and communicate on a regular basis with their country of origin. As a result, what has been termed transnationalism may result, with individuals holding strong ties with, and actively participating in, both the country of origin and the new receiving country.
Migration often results in two or more cultures coming into contact. This contact is especially likely for international migration where immigrants from one national group (the society of origin) come into contact with members of a different national group (the receiving society). Culture may include specific beliefs, attitudes, and customs, as well as values and behaviors. The term acculturation refers to the changes that may occur when individuals from different cultures come into contact, with possible changes in both immigrants and members of the receiving society. Psychological theory and research suggest that acculturation is bidimensional, with changes potentially taking place along two dimensions—one representing the maintenance or loss of the original culture and the other representing the adoption or rejection of the new culture. This bidimensionality is important because it suggests that acculturation is not linear from original culture to new culture, but instead that individuals may simultaneously participate in the new culture and maintain their original culture. The two cultures may be expressed at different times, in different contexts, or may merge to form cultural expressions that have aspects of both cultures. With voluntary and involuntary migration at historically high levels, understanding the drivers of migration and its consequences for migrants and those with whom they come into contact are essential for global cooperation and well-being.
Emma V. Ward and David R. Shanks
It is well documented that explicit (declarative, conscious) memory declines in normal aging. Studies have shown a progressive reduction in this form of memory with age, and healthy older adults (typically aged 65+ years) usually perform worse than younger adults (typically aged 18–30 years) on laboratory tests of explicit memory such as recall and recognition. In contrast, it is less clear whether implicit (procedural, unconscious) memory declines or remains stable in normal aging. Implicit memory is evident when previous experiences affect (e.g., facilitate) performance on tasks that do not require conscious recollection of those experiences. This can manifest in rehearsed motor skills, such as playing a musical instrument, but is typically indexed in the laboratory by the greater ease with which previously studied information is processed relative to non-studied information (e.g., repetition priming). While a vast amount of research has accumulated to suggest that implicit memory remains relatively stable over the adult lifespan, and is similar in samples of young and older adults, other studies have in contrast revealed that implicit memory is subject to age-related decline. Improving methods for determining whether implicit memory declines or remains stable with age is an important goal for future research, as the issue not only has significant implications for an aging society regarding interventions likely to ameliorate the effects of age-related explicit memory decline, but can also inform our theoretical understanding of human memory systems.
Stephanie J. Wilson, Alex Woody, and Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser
Inflammatory markers provide invaluable tools for studying health and disease across the lifespan. Inflammation is central to the immune system’s response to infection and wounding; it also can increase in response to psychosocial stress. In addition, depression and physical symptoms such as pain and poor sleep can promote inflammation and, because these factors fuel each other, all contribute synergistically to rising inflammation. With increasing age, persistent exposure to pathogens and stress can induce a chronic proinflammatory state, a process known as inflamm-aging.
Inflammation’s relevance spans the life course, from childhood to adulthood to death. Infection-related inflammation and stress in childhood, and even maternal stress during pregnancy, may presage heightened inflammation and poor health in adulthood. In turn, chronically heightened inflammation in adulthood can foreshadow frailty, functional decline, and the onset of inflammatory diseases in older age.
The most commonly measured inflammatory markers include C-reactive protein (CRP) and proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α). These biomarkers are typically measured in serum or plasma through blood draw, which capture current circulating levels of inflammation. Dried blood spots offer a newer, sometimes less expensive collection method but can capture only a limited subset of markers. Due to its notable confounds, salivary sampling cannot be recommended.
Inflammatory markers can be added to a wide range of lifespan developmental designs. Incorporating even a single inflammatory assessment to an existing longitudinal study can allow researchers to examine how developmental profiles and inflammatory status are linked, but repeated assessments must be used to draw conclusions about the associations’ temporal order and developmental changes. Although the various inflammatory indices can fluctuate from day to day, ecological momentary assessment and longitudinal burst studies have not yet incorporated daily inflammation measurement; this represents a promising avenue for future research.
In conclusion, mounting evidence suggests that inflammation affects health and disease across the lifespan and can help to capture how stress “gets under the skin.” Incorporating inflammatory biomarkers into developmental studies stands to enhance our understanding of both inflammation and lifespan development.
DeMond M. Grant and Evan J. White
Cognitive control is the ability to direct attention and cognitive resources toward achieving one’s goals. However, research indicates that anxiety biases multiple cognitive processes, including cognitive control. This occurs in part because anxiety leads to excessive processing of threatening stimuli at the expense of ongoing activities. This enhanced processing of threat interferes with several cognitive processes, which includes how individuals view and respond to their environment. Specifically, research indicates that anxious individuals devote their attention toward threat when considering both early, automatic processes and later, sustained attention. In addition, anxiety has negative effects on working memory, which involves the ability to hold and manipulate information in one’s consciousness. Anxiety has been found to decrease the resources necessary for effective working memory performance, as well as increase the likelihood of negative information entering working memory. Finally, anxiety is characterized by focusing excessive attention on mistakes, and there is also a reduction in the cognitive control resources necessary to correct behavior. Enhancing our knowledge of how anxiety affects cognitive control has broad implications for understanding the development of anxiety disorders, as well as emerging treatments for these conditions.
This article aims to provide a narrative overview on injury prevention in sport and performance psychology. Research and applied interest in psychological injury prevention in sport and performance psychology has risen in popularity over the past few decades. To date, existing theoretical models, pure and applied research, and practice-based evidence has focused on conceptualizing and examining psychological injury occurrence and prevention through stress-injury mechanisms, and predominantly in sport injury settings. However, given the inherited similarities across the different performance domains however, it is the authors’ belief that existing injury prevention knowledge can be transferable beyond sport but should be done with caution. A range of cognitive-affective-behavioral strategies such as goal setting, imagery, relaxation strategies, self-talk, and social support have been found beneficial in reducing injuries, particularly when used systematically (a) prior to injury occurrence as part of performance enhancement program and/or as a specific injury prevention measure, (b) during injury rehabilitation, and (c) as part of a return-to-activity process to minimize the risk of secondary injuries and reinjuries. Existing theoretical and empirical evidence also indicates that using cognitive-affective-behavioral strategies for injury prevention are effective when used as part of a wider, multi-modal intervention. Equally, such interventions may also need to address possible behavioral modifications required in sleep, rest, and recovery. Considering the existing empirical and anecdotal evidence to date, this paper argues that injury prevention efforts in sport and performance psychology should be cyclical, biopsychosocial, and person-centered in nature. In short, injury prevention should be underpinned by recognition of the interplay between personal (both physical and psychological), environmental, and contextual characteristics, and how they affect the persons’ cognitive-affective-behavioral processes before, during, and after injury occurrence, at different phases of rehabilitation, and during the return to activity or retirement from activity process. Moreover, these holistic injury prevention efforts should be underpinned by a philosophy that injury prevention is inherently intertwined with performance enhancement, with the focus being on the individual and their overall well-being.
Sleep health is understood as a key factor in lifelong health and for social participation, function, and satisfaction. In later life, insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common. Insomnia is experienced as poor, disrupted, or insufficient sleep associated with significant daytime impairments including increased fatigue or reduced energy, impaired cognitive function, and increased mood disturbance. Poor sleep is associated with negative outcomes across a range of dimensions that impair quality of life, increases risk for other diseases, and may interact negatively with the progression and treatment of other disorders. Evidence for effective psychological interventions to improve sleep in later life, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, is robust and well described. Good sleep should be understood as a substrate for psychological health and a reasonable expectation in later life.
Conscience P. Bwiza, Jyung Mean Son, and Changhan Lee
Aging is a progressive process with multiple biological processes collectively deteriorating with time, ultimately causing loss of physiological functions necessary for survival and reproduction. It is also thought to have a strong evolutionary basis, largely resulting from the lack of selection force. Here, we discuss the evolutionary aspects of aging and a selection of theories founded on a variety of biological functions that have been shown to be involved in aging in multiple model organisms, ranging from the simple yeast, worms, flies, killifish, and rodents, to non-human primates and humans. The conglomerate of distinct theories has together revolutionized aging research in the past several decades, far more than what humankind has known since the dawn of civilization. However, not one theory alone can independently explain aging and should not be interpreted out of context of the cell and organism in its entirety. That said, the 21st century has been and will be an exciting time in the field of aging, with scientific advances on health span and lifespan being made at multiple fronts of biology and medicine in an unprecedented scale.
Deborah M. Capaldi, David C. R. Kerr, and Stacey S. Tiberio
Intergenerational studies are key to informing research, preventive intervention, and policy regarding family influences on healthy development and maladjustment. Continuities in family socialization and contextual risks across generations, as well as genetic factors, are associated with the development of psychopathology—including externalizing problems in children—and with intergenerational associations in the use of marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; these continuities are reflected in the low-to-moderate associations generally found in prospective studies. Until recent years, estimates of intergenerational continuities in problem behaviors and the processes explaining such associations (e.g., parenting behaviors) have been based largely on retrospective reports by adults about their own parents’ behaviors. Now there are some long-term prospective studies spanning as many as 30 years that can assess linkages between behaviors in one generation and the next. Whereas such studies have considerable design and implementation challenges, and are very expensive, it is of critical importance to examine the magnitude of associations of behaviors across generations. For example, a modest association across generations suggests either that genetic factors have a limited influence on that behavior or that they are subject to considerable moderation by environmental factors. These prospective studies relate to theoretical developments regarding intergenerational influences that are reviewed—for example, individual differences in genetic sensitivity to environmental influences. The theoretical approach employed in the Oregon Youth Study—Three Generation Study is a Dynamic Developmental Systems (DDS) model of continuous feedback across systems throughout development. A new hypothesis encompassed by DDS is developmental congruence of intergenerational associations in problem behaviors. As used in geometry, congruence refers to figures of a similar shape and size. This term has been adapted to refer to the expectation that ages of onset and patterns of growth in key behaviors will show similarity across generations. This is based on the theory that genetic and temperamental factors increase an individual’s risk when these factors are expressed at sensitive developmental periods. Thus, the timing of these manifestations (e.g., susceptibility to deviant peer influences) is expected to be similar across generations. Developmental similarity is also likely due to continuities in social-risk context and family mechanisms, such as parenting.
Nasreen A. Sadeq and Victor Molinari
The need for facilities that provide residential aged care is expected to increase significantly in the near future as the global population ages at an unprecedented rate. Many older adults will need to be placed in a residential care setting, such as an assisted living facility (ALF) or nursing home, when their caregivers can no longer effectively manage serious medical or psychiatric conditions at home. Although the types of residential care settings worldwide vary considerably, long-term care residents (LTC) and staff benefit from environmental and cultural changes in LTC settings. Unlike traditional medical models of LTC, culture change advocates for a shift toward holistic, person-centered care that takes place in homelike environments and accounts for the psychosocial needs of residents. Carving out a role for family members and training professional caregivers to address behavioral problems and quality-of-life issues remain a challenge. In LTC settings, preliminary research indicates that implementing person-centered changes addressing resident and caregiver needs may lead to better health outcomes, as well as increased satisfaction among patients, families, and staff. With the burgeoning world population of older adults, it is incumbent that they be provided with optimal humane culturally sensitive care.
Stuart Linke and Elizabeth Murray
Alcohol-use disorders are widespread and associated with a greatly increased risk of health-related and societal harms. The majority of harms associated with consumption are experienced by those who drink above recommended guidelines, rather than those who are alcohol dependent. Brief interventions and treatments based on screening questionnaires and feedback have been developed for this group, which are effective tools for reducing consumption in primary care and in other settings. Most people who drink excessively do not receive help to reduce the risks associated with excessive consumption. Digital versions of brief and extended interventions have the potential to reach populations that might derive benefit from them. Digital interventions utilize the same principles as do traditional face-to-face versions, but they have the advantages of availability, confidentiality, flexibility, low marginal costs, and treatment integrity. The evidence for the feasibility, acceptability, costs, and effectiveness of digital interventions is encouraging, and the evidence for effectiveness is particularly strong in studies of student populations. There are, however, a number of unresolved questions. It is not clear which components of interventions are required to maximize effectiveness, whether digital versions are enhanced by the addition of personal contact from a facilitator or a health professional, or how to increase take up of the offer of a digital intervention and reduce attrition from a program. These questions are common to many online behavior-change interventions and there are opportunities for cross-disciplinary learning between psychologists, health professionals, computer scientists, and e-health researchers.
Gregory A. Hinrichsen
In clinical practice with older adults, depression is a common presenting problem and is usually interwoven with one or more life problems. These problems are often the focus of psychotherapy. Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is a highly researched and effective treatment for depression in adults and older adults. IPT is time-limited, and as an individual psychotherapy it is usually conducted over 16 sessions. IPT focuses on one or two of four interpersonally relevant problems that may be a cause or consequence of depression. These include: role transitions (life change), interpersonal role disputes (conflict with another person), grief (complicated bereavement), and interpersonal deficits (social isolation and loneliness). The four IPT problem areas reflect issues that are frequently seen in psychotherapy with depressed older people.
Interprofessional Training and Practice: The Need for More Engagement, Training, and Research in Geropsychology
Nancy A. Pachana and Gwen Yeo
Interdisciplinary teams consisting of a variety of health professionals working toward common patient goals have become an important innovation in clinical practice. In many parts of the world interdisciplinary teams have become part of practice, including in geriatrics. However, many gaps and the need for further empirical research and translation into practice remain. This is particularly true for the discipline of psychology, as much of the extant literature in engagement, training and practice in geriatric settings or educational settings does not include psychologists. Many advances in interprofessional teams, in acute settings in particular, do not include psychologists as part of the team. With respect to training, educating trainee health professionals, including psychologists, in interdisciplinary practice has still not become a standard part of training curricula internationally. Several excellent models of interprofessional and interdisciplinary training, including international models of interdisciplinary team competencies, have been developed. However, both the empirical testing of these models and their implementation in educational and practice settings is lacking. Within the geriatric healthcare context, the evidence base for both interprofessional care and the need for enhanced training models incorporating interprofessional skills is evolving, and further research on efficacy in evolving clinical contexts and translation into educational contexts worldwide is required. Ultimately, psychology must increase its presence within both interprofessional research and applied contexts.
Alexandra Rutherford and Tal Davidson
As a conceptual and analytic framework, intersectionality has informed, and can transform, how scholars approach psychology and its history. Intersectionality provides a framework for examining how multiple social categories combine in systems characterized by both oppression and privilege to affect the experiences of those occupying the intersections of these social categories. The concept has its origins in the writings of Black feminists and critical race theorists in the 1970s and 1980s. Since that time, many critical debates about the definition, uses, and even misuses of intersectionality have been put forward by scholars in many fields. In psychology, the uptake of intersectionality as a methodological and epistemological framework has been undertaken largely by feminist psychologists. In this context, intersectionality has been used as both a logic for designing research, and as a perspective from which to critique the perpetuation of intersectional oppression latent in mainstream psychological research. In addition, intersectionality has also been applied to writing histories of psychology that attend to the operation of multiple intersecting forms of oppression and privilege. For example, historians of psychology have taken up intersectionality as a way to approach the intersections of scientific racism, sexism, and heterocentrism in the history of psychology’s concepts and theories. Intersectionality also has the potential for generating a more sophisticated historical understanding of social activism by psychologists. Finally, given that extant histories of psychology focusing on the American context have rendered the contributions of women of color largely invisible, intersectional analysis can serve to re-instantiate and foreground their experiences and contributions.
David Bunce and Sarah Bauermeister
Intraindividual variability in the present context refers to the moment-to-moment variation in attentional or executive engagement over a given time period. Typically, it is measured using the response latencies collected across the trials of a behavioral neurocognitive task. In aging research, the measure has received a lot of recent interest as it may provide important insights into age-related cognitive decline and neuropathology as well as having potential as a neurocognitive assessment tool in healthcare settings. In the present chapter, we begin by reviewing the key empirical findings relating to age and intraindividual variability. Here, research shows that intraindividual variability increases with age and predicts a range of age-related outcomes including gait impairment, falls and errors more broadly, mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and mortality. Brain imaging research suggests that greater variability is associated with age-related or neuropathological changes to a frontal–cingulate–parietal network and that white matter compromise and dopamine depletion may be key underlying mechanisms. We then consider the cognitive and neurobiological theoretical underpinnings of the construct before providing a description of the various methods and metrics that have been used to compute measures of variability – reaction time cut-offs, raw and residualized intraindividual standard deviations, coefficient of variation, ex-Gaussian curve and fast Fourier transformation. A further section considers the range of neurocognitive tasks that have been used to assess intraindividual variability. Broadly, these tasks can be classified on a continuum of cognitive demands as psychomotor, executive control or higher-order cognitive tasks (e.g., episodic memory). Finally, we provide some pointers concerning the pressing issues that future research needs to address in the area. We conclude that the existing body of theoretical and empirical work underlines the potential of intraindividual reaction time variability measures as additions to the neuropsychological test batteries that are used in the early detection of a range of age-related neurocognitive disorders in healthcare settings.
Eric S. Cerino and Karen Hooker
Intraindividual variability (IIV) refers to short-term fluctuations that may be more rapid, and are often conceptualized as more reversible, than developmental change that unfolds over a longer period of time, such as years. As a feature of longitudinal data collected on micro timescales (i.e., seconds, minutes, days, or weeks), IIV can describe people, contexts, or general processes characterizing human development. In contrast to approaches that pool information across individuals and assess interindividual variability in a population (i.e., between-person variability), IIV is the focus of person-centered studies addressing how and when individuals change over time (i.e., within-person variability). Developmental psychologists interested in change and how and when it occurs, have devised research methods designed to examine intraindividual change (IIC) and interindividual differences in IIC. Dispersion, variability, inconsistency, time-structured IIV, and net IIV are distinct operationalizations of IIV that, depending on the number of measures, occasions, and time of measurement, reflect unique information about IIV in lifespan developmental domains of interest. Microlongitudinal and measurement-burst designs are two methodological approaches with intensive repeated measurement that provide a means by which various operationalizations of IIV can be accurately observed over an appropriate temporal frame to garner clearer understanding of the dynamic phenomenon under investigation. When methodological approaches are theoretically informed and the temporal frame and number of assessments align with the dynamic lifespan developmental phenomenon of interest, researchers gain greater precision in their observations of within-person variability and the extent to which these meaningful short-term fluctuations influence important domains of health and well-being. With technological advancements fueling enhanced methodologies and analytic approaches, IIV research will continue to be at the vanguard of pioneering designs for elucidating developmental change at the individual level and scaling it up to generalize to populations of interest.
Anja Van den Broeck and Sharon K. Parker
Job design or work design refers to the content, structure, and organization of tasks and activities. It is mostly studied in terms of job characteristics, such as autonomy, workload, role problems, and feedback. Throughout history, job design has moved away from a sole focus on efficiency and productivity to more motivational job designs, including the social approach toward work, Herzberg’s two-factor model, Hackman and Oldham’s job characteristics model, the job demand control model of Karasek, Warr’s vitamin model, and the job demands resources model of Bakker and Demerouti. The models make it clear that a variety of job characteristics make up the quality of job design that benefits employees and employers alike. Job design is crucial for a whole range of outcomes, including (a) employee health and well-being, (b) attitudes like job satisfaction and commitment, (c) employee cognitions and learning, and (d) behaviors like productivity, absenteeism, proactivity, and innovation. Employee personal characteristics play an important role in job design. They influence how employees themselves perceive and seek out particular job characteristics, help in understanding how job design exerts its influence, and have the potential to change the impact of job design.
Vincente Martínez-Tur and Carolina Moliner
Traditionally, justice in teams refers to a specific climate—called justice climate—describing shared perceptions about how the team as a whole is treated. Justice at the individual level has been a successful model from which to build the concept of justice in teams. Accordingly, there is a parallelism between the individual and team levels in the investigation of justice, where scholars’ concerns and responses have been very similar, despite studying different levels of construct. However, the specific particularities of teams are increasingly considered in research. There are three concepts (faultlines, subgrouping, and intergroup justice) that contribute to knowledge by focusing on particularities of teams that are not present at the individual level. The shift toward team-based structures provides an opportunity to observe the existence of dividing lines that may split a team into subgroups (faultlines) and the difficulty, in many cases, of conceiving of the team members as part of a single group. This perspective about teams also stimulates the study of the subgroup as a source of justice and the focus on intergroup justice within the team. In sum, the organizational context facilitates shared experiences and perceptions of justice beyond individual differences but also can result in potential conflicts and discrepancies among subgroups within the team in their interpretation of fairness.
Erica H. Wojcik, Irene de la Cruz-Pavía, and Janet F. Werker
Language is a structured form of communication that is unique to humans. Within the first few years of life, typically developing children can understand and produce full sentences in their native language or languages. For centuries, philosophers, psychologists, and linguists have debated how we acquire language with such ease and speed. Central to this debate has been whether the learning process is driven by innate capacities or information in the environment. In the field of psychology, researchers have moved beyond this dichotomy to examine how perceptual and cognitive biases may guide input-driven learning and how these biases may change with experience. There is evidence that this integration permeates the learning and development of all aspects of language—from sounds (phonology), to the meanings of words (lexical-semantics), to the forms of words and the structure of sentences (morphosyntax). For example, in the area of phonology, newborns’ bias to attend to speech over other signals facilitates early learning of the prosodic and phonemic properties of their native language(s). In the area of lexical-semantics, infants’ bias to attend to novelty aids in mapping new words to their referents. In morphosyntax, infants’ sensitivity to vowels, repetition, and phrase edges guides statistical learning. In each of these areas, too, new biases come into play throughout development, as infants gain more knowledge about their native language(s).