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Developmental Psychology

Developmental Psychology is the study of how babies’ brains change as they grow up. Babies are born unable to do much for themselves, but over the first few years of life this all changes. Developmental psychologists aim to discover at what point babies learn various abilities, and whether they do so entirely through experience, or whether they are born with some of them. Infant research is particularly challenging as you can’t just ask them questions, or to carry out a task like you can with adults. Instead, a looking-time paradigm is used. Babies, like all of us, get bored if you show them the same thing repeatedly, so will stop paying much attention to it. If you show them something different, however, they will start paying attention again. This can be used to work out if a baby can discriminate between two objects - if you show them a circle until they are bored of it, and then show them a square, and they pay attention again (dis-habituate), you know that they can tell the difference between circles and squares. This principle is the basis of the majority of studies on young babies that can’t yet talk.

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