Life Span Perspective

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The life span perspective is the view of human development that takes into consideration every phase of life, from birth to death, and everything in between. Human development is the scientific study of how we change and/or stay the same and why. The three domains of human development are biosocial, cognitive, and psychosocial. Biosocial focuses on physical growth and development, while cognitive focuses on mental growth processes. Psychosocial centers in on emotions and social relationships with the community. Cultural, environmental and even hereditary factors can influence human development. There is a vast amount of theories and theorists who have over time attempted to understand how and why human beings develop as they do. In this essay, three of these theories will be discussed as well as some of the famous theorists who are behind them. Operant conditioning is the first human development theory that will be addressed. Also known as instrumental conditioning, operant conditioning is an approach to learning that utilizes rewards and punishments based on behavior. Through this conditioning, a correlation is being drawn between behavior and the repercussions of that behavior. “The theory of operant conditioning presupposes that infants begin their learning with a phylogenetically determined set of reflexes, a "tabula rasa" mind, and a naturally active disposition”. (Brown, 2001) In other words, human beings are born with a clean slate and we learn our behavior based on our experiences from family, school, work, friends, the environment, etc. Behaviorist B.F. Skinner was the first to introduce operant conditioning which is why you might have heard it referenced as Skinnerian conditioning. He felt that intrinsic motivation could not be used to understand someone’s behavior but that extrinsic motivation could. Operant refers to “any active behavior that operates upon the environment to generate consequences” (Skinner 1970). Operant conditioning is around us...
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