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Piaget Cognitive Development: A Quick Guide

Piaget Cognitive Development. From infancy through childhood, parents physicians place great emphasis on physical milestones. Walking, crawling, and the first tooth peeking through pink gums are the tangible manifestations of growth. However, the mental aspects are just as significant. Although the inner workings of the brain are invisible to the naked eye, promoting a child’s cognitive development is essential to their thought processes, memory, problem-solving, and decision making well into their adult years.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive Skills To Piaget Cognitive Development

To understand Piaget cognitive development, one must first be aware of cognitive skills. Cognitive skills are skills pertaining to cognition—the way we acquire knowledge about the environment and the world that surrounds us. Processing information is possible because of the various cognitive skills that allow us to interpret perceptions of the five senses: what we hear, see, touch, taste, and smell. Cognitive skills consist of the following:

These skills are involved in all daily tasks such as answering the phone, responding to a friend’s message, or even watching television.

What is Piaget Cognitive Development?

Cognitive development is the neurological and psychological development of the various functions of thinking. It entails applying cognitive skills to consciously interpret one’s surrounding environment. As a person matures, so does their ability to engage in higher thinking processes like problem-solving, emotional regulation, learning, and remembering. The term describes the brain’s development as it pertains to cognition.

According to Piaget cognitive development, there are set age-appropriate milestones spanning from infancy into adulthood. Reaching these milestones on time indicates optimal development. The concept first originated in the early 1900s when IQ tests were proposed as an accurate measurement of intelligence.

Areas of Piaget Cognitive Development

Cognitive development includes basic components of thinking. For optimal cognitive development, it is best to focus on the areas of information processing, intelligence, reasoning, memory, and language.

  • Information Processing—As the brain works in a sequence, it receives input through the senses, processes that information, and then receives output.
  • Intelligence—The mental capacity to learn, reason, plan, solve problem and comprehend complex ideas.
  • Reasoning—Applying and establishing facts, beliefs, and information.
  • Memory Part of the brain that stores and retrieve information as needed.
  • Language—The process in which children understand and communicate language.

Piaget Cognitive Development: 4 Stages

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a Swiss psychologist who constructed the most widely accepted theory of cognitive development known as Piaget Cognitive Development. While there are numerous theories, Piaget Cognitive Development provides an accurate depiction of the evolution of a child’s thinking processes. His theory was inspired by observing his children. He assumed that children’s intellect develops through accommodation, which is the process of taking in and altering information from their environment, and assimilation, which is how humans relate new information to previously existing information. It is concerned with all children and focuses on the progression of development instead of learning miscellaneous behaviors. A series of four stages mark the progression of cognitive development beginning in infancy and throughout childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood.

Sensorimotor Stage – Birth to 2 Years

The sensorimotor stage of cognitive development starts at the time of birth and ends as a toddler. Cognitive growth happens rapidly as the infant familiarizes itself with their reality. Cognitive abilities remain limited, but the child learns to separate their bodies from the environment through their senses and reflexes. In the sensorimotor stage, they respond to the sudden influx of new stimuli: noises, movements, people, and emotions.

The sensorimotor stage is divided into six substages:

  • Reflexes: Birth to One Month—A child’s intelligence is rooted in action. The child acquires knowledge in the reflex stage by adapting to their environment. This includes all natural “instinct” behaviors upon birth.
  • Primary Circular Reactions: One to Four Months—Reflex actions, like sucking a thumb, are intentionally repeated after the child realizes they are pleasurable. Primary circular reactions refer only to reactions within the body.
  • Secondary Circular Reactions: Four to Eight Months—Actions that are not reflex based originate in the child’s behavior. The child’s action results in a preferred event in the environment, rather than their body, and they seek to recreate the event by engaging in the behaviors that precipitated the event.
  • Coordination of Secondary Circular Reactions: Eight to Twelve Months—Cause and effect relationships are correlated with the child’s behaviors in the previous stages. They intentionally interact with the environment to fulfill their needs.
  • Tertiary Circular Reactions: Twelve to Eighteen Months—Minor change to cognition comes about as the child purposefully alters their actions to solve problems. Tertiary circular reactions have a trial-and-error foundation.
  • Mental Combinations: Eighteen to Twenty-four Months—Mental combinations concludes the period in which children understand their environment solely through actions. They associate symbols and language with their environment and form basic sentences.

Pre-operational Stage – 2 to 7 years

The pre-operational stage starts as a toddler at age two and continues until seven years of age. This stage is characterized by the child’s eventual expansion towards logic, but they still are unable to think logically or separate ideas because the egocentric mindset which surfaces in this stage limits their intellectual abilities. Children in the preoperational stage think in a manner that is primarily concerned with self. Their thoughts, perceptions, and ideas are indistinguishable from those of other people. They only see the world through their own point of view and cannot consider differing perspectives. Ecocentrism is the reason why young children experience conflict with their peers. While language is central to the pre-operational stage, the children do not use language to communicate with others and resolve conflict, but to make their thinking known.

The pre-operational stage is divided into two substages.

  • Symbolic Function— Children possess the ability to think about an object that is not in their immediate view. They attach symbols to their toys and caregivers in which they have associated with comfort.  Attempts at art and expression through play are manifestations of symbolic function.
  • Intuitive Thought—Thinking changes from symbolic to intuitive with the use of primitive reasoning. Intuitive thought refers to the vast knowledge children learn yet struggle to apply. They become curious about the world, asking many questions.

Concrete Operational Stage – 7 to 11 years

The concrete operational stage is the turning point in a child’s cognitive development. It begins at roughly seven years of age and is defined by the development of organized and rational thinking. Children begin to understand rules and use operations to logically solve problems. As children mature in the concrete operatorial stage, they apply logic exclusively to physical objects. They cannot turn their thinking towards hypothetical situations, only their concrete experiences.

The cognitive development during the concrete operational stage is cornerstone to the education of school-age children. They refine their cognitive abilities to remember information, and then to organize that information logically. Selective attention keeps them focused on a single task, despite distractions. Egocentrism that was previously prominent is eliminated in the concrete operational stage. Children start to see multiple viewpoints.

Although there are no substages, other processes (known as operations) in the concrete operational stage are:

  • Decentering—Considering all aspects of a problem in order to solve it.
  • Seriation—Sorting objects according to its characteristics (i.e. color, size, shape, etc.).
  • Transitivity—Recognizing logical relationships between objects in serial order.  
  • Classification—The ability to identify objects by their size, appearance, or characteristics.
  • Conservation—The length or quantity of an object does not dictate the appearance and arrangement.

Formal Operational Stage – 12 and Up

The formal operational stage is the last stage in Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. It begins in adolescence around the onset of puberty and lasts into adulthood. These young teenagers in the formal operational stage undergo rapid transformations in their cognitive development. This stage introduces the potential for abstract thought. They think about objects and situations hypothetically, which entails making inferences about situations that are “possibilities.” The former trial-and-error thought process is abandoned for problem-solving through deductive reasoning. They test solutions based on hypotheses.

How To Promote Piaget Cognitive Development

Each child develops at his or her own pace. However, they are not entirely on their own in their progress. Interactions with adults who serve as role models and other children facilitate cognitive development. Despite the child’s stage, incorporating these key activities into a daily routine are conducive to cognitive development.

“Play” with the 5 Senses

Sensory play is any hands-on learning activity that stimulates the five senses—seeing, hearing, touching, or smelling. This form of play of the five senses strengthens the neuron pathways in the brain. A neuron is a specialized brain cell that sends chemical messages to the nerves throughout the nervous system. Sensory play refines the efficiency of the pathways. As a result, the brain responds to the environment and can successfully complete more complex skills.

Exploring the environment through sensory play can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Playdough, building blocks, simple puzzles or board games, singing and reading aloud are some examples.

Sensory Play For Cognitive Development

Establish Routine

The technical definition of routine represents the steps taken to complete the tasks scheduled throughout the day. Waking up and eating breakfast before going to class, and later returning home to finish homework and watch television constitutes as routine. Everyday routines differ depending on the activity. Routines are crucial to cognitive development because it teaches children how to observe transition cues, predict, and become flexible when routines deviate from the norm.

Open-ended Questions and Statements

 Typical questions and statements are closed-ended—requiring only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer or a one-word response, whereas open-ended questions require in-depth answers. Thought out responses encourage children to partake in conversation. Children must think creatively, broadening the use of language and the cognitive skills.

Open-ended questions and statements begin with:

  • “Why do you think…?”
  • “What if…?”
  • “Tell me about…”

Visual Aids

Visual aids such as illustrations, charts, and three-dimensional models improve cognitive development help the child understand the information presented. Visual learning allows the brain to more easily recall details, as they are concrete.

The type of visual aid provided should be catered to the developmental stage. Drawings and illustrations are best for toddlerhood and early childhood, while three-dimensional models in middle childhood. The visual aids increase in complexity throughout adolescence.  

Communication

Language is an integral part of cognitive development. Consistently communicating language skills to children fosters their cognitive development. Speak to children ages five and up in complete sentences with challenging vocabulary words. Ensure to explain the context of the words to demonstrate proper use.

Locus of Control: Internal or external?

Do we have control over what happens to us? To what extent can we influence the events that occur throughout our lives? The term locus of control seeks to differentiate two ways of thinking—the belief that some people are able to control the outcome of their lives versus the belief that outside factors have the greatest effect, and individuals cannot determine their situation. An internal and external locus of control are forces at play in all of humanity. Keep reading to find out why.

locus of control

What is Locus of Control?

It is a concept of personality psychology describing the tendency for people to believe they control the outcomes of their lives internally through their own actions or that external forces outside of their control influence life’s events. The term was developed in 1954 by psychologist Julian Rotter. Rotter founded this term under the premise that behavior is affected by the expected results of behavior. Positive consequences motivate an action, while negative consequences discourage it. It is useful because it directs our behavior towards the events that occur in life.

No one has an entirely internal or external locus of control. There is a spectrum which varies depending on the individual and the situation. However, most favor one view over the other and make the majority of their decisions through that perspective.

Internal Locus of Control

An external locus of control is based on the idea that an individual has control of their life. Their actions are the primary influence for both good and bad outcomes. For example, someone with a strong internal locus of control would claim their job promotion is due to hard work or that the A+ on their last test was because they dedicated countless hours studying.

A high internal locus of control is optimal, as it is related to increased success, motivation, and people with a high internal locus of control are less affected by the opinions of others. They accept responsibility for their successes and failures even in the case of unfavorable outcomes.

Internal Control Personality Characteristics

  • Hard working—always putting in effort to achieve goals
  • Confident—recognizing the skills and knowledge required to overcome challenges
  • Physical healthy—considering it their active obligation to eat healthily, partake in regular exercise, and remaining diligent in keeping up with medical appointments  
  • Responsible—holding themselves accountable for successes and their mistakes or failures  
  • Positive—feeling happiness, peaceful, and relaxed about the future because increased control over life leads to minimal stress
  • Independent—not relying on others for success
  • Studious—valuing knowledge and the skills it contributes to overcome obstacles
  • High self-esteem—respectful of oneself and confident in abilities

External Locus of Control

An external control stems from the idea that the outcomes of life are beyond personal control. Whether good or bad, uncontrollable factors in the environment dictate events. It is often compared to fate and luck. For example, someone with an external control would assume they did not receive a job promotion because they did not have adequate connections or that they failed their last test because the questions were about the teacher did not assign.

Operating under a high external locus of control is generally not perceived as productive. People with an external locus of control blame others for their failures, yet attribute success to mere chance. They do not deeply analyze situations and typically blame others for their problems. This creates the inclination to refrain from action.

External Control Personality Characteristics

Those with control also display a particular set of personality characteristics.

  • Insecure—not confident in their own abilities and continually doubting they can accomplish difficult goals. Low self-esteem.
  • Dependent—reliance on other people for tasks they are capable of doing without assistance
  • Hopeless—feeling emotions like “what’s the point” or as if any response to a life event is futile
  • Passive—resigning effort to surmount challenges because their actions won’t make a difference in the outcome
  • Indecisive—events are not analyzed to the fullest causing difficulty to make concrete decisions  

Measuring Locus of Control

It is not as simple as pronouncing a propensity for an internal or external way of thinking. Professionals have formulated multiple scales to assess the topic. The first scale is the forced-choice scale for adults by Rotter in 1966. Rotter’s scale is a series of 29 questions, like choosing between “There are certain people who are just no good” or “There is some good in everybody.”

Originating in 1961, Bialer’s scale assesses children and has supported much research in child behavior. However, it scales today mainly focus on health psychology including the Health Locus of Control Scale and the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scale.

Locus of Control and Health Psychology

Health psychology studies the psychological and cognitive processes in health and wellness. It is concerned with how behavior impacts illness, the prevention of illness, and medical compliance. It is applied in daily life as it pertains to health psychology.

Psychologists proposed that health is contingent on three factors: internal factors, powerful others such as a doctor, or luck. Studies indicate that patients with an external locus of control are susceptible to “loneliness and helplessness and unfavorable fight with diseases” (Pourhoseinzadeh et al., 2017). Knowing a patient’s locus of control is useful for medical treatment. Believing in luck for health outcomes potentially interferes with healing, as these patients are not as likely to comply with the treatment plans formulated by their doctors. Physicians and patients can make informed treatment decisions incorporating locus of control scales as part of the diagnostic process.

Apply Locus of Control to Other Real Life Situations

It is relevant in other aspects of life. In all actuality, we implement the characteristics of the concept in almost every behavior. Our sense of control is rooted in every response to life’s events.

  • Academics— Students with a high internal locus of control earn better grades, dedicate more time to studying, and have greater levels of fulfillment. Counseling tactics for the students with an external locus of control have its benefits.
  • Advertising—Entrepreneurs have improved success in selling products when they cater their advertising efforts towards the of consumers.
  • Sports— Sports psychology has a keen interest in this concept. Athletes with an internal locus of control model mental toughness, lower stressors, resiliency, and they frequently set realistic goals. Studies also show that a coach’s locus of control orientation influences the speeches he or she gives to their team (Sidhu & Arora, 2017).
  • Religion— An internal locus of control is optimal even in religion. While the religious are falsely depicted as having an external control, most operate internally—believing God grants them the responsibility to control their actions.
  • Addiction One’s locus of control orientation complicates addiction. For example, it affects smoking behaviors, as well as whether someone will seek intervention for their addictions. When Gambling, externals are apt to take riskier bets.
  • Politics—People with an internal control exercise their right to vote, whereas those with an external control do not participate in elections as often because they believe their contribution will not make a difference in the outcome.

Demographics of Locus of Control

Certain groups reflect a tendency towards an internal and external control. Age is significant. An external control is especially pronounced in children and in the elderly population. Middle-aged adults have the highest internal control before their internal orientation declines. Until then, an internal control increases with life experience. Elderly adults depict a change in it when health problems increase.

Gender differences are not as clear. In U.S. studies, men and women are nearly equal in their expression of internal control. However, cultural differences do have an effect. Women in other countries might have a higher external control because they view themselves as powerless under the control of men (Zahodne et al., 2015).

Ethnic minorities, those with lower socioeconomic status, and the disabled are predisposed to an external control. Discrimination skews the individual’s conception that they do not hold the power to control their life when surrounded by negative environmental influences.

Core Self-Evaluations

Core self-evaluations are personality traits that represent an individual’s subconscious fundamental evaluations about themselves. It is one of the core self-evaluations, along with neuroticism, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. Experts from the University of Florida (2002) explain that self-evaluations represent worth and value (self-esteem), locus of control, confidence (self-efficacy), and emotional stability (neuroticism). Scoring high in the core self-evaluations predicts success and life satisfaction.

Locus of Control is a Core Self-Evaluation

How to Develop an Internal Locus of Control

If an external control is a detriment to your success, it is advantageous to develop an internal control. The initial step to shaping an internal locus of control is to target only what we can control. We cannot control all aspects of our environment, and we cannot control other people, but we can control our thoughts and our actions.

Next, adopting an internal control is becoming aware of our choices. It is accepting that we have a choice in how we choose to act. Approach these choices with rational thinking and problem-solving skills. Activities like journaling solutions, brain games, jigsaw puzzles, and physical exercise enhance problem-solving abilities.

Transform “I can’t” statements into “I can.” Identify others with your desired locus of control. Modeling their behavior is constructive, as they provide an example of appropriate behavior in stressful, problem situations—opening a world of possibilities.

References

Pourhoseinzadeh, M., Gheibizadeh, M., & Moradikalboland, M. (2017). The Relationship between Health Control and Health Behaviors in Emergency Medicine Personnel. International journal of nursing and midwifery, 5(4), 397–407. with external control have more mental disorders compared with internal ones.

Sidhu, A. & Arora, A.K. (2017). A study of passion and control among athletes and non-athletes. International Journal of Yoga, Physiotherapy, and Physical Education, 2(5), 222-223.

Zahodne, L. B., Meyer, O. L., Choi, E., Thomas, M. L., Willis, S. L., Marsiske, M., … Parisi, J. M. (2015). External control contributes to racial disparities in memory and reasoning training gains in ACTIVE. Psychology and aging, 30(3), 561–572. :10.1037/pag0000042

Divergent Thinking: Become a Divergent Thinker

Consider your most creative idea. Next, imagine how that idea came to be. More likely than not, it manifested from a number of possibilities prior to focusing on a single topic. There is a name for the jumbled series of miscellaneous thoughts that eventually lead to innovation. It is a thinking process called divergent thinking. Find out what is divergent thinking, elements its composed of, differences with convergent thinking, etc.

Journaling for Divergent Thinking

What is Divergent Thinking?

Divergent thinking is a thought process beginning with the breaking down various components of a topic to generate answers to a question. As the topic is divided into separate parts, it leads to the formation of new ideas and even new questions! The overall goal is to produce a number of possible solutions in a timely manner that could not have emerged from a more focused method of thought. Divergent thinking is unstructured, spontaneous, and non-linear—meaning individuals approach problems starting with one topic that drives many further ideas. There is no specific direction.

Elements of Divergent Thinking

Eight elements comprise the divergent thinking process:

  • Risk-taking—Possessing a willingness to courageously explore, experiment, and accept new, potentially controversial ideas
  • Originality—The capacity to discover ideas others have not previously thought of
  • Fluency—The art of generating a variety of ideas to increase the number of solutions
  • Imagination—Visualizing and thinking of original ideas
  • Flexibility—An open-mindedness to accept unexpected idea combinations on a topic
  • Complexity—The ability to understand and form well rounded, multifaceted ideas
  • Curiosity—The yearning for knowledge to ask the appropriate questions that will guide new ideas
  • Elaboration—Readiness to further ideas to experiment and build on a topic

Divergent VS. Convergent Thinking

Contrary to divergent thinking, convergent thinking is another way to confront a problem. Convergent thinking applies logic to arise at a single solution from many ideas. The process is linear, centralized around one point and does not draw from creativity. A prime example of convergent thinking is choosing an answer on a multiple-choice test. It is straightforward because there is only one right or wrong answer.

Although the two thinking processes vastly differ, divergent thinking relies on convergent thinking to arrive at a solution. Successful problem solvers confront a problem in which creative ideas are copious, yet they narrow down their chosen solution through convergent thinking.

Divergent Thinking and Creativity

While both of these concepts are undoubtedly related, the words are not synonymous. Experts define creativity as the ability to uniquely utilize original ideas to solve problems. It also involves identifying problematic aspects of a given situation (Jaarsveld & Lachmann, 2017).

Creative thinking supports innovation. The world prospers through the creativity to invent technological advances and to surmount problems at work, school, and in relationships. Still, creative thinking is not possible without its predecessor, divergent thinking. It fosters creativity because it generates those “creative” ideas. After a problem is creatively identified, divergent thinking expedites the variables of available solutions.

Activities of Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking does not occur on its own. Frequently, it is prompted by an initial trigger to cultivate an idea and additional complex ideas stem from those. Engaging in the following activities are conducive to divergent thinking.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is cornerstone to divergent thinking. The activity entails a lengthy, unedited list of ideas. All ideas are recorded regardless of whether or not they are deemed a worthy solution. This list format inspires new ideas from those that precede it.

Subject Mapping

As previously stated, divergent thinking is non-linear. The path from one idea to another is indirect. Think of a spider web model for planning. The main idea is in the center with separate sub-ideas branching out. Sub-ideas can also have ideas branching out (i.e. sub-sub-topics).

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Journaling

Journaling is essentially a bound book of creative thoughts. Carrying a journal highlights the spontaneous aspect of divergent thinking, as an individual documents ideas as they emerge throughout the day. The journal can be reviewed later to stimulate a range of diverse ideas.

Free Writing

Free writing is similar to journaling. However, they differ in the fact that free writing is typically intentional. Structure has the tendency to impede the divergent thinking, but sitting down with the intention to write has the potential to spur the creative process. To undertake free writing, start by writing whatever comes to mind about a particular topic for a short period of time. Free writing produces collective thoughts on a subject. The key to free writing is not to stop for editing because the focus on grammatical mechanics disrupts the flow of ideas.

The SCAMPER Technique

The SCAMPER technique is a critical thinking technique designed to provide a creative thinking flow. The aim of the SCAMPER technique is to encourage free-flowing thoughts and ideas necessary for divergent thinking. SCAMPER is an acronym where each letter represents types of questions to evaluate and assess an idea.

  • Substitute—What part of ideas can be substituted? The technique of substitution determines if there is a better alternative that will increase the overall gains of a solution. 
  • Combine—Can multiple ideas be merged? ‘Combine’ implies that two ideas can be combined to result in a new, innovative solution.
  • Adapt—Should elements of an idea change for a favorable output?Flexibility is an immense factor. The ‘adapt’ technique is essential to making an idea more flexible for unexpected topic combinations.
  • Modify—Can this process be viewed from a fresh perspective? Changes made during the modification stage concentrate on the solution as a whole rather than a single idea.
  • Put to another use—What benefits does this idea bestow on alternative problems? Divergent thinking is innovative and creative, which demands we examine an idea from all angles—like its usefulness for other problems. Putting an idea to another use revolves around originality.  
  • Eliminate—What would happen if an idea were removed? Eliminating ineffective ideas is imperative to the process.
  • Reverse—How can reversing the order of the initial thought process lead to a better outcome? Divergent thinking is as complex as the ideas it produces. Contemplating the sequences of the thinking process, as well as how the thinking process is altered, strengthens the usefulness of the ideas.

Divergent Thinking and the Brain

Neuroscientists have long expressed an interest in divergent thinking, which caused them to test it by measuring fMRI brain activity. Those efficient have prominent brain connections in three brain networks—the default network, the salience network, and the executive control network. The default network is especially significant, as it associated with spontaneous and imaginative cognition. Creative thinkers show increased connections in hippocampal activity on fMRI studies when asked to perform divergent thinking tasks. For example, naming creative purposes for common household objects. This lends evidence that divergent thinking is advantageous to cognitive thinking skills such as attention and memory.

Barriers to Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking does not always transpire with ease. There is an array of emotional and mechanical barriers to the process. Overcoming the barriers are crucial for divergent thinking to be advantageous to problem solving.

  • ProcrastinationThe most difficult step is beginning the process. While the process may occasionally be delayed for whatever reason, solutions cannot emerge without ‘jumping right in’ to it.
  • Time—Speed is a major component. With the goal of one idea leading to another, it is not meant to designate much time to one thought.  
  • Organization—Divergent thinking is unstructured and disorganized. Focusing on organization prevents the formation of numerous ideas.
  • Fear—Those wishing to become divergent thinkers need to take risks. Mistakes are unavoidable and not to be feared.  
  • Conformity—Conformity and fear go hand-in-hand. People fear non-conformity, afraid to stand out. However, divergent thinkers are not concerned with embracing original ideas that challenge society’s perception of normal and what is accepted.

References

Elmansy, R. (2015). A Guide to the SCAMPER Technique for Creative Thinking. Retrieved from https://www.designorate.com/a-guide-to-the-scamper-technique-for-creative-thinking/

Jaarsveld, S., & Lachmann, T. (2017). Intelligence and Creativity in Problem Solving: The Importance of Test Features in Cognition Research. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 134. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00134

Roger E.B, Yoed N.K, Alexander P.C., et al. (2018). Robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain functional connectivity. Silvia PNAS January 30, 2018 115 (5) 1087-1092; published ahead of print January 16, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1713532115

Respect: What is it, types, examples, learn and teach respect

Respect: a useful guide. Learn what it is, why it is important, types and examples. Discover interesting tips on how to teach it. What to do when we are disrespected? How do you learn to respect yourself? How to respect others? In this article, we answer all these questions.

Respect

What is respect? Concept and definition

The word respect comes from the Latin word “respectus” meaning attention, regard or consideration. It can be defined as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability“.

It is a very important component of both personal identity and interpersonal relationships. To feel respected could be considered a basic human right. Disrespect is a very important thing that can lead to break-ups and even violence.

It is a concept that refers to the ability to value and honor another person, both his or her words and actions, even if we do not approve or share everything he or she does. It is accepting the other person and not trying to change them. Respecting another person is not judging them by their attitudes, behaviors or thoughts. It is not expecting for someone to be otherwise.

Our differences are positive because it creates our identity. This means that individual differences exist, but above all to understand that as members of a society we are equal. All people are due respect for the simple fact of being people. Equality is in balance. That is why it is very important to teach children from an early age the value of it. The best way to teach respect is to become a role model for our children.

Respect for others is very important, but for yourself is fundamental since you will value others to the extent that you are able to value yourself.

“don’t do what you don’t want to be done to you,” and “respect and value.”

Some synonyms of respect would be deference, obedience, attention, courtesy, tolerance, compliance or admiration.

Why is respect important?

Without it, interpersonal relationships will be filled with conflict and dissatisfaction. If we don’t respect others, they will not respect us, and if we don’t respect ourselves we will not be respected by others either.

It is essential to feel safe, to be able to express ourselves without fear of being judged, humiliated or discriminated against.

Being respectful of others, being respected and respecting ourselves increases our self-esteem, self-efficacy, mental health, and well-being.

Types of respect

There are many types, the most important of which are: self-respect, for others, for social norms, for nature, for values, for laws and norms, for culture and for the family.

It is learning to tolerate, not discriminate and avoid actions that may offend others. Some examples of consideration in everyday life are: greeting or speaking to others in a kind and respectful way, giving up your seat in public places, treating others as you would like them to treat you, etc.

  • For self: This kind refers to the ability to respect oneself, to value and appreciate oneself. Accepting oneself regardless of what others think.
  • For others: This kind refers to the act of tolerating accepting and considering another person, even though there may be differences between them, or between the way they think. Some examples would be; respect for parents, men and women equally, teachers, older people, other’s religious beliefs, respect for people of different sexual orientation (lesbians, transgender, gay, bisexual, intersex, etc.), etc.
  • For social norms: This kind refers to the ability to respect all the norms that govern society. Some examples of this type of respect would be: respect for courtesy rules, working hours, other people’s belongings, letting them speak and listen, respecting others opinions.
  • For nature: This kind refers to the appreciation of the environment (animals, plants, rivers, etc.). Some examples of this type of respect would be; not throwing garbage in rivers, forests, or fields, not tearing up plants or mistreating nature, not wasting water, not harming animals or insects, recycling, using environmentally friendly means of transport, etc.
  • For the family: This kind implies being able to understand and respect each other within the family, and implies being able to follow a set of rules of coexistence.
  • For values: This kind refers to the ability to honor our own principles.
  • For culture: This type of value refers to the ability to recognize that there are other beliefs and be able to respect them. Some example of this kind of respect would be; not trying to impose our beliefs on others, avoid making judgments about the opinions of others, etc.
  • For national symbols: This kind refers to the ability to value and appreciate the symbols of a nation. For example, the anthem or the flag.
  • For human beings: This type refers to the ability to comply with legal norms, respect laws, etc.

How to teach respect?

This atribute is a two-way street. Hal and Yates studied respect through words and found out that between parents and children and teachers and students respect is the main aspect of the relationship between them.

These authors learned that it is about reciprocity, meaning that we get back what we receive, therefore if parents respect their children, they will receive the same respect back. The important aspect of this study was that parents and teachers were the ones responsible for teaching respect.

You can start teaching respect to children, maybe this song and tips might help:

1. Respect your children

Take into account your child’s tastes and preferences. Don’t make him do something he doesn’t want, just like you wouldn’t make an adult do it. Suggest, encourage, advise, but don’t force. If your child has their own way of doing things, let your child do it. Don’t pretend to have complete control over your child’s behavior or preferences. Accept their decisions and let them make their own decisions as well.

When we accept children’s differences, they feel listened to and respected. They learn in their own flesh how to treat others who have different opinions and to respect others despite their differences.

2. Stay calm and don’t shout

If you want to teach respect, it is important to set an example and always keep a calm tone. Shouting at a person is disrespectful, too. Although it can be difficult when you feel frustrated, try not to shout.

3. Don’t use negative labels or insults

Telling our child, “you’re a bad boy” or “you’re useless” is very harmful to self-esteem, but it also encourages a disrespectful attitude. So, when he/she behaves badly, it is better to say: “What you have done is wrong”, focusing on his action by not judging the child”. Discover the power of effect. Prophecies come true.

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4. Understand why he/she disrespected you.

When your child is disrespectful, it’s best to understand why he or she has done it and help them explore their feelings. For example, if your child calls you “bad,” we’ll ask why he or she said it, whether it’s because they’re angry or sad. We need to think about what might have upset him, and say, “Are you angry about this?” We must be empathic to their anger and make them understand that not because of that anger a person is bad and that hurting others is not a way to solve problems. Once they understand this, we can negotiate with them how to solve their anger.

5. Don’t let them disrespect you.

Don’t let your children or anyone else disrespect you. Be a good role model for them, not letting anyone take advantage of you or accepting yourself.

Portraying respect goes hand in hand with self-esteem. The higher the self-esteem the lower the possibilities you will accept disrespect. Remember that us humans strife to achieve respect but we have to focus on providing ourselves with the respect we deserve.

6. Set limits

When teaching respect, it is important to set limits on what is right and wrong for children. When they behave disrespectfully, point out the behavior, calmly, without shouting, as we have mentioned before. However, if there is a lot of emotional activation, if the child is very upset, it is better to wait for him to calm down, or even help him to do so.

7. Apologize when you’re wrong.

When you’re wrong, you don’t keep your promise or you’re too hard on your child, it’s important to apologize to them. Not only will we convey humility and the importance of asking for forgiveness, but we will also teach them respect.

8. Congratulate your children when they are respectful

It is important for them to learn the actions that are right and respectful. Let them know that what they have done is right because then they are more likely to repeat it.

Respect at the workplace

Globalization has made that most of our workplaces have diverse people, from different races, religions, etc. This is very important because having a diverse workplace helps boost productivity. However, what is most important in a diverse workplace is to maintain respect among coworkers to reduce job stress.

To keep respect at the workplace it is important to be polite with each other, don’t judge people, control your anger, inspire others, etc. Practicing humility, respecting other people’s time, trying to be empathic are important variables at the workplace.

Learn to respect yourself

Sometimes it’s hard to get others to respect us if we don’t do it ourselves.

1. Treat others the way you want to be treated

It’s a pretty cliché phrase, but it’s true. If you want to be respected, start by respecting others. People tend to be reciprocal.

2. Respect yourself

If others see that you have this, they will also consider and appreciate you and your needs. Consider yourself a priority.

3. Use body language

Body language is very important because it helps to transmit a lot of information. Although many times the information we send with the body is contradictory to our words. Therefore, if we give our opinion but with a faint voice, it is more likely that no one will take into account what we are saying. But on the contrary, if we express what we think in a firm voice, looking into the other’s eyes and confident in ourselves, they are more likely to respect us.
Discover here tips for effective communication skills.

4. Speak positively

Even if you do not behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, do not underestimate yourself, or play down.

5. Surround yourself with the right people

Some people are just always disrespectful and no matter what we do they will always disrespect others. These people we should keep further away from us as possible. If you can’t keep them away then learn to ignore their comments.

6. Defend yourself against disrespect

If they disrespect you or don’t take you seriously, defend yourself. Don’t allow it. Don’t attack or respond in the same way either. With a “What you said has hurt me”, “That comment was inappropriate” or “I won’t allow you to speak to me like that”, these phrases will help for this behavior not to repeat again.

7. Boost your self-esteem

Many times we are not respected because we don’t consider ourselves worthy of it. This may be conscious or unconscious. Even if we rationally know that we do deserve respect, sometimes unconsciously we don’t end up believing it. That is why it’s important to work on your self-esteem.

8. Develop assertiveness

Assertiveness is a way of defending our rights while respecting those of others. By being assertive, we will avoid others taking advantage of us, besides increasing our self-esteem. To do this, it is important to learn to say no when something doesn’t feel right or doesn’t suit you.

Respect Others

What to do with lack of respect?

Do you feel that others don’t respect you and take advantage of you? Here are a few tips to help you overcome disrespect.

  • Value your educational trajectory or other forms of education that you have had. If you are not fortunate enough to have a formal education, value your life experience and life skills.
  • Honor your body and listen to it. Take care of it without forcing it, do physical exercise and eat properly.
  • Listen to yourself, attend to your needs, whether they are a need for rest, disconnection or fun.
  • Learn to communicate assertively, as mentioned above.
  • Stay away from people who don’t do you any good and from toxic relationships.
  • Find out what your goals and objectives are in life and work to achieve them.

How do we respect others?

  1. Listening to the other person.
  2. Being empathetic, understanding each other and putting ourselves in their shoes.
  3. Using assertive communication, that is, defending our rights while respecting the rights of others, in an educated and non-aggressive manner.
  4. Keep in mind that our approaches, ideas, and opinions may differ from other people and none is wrong. No one has the absolute truth.
  5. Apologizing to each other when we make mistakes.
  6. Keeping other people’s secrets.
  7. Complying with and respecting laws and regulations
  8. Taking care of the common spaces and the environment.
  9. Interest in others, their everyday life and how they feel.
  10. Respecting the privacy and intimacy of others.
  11. Respecting others spaces and belongings, not to invade or use what is not ours without permission.
  12. Respect personal space.
  13. Make sure we include rather than exclude others.
  14. Helping others when it is in our power to do so.
  15. Being grateful.

Associative Learning: Learning from association or relating several things

Associative Learning: How do punishments and rewards affect us? Have you ever wondered how we learn that something is dangerous or beneficial to us? What is associative learning? What is it for? What types are there? Discover here the answers to these questions and much more. In this article, we will explain in detail and give numerous examples to one of the most popular approaches to learning.

Associative Learning

What is Associative Learning?

Regardless of the environment, the method we use or our motives, learning consists in relatively stable changes in our behavior or our mind produced by experience.

How does our brain learn? Answering this question is a great challenge for psychologists and professionals from other disciplines dedicated to education. Experts strive to develop learning theories. In this article, we will talk about one of the most successful proposals.

The definition of associative learning encloses several different types of cognitive processes and events. It is a learning that takes place when two elements are connected in our brain. For example, if we associate the alarm clock to get up early, we will find out what this instrument is for and how little we like it.

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What is Associative Learning for?

Learning new content and constantly adapting to the circumstances is fundamental in all life stages. Progress in understanding this process favors the advancement of better educational methods and increase the common welfare. If we were not able to associate different ideas, we would be forced daily to ask how we get to our house or exposing us to dangers like fire after ignoring that it burns. We would have what is commonly called “three-second memory” or “fish memory”. Fortunately, we are able to connect the dots and associate different things for example, that water quenches thirst or that eating certain foods can give us allergies. 

How does associative learning take place?

The processes related to associative learning takes place through experience. Our experiences teach us what benefits us and what is harmful to us. Although we don’t always get the same results with the same acts, past events are a fairly reliable guide for our future actions.

Associative Learning: Types and examples

Animals have been the main protagonists in the experiments dedicated to deepening associative learning. Ivan Pavlov developed one of the most famous experiments in associative learning and psychology in general. In the 1980s this Russian physiologist observed how dogs salivated (unconditioned response) after seeing the food (unconditioned stimulus). He then decided to sound a neutral stimulus like a bell (conditioned stimulus) when presenting food to animals. The result was that the dogs began to salivate upon hearing this instrument (conditioned response). They had associated the sound of the bell with food.

The hippocampus role in associative learning

Strong learning-related patterns of neural activity are provided within cells in the hippocampus and they participate in the initial formation of new associative memories. There may be gradual recruitment of a network of hippocampal neurons during the formation of new associative memories. Other brain areas may be involved in associative learning including the prefrontal cortex (Asaad et al., 1998), frontal motor-related areas (Brasted and Wise, 2004; Chen and Wise, 1995a; Chen and Wise, 1995b; Mitz et al., 1991) and striatum (Brasted and Wise, 2004).

Associative learning: Types and examples

1. Classical conditioning

Classical conditioning is a type of associative learning based on the association between a neutral stimulus with another that is significant for a person or an animal in order to generate a similar response. It is the process we have seen previously with Pavlov’s dog.

A representative experiment in classical conditioning is that of Little Albert. It took place in 1920 and was carried out by Watson and Rayner. They felt that fear, anger, and love were the original patterns of emotional reactions in children and developed as they grew older.

Therefore, they decided to experiment with Albert, a small nine months remarkably undisturbed and in good health. Albert only reacted with fear to a thunderous sound caused by a steel bar being struck behind him.

Subsequently, they began to present white rats while causing noise. There was a firm association between these two stimuli that was generalized to others like soft cotton or a seal coat. Albert had developed a phobia of white or hairy objects or living things. Currently, it is absolutely forbidden to carry out research like this for obvious ethical reasons. The following video is the Little Albert experiment.

Imagine that you have dined your favorite dish. Then you lie quietly in bed. But for some reason totally foreign to your dinner, you vomit several times throughout the night. Most likely, your favorite food will start to look disgusting. This is an example of a process of classical conditioning. Has it ever happened to you?

Generalization and discrimination

Generalizing and discriminating helps us to adapt better to all kinds of contexts. For example, little Albert generalized his fear of several similar stimuli. Instead, a demonstration of discrimination occurs when we learn that we can only cross the street when the traffic light is green.

Extinction

It consists of not associating the conditioned response with the unconditioned stimulus. For example, imagine that we associate exaggerating our qualities so people praise us. However, if one day our friends stop praising us regardless of the exceptional anecdotes we report, then we will stop using this technique and our behavior will be extinguished.

2. Operant or instrumental conditioning

This type of associative learning has many similarities with the previous one, like the existence of similar procedures of generalization, discrimination, and extinction. However, in operant conditioning, the individual is less passive than in the classical conditioning and his responses are not automatic. It is that the consequences of a person’s behavior produce changes in their learning, favoring the repetition of their actions or ceasing to occur. Skinner was an influential behavioral psychologist who continued to work on the ideas of Pavlov and Watson. He created the famous Skinner boxes, which were used to experiment with rats. A small dose of food was offered to these animals each time they hit a bar. At first, the rats pressed the bar out of curiosity or casually. However, when they realized that whenever they acted like that they were rewarded, they began to perform this act voluntarily. If you want to know more you can watch the following video.

Reinforcement and punishment

Reinforcements or prizes increase the likelihood that we will act in a certain way. On the one hand, there are positive reinforcers, which are the rewards given for performing certain behaviors (increased rat behaviors in the previous experiment). Another example is to make a compliment to a person who has done us a favor.

Associative learning- Operant Conditioning– Photo by Pet Education Committee

Negative reinforcements, on the other hand, are based on not presenting an unpleasant event. An example is avoiding a subject of conversation with a friend that you know will feel bad if you bring it up.

A punishment is an annoying consequence due to our acts. Its purpose is to reduce the likelihood that we will behave this way again. If we fail for studying at the last minute an important subject and we have to retake the test, it is quite possible that we try to improve our study habits and try to overcome procrastination.

Associative learning: Characteristics 

  •  Cognitive Processes are often overlooked: The main theorists of associative learning and their followers prefer to stick to observable events, such as behavior and the environment. Everything that is linked to cognitive processes remains relatively hidden and not analyzed by them.  
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  • It was investigated and explained by behaviorists: Behaviourism is one of the main focuses of psychology. Behaviorists discarded introspection to study this process. They were particularly concerned about achieving quantifiable results.
  • It is studied scientifically: The main theorists of associative learning worked laboratories under extremely rigorous conditions, relying especially on experiments with animals.
  • It is one of the bases in education: Rewards and punishments are often used while teaching. However, teaching is not the only profession that uses associative learning.

Associative learning: Applications

1. Examples of associative learning in the classroom

Associative learning in children has been and continues to be studied in depth. Teachers often use positive reinforcements such as putting star stickers on children who have behaved extraordinarily well. On the other hand, not reinforcing children who shout deliberately for attention or punish those who annoy their peers.

2. Examples of associative learning in therapy

There are several therapies based on associative learning. For example, systematic desensitization is a technique based on the principles of classical conditioning. It was created by Wolpe in 1958 and is used in therapy to reduce anxiety symptoms and avoidance behaviors manifested by people with problems such as phobias.
If a person feels an intense fear of heights (acrophobia), the psychologist can apply this technique. You will choose an answer that is incompatible with anxiety, such as relaxation. He will then ask his patient to imagine situations in which he progressively approaches the object of his fear.
The affected person should imagine their approach as clearly as possible and assess their anxiety. Meanwhile, you have to try to relax to be able to gradually face your phobia. Ultimately, the end of this procedure is for the patient to stop associating negative feelings with the object of his fear.

Systematic desensitization-Associative learning– Photo by SimplyPsychology.org

3. Day-to-day examples of associative learning

If you are listening to a particular song while telling you bad news, it is very likely that when you hear it again you immediately remember that event and how you felt.

When teenagers need to clean their rooms, parents almost always offer a reward or reinforcement in exchange. This is a perfect example of associative learning.

Examples of associative learning can be found in virtually every area of our lives.

Associative learning bias

Associative learning can also be viewed from a more cognitive approach. For example, it is possible to analyze cognitive biases (which are deviations in the usual process of reasoning) from this perspective. They originate when we associate one idea with another without adequately taking into account all relevant information.

For example, if a redhead steps on us by mistake in the subway and since then we consider that all redheads are clumsy, we will be acting under the effect of a cognitive bias. On the other hand, if we learn to blame ourselves for any negative events that take place, it is possible to give rise to biases so negative that they become cognitive distortions.

Associative learning: Authors

– Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)

This reputed physiologist won a Nobel Prize in 1904 for his studies on the digestive secretions of dogs. We have previously commented on his experiment with animals.

– Edward Thorndike (1874-1949)

He was a famous psychologist dedicated to research on education and learning from an instrumental conditioning approach. He designed problem boxes to examine how cats managed to get out of them by trial and error. He also enunciated the law of effect, which states that behaviors that report benefits are more likely to remain.

– John B. Watson (1874-1958)

Watson was a behavioral psychologist firmly convinced that anyone can be trained successfully to behave in a certain way. In fact, he was the author, along with his assistant, Rosalie Rayner, of Little Albert’s experiment.

– Edwing Guthrie (1886-1959)

This philosopher dedicated to psychology did not believe that the reinforcements were absolutely essential for the conditioning to take place. Inspired by Pavlov, he argued that the connection between a stimulus and a response was established from the first time they happened together.

– Burrhus F. Skinner (1904-1990)

He was an influential behaviorist psychologist who developed the ideas of his predecessors. He created the Skinner boxes used to investigate operant conditioning. He also insisted heavily on focusing on observable behavior to achieve a totally scientific and rigorous psychology.

– Joseph Wolpe (1915-1997)

He is the creator of systematic desensitization, which we have explained previously. He felt that you can’t feel two opposing emotions at once. Therefore, their goal was to relax people to lessen their anxiety reactions and that way fear is unleashed.

Finally, we want to add that there are other explanations that seek to clarify how we learn such as meaningful learning, social learning theory, cognitive learning, etc. 

We invite you to look up these approaches as well since each one has a different way of looking at reality.  However, many also complement each other. In fact, associative learning theorists now contemplate new, more inclusive perspectives.

Thank you very much for reading this article. Do not hesitate to comment if you have any questions or if you want to share some experiences with us. We will be happy to answer all your questions.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz Aldana, translated by Alejandra Salazar. 

Teaching Styles: Everything you need to know about teaching methods and strategies

Have you ever thought about how each classroom teaches things differently? In this article, we answer what are teaching styles, why are there multiple teaching styles, what are the different styles, and which style works the best today?

Teaching styles

What are teaching styles?

Teaching styles, also called teaching methods, are considered to be the general principles, educational, and management strategies for classroom instruction.

The use of different teaching styles started in the beginning of the twentieth century. This was due to the amount of research being poured into different learning methods. Once we understood that everybody learns differently, it became obvious that there need to be different teaching styles to accommodate the learning styles.

Two philosophers, John Locke (Some Thoughts Concerning Education) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (On Education), developed different theories as to how to educate which lead us to have the idea of different teaching styles today. Locke saw the importance of developing a child’s physical habits first anything else. To Locke, this was essential to a child’s development. Rousseau believed that education should be more centered on a child’s interactions with the world and the teaching style should concentrate less on books.

Why have different teaching styles?

Why can’t everyone be taught the same way? Well, why can’t you learn something the same way as your partner or next door neighbor? Everybody learns different ideas at different times at different paces. Some people can learn something on the first try after being told what to do whereas others might need to have hands-on experience in order to learn and possibly repeat it a few times to really get the hang of things. 

Different teaching styles are necessary because the students need to be able to learn what the teacher is teaching. However, the choice of teaching styles used can also depend on the school mission statement, the classroom demographics, the educational philosophy of the teacher, and most importantly, the subject area.

Types of teaching styles:

There are five main types of teaching styles and methods to choose from.

  • The Authority method, also known as the lecture style, involves sitting and listening to the instructor speak about a pre-assigned topic while the students take notes and memorize to the best of their ability what is being said. This particular style is more popular in universities and some high schools due to a larger student population. However, less common in the standard classroom setting due to its lack of allowance of student participation and inability to meet individual needs. The Authority method, also known as the lecture style, involves sitting and listening to the instructor speak about a pre-assigned topic while the students take notes and memorize to the best of their ability what is being said. This particular style is more popular in universities and some high schools due to a larger student population. However, less common in the standard classroom setting due to its lack of allowance of student participation and inability to meet individual needs.
  • The Demonstrator method, widely known as the coaching style, similar to the lecture style, The Demonstrator method tries to maintain authority in the classroom. Even so, instead of using only a verbal lecture to give information and teach, this style coaches students using gateways like multimedia presentations, class activities and demonstrations. For subjects like music, art, and physical education subjects, this style is perfect because the demonstration is usually necessary to acquire a full understanding of the subject. However, a downside is that there is little individual interaction between the teacher and students which makes it difficult to accommodate to personalized needs.
  • The Facilitator style recognized also as the activity or action method, tries to encourage self-learning through peer-to-teacher learning. In contrast to the lecture style, teachers ask students to question rather than give them the answer. The goal is for students to develop a deeper understanding of the topic by using self-discovery and develop problem-solving skills. This technique is best used in small classroom settings because, as a facilitator, the teacher needs to interact with students on an individual basis, which can be difficult with a larger number of students.
  • The Delegator style, or group method, is used for school subjects that require group work, lab-based learning, or peer feedback. For example, science classes and certain language learning classes. The teacher acts as a delegator, becoming an observer to promote peer collaboration and encourage student-to-student learning. The Delegator style is becoming more and more popular throughout many classrooms. However, some people consider other styles to be more proactive due to the fact that the group method removes the teacher from a position of authority.
  • Last, but not least, the Hybrid method, also known as blended learning, is an integrated teaching style that incorporates personal preferences, individual personalities, and specific interests into their teaching. It’s popular in English, science, and religion classes because it’s easy to incorporate extra-curricular knowledge into a developed, deeper knowledge of a particular topic. Some argue that this style weakens the learning process because the teacher tries to be all things to all students.
Teaching style

Teaching style Inventory

Teaching styles can also be organized into four categories with two parameters each: a teacher-centered approach versus a student-centered approach, and high-tech material use versus low-tech material use.

Teaching Styles: Student-Centered Approach

In a student-centered approach to learning, teachers and students share the focus and interact equally while the teacher still maintains authority. This can be beneficial to students because group work is encouraged; thus, communication and collaboration are used and encouraged. However, due to the fact that students are talking, classrooms may be noisier and may be more difficult to manage.

One method to use is inquiry-based learning which makes the teacher more of a supportive figure (rather than completely authoritative) who can provide support and guidance throughout the learning process. By being an inquiry-based learning facilitator, the teacher and student undergo the learning process together with student learning lightly guided by the teacher. By being the personal model, comparable to the personal model in the direct instruction, the teacher acts as the guide and mentor to help enable students to learn by observation and copying the teacher’s actions. By using the delegator method, teachers act as a support for students, are able to answer questions and most importantly are there to provide a sense of freedom and independence for the student.

Another method commonly used is the cooperative learning style where students work in small groups and the teacher can act as the facilitator, where everyone learns together, or as the delegator, where the teacher gives more free-reign to the student while still pointing them in the right direction.

Teaching Styles: Teacher-Centered Approach

In the teaching styles, especifically the teacher-centered approach to learning, the students put their attention on the teacher, students work alone, and collaboration is prevented. This is great because students are, in theory, quiet and paying full attention to the teacher while being able to make individual decisions. However, a student may suffer in their communication skills and feel unable to ask questions due to the fact they normally work alone and quietly. Plus, this classic method is sometimes thought of as dull and uninteresting.

Direct instruction is a method that uses little technology and relies on lecturing. The teacher may take on the formal authority role, where the teacher is in power due to their senior and level of knowledge over the students. They may also take on the expert role where students can be referred to as “empty vessels” because they are viewed solely as receptors of information and knowledge. The other role a teacher can take on in the direct instruction method is that of a personal model. This method uses the teacher as a model of instruction, to lead by example, and students learn by observation.

Teaching Styles: High-Tech Approach

Many schools and classes are taking advantage of the recent advancements in technology which has enabled us to develop a high-tech approach to learning.

The flipped classroom is a high-tech idea developed in 2007 by two teachers who began to pre-record their lectures which allow students to learn from home by completing assignments to go along with the lectures. This is great if students want to work at their own pace, but if there’s a slow internet connection it’s near impossible to use this method.

Inquiry-based learning can involve technology by asking the students a question about the world and they have to do some research. The findings could be presented in the forms of a website, self-made videos, or PowerPoints.

Based on the man who founded Outward Bound, expeditionary learning is a project-based learning involving expeditions and engagement in in-depth topics that impact their schools, communities, and lives. This was created so students can see how problem-solving is happening in the real world, that is, the world around them. A student in NYC could study statistics about the pollution surrounding them or a student from Alaska could study the snow impact from where they live. G-Suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive) is used for this method because it helps students collect and show research in a way that makes it easy for everyone.

Personalized learning is a relatively new style of teaching that, as the name gives away, is all about personalizing the student’s method of learning according to their specific interests and skills. It’s founded on the idea of student self-direction and choice. The assessments are also personalized and quite individual by using a competency-based progression. This means that once a student has mastered a certain skill or subject, they can move on to the next level, regardless of their current grade level. There is also an emphasis on college and career preparation involved because students work on their own, with a mentor (boss) guiding them along. The technology involved is, like the learning itself, quite personalized. However, everyone involved will need to have a certain comfort level with navigating online lessons and programs between the student and instructor.  

Another high-tech learning option is game-based learning which encourages students to develop a “mastery” mindset rather than focus too much on grades. Students develop problem-solving skills by working on accomplishing a specific goal (also known as a learning objective) by choosing actions and different activities and then experimenting with them to achieve the goal. As students progress, they can earn badges and points, as they would in video games. Some of the software that makes game-based learning possible on the teacher’s part is 3DGameLab and Classcraft. Although this style of teaching isn’t completely student-centered, it’s still rather relatively focused on the student because they are able to work at their own pace and make independent choices while still in a gaming environment.

Low-Tech Approach

Some schools or teachers may not enjoy or have the money for high-tech learning and instead, they opt for a low-tech approach to teaching by using a technique called kinesthetic learning. Also known as tactile learning or hands-on learning, kinesthetic learning is a teacher-centered approach that uses the concept of multiple intelligences, the idea that everyone has a strong suit in certain intelligences than in others (i.e. better with words than math). Instead of lectures, students use physical activities to learn. For example, drawing, role-playing, and building. This isn’t as common of a teaching style one might think. However, this teaching style rarely uses technology by putting a stronger emphasis on movement and creativity. Because of this, it’s a cheap and screen-free teaching style.

Another low-tech teaching method is differentiated instruction. Although this is a student-centered teaching style that aims to meet a student’s specific needs, it is mostly implemented by the teacher. Used commonly with students with special needs, differentiated instruction became popular in the United States in 1975 when a law was passed that ensure every child has equal access to an equal education. Some examples of differentiated instruction could include having students read books at their own reading levels or offering different spelling tests to different students depending on their literacy ability. Due to the lack of necessity to use technology and the adaptability of the teaching style, it’s a low-key and traditional teaching style.

Teaching styles crossed referenced PhotoCredit: teach.com

What teaching style is best for today’s students?

As a teacher, it’s difficult to cater to each student’s needs. Constructivist teaching style follows the theory that learning is an active, constructive, and valuable process. It carries with it the idea that people construct their own personal reality and any new information is given is then linked and connected to prior knowledge. Every person will bring with them cultural factors and past experiences to the table. Thus, any mental representation is made personal and individual. The constructivist teaching style assumes that all knowledge is constructed from information given in the past, regardless of how one is taught. It’s important to keep this idea in mind when choosing a teaching style.

Some students might learn better with being an empty vessel and having information, simply processed data, lectured to them. This is a form of passive learning and is commonly used when “teaching to the test,” meaning that the teaching style is structured to pass a certain exam like the ACT, for example.

Proven to be the most effective in a number of ways, an active learning style is best suited for interactive classrooms. That is to say, both the teacher and the student are engaged in the teaching style and learning process which helps the student gain knowledge, information modeled to be useful.

Do you have any fun teaching styles or strategies? What’s your favorite way that you were taught in school? Let us know in the comments below.

Bystander Effect: A deeper understanding

Everyone has been in a situation where some sort of emergency happens and people close by don’t react. Well, this is called a bystander effect. In this article, we will review what is the bystander effect, how is the situation viewed, the relevance of this effect and tips on how to deal with it.

Bystander effect

What is the bystander effect?

According to Kendra Cherry, the elements involved in the bystander effect create a correlation that is little understood by many. The common expression known to many as the bystander effect speaks directly to the abnormality where individuals are less like to aid someone who is when there is a large of people nearby (Cherry, 2017).

The bystander effect is a social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present.

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Cherry has dug deep into the many explanations that surround this correlation; something that she said encompasses two key influences. The bystander effect holds great prevalence in the field of social psychology as it has provided many findings within research across the field. As this topic is of great interest within the social psychology realm, the relationship between the influences of behavior is profound.

The bystander effect has had many famous cases. Including, Kitty Genovese who was killed violently with at least 38 witnesses but no one did anything until the perp had left the scene. The same goes for the Holocaust which is one of the biggest examples of a bystander effect but on a mass scale.

Bystander effect

“The bystander effect is clearly an important basic discovery concerning the social side of life with respect to helping between strangers” (Branscombe & Baron, 2017, p. 305). Notwithstanding the bystander effect is a matchless spectacle that comprises of great information about the correlation surrounding the effect of helping behavior in individuals. Some people choose to help and others simply dismiss the situation altogether, this is where the bystander effect provides the proper reasoning. The diffusion of responsibility is what ultimately plays the most influential role in ones decision to help in a matter. Where other mechanisms such as social and cultural circumstances play in to the overall outcome of a situation entirely.

Notwithstanding the bystander effect is a matchless spectacle that comprises of great information about the correlation surrounding the effect of helping behavior in individuals.

Variables affecting the bystander effect

The Bystander Effect: Diffusion of Responsibility

Diffusion of responsibility is the primary reason as to why the bystander effect is initially around. So the question being posed is what does the diffusion of responsibility indicate?

Basically, individuals choose to not respond to a certain situation based on the fact that other people will most likely take action. “The more bystanders participants believed were present, the lower the percentage of those who made a prosocial response and the longer they waited before responding” (Branscombe & Baron, 2017).

The Bystander Effect: Emergency vs -emergency

The way in which people ask for help is very important. Asking the bystander for help directly, asking by name, is more likely for the person to help than a general cry for help.

According to Latané and Darley, there are five characteristics of emergencies that affect bystanders:[

  1. Emergencies involve a threat of harm or actual harm
  2. Emergencies are unusual and rare
  3. The type of action differs from situation to situation
  4. Emergencies cannot be predicted or expected
  5. Emergencies require immediate action

Due to these five characteristics, bystanders go through cognitive processes and behavioral processes:

  1. Notice that something is going on
  2. Interpret the situation as being an emergency
  3. Degree of responsibility felt
  4. Form of assistance
  5. Implement the action choice

The Bystander Effect: Situation Evaluation

The biggest thoughts that run through an individual’s mind is knowing when the appropriate time to help is. By being a bystander in a situation, one must decide when a situation calls for a helping hand and what type of actions are necessary to take.

Any individual can be confronted with a troubling situation which may result in taking a direct approach, knowing about the bystander effect and how it could present a problem is important when engaging in methods to defeat it (Cherry, 2017). This is when one must appropriately evaluate the situation determining what type of action is appropriate depending all on the specific type of condition.

Bystander effect

Culture is also something that has a momentous function in whether or not an individual will lend a helping hand or not. “If this person is similar to you with respect to age, nationality, or some other factor, are you more likely to help than you would be if the victim were very different from yourself” (Branscombe & Baron, 2017, p. 309). Due to this representation when bystanders have a connection with the components involved in the situation they will be more privy to intervene as a result.

The Bystander Effect: Ambiguity of the situation

If the emergency situation is then the person can take up to 5 times more to make the decision wether to help or not.

The Bystander Effect: Pluralistic Ignorance

The same idea is also prevalent in pluralistic ignorance where individuals may choose to believe that others are seeing the situation in another when in reality they are not. Everyone is seeing the situation through the same lens.

“The tendency for an individual surrounded by a group of strangers to refrain from acting is based on pluralistic ignorance: Because each of the bystanders depends on the others to provide cues for appropriate action, no one does anything” (Branscombe & Baron, 2017, p. 322). The whole premise of this scenario came about with the idea that bystanders who observe a particular instance choose to look at others for their reaction. This is ultimately how people choose their response to any said situation, all by simply looking into the lives of another thinking that others behave in dissimilar ways. In result, this creates for a large effect on an individual helping.

The Bystander Effect and Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy plays a prominent role when it comes to the aspect of a bystander helping. The social cognitive theory specifically outlines this as it relates directly to observation. Bandura (1986) states that, even though an individual may have the ability to intercede in a situation it may not be enough if the specific individual is lacking self-efficacy.

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An individual has to believe in themselves and their abilities to achieve something, and how they deal with this situation is all based on personal discernment. Research has found that the chances of bystanders helping increased when feel a sense of competence while obtaining the ways and means to aid (Krieger, Serrano, Neighbors, 2017). Acknowledging one’s capableness to help in a situation is contingent on overall efficacy. There also been numerous studies to support this “studies on bullying have also found bystander self-efficacy to be positively related to defender behavior” (Krieger, Serrano, Neighbors, 2017, p. 452).

Tips to Deal with the Bystander Effect

Ways to overcome the bystander effect have to do with a few different components that can play a vital role.

  • Observation is one of the most key things that any individual can practice.
  • Taking note of what is happening around you will make you more aware, and able to take action if help is needed.
  • Watching other people lend a helping hand to someone in need.
  • Finally, personal perception is just as an equal contributor to overcoming the bystander effect. When an individual has a good sense of themselves and has a feeling of positivity directed towards them the likeliness that they might help someone in need is increased.

References

Bandura A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Branscombe, N. R., Baron, R. A. (2017). Social Psychology. New York, New York: Pearson.

Cherry, K. (2017). What Is the Bystander Effect? Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/the-bystander-effect-2795899

Krieger, H., Serrano, S., & Neighbors, C. (2017). The role of self-efficacy for bystander helping behaviors in risky alcohol situations. Journal of college student development, 58(3), 451-456.

Daydreaming: what is it, why do we do it, can it be dangerous?

You are now entering Lala land (no, not the one with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, unfortunately) but a land where it’s all about you. We have all had those moment sitting in class, at work and all of a sudden 10 minutes have gone by and you have no idea what actually happened. Your mind has taken over and you were in a haze or maybe even a daydream. Where did your mind go in those 10 minutes? Did you see yourself in a perfect fantasy? What is Daydreaming? Does it happen to everyone? Daydreaming is a part of everyday life! 

daydreaming

What is a daydream?

A daydream is when your mind wanders and your attention shifts from the task at hand whether it be physical or mental, to a place that is entirely your own. Daydreams consist of little videos of yourself in past, future and present events. What you wanted to happen, replaying certain events over and over again, daydream about future events where you see yourself in 10 years and even daydreaming about what you will be doing later tonight. It has been noted that about 30 to 47% of our conscious day is spent spacing out, drifting and daydreaming.

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Men who daydream frequently and women who daydream vividly tend to be less satisfied in their life. But if you daydream about family and friends, people report higher levels of satisfaction in their daily lives. It has been found that there are two types of daydreams: positive-construction daydreams and dysphoric daydreams.

  • Positive-constructive daydreams are usually upbeat and include imaginative thoughts.
  • Dysphoric daydreams include visions of failure and punishment.

These two common themes of the conquering hero and the suffering martyr are experienced differently by men and women. Men are usually daydreaming about the playing the conquering hero while women are daydreaming about being the suffering martyr.  It is human nature for us to daydream more when we are stressed, bored, tired, or in a hectic environment. But on the other hand, the only time where we do not day dream is during sex. All of our attention and focus is at that moment, however, this does not mean you cannot fantasize which is different from daydreaming.

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Why do we daydream?

Daydreams allow your mind to run freely and even increases productivity in some cases. Remember in class there was that one kid who was doodling or staring out the window and the teacher would usually yell at them for not paying attention? Well, it turns out, these kids might have had the right idea. Daydreaming enhances creativity which is why you have an ah-ha moment and sudden insight about a situation. Daydreaming allows your to uncover thoughts and ideas you did not realize you even had and looks underneath the surface thoughts. Your mind in a way becomes unhinged is allowed to roam freely.

Daydreaming is a great exercise because it gives you an outlet to imagine scenarios without risk or any real consequences. When you daydream, you can make new associations and connections from your conscious mind to unconscious thoughts which can help you in a situation that you have been thinking about for a while. When you daydream you escape your reality even if only for a short amount of time. Daydreaming is an essential cognitive tool to help us explore our inner experiences.

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Much like nighttime dreaming, daydreaming can also help the brain consolidate learning. Daydreaming may also help people to sort through problems and achieve success. Researchers found that different brain areas are activated when daydreaming that are compatible with those associated with problem-solving.

Daydreaming Purpose

Daydreaming has been shown that it can serve an evolutionary purpose. The more we replay an event and think about the variables that can affect an event, the more practice and more comfortable we get with the idea of something similar. Daydreaming can be a soothing method to get someone more comfortable with somethingFor example, in Grey’s Anatomy episode, “Magic Moment” the team of doctors practices a very important surgery. This is similar to what happens when we daydream. It is one big dress rehearsal for the real show, your life.

Daydreaming- Grey’s Anatomy

Daydreaming also assists us in making moral decisions. It also gives us an outlet to plan as well as problem-solving in a safe space. A possible explanation as to why we daydream is that we are trying to understand others’ thoughts. We do not know what others are thinking but we can daydream about what we think they are thinking or even about how we want them to this.

The neurological systems behind daydreaming

When you daydream your brain is actually using a different network called the default network. This network includes areas of the brain such as the medial prefrontal cortex which helps to imagine ourselves and the thoughts and feelings of others, the posterior cingulate cortex which shows personal memories from the brain, and the parietal cortex which has connections to the hippocampus that stores episodic memories

The default network is only activated when people switch their conscious mind from an attention-demanding task to wandering or daydreaming. For this reason, this network is considered our default setting, when our brain is not paying attention to the present, it reverts to this setting. This network allows our daydreaming to be an autobiographical mental imagery by generating our own sense of self. The default network is extremely active when we do not notice we have lost focus and our mind wanders on its own. A product from the default system is something called stimulus independent thought. These are thoughts about things other than events that originate from the outside environment, aka they make up the things we daydream about.

Daydreams are all about you

“I try to maintain a healthy dose of daydreaming to remain sane.”-Florence Welch

You might have mundane daydreams but you are also more than capable of having extravagant fantasies as well. What all daydreams have in common, is that they are always all about you! You tend to daydream in your own little world and you are the main focus. We imagine who we think we are, who we want to be, and how we believe others perceive us. Our daydreams confirm what we already know about situations by presenting information in a new or different way. Daydreams allow us to have a self-to-self channel of communication. In our daydreams, we are the center of the universe because it is our world at that moment in time. In our daydreams, we are the center of the universe because it is our world at that moment in time.

Can daydreaming be dangerous?

If you daydream too much, it can become addictive. When we think about the best versions of ourselves and imagining a perfect world or perfect outcome to a situation it can become dangerous. Ruminate daydreaming are daydreams where you are rehashing and analyzing the past as well as worrying about what can do wrong in the future. This can lead you down a dangerous path. Once people are aware that they are doing this, it is rather difficult for them to turn it off. It can also lead to concentration problems and procrastination. Learn more about overcoming procrastination

Daydreaming can be used as a way to escape from stress and pressures that are going on in our reality and they become a way for us to retreat from reality. We can rather daydream about a more idealized situation. For example, many people in prison can spend much of their days daydreaming about what life would be like if they were out. This can become dangerous because people will use daydreams to avoid the reality of situations rather than dealing with them. The best way to try to break this daydream cycle is to have positive distractions such as social gatherings, exercising and being aware and mindful when you start to daydream too much.

Daydreaming effectively- Tips

The best time for the mind to daydream is when you are engaging in a mildly challenging task. This seems to allow people to access ideas that are usually not readily available on the conscious level. Daydreaming provides a place for the mind to wander off to which can then give insight into the conscious mind. If you daydream about people you know, such as family or friends, they can make you happier.

There are some times when you need to focus at the task at hand. The professor is talking about what will be on the exam next week is maybe not the best time for you to zone out and daydream. Do your best to tune out default network when situations like this occur.

Daydream positively: You are the maker of your daydreams and if you do not like what you are daydreaming about, change it, you have the power to do that!

You can actually help your improve your memory by daydreaming about events as long as they are relatively close to reality. This can actually help enhance your memories of the experience and therefore you will have a better chance of remembering them in the future.

Finally, daydream when you can, it allows you to be more creative. Even though there is a moment in time where you want to be paying attention, everyone needs a break and it is important to allow your mind to daydream.

Hope you enjoyed this article and that you continue to daydream!

References

Dell’Amore, Christine. “Five Surprising Facts About Daydreaming.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 14 June 2017. Web. 20 June 2017.

Jones, Lawrence. “What is a Daydream in Psychology? -Definition & Disorder.” Study.com. Study.com, n.d. Web. 20 June 2017.

Lehrer, Jonah. “The Virtues of Daydreaming.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 19 June 2017. Web. 21 June 2017.

Nissan, Colin. “The Science of Daydreams.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 19 June 2017. Web. 20 June 2017.

“What your daydreams reveal about you.” Psychologies. N.p., 03 Mar. 2010. Web. 21 June 2017.

Whitbourne, Susan Krauss. “Why and How You Daydream.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 08 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 June 2017.

Cognitive Development: A Complex Process

The process a child makes between making little sounds to talking, from crying at everything to maturing is incredible. That process is known as cognitive development. What is cognitive development? What are the four big stages of cognitive development? What are the theories of cognitive development? What are the cultural influences and history of cognitive development? What are some tips to help parents with cognitive development during different stages of development?

Cognitive Development

What is cognitive development?

Cognitive development, also known as intellectual development, is defined as the construction of thought processes- this includes decision making, memory, and problem-solving, throughout life from childhood to adulthood. Cognitive development is the topic of scientific study of fields such as psychology and neuroscience. It focuses on one’s cognitive development throughout the growth process. For example, it takes a specific look at language learning, information processing, perceptual skills, and conceptual resources to other processes that develop more in an adult brain. Another example could be that how a child wakes up and the process of waking up for a child is different than that of an adult.

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What are the 4 big stages of cognitive development?

Sensorimotor: Birth – 18-24 months.

The sensorimotor stage is the stage that lasts from birth to two-years-old. In this stage, behaviors don’t have logic or make sense. For example, crying because a child can’t find their blanket. The behaviors move gradually from acting upon the inherited reflexes and behaviors to interacting with the surrounding environment more reasonably. The sensorimotor stage is commonly broken down into six mini-stages depending on the child’s age.

Cognitive Development

Birth to one-month-old: everybody is born with innate and inherited reflexes that they use to gain understanding and knowledge about their surroundings. For instance, sucking and grasping.

Between one and four-months-old: Children repeat behaviors that happen due to their reflexes. For example, their reflex is to grasp the raddle and then they simply repeat that gesture. Children try to create schemes, groups of similar actions or thoughts, to create assimilation and accommodation to adapt better to the world around them.

  • Assimilation means when a child responds to a new situation in a way that is already consistent with an existing scheme. For instance, when a child gets a new toy such as a teddy bear, they often suck or put the toy in their mouths. Sucking is an existing scheme that the child is applying to the new situation of having a teddy bear
  • means when a child modifies, changes, or creates an entirely new scheme to deal with a new situation. For instance, an infant opens its mouth wider than usual to make way to the paw of the teddy bear.

Between five and eight-months-old:- When a child has with external stimuli that they find pleasurable, they naturally try to reenact and recreate that experience. For example, when a child hits the mobile above them and it spins or makes noise, that’s pleasurable to the child and they repeat the action because the result is fun. This is the point in which habits are formed from general schemes. However, at this stage, children still can’t focus on multiple things at once.

From eight to twelve-months-old-: Behaviors happen for a reason rather than by chance. A child can begin to understand that an action causes a reaction. The child can also begin to understand object permanence. That is to say, if a baby is playing with a raddle and you put a blanket on top of the raddle, the baby begins to understand that the raddle is still there, under the blanket, rather than thinking the raddle completely disappeared.

From one-year-old to eighteen-months-old- At the stage, actions happen deliberately with a slight variation. For instance, a baby can drum on a pot of object with a wooden spoon but also drum on the table or on the floor.

From eighteen-months-old to two-years-old- children begin to pretend play and construct mental symbols. For example, a child is mixing together some ingredients but they lack a spoon. They find something else to use as a makeshift spoon. Infants begin to act with intelligence rather than habit.

Preoperational: Toddlers (18-24 months) -early childhood (age 7)

The preoperational stage begins once a child gains the mental ability to grasp reality and lasts from age 2 until ages 6 or 7. There are two ways to characterize this stage according to Piaget. In his earlier works, he described a child’s thought process in this stage as having egocentrism, animism, and the like in charge and governing the child. In other words, the child, being egocentric, acts in his own favor or sees a situation only in their point of view and doesn’t understand the perceptions of others. The child, being animistic, believes that inanimate objects are lifelike with human emotions, intentions, and thoughts which is why children love playing with dolls and adults often don’t. Children also often use symbols in this stage which can be seen when they play and pretend.  

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Concrete operational. Ages 7 to 12.

The Concrete Operational Stage lasts from ages 6/7 to ages 12/13 depending on the child. Within this stage, a child’s cognitive ambition is characterized by reality. According to Piaget, it’s the same principle that can actually be used to discern many behaviors. Another big achievement cognitively in this stage is conservation. For example, a child looks at two beakers filled with the same amount of liquid, but one beaker is shorter than the other. A child in the preoperational stage could probably say that the taller beaker has more liquid, but the concrete operational child could say that both beakers contain the same amount of liquid. The ability to reason also begins to develop in this stage because of the principle of conservation.

 Formal operational. Adolescence through adulthood.

In the Formal Operational Stage, which lasts from age 12/13 until adulthood, is when people advance from logical reasoning with concrete examples to logical reasoning with abstract examples. Young adults tend to view themselves more in the future rather than the “here and now”. Some scientists believe that this stage can be further broken down into the early formal operational stage in which thoughts are fantasies or the late formal operational stage in which life experiences change how realistic those fantasy thoughts are.

Theories of cognitive development

Piaget’s Theory

The founder of Piaget’s Theory, Jean Piaget (1896-1980) thought that people go through different stages of development that allowed them to think in more and new complex ways. These stages include the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the Formal Operational Stage. There is some criticism for Piaget’s theory many that his theory has fallen out of favor. For instance, Piaget said that a young child cannot conserve numbers. However, many parents know and many experiments have proven otherwise. Furthermore, Piaget’s stages end in young adulthood whereas there are further stages of adult cognitive development given by other scientists in the field such as Robert Kegan.

Neo-Piagetian theories

There are, of course, non-Piagetian theories concerning cognitive development which emphasize the roles of information processing systems and mechanisms such as the working memory and attention control. These scientists suggest that the Piagetian stages work more a strengthening of control mechanisms and amplifying the storage capacity of the working memory.

Core Systems of Cognition

There are several skills that are involved in and are necessary to the cognitive development of a brain. Empiricists study how these “advanced” skills are learned in such a little amount of time. There is a debate that they are learned either by domain-specific cognition or general cognition learning devices. These researchers have set a number of “core domains” that suggest children have an innate ability to develop these.

  • Space. Young children can have navigation skills. There is evidence that these navigation and directional skills are connected to language development skills between 3 and 5 years old.
  • Numbers. Infants have been shown to have two different mechanisms to confront numbers. One deals with the larger numbers in a more approximate way while the other system deals with smaller numbers, known as subitizing.
  • Essentialism. Young children think of animals, plants, and other biological entities in an essentialistic way. They expect these things to have certain traits which gives them a certain “essence”.
  • Language Acquisition. A widely studied field, the traditional way to view it is that language is developed due to the deterministic, human-only genetic make-up and processes. The other theories believe that social interaction and experience is what helps us develop language.
  • Visual Perception. There is evidence that a child who is only 72 hours old has a depth perception for complex things such as biological motion. However, the evidence isn’t clear as to whether the visual experience within the first 72 hours contributes to this ability to whether it’s already developed when the baby leaves the womb.

Whoft’s Hypothesis

Benjamin Whoft, who lived from 1897 until 1941, thought that a person’s thinking depended on the content and structure of their language. That is to say, Whoft hypothesized that language determines how we think and perceive things. For instance, it’s thought that the Egyptians who wrote right to left thought quite differently than the Greeks who wrote left to right even though the countries are not far from each other in geographical location. Whorf’s belief was so strict that he thought that if a word didn’t exist in a language, then that person had no idea of that object’s existence. This theory went so far as to play a role in Goerge Orwell’s famous book, Animal Farm when the pig leaders eliminated words from the citizen’s vocabulary in order to render them incapable of realizing what the citizens were missing. The criticism is that people can still be aware of a concept or object even if they don’t have the vocabulary to describe it.

Quine’s hypothesis

Willard Van Orman Quine, who lived from 1908 to 2000, believed that there are biases that are innate and conceptual which enable language acquisition, beliefs, and concepts. His theory goes by nativist philosophical traditions which other philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, also went by.

Cultural Influences of cognitive development

Cognitive Development

Culture shapes and changes everything including perspective, thoughts, and more. Culture can influence so far as to have an effect on brain structure which then influences our interpretation of culture. There is research that has previously shown that one’s level of independence differs on cultural context. For instance and in general, Eastern Asia cultures are more interdependent compared to Western cultures which are more independent generally. Another study compared the brain of Japanese-English bilingual to American-English monolingual brains and responses in children while the child tried to understand another’s intention through cartoon tasks and false-belief stories. The study found universal activation in the bilateral region of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The study concluded with the suggestion that the brain’s neural activities are culturally independent, not universal.

Tips on cognitive development

  • Sing songs and encourage the child to sing with you. This helps to create associations between images and words as well as promotes memory development.
  • Use the Alphabet Game. This involves cutting out alphabet pieces and taping them throughout the house. Have the child search for the alphabet pieces in order. Have them then tape up the alphabet while singing the song to associate image and word identification.
  • Shape Practice is using colorful, fun, or ball games which can help your child manipulate shares such as puzzles or playing with Legos.
  • Noise Identification helps teach a child to distinguish and identify sounds throughout the world- which differ greatly. It could be a tap running, birds singing, owl cooing, or a dishwasher grinding. Ask the child to identify which noise is what and then to relate them to actions in their daily environment.
  • The decision Game is all about making decisions. Ask the child if they prefer a burger or pizza for dinner; the brown sweater or green coat. By giving the child choices and enabling them to make decisions, they will feel more independent and this will facilitate their overall cognitive development as they grow.

History of cognitive development

The history of cognitive development goes a little something like this… Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher, wrote On Education in 1762. Within the writing, he discusses childhood development as being three different stages. In the first stage, which goes from 0 to age 12, a child is guided by their impulses and emotions naturally. The second stage, which lasts from age 12 until age 15, is when the child’s reason begins to develop. Afterword, in stage three, which is from age 15 and up, a child begins to develop into an adult.

After Rousseau came along James Sully, an English psychologist, who wrote numerous books on childhood development. Two of these books, The Studies of Childhood and Children’s Way from 1897 used actual detailed studies he did himself.

After Sully comes Lev Vygotsky, a Soviet psychologist, came up with a theory known as “the zone of proximal development”, also known as ZPD, which says that a child’s main activity should be to play in order to develop their emotions and cognitive development.

After Vygotsky, Maria Montessori had her fundamental research published in her book, The Discovery of the Child in 1946. She discusses the Four Planes of Development: from birth to age 6, 6-12, 12-18, and 18-24. She developed the Montessori Method to help teach in each cognitive developmental stage.

After Montessori, Jean Piaget came along and tried to be the most successful in cognitive development. Piaget was the first psychologist to make a name for the scientific field of cognitive development. His biggest contribution to the field of study was his stage theory of child cognitive development. Sadly, he died in 1980.

Lawrence Kohlberg, who died shortly after Piaget, wrote the stages of moral development which took a look at Piaget’s findings and incorporated Kohlberg’s ideas, too. His notable works were Moral Stages and Moralization: The Cognitive-Development Approach (1976) and Essays on Moral Development (1981).

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Maslow’s Pyramid: what is it, how can we apply it?

Our needs move us to overcome every challenge that is thrown our way daily. What is Maslow’s pyramid? What is it for? What are its levels? What are basic needs? What is self-actualization? In this article, we will take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy (or pyramid) of needs more to answer these questions. Discover everything you need to know about motivation through this theory.

Maslow’s pyramid

What is Maslow’s Pyramid?

Oxford dictionary defines a “need” as “to require (something) because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable.”

Regarding human needs, one of the most important contributions to psychology is the so-called Maslow pyramid. In it, the author ordered human needs in a hierarchy.

In order to be able to go up steps, it is necessary to satisfy the needs in the previous steps. Our progress will depend on our own actions, on the active attitude we adopt to keep moving forward. How? Through motivation.

The first three steps of the pyramid are “deficiency needs” (D-needs), which are the first three steps of the pyramid, and “being needs” (B-needs), corresponding to the top two steps of the pyramid. Without meeting the needs of each step, one cannot climb to another step. Only successful and motivated people can reach self-actualization which, whether conscious of it or not, is every human being’s goal.

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Human behavior can be altered if different needs are not met. The lower the step to be satisfied, the more it affects behavior.

Maslow is considered one of the founding fathers of humanistic psychology. This type of psychology explores issues from a philosophical perspective of life in order to answer meaningful questions. It differs greatly from other psychological perspectives, especially behavioral psychology, which only focuses on observable stimuli (like behavior), or from psychoanalysis which focuses on the unconscious.

Maslow believed human needs could be ordered, therefore he created a hierarchy, and with that, a pyramid. Maslow’s pyramid has five levels, the highest level being self-actualization. The way to climb to the top, according to Maslow, is to have an active attitude. Until our basic needs are not met, we can’t climb the next step. We are all responsible for our own progress. Motivation is the key to progressing and moving up.

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization.” Abraham Maslow

Maslow’s Pyramid: Five basic needs

1. Physiological or basic needs

These needs are the most primal and basic needs for all human beings starting at birth. They are impossible to ignore. They cover actions such as sleeping, breathing, temperature homeostasis, feeding, and mating. Who can ignore when your stomach growls?

These actions help us maintain homeostasis, which is the relatively stable equilibrium in our bodies. According to this theory, if we have severe health problems, it’s less likely we will worry about trivial things. Without thinking outside the box, we have all experienced tiredness or sleepiness. In this state, it is very difficult to concentrate on anything else.

2. Safety and protection needs

This stage is not only about physical safety but also material safety such as:

  • Personal security
  • Financial security
  • Health and well-being
  • Safety net against accidents/illness

For example, being fired and not having savings can make this stage very difficult to complete or fulfill.

3. Love and social belonging

This stage holds all of our relationships. We need to have positive and healthy relationships, be it friendship or partners. Love and affection make our existence easier since it involves feelings of belongingness. The group we belong to regardless of size or type (family, friends, sports club, etc.) will always motivate us to make changes and fulfill different stages.

Remember that for others to accept us, we must first accept ourselves. However, the other people’s support is a crucial impulse to help us search for the best version of ourselves.

4. Esteem needs

This stage refers to the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. It embraces more complex aspects of life such as confidence, trust, self-esteem, respect, and success. Self-esteem is vital for personal growth, a lack of it can lead to inferiority complexes and disorders. If we don’t appreciate ourselves it becomes complicated to worry about anything else, let alone fulfilling all the stages. These needs are usually divided into two:

  • Inferior: Based on others’ respect, attention, and appreciation. It’s linked to reputation, status, and position one might have or achieve in society or their social circle.
  • Superior: This is based more on ourselves, the self-respect you give yourself. This includes our self-worth, as well as accepting our cognitive skills, thoughts, and emotions.
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5. Self-actualization needs

They are at the top of the pyramid and longed by humans. To reach it, humans need to cover the previous four steps. What do we find here? Potential development: morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance. Prejudices disappear. The positive vision that is maintained of life makes you want to live it to the fullest.

This level is reserved for the most successful people, but success is subjective. In this stage, issues can be resolved without duress and reality is seen through positivity.

Not everyone has the same goals, therefore, in order to understand what the ultimate goals are for self-actualization, we need to master the others. For example, one person might feel self-actualization by their very important job at the UN, while another can achieve self-actualization teaching children in a small town. Everyone has different dreams and it doesn’t mean you have to become famous in order to achieve self-actualization.

Maslow, in his later years, criticized his own version of self-actualization, specifying that a human being can find his or her self-actualization in giving themselves to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality. He named this Self-Transcendence, however it was not added to his original pyramid.

“Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos” – Abraham Maslow

Description of a self-actualized person

People who have managed to reach the last level of Maslow’s pyramid are characterized by the following features:

  • Lead their problems towards solutions, beyond self-interest
  • Their sense of humor is not based on cruelty.
  • They respect each other and nature.
  • They show spontaneity, creativity, and originality.
  • They can enjoy solitude.
  • Their personal relationships are not very numerous, but the ones they have are very close (they reject superficiality).
  • They avoid social conventions and stereotypes, relying more on their individual experiences and judgments.
  • They do not believe that the end justifies the means.
  • They tend to enjoy experiences more intensely
  • are non-conformist and independent.

How does Maslow’s pyramid relate to depression?

There are studies that have found a link between depression and the first levels of Maslow’s pyramid. Dissatisfaction of the basic and security needs could lead to depression. However, this is not a cause-effect relationship, it is just another variable that intervenes in developing this disorder.

We highlight the so-called unreal needs (virtual or false). We do not have to cover them to achieve since they are not relevant to life. In fact, satisfying them can mean precisely falling into this depression. For example, those who achieve more success than others and are ashamed of it, those who make up their needs by comparing themselves with , those who anticipate events that never happen, etc.

Maslow’s Pyramid: Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of Maslow’s motivational theory

  • It’s simple: Its approaches can be easily understood and followed by anyone.
  • It’s visually pleasing: The pyramid is self-explanatory and very memorable.
  • It’s easily applicable to reality: As you saw in the past example, it’s easy to extrapolate this theory into our daily lives.
  • It’s innovative: Maslow’s work was a different, more complete and flexible, perspective from the behaviorism and reductionist perspectives of that time.

Disadvantages of Maslow’s motivational theory

  • It’s ambiguous: Needs such as breathing are easily measured, however, concepts such as self-actualization are very abstract. Currently psychology is focusing on scientific perspectives or based on quantifiable evidence. Since this theory is hard to quantify it is considered vague.
  • Exaggerated Optimism: Maslow was an optimist and believed in the good nature of humans. He even stated that “when people appear to be something other than good and decent, it is only because they are reacting to stress, pain, or the deprivation of basic human needs such as security, love or self-esteem”.
  • Examples that don’t apply: It’s hard to find a theory without exceptions, and this one has many as well. For example, an artist tormented and obsessed by his masterpiece is a perfect example on how sometimes self-actualization might not be satisfactory.
  • Other sophisticated theories: There are other theories of motivation based on human needs such as McGregror’s theory (1969) or Alderfer (1972). They were both inspired by Maslow but added more layers and are currently used in human resources department.

Maslow’s Pyramid: Practical applications

In psychology, Maslow’s Pyramid has been studied all around the different perspectives and even been incorporated into practical, day-to-day things.

1. Maslow’s pyramid in organizations and companies.

Public and private institutions require their workers be motivated to work and in turn, they need to know how to motivate their workers. Companies like Google give their workers different benefits apart from the economic ones, in order to keep them motivated to do their job. Companies like Google, Facebook, etc. are leaders in work motivation and keeping efficiency by offering their workers favorable conditions in the workplace. The main reason for this is that if we are happy we are more likely to be motivated and our level of productivity will be higher.

2. Maslow’s pyramid in marketing.

Understanding consumer needs are important for sales to go up and for companies to triumph in a very competitive world. Through publicity and campaign designs, motivation is exploited for effective sales strategies.

3. Maslow’s pyramid in education 

Needs accompany us throughout our whole lifetime. Educators need to know in depth the needs of those they are trying to teach. This is important in order to present stimuli that capture their attention.

In order to learn, we need to feel motivated and well. For example, during a war, the main need is survival, while that of knowledge and learning was left to the side. Therefore, any educational plan that doesn’t contemplate the basic needs of the students will fail.

4. Maslow’s pyramid and Therapy

To understand and make priority certain needs allows the psychotherapist to understand a patient’s situation, their behavior, and plan a specific therapy. If the exact needs of a person are known, they can be better oriented to achieve their satisfaction.

5. Maslow’s pyramid for personal growth

Maslow’s motivational theory lets us know ourselves better. Human needs are common to all, however, we all have personal motivations that in order to be happy we need to discover. Examining our different stages and analyzing them we can contemplate what needs work and from there start our personal progress.

6. Maslow’s pyramid and social needs

Needs can also develop in large masses of people. Much of the world’s population cannot meet their basic needs. However, production companies focus on the social needs of smaller populations but with greater purchasing power. Why? The latter generate more money.

In developed countries, the first two steps are satisfied for most people. For this reason, products oriented to higher stages emerge. For example, a top-of-the-range car does not seek to satisfy the need for mobility, but more with those associated with success and social prestige (level 4). Most societies are driven by economic benefits, by imposed needs, not by the real needs of individuals.

7. Maslow’s pyramid and economy

The economy is one of the fields where Maslow’s pyramid applies the most. It studies how to satisfy human needs in an environment where resources are limited, so they must be prioritized. Thus, the of needs would follow the same order maintained in the strata of the pyramid. What does this mean? That it is more likely, for example, that someone will spend their money on buying food than on a sculpture.

Following this logic, it should be noted that the higher the price of a product, the buyers will place it in higher steps of the pyramid. Low prices, on the other hand, ensure immediate consumerism.

Maslow’s pyramid: self-actualization

Maslow’s Pyramid: Examples

In order to understand Maslow’s motivational theory lets imagine Maslow’s pyramid as steps being climbed by a boy named John. John is an adolescent from an underprivileged neighborhood and an excluded social group.

1. Physiological needs

John is hungry, cold and thirsty. Fortunately, his parents find a job and he starts having access to basic resources.

2. Safety needs

In John’s neighborhood, there are constant gang wars. He is in constant threat of getting hit by a stray bullet or a gang fight. Due to his parent’s new job, they manage to move to a safer neighborhood.

3. Love and social belonging

In his new home, he spends most of his time alone, feeling lonely and sad. Within three months of moving, he makes his high school’s football team and manages to feel accepted and less alone.

4. Esteem needs

John’s first game came and he felt scared to fail or lose or even made fun by his teammates. He feels peer pressure to be the best and even though it was a rough start he starts becoming the star of the football team.

5. Self-actualization needs

As years go by, John makes football a career becoming his state star player. His success allows him to enjoy and reward himself. He has everything wants and his needs are entirely met. Due to his upbringing, he is now capable of seeing the sacrifices that were made for him to have reached self-actualization and is very grateful (this is very important).

Self-actualization has allowed John to now spend his free time on philanthropy. He participates in every charity and meditates every day. This is the perfect example we see in movies of someone that came from nothing and now is fully fulfilled. However, we dont need to imagine such extreme cases. Anyone of us can have difficulties at any stage, the important thing is that we keep a positive attitude and know that with sacrifice and hope we can make it.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is still a reference when referring to motivation and its importance. However, there are still many critics and its validity is still questioned.

Researching what is esential for us in life in order to fulfill our most intimate wishes is important to achieve happiness. It’s certain that this theory will continued to be studied for years to come.

Thank you for reading this article and if you have any questions or want to discuss this further leave a comment below.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz Aldana, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Cognitive Trauma: What you need to know

Cognitive trauma in relation to brain impairment is not something that is greatly known, due to its diminishing characteristics that create deep-rooted effects. However, in recent years there has been more and more research conducted that indeed reveals insight into this neuropsychological dilemma. This article, in particular, will outline the whole idea revolving around cognitive trauma in neuropsychology, what is cognitive trauma, effects of cognitive trauma, problems derived from cognitive trauma, tips on dealing with cognitive trauma.

Introduction to Cognitive Trauma

Cognitive Trauma: Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

The neuropsychology field turns to be flooded with cognitive development in regards to traumatic brain injuries. As stated in the Cambridge University Press, “well-recovered individuals who had sustained a minor trauma more than half a decade ago continue to have long-term cognitive sequelae relevant for everyday social and professional life” (Konrad et al, 2011, p. 1197). Such concealed, and yet evident findings into cognitive trauma and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) help gain insight from various doctors and in return use it as a primary source to represent the development across the field. On the other hand, many doctors find the information revolving around cognitive trauma conditions to be minimal. As sometimes the determination of whether or not permanent brain withdrawal is present can be unsubstantial.

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There is a rising occurrence of TBI’s and cognitive trauma in military personnel, and they are also becoming more prominent in the war zone and terrorist attack victims too (Risdall & Menon, 2011). Traumatic brain injuries, in particular, are something that happens due to direct contact with the head, often causing some type of cognitive trauma. For instance, something such as an accident or explosion could result in a blow to the head developing the potential for cognitive trauma in an individual. This is particularly prevalent in military personnel within war zones due to the constant turmoil and upheaval occurring around them. However, it’s the symptoms that follow a TBI that can be particularly uncomfortable and challenging. When faced with this adversity certain things such as cognitive trauma conditions can start to play a part. The big question that many people often want to know now is whether traumatic brain injuries can directly cause cognitive trauma conditions? Without the slightest doubt, cognitive trauma conditions are quite prevalent in some cases specifically in military war conditions. “TBI is rarely an isolated finding in this setting, and persistent post-concussive symptoms are commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, a constellation of findings that have been called the polytrauma clinical triad” (Risdall & Menon, 2011, p. 241).

Cognitive Trauma: Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

First and foremost, after a TBI instance occurs an individual needs to be checked out immediately by an appropriate professional health care provider to determine the course of treatment. This is something that many patients are unaware of, as a TBI requires additional treatment after the incident that most likely will be needed for the remainder of the patient’s lifetime. The typical approach for treatment post TBI involves a bold approach of ICP monitoring for serious cases, where it scientifically increases the overall result of recovery and diminishment of overall cognitive trauma (Stein, Georgoff, Meghan, Mirza & El Falaky, 2010). A brain injury and cognitive trauma coinciding is something that can really impact an individual for the rest of their life. Between managing the symptoms and dealing with treatment and recovery it can be a hard feat. Managing symptoms is a big task alongside treatment, which can become overwhelming with the numerous courses of rehabilitation. Yet, it’s the alternative treatments that are limited and need to be expanded upon through research. As research into new treatment methods can help provide more sound reasoning into the appropriate ways certain methods can make a difference in cognitive trauma and TBI’s.

Cognitive Trauma: Problems after Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

The most prevalent problems associated with cognitive trauma and TBI consist of:

When an individual experiences a TBI there can often be cognitive problems that arise as a result, due to the injury. Initially one must understand what cognition is in order to explore further, cognition is often described as the thought of knowing. The different types of cognition that will be explored are areas such as, info processing, communication, reasoning, concentration, memory, and control.

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It is important to keep in mind that there are many different aspects of cognition, but for the sake of how TBI’s can affect cognition these will be specifically addressed. When an individual has a TBI it is often the after effects that cause the most issues, this is where info processing takes a hit. Following a TBI one’s potential to process something decreases substantially influencing reaction time and other similar avenues. Communication is another dilemma that is faced for victims of TBI’s creating adversity with all things in connection to asserting and comprehending the material.

On top of these two issues is also the halt in concentration making the need to focus a thing of the past. Control and reasoning are another plaguing problems often going hand in hand with one another. Where brash choices are made often due to the lack of being able to identify issues in the first place. It is important to note that not all these problems will occur for every individual that presents with a TBI. Nonetheless, when issues arise it is key to report them to a health care professional to ensure the appropriate treatment measures.

Cognitive Trauma: Current Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Studies

The research that has been done on cognitive trauma relating to TBI’s is relatively sparse and has left a great amount of room for improvement. Initially, a large amount of research that has already been conducted focuses more on cells and sham control for treatment on one end or MRI evaluation on the other.

There was a study conducted by a handful of doctors on cell study in TBI patients properly examined intracerebral effects while also delving into the intravenous application of bone marrow stromal cells (MSCs) with endogenous cellular proliferation following a TBI (Mahmood, Lu & Chopp, 2004). Following, the results that have been discovered are not always conclusive and tend to create some conflicting ideas. It was discovered that that through the proper study of rats this treatment of TBI proved to be successful. Successive TBI in rat subjects established that intracerebral and intravenous MSC dispensation improves endogenous cellular proliferation (Mahmood, Lu & Chopp, 2004, p. 1185).

However, other types of research done found that the results are not an immediate reaction but something that occurs only with the duration of time. In a six month investigative cycle, there was no instantaneous or slowed harmfulness affiliated with cell application. Additionally, not all studies deal with human patients, which makes for insufficient discoveries. Due to the fact that most of the studies conducted have for the most part been done on rat subjects and not all on human subjects, which creates room for error. Lastly, not all aspects of the matter regarding cell study in regards to TBI and cognitive trauma have been fully analyzed.

Cognitive Trauma: The incidence of Cognitive Trauma and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

The overall incidence of cognitive trauma and TBI is only multiplying year after year (Dulac, Lassonde & Sarnat, 2013,p. 891). As behavioral limitations evolve it creates something that all individuals suffering from TBI’s and cognitive trauma misjudge. People that have TBI or cognitive trauma at first don’t always evaluate their situation entirely which creates instances where social situations involving emotions and interactions are turned for a loop. The main cause of this particular issue is due to the alterations that have occurred in “hippocampal, prefrontal cortical, and limbic region function because of alterations in synaptogenesis, dendritic remodeling, and neurogenesis” (Kaplan, Vasterling & Vedak, 2010, p. 427). After a brain injury has occurred various behavioral disorders such as self-awareness become quite prominent. If the frontal lobes of the brain are the source of the TBI a relation between behavioral changes is usually relevant.

Cognitive Trauma: Necessary Development of Research

The various accounts of information that were the result of studies conducted provided some very good insight into the matter. Such concealed, and yet evident findings in traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and also cognitive trauma help gain insight from various doctors and in return use it as a primary source to represent the development across the field. Contrary to all the information that was a gained, the way that individual deals with the instance of a TBI or cognitive trauma are going to be different for each individual.

This research and more and more research adventures down the road are going to open new doors into this field and create a whole new amount of knowledge. Disappointing conclusions are due to the absence of accurate result amounts mingled with the heterogeneity of TBI (Yue et al, 2013). Despite the various efforts over the years to help people with TBI’s and cognitive trauma, more research is without a doubt needed. Over the course of the past 30 years, existing methods into the classification of condition seriousness have yet to evolve (Yue et al, 2013). That being so it creates a necessity to develop new studies so that research can be advanced in a positive direction. This will ultimately help individuals with the strongest effects of TBI and cognitive trauma to help ease the fallbacks of current treatment methods.

Cognitive Trauma Tips

Tips for Dealing with Cognitive Trauma

Learning to live with cognitive trauma is not an easy feat, and hopefully, through useful methods, individuals can cope. One of the most important things that anyone who is suffering from cognitive trauma can do for themselves is seeking out the care of a professional. Through this different types of treatment methods can be discussed leading towards a positive recovery approach. When someone is suffering from cognitive trauma,  one of the most common therapy approaches is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Through CBT there are beneficial approaches that can be made to help treat an individual who suffers from cognitive trauma.

 

References

Dulac, O., Lassonde, M., & Sarnat, H. B. (2013). Traumatic brain injury. Pediatric Neurology, 112, 891.

Kaplan, G. B., Vasterling, J. J., & Vedak, P. C. (2010). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor in traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and their comorbid conditions: role in pathogenesis and treatment. Behavioural pharmacology, 21(5-6), 427-437.

Konrad, C., Geburek, A. J., Rist, F., Blumenroth, H., Fischer, B., Husstedt, I., … &  Lohmann, H. (2011). Long-term cognitive and emotional consequences of mild traumatic brain injury. Psychological medicine, 41(6), 1197-1211.       

Mahmood, A., Lu, D., & Chopp, M. (2004). Marrow stromal cell transplantation after traumatic brain injury promotes cellular proliferation within the brain. Neurosurgery, 55(5), 1185-1193.

Parker, R. S. (2012). Traumatic brain injury and neuropsychological impairment: Sensorimotor, cognitive, emotional, and adaptive problems of children and adults. Springer Science & Business Media.

Risdall, J. E., & Menon, D. K. (2011). Traumatic brain injury. Philosophical Transactions of the  Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 366(1562), 241-250.

Stein, S. C., Georgoff, P., Meghan, S., Mirza, K. L., & El Falaky, O. M. (2010). Relationship of aggressive monitoring and treatment to improved outcomes in severe traumatic brain injury. Journal of neurosurgery, 112(5), 1105-1112.

Yue, J. K., Vassar, M. J., Lingsma, H. F., Cooper, S. R., Okonkwo, D. O., Valadka, A. B., … & Puccio, A. M. (2013). Transforming research and clinical knowledge in traumatic brain injury pilot: multicenter implementation of the common data elements for traumatic brain injury. Journal of neurotrauma, 30(22), 1831-1844.

Zhang, Z. X., Guan, L. X., Zhang, K., Zhang, Q., & Dai, L. J. (2008). A combined procedure to deliver autologous mesenchymal stromal cells to patients with traumatic brain injury. Cytotherapy, 10(2), 134-139.

Learning to Drive: Guide To Mastering This Skill

Most of us had to learn how to drive- albeit at different ages under different circumstances such as snow and ice or extreme heat in a car without air conditioning. Some of us learn to drive on the right side of the road while others on the left side. What is learning to drive? How does learning to drive affect our brains and what do they look like while learning to drive? What are the cognitive skills used in learning to drive? Is learning to drive good or bad for the brain?

Learning to drive

Learning to Drive

Learning to drive is defined as the process that the brain and body go through in order to properly be able to control and use a car or motor vehicle. When learning to drive, our brains have to become fluent in multitasking as well as always staying focused on the road- even if there are others in the car or if there are distractions. Depending on the type of car, our bodies have to learn how to switch between the clutch and the brake as well as have the other foot on the gas. Or, in other cases, our right foot does all the work while our left doesn’t- how does that affect the brain? Find out below.

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How does learning to drive affect our brain?

The Brilliant Brains of London Cabbies

Each cab driver in London has to have “The Knowledge” of over 25,000 streets, landmarks, and places. The learning process itself can take between 3-4 years with a test at the end, the Knowledge of London Examination System, that take an average of 12 attempts to pass. This whole process that the cabbies go through has been shown to affect memory, create a greater volume of nerve cells in the hippocampus, and cause a structural change in the brain. Researchers took three groups: those who never trained (control group), those who trained but didn’t pass the driving cabbie test, and those that passed and trained. They found that people who passed the test had an increase in gray matter (the substance where processing takes place in the brain). Those who failed the test or never learned it at all had no changes to their brain structure. In memory tasks, both groups who took the test were better than the control group in remembering London landmarks. However, in tasks that didn’t involve London geography, such as recalling visual information, both the control group and the group that failed the test were better than the cabbies that have “The Knowledge”.

Learning to drive: Driving Simulation

Some scientists weren’t satisfied with the British Cabbie study because they wanted to know, “if the experience of navigating London’s complex system of streets change the cabbie’s brains, or did the people with larger hippocampi only succeed in becoming cab drivers?” Scientists took 28 adults and had them play a driving simulation game for 45 minutes. One part of the group, the spatial learning group, practiced going along the same route 20 times. The other group, considered the control group, drove for the same amount of time as the other group but went along 20 different routes. Each groups brains were scanned before and after their 20-minute session. It was found that the group that practiced the same route, the spatial learning group, had an increase in their time and their ability to finish the driving task. They were also able to improve their ability to order a sequence of pictures (random) that were taken by the route they drove continually and were able to draw a 2D map of the route. The spatial learning group also showed, unlike the control group, changes in brain structure in the hippocampus in the left posterior dentate gyrus. They improved their functional connectivity, the synchronization of activity, between the left posterior dentate gyrus and other cortical areas of the brain responsible for spatial cognition. The researchers concluded that the amount of structural change is directly related to the amount of behavioral improvement that people show on a task.

Cognitive skills used in learning to drive

  • Attentionthere are two types of attention used when driving: divided attention and focused attention. Divided attention is the ability we have to pay attention to more than one activity at a time (thus, our attention is divided between things). Focused attention is our ability to focus our attention on one thing, regardless of how long it takes.
  • MemoryOur short-term visual memory is the ability we have to retain and keep a small amount of visual information (words, letters, signs, etc.) in our minds. When we drive, our short-term visual memory helps us to be able to retain the traffic signs, surrounding cars, and visual info we receive when driving. It also helps us to know where the cars around us are when we stop looking in the mirrors because we can picture them in our minds… but you probably won’t remember that red car in your blind spot that you spotted for 2 seconds during the morning commute at dinner tonight.
  • CoordinationOur response time is essential when driving because it is the ability we have to perceive and receive stimuli and respond to it quickly and efficiently. For example, you’re driving a car and a dog runs into the road. When we perceive the dog in the road, our natural response would be to brake and carry out the action. Carrying out the action is our response time. Some people take longer than others between perceiving the dog in the road and braking… it’s all in the brain. Our hand-eye coordination is something we learn as infants and is the ability to perform activities in which we use both the eyes and hands at the same time. When driving, we constantly use the ocular-motor coordination because our direct movements with the steering wheel depending on the visual information that our brains perceive around us.
  • PerceptionWhen we drive, we need to be able to estimate and doing visual scans. Estimating is essential because when we want to pass or take over a car, we need to be able to properly calculate the speed of traffic. If we can’t estimate well while driving, we’ll probably get in an accident. Visual scans are important because when driving, we are constantly looking at the road. By doing so, our brains are taking in visual information about traffic signs, cars, and road imperfections such as potholes. Poor eyesight and visual scanning can cause us to fail to see the world around us currently.
  • Reasoninghaving cognitive flexibility (the ability to adapt our behavior and think about new situations) is essential when learning to drive and driving in general. When your everyday commute has a detour in it, your cognitive flexibility is able to generate alternative route options that you can take. Our executive functions also play a big role in our reasoning!

All these abilities are measurable and trainable to help maintain neuroplasticity and keep them sharp in the process of learning to drive. CogniFit, as well as other apps, can help train different cognitive skills.

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What do our brains look like while learning to drive?

Imagine you’re driving in the car with a friend and the radio is playing. That means that you are listening, talking, watching and paying attention to the road, steering, signaling, and possibly shifting gears while working the clutch at the same time. It doesn’t take a skilled driver to that all of that at the same time, though. It simply takes a person who has a perfectly well functioning brain.

Whether on autopilot or not, your brain is always hard at work while driving. That’s why young drivers can get overwhelmed and driving for long periods of time is exhausting. The temporal lobe and the occipital lobe take in the auditory and visual information that is constantly being fed through our ears and eyes. This information, along with the rest of the sensory information that we are obtaining while driving, is collected and put into “one experience” by the parietal lobe- the part of the brain that is essential for quickly switching focus (important for driving) and judging spatial relationships. All of this information is then collected and sent to your frontal lobe for interpretation as well as decision-making. (Side note: our frontal lobes are what make adolescents differ from adults because an undeveloped frontal lobe can make for poor decision making (which is why it’s the part of the brain that our parents couldn’t wait for us to finish developing). The frontal lobe is considered fully developed at age 25 for both genders. It also has caused a debate in the driving world– should adolescents without a better developed frontal lobe be allowed to drive?) Once a decision is made from our frontal love, it’s sent to the cerebellum which coordinates our voluntary movement which acts as the command of the frontal lobe.

A summary of the brain while driving process: the temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes receive information while the frontal lobe perceives and judges the best course of action, of which the cerebellum acts out… all at one time and while you’re in control of a one-ton vehicle.

Learning to drive

Learning to drive: The brain memory systems

There are two parts of the brain, two memory systems to be exact, that are used in learning to drive. The declarative system and the implicit memory system. The Declarative System is our active memory center/conscious brain system and is used to make decisions about everything from what you will eat for dinner to how you will walk from point A to point B. It’s essentially a map of information in our head which has all sorts of maps. It knows our family tree (which can be looked at as a type of map) as well as having a map of geographic locations in your head. That’s how when you’re driving, your brain knows to take a left on First Street, go X amount of length, and then turn right on 13th Street -especially after you learned to drive and your brain knows where the car is headed. We try to use the information we know and the information we don’t know. For example, we use visual clues that are in your “brain map” to ask questions such as, “Where is Third Street?” From that, your brain is able to infer which route would be the most logical to take. The declarative system is also used when we are using a GPS and watching for the highway exit 14 which comes up in one mile. You also use the declarative system when you’re lost and trying to figure out where you are. When we are learning to drive, our declarative system gets worked a lot because we are learning how to use it with a car, or whatever we may be driving, involved.

The implicit memory system, also known as the habitual memory system, forges and binds its memories together mostly by doing. The implicit memory system is why you can turn right or left, brake or switch gears, and ride a bike without thinking about it too much… you just do it. Why? It’s a habitual system. It’s the subconscious that takes over, on its own, once we have the habit down. However, it’s more than simply muscle memory because, after while, the habitual system learns to also handle a whole other lot of common on the road. For instance, complex things such as changing lanes or simple things such as knowing that green means go and red means stop. While it’s interactive, it’s actions are done completely unconsciously. For example, you can look in the mirror and see that it’s clear, but check your blind stop and it’s not, so you pause before switching lanes.

Learning to drive

 

When you drive a route daily or rather often, your brain locks onto that path and puts it in the habitual system. This then frees up the declarative system to be able to do all sorts of other things rather than worry about driving such as getting lost in thought while driving in long stretches- essentially, getting used to a certain pathway allows your brain to go on autopilot. This is also why we can think, talk, and drive at the same time. Our declarative system can work on other things while the habitual system, in its implicit way, works on remembering how to do everything from driving the car to being able to remember how to get where you’re going.  

In general, the brain favors the implicit/habitual system when it’s available. How do we know that? Have you ever gone to meet up with friends at a bar or restaurant and the first part of the drive to the restaurant is the same as the one you take to work or school? While you’re driving, your mind drifts off into thought about all sorts of things and then suddenly you end up at work or school rather than the restaurant? That’s our brains favoring the habitual system over the declarative system. However, it’s important not to forget that just because our habitual system has taken over doesn’t mean that we should be distracted drivers and take our eyes off the road.

Habitual system favoring or not, our declarative system still remains handy. Which is important when there is an ambulance coming and you have to find the best place and time to safely pull over. Or, when you come upon construction or a detour on your drive and you have to think about the best detour to take in order to get where you’re going.

Your brain learning to drive in new places

When you’re learning to drive in a new place, everything can be unfamiliar. However, it isn’t simply that you get better at navigating that new area. Rather, your brain just got better and more efficient in allocating resources. One study looked at how the brain works when learning to drive in new places by using and looking at brain scans of people who were asked to do a simple, easy visual task twice a day for an entire month. The researchers learned that the participants only needed to pay attention actively the first two days before the task became ingrained. Once the participants got the hang of things, they stopped paying attention completely and other parts of their brain took over. Nevertheless, they still performed the tasks just as well as they did when they were focused the first two days. This is probably because the brain is working to filter out the background noise and anything that might distract from the task at hand.

What does that all mean? By the time you know the new route to drive, your brain can get you there on autopilot. It can do so by keeping you from getting distracted by needless details along the way. It kind of counters itself out because instead of working to plan out the route and get us there, it’s working on keeping everything else out.

Is learning to drive good or bad for the brain?

Learning to drive is incredibly good for the brain… It makes us smarter! Think about our brains like a car- if we let a car sit for years without turning it on or doing much with it, the car begins to deteriorate and it’s pathways wear and tear. It’s essential that the engine is turned on every once in a while to keep the pathways clean and steady. The same goes for our brains. If we don’t exercise them, they deteriorate.

Learning to drive and driving often keep the brain’s ability to focus sharp. Keeping focus isn’t simple, but it’s something that can always be practiced and improved. Focus is also critical for growing grey matter, connecting our brains neural pathways, and making quick yet good decisions.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

What is Language Acquisition Theory? 3 Top Theories of How We Learn to Communicate

Language is what makes us human- it’s what sets us apart from so much of the animal kingdom. But how do we acquire language? What is language acquisition theory, what are the stages of learning a language, and what neurocognitive research is available on language acquisition theory? 

How does language work in the brain? How do our brains develop a second language or sign language? How does artificial intelligence develop language abilities? How can you help your child improve language acquisition?

Language Acquisition Theory- There are as many as 50 regions in the brain that are involved in languWhat age

What is Language Acquisition Theory?

Language acquisition is the process by which we are able to develop and learn a language. This generally includes speaking, listening, writing, and overall communication. Our ability to acquire language is a uniquely human trait because although bonobos, a species of primate, can produce vocalizations with meaning, birds can produce songs, and whales have their own version of a language, no species on Earth that we know of can express an unlimited amount of abstract ideas with a limited set of symbols (gestures, words, and sounds). 

The term language acquisition often refers to the first-language acquisition, which simply means that it’s the first language learned as an infant (unless the child learns two or more languages at the same time). However, there is also the term second-language acquisition, which refers to the process in both children and adults when they learn additional languages apart from their native one. Each of these terms has at least one language acquisition theory behind them which seeks to answer the big question of “how do we learn a language?”

The History of Language Acquisition Theory

As with much of history, it all begins with some philosophers in ancient societies who were interested in how the world worked—in this case, how humans were able to develop language. 

Using “armchair psychology” (sitting and thinking about the problem), these philosophers came to the conclusion that we were able to learn languages due to the subset of a human’s ability to gain knowledge and learn concepts. They believed that language was an innate ability that we were born with. Plato, for example, felt that word-meaning mapping was also innate in one way or another.

Scholars who studied Sanskrit—an ancient language used over 3,000 years ago in what is now India—debated for over 12 centuries about whether or not a human’s ability to recognize and use the correct meaning of words in Sanskrit was something passed down by generations and learned from pre-established conventions (for example, a child learns the word for horse because he hears older speakers talking about horses) or whether it was innate (“God-given”).Later, philosophers such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes got in on the language party and argued that knowledge (and language, in Locke’s case) come from abstracted sense impressions. What does that mean? They argue that language comes from a sensory experience.

Behaviorists, people who believe that everything is acquired through conditioning, argued that language is learned through operant conditioning—a form of conditioning that happens through rewards and punishments, which makes someone associate between a particular behavior and its consequence. In essence, that a child learns that a specific combination of words or sounds stands for a specific concept or idea through successfully repeated associations.

For example, a child would learn that their house animal, Whiskers, is a cat while their other house animal, Fido, is a dog. He would do so because when the child would call Whiskers his dog, his parents would say that no, Whiskers is a cat, not a dog. 

One of the leading proponents for this theory of language acquisition is B.F. Skinner, one of the founders of the Behaviorist movement.

However, Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s greatest linguists to date strongly criticized Skinner’s theory. Chomsky argued that kids often ignore their parents’ corrections and would not likely learn that actual, proper use of the word or phrase and end up using it incorrectly, by means of Skinner’s conditioning theory. Chomsky’s language acquisition theory involved a more mathematical approach to language development based on a syntax (the meaning of a word) study.

To get some more details on the history of language acquisition theory, check out this Stanford article!

3 Popular Language Acquisition Theories

Language acquisition theory: The Nativist Theory

One of the most well-known and most scientifically accurate theories yet, the Nativist Theory suggests that we are born with genes that allow us to learn language.

This language acquisition theory argues that there is a theoretical device known as the language acquisition device (LAD) that is somewhere in our brain. This “device” is in charge of our learning a language the same way the hypothalamus, for example, is in charge of regulating our body temperature.

This theory also suggests that there is a universal grammar (a theory by Noam Chomsky) that is shared across every language in the world because universal grammar is part of our genetic makeup. Essentially, almost all languages around the world all have nouns and verbs and similar ways to structure thoughts. All languages have a finite amount of rules from which we can build an infinite amount of phrases. The core concepts from these finite rules are built into our brains (according to Universal Grammar and the Nativist Theory).

This language acquisition theory explains well how humans seem to have a far more complicated and complex set of communication patterns than any other species in the world. It also is a working theory for how children are able to learn so quickly so many complicated ideas. This language acquisition theory is comparable to how we think of numbers—everyone in the world knows what “4 apples” look like regardless if we say that there are four, cuatro, vier, or dört apples.

Language acquisition theory: The Sociocultural Theory

The sociocultural theory, also known as the interactionist approach, takes ideas from both biology and sociology to interpret our language acquisition.

This language acquisition theory states that children are able to learn language out of a desire to communicate with their surrounding environment and world. Language thus is dependent upon and emerges from social interaction. The theory argues that due to our language developing out of a desire to communicate, our language is dependent upon whom we hang around and with whom we want to communicate.

Essentially, the theory says that our environment when we grow up has a heavy influence on how quickly and how well we learn to talk. For example, an infant who is raised by a single dad will develop the word “dada” or “baba” before developing “mama”.

Language acquisition theory: The Learning Theory

The learning theory is a language acquisition theory that looks at language learning as learning a new skill and that we learn language much in the same way that we learn how to count or how to tie shoes via repetition and reinforcement. When babies babble, adults coo and praise them for “talking” (and also because it’s pretty adorable).

When the kids grow older, they often are praised for speaking properly and corrected when they don’t. From this correction and praise comes the learning theory that language comes from stimulus and stimulus-response. However, this language acquisition theory, logical as it may be, fails to explain how new phrases and new words form since it’s all about repeating and mimicking what people hear from others.

Stages of Language Acquisition Theory

The first few years of a child’s life are critical for language learning. Between 10-18 months, a child will say their first words and before they reach two-years-old, they will be able to say some simple, short phrases (for example, “water, please”). Studies have shown that an 18-month old can actually tell the difference between correct verbs and incorrect verb pairs. For example, they should know that “is jumping” is correct while “will jumping” isn’t. Between the ages of four and seven, kids become more and more able to tell understandable stories. Normally, everyone goes through five stages of acquiring a language.

Language Acquisition Theory- Studies have shown that an 18-month old can actually tell the difference between correct verbs and incorrect verb pairs

Stage 1- Pre-production

This first stage is also known as the silent period. Although a child may have up to 500 words in their receptive vocabulary (words they’ve learned from watching and listening as babies do), they aren’t able to speak yet. Some kids try to mimic and “parrot you” by repeating everything you say. However, they aren’t producing any real words yet. This is the stage when kids listen attentively and they respond to visual and auditory stimuli. They are able to understand and duplicate movements and gestures in order to show their comprehension. However, at this stage, repetition is critical for their phonemic awareness.

Stage 2- Early Production

Stage 2 can last up to six months. During this stage, kids will develop a vocabulary of about 1,000 words and can say one or two phrases. They use short bits of language that they have memorized, but these bits might not be used correctly.

Stage 3- Speech Emergence

In this stage, kids have about a 3,000-word vocabulary and can use simple sentences and phrases. They should be able to sound out stories phonetically and match vocabulary words to definitions. Kids are also able to ask simple questions such as “may I go to bathroom?”—though the grammar may not always be 100% correct.

Stage 4- Intermediate Fluency

Kids in Stage 4 have roughly 6,000 active words in their vocabulary. They are able to start using more complex sentences and should be able to express basic thoughts and opinions (both in speaking and writing). For English as a Second Language learners, this is the stage when the child begins to use strategies from their native language to learn content in English and may also translate assignments from their native language.

Stage 5- Advanced Fluency

It can take 4-10 years to achieve academic cognitive fluency for a second language learner. It also means that all language learners (native or not) are fluent (for their age) in this stage.

Language acquisition theory and the brain

There are as many as 50 regions in the brain that are involved in language from translating the vibrations in the air into neural activity so our brain can hear it to controlling the complex and complicated physical movements needed to produce speech and communicate to manipulating and using symbols to help make up ideas and thoughts.

Around the same time President Lincoln was giving his Gettysburg Address speech, the French neurologist, Pierre Paul Broca, found what is now called today as Broca’s Area—an area in the brain that handles language processing, speech production, comprehension, and controls facial functions. It’s located in the posterior frontal gyrus.

When damage occurs in Broca’s Area, the person will probably experience Broca’s Aphasia and have language issues. Pierre Paul Broca was the first person to associate the left brain hemisphere with language. The majority of us control our language via the left hemisphere except for 30% of left-handers and 10% of right-handers.

Behind Broca’s area is the Pars Triangularis which is involved in the semantics of a language. It’s used when you stop to think about what someone said—such as a complex sentence.

A few years after Broca, a German neurologist, Carl Wernicke, found the counterpart of Broca’s Area in the superior posterior temporal lobe—a place now known as Wernicke’s Area. This area handles the language that we hear and the process known as receptive language. Wernicke was the first person to map out the language process in the brain—cognition-to-speech, writing-to-reading, and speech-to-comprehension. It was later adopted by Norman Geschwind and is now a map known as the Wernicke-Geschwind model. However, it’s rather outdated by now.

The same man, Norman Geschwind, found in the 1960s that the inferior parietal lobule is important in language processing. This is the part of the brain that is all about language development and acquisition as well as the abstract use of language. It’s the place in the brain where we collect and consider written and spoken words, phrases, and ideas.

It’s such a complex area and process that it’s where we not only are able to understand the meaning of a word but also how they sound and their function in grammar. The inferior parietal lobule is where the brain classifies and orders our sensory, visual, and auditory intake which is why it’s thought that kids who don’t learn to read or write until they are around age five is due to a late maturation of the lobule.

Still within the frontal lobe is the fusiform gyrus, a part of the brain that helps us classify and recognize words into categories. For example, “cat” and “dog” are both classified as nouns and are both animals whereas “jump” and “sit” are both action verbs.

Language Acquisition Theory- The majority of us control our language via the left hemisphere except for 30% of left-handers and 10% of right-handers.

Second language acquisition theory

When learning a second language (an additional language to your native language), the development of meaning is one of, if not the, most important part. There are many types of meaning such as grammatical (morphology of a word, tenses, possession, etc.), semantic (word meaning), lexical (meaning that comes from our mental lexicon), and pragmatic (meaning that depends on context). Mastery of each of these is necessary when acquiring a second language. The stages of second-language acquisition are much like those of a first-language acquisition. However, people and kids learning a second language will take longer than they did with their first-language to come to full fluency in their second language.

Kids who grow up bilingual have been proven to usually take longer to begin speaking because their brains are trying to sort out the grammar between the two (or more) language systems. 

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Sign Language & Language Acquisition Theory

When the child begins to learn sign language as a native speaker from birth, they do so in the same way that a child who can hear learns languages. Signed languages and spoken languages are different in the most basic manner- spoken relies on auditory/oral skills, while signed relies on visual/manual abilities. As a result, it could be thought that sign language acquisition differs from spoken language acquisition theory. However, there really aren’t any extreme or noteworthy differences between acquiring the two because they are both parts of the natural (human) language group.

Roughly 10% of deaf signers are born into already signing families which makes it easier to learn since the whole family signs and the child from birth is surrounded by sign language. Parents who communicate with their kids (whether or not the kid can hear) by way of sign language help the child naturally acquire sign language in the same way that non-deaf parents teach their children their native language (check out the study here).

Both hearing and deaf children use gestures and physical symbolizing to show something when they’re young. However, in deaf children, these gestures appear around the same time that a hearing child produces their first spoken words (study here).

According to this research paper, “deaf children move from prelinguistic gesturing to performing manual syllabic babbling which occurs at 7-10 months of age. This is an activity which differs from other hand activity of the child because it “possess (1.) a restricted set of phonetic units (unique to signed languages), (2.) syllabic organization, and it was (3.) used without meaning or reference

Language Acquisition Theory- Artificial Intelligence has two languages coded into it- the natural (human) language, and languages created by scratch by programmers.

Language Acquisition Theory & Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (A.I.) can now create their own language, use language, and evolve that language- just like humans! Researchers have noted that A.I. has the ability to exchange a set of symbols that are capable of serving as signs in a generated language. The A.I. languages can either begin from a human language, known as a natural language or be created from scratch by programmers and code.

When A.I. translates between two languages, it can create its own language known as an interlingua language. Essentially, it can create its own form of creole or “Spanglish.”

Google Translate decided in 2016 to take an A.I. designed specifically to translate between 103 human languages, including languages that had never before been translated between each other, and they found that the A.I. was able to encode semantics (the meaning of a word, phrase, idea) within its structures while translating. The researchers concluded that a new interlingua that evolved from human languages exists within the Google Translate network. You can look at their study here.

As some may know, in 2017, Facebook’s A.I. created its own language. Scary as it may be, it’s important to ask, “how did that happen?” Facebook researchers trained chatbots (A.I. that have a conversation via text or audio in order to “chat”) using a series of English text conversations that involved humans playing trading games between hats, balls, and books. The chatbots were programmed to use English to communicate and given tasks to trade the aforementioned items. However, the chatbots developed a reworked version of English in order to solve their task better. Many of the exchanges in the reworked English were nonsensical and didn’t make much sense to the average reader. For example:

Bob: “I can can I I everything else.”

Alice: “Balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to.”

You can check out more details here!    

Neurocognitive Research on Language Acquisition Theory

For the process of language acquisition—especially when acquiring more than one language—the younger, the better. Studies have shown that learning new languages helps fight against neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s. However, there are a multitude of reasons, and numerous studies that show how healthy for our brain it is to be bilingual. 

Scientists have found brain mechanisms that assist in early language development. Phonemic awareness (one’s ability to understand sound in language such as the difference between “bed” and “bad”) is essential to language development.

The study found that the way an infant’s brain responds to phonetic stimuli (such as hearing someone talking) reflects their language ability, as well as their pre-reading abilities. This can be used as a predictor of how well they will be able to read and speak at age three and age five.

Adults who learn a second language later in life have more to offer to their language development, although they may be slower than a child at learning it. Being able to maintain your first language (as an adult) after having learned a second language is determined by being able to informally use both the first and second language in daily life, as well as education levels, according to this study.

Music plays a huge role in language development, too! Whether it’s in the womb, as a child, or learning a second language as an adult, music is useful for learning any and all languages. Music incorporates speech, writing (if you’re reading lyrics, for example), and rhythms. Music learning actually matches the speed and effort put into language acquisition.

Language Acquisition Theory- in countries such as Ghana where over 250 languages are spoken, people grow up native in multiple (more than two or three) native languages which is proven to help fight neurodegenerative diseases! 

How to Improve Your Child’s Language Acquisition

  • Delayed Speech. If your child is learning a second language or having lots of trouble with the first/native language, a speech pathologist may be able to help straighten out some of the underlying issues that are going on cognitively with the child’s brain.
  • Read! It’s never too early to begin reading to a baby- science has proven that babies can learn words while in the womb! Even starting with simple picture books (and describing what’s going on on the page) can help a baby or child.
  • Talk! Just like reading, talking to a baby, whether it’s in the womb or not, can help them develop language. Narrate the day. For instance, “We are going to cook dinner. Do you like the Macaroni & Cheese we are going to have? Let’s wash our hands and sit down to eat.” You can even prep a baby for second-language and foreign language learning in the womb!
  • Tell stories! Like talking, telling stories (especially elaborate ones) can help a child develop vocabulary.
  • Listen to music! Music has been proven by a multitude of sources, such as this one,  that it aides in language learning. A simple song such as Old McDonald Had a Farm helps a child learn rhythm, vocabulary, and reinforces happy learning.
  • Use the television but at a minimal level. Many people around the world have learned foreign languages by watching TV. Have your child watch cartoons in a foreign language for a small amount of time daily to help aid their foreign learning development.
  • Try using a program, such as Cognifit’s, to help your child ramp up his language skills!
  • Go on field trips to fun places such as an interactive or interesting museum (for kids), the aquarium, or the zoo and help them learn the names of their surroundings (animals, plants, and how the world works).

Let us know what you think about Language acquisition theory in the comments below!

Stages of Sleep: Discover what happens when you sleep

Stages of Sleep. Everyone needs sleep and although the overall reason as to why is still a mystery, science is finding out more and more daily about the phenomena that teenagers love and adults don’t get enough of. Did you know that newborns spend 80% of their time sleeping in a stage that adults only spend 20-30% in? What are the stages of sleep? What is the difference between REM sleep and non-REM sleep? Why do we sleep in stages and in which stage do we dream? What happens to the brain and the body throughout the stages of sleep? What are some tips to get a better night’s rest?

Stages of sleep- we have 4 official stages of sleep- Stage 1, 2, 3 (N3), and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). 

Stages of sleep

As we sleep, we go through different stages of sleep- 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM sleep. Our bodies start at Stage 1 and then progress until they reach REM- a process that takes between 90 and 110 minutes. Then, the process starts all over again until the person wakes up. When we wake up groggy to our alarm, a phenomenon known as sleep inertia, it’s because we were awoken from a deep sleep in Stage 3, Stage 4, or our REM stages of sleep.

The stages of sleep were first discovered in the 1930s when a scientist, Loomis, and his teammates began to do overnight electroencephalography (EEG) recordings of people sleeping. In the late 1960s, it became possible to be able to identify and specify reliably each sleep stage as well as their role in the sleeping process. Back when we didn’t know much about sleep and before the time of EEGs, it was believed that our brains shut down while we are asleep in order to rest and recover. However, we now know that it’s quite the opposite and our brains are incredibly active while we sleep.

What are the stages of sleep?

Each person spends a different amount of time in each sleep cycle. Infants and adults differ, too. Adults spend about 50% of their total time asleep in Stage 2, 30% in Stages 1, 3, and 4, and 20% in REM. Infants spend about 50% of their total time asleep in REM. Newborn babies spend about 80% of their time in REM sleep.

Stages of sleep: Stage 1

Stage 1 is a form of light sleep and the stage where we drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. Our eyes, under our closed eyelids, move slowly and our muscles begin to have lower activity. It’s during this first stage that people can feel the sensation of falling due to muscle contractions. The point of Stage 1 is to be a transition between Stage 2 and waking up. It makes up about 3% of our total sleep time. It occurs only twice during a full night’s rest (without an alarm)- when we fall asleep and when we wake up.

Stages of sleep: Stage 2

Stage 2 is a form of light sleep and the stage where our eye movement stops completely and our brain waves slow down exponentially. However, there is the occasional rush of rapid brain waves. Our body temperatures drop a bit and our hearts slow down as the body tries to prepare itself to fall into a deeper sleep. People who are awoken during Stage 2 often claim they were awake or deny they were asleep.

Stages of sleep: Stage 3

Stage 3 is a form of sleep and is the stage of sleep when incredibly slow brain waves, known as delta waves, are scattered and combined with smaller, yet quicker, brain waves. It’s within the Stage 3 that people can go through parasomnias– wetting the bed, talking in one’s sleep, sleepwalking and night terrors. These parasomnias happen because the body is in transition between non-REM sleep and REM sleep.

Stages of sleep: Stage 4 (N3)

Stage 4 is a form of deep sleep and is the stage where the brain produces almost 100% delta waves. When awoken from Stage 4, people are groggy and disoriented for a short period of time.

In 2008, some sleep medical specialists eliminated the use of Stage 4 in their research and combined Stages 3 and 4 which are now considered to be Stage 3 or N3. Mostly due to the fact that science has been unable to show any true difference between the two stages. However, some places around the world still use the term Stage 4.

Stages of sleep: REM

REM, the fifth stage of sleep, stands for Rapid Eye Movement and occurs when our brain waves mimic and repeat the activity that happens while we are awake. Although our eyes are closed, our eyes move from side-to-side due to brain activity such as dreams.

Stages of sleep: REM vs. non-REM sleep

Our sleep cycle can be split into two categories: non-REM and REM. The non-REM stages of sleep, also known as NREM, are the stages 1-4 and are considered to be the slow wave sleep stages which happen for the first half of the night. REM sleep, the rapid eye movement stage, happens for the second half of the night. The first REM cycle happens after all the other stages of sleep have happened (about 90 minutes after falling asleep) and last roughly 10 minutes. Within a healthy sleep cycle, people will have three to five cycles of REM sleep a  night- each cycle lasting longer with the final REM cycle lasting up to an hour.

REM sleep is incredibly important, as is non-REM, but was only recently discovered in 1953 when machines were developed to monitor brain activity. Before that, scientists believed that our brain activity stopped while we were sleeping- but, oh, it’s quite the opposite.

Stages of sleep- everyone goes through the same stages of sleep, but each person differs in how much time they spend in each stage.

Why do we sleep in stages?

We sleep in stages because our bodies need it. All of the stages of sleep have a specific purpose for the body. Stages 1-N3 (4) are meant to have a regenerative effect on numerous processes in the body. REM sleep is necessary to process our memories from the previous day. Our brain takes all of the information we took in during the day (memories, impressions, feelings, etc.) and puts them into our long-term memory. A good night’s sleep and subsequent good sleep cycle is essential for our mental capacity. Some studies even suggest that sleep cleans up and removes toxins that built up in the brain while we were awake.

Stages of sleep: In what stage do we dream?

REM is the stage of sleep that dreams can occur. This is because it’s the stage in which the brain is most active. A French study found that everyone dreams between four to six times a night. However, not everyone remembers their dreams. If someone is woken up during their REM stage, they can remember the dream. During REM sleep, our bodies have a non-permanent muscle paralysis which helps prevent us from injuring ourselves while trying to act out our dreams while asleep. Another study found that it’s possible to dream while in the non-REM stages of sleep, but it occurs most often in the morning hours which happens to be the time with the highest occurrence of REM sleep, too.

What happens to the brain in each stage of sleep

According to Harvard Medical School, the brain is more active asleep than awake. The stage of sleep someone is in affects how active their brain and body are.

Non-REM sleep. During Stage 1, our brain waves slow down, but our brains stay connected and alert. During Stage 2, the brain waves slow down even more. During the Stage 3/N3, the brain becomes less responsive to external stimuli which is what makes it difficult to wake someone up when they are in an N3 stage. Scientists have found that during non-REM sleep, the slow brain wave activity leads to less blood flow into the prefrontal cortex- the part of the brain that is involved with social behavior, cognitive behavior, decision making, and personal expression.

REM sleep. During REM sleep, our brain becomes more active than it is while we are awake. The brain processes information from the previous day and stores it in our long-term memory- a fact backed by numerous studies. This transfer of memories from short-term to long-term memory happens due to the sharp brain wave ripples in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that forms part of our limbic system) and within the cortex (the outer layer of the cerebrum). Episodic memory that was acquired during our awake state and is stored in the hippocampus. These brain waves take the memories from the hippocampus to the cortex to be stored as long-term memory- all this while you’re blissfully asleep. The amygdala, the part of the brain in charge of emotions, also becomes increasingly active during REM sleep.

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What happens to the body in the different stages of sleep

Not only does our brain change within the stages of sleep, but our bodies do, too.

During Stage 1, our heart rate and breathing begin to slow down as well as our eye movements. Our body temperature decreases slightly. Our muscles begin to relax during this stage which is why people experience sleep starts or hypnic jerks– the feeling of falling even when you’re lying down in the middle of the bed. During Stage 2, our heart rate slows down, even more, our muscles relax further (although the sleep inertia/jerky movements aren’t going to happen as often) and our eye movement stops. During Stage 3/N3, the heart rate slows down to its lowest level during the stages of sleep, as does our breathing. Our blood pressure falls, not dangerously, and our body temperatures become even lower. Our muscle activity almost decreases and our eye movement stops entirely. This is when sleepwalking and sleeptalking happen. During the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage, our eyes, of course, move rapidly back and forth. The heart rate and blood pressure begin to increase slightly (especially compared to Stage 1). However, our body temperature falls to the lowest point during sleep. Our breathing turns into fast and shallow. The muscles in our arms and legs are so deeply relaxed that the body becomes almost unable to move.

Stages of sleep- try reading a book before bed and skipping out on the afternoon coffee break with friends to help get a better night’s sleep.

Stages of sleep: Tips to get a better night’s rest

  • When taking a nap because you’re tired, try to nap for only 15-20 minutes-even just 5 minutes can be beneficial- because the further along you are in the stages of sleep and their cycle, the harder it is to wake up. However, taking a 90-minute nap (the equivalent of a full sleep cycle) has been scientifically proven to help you retain things you just learned (one study says by 5 times more!). People who take 10-minute naps while on the night shift have been discovered to wake up better, be more alert, and have an easier time to stay awake than someone who takes a 30-minute nap.
  • Try not to nap after 3 PM and make sure that the naps are short.
  • Try going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. That way, your body (and its sleep cycles) become used to its schedule and can wake up easier in the mornings as well as fall asleep easier at night.
  • Avoid caffeine –some types of caffeine can take up to eight hours to wear off according to Harvard Health.
  • If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up to find something relaxing to do until you feel sleepy again.
  • Try reading. Not only does reading take you to a different place, but it’s proven to reduce stress levels by 68% and help you fall asleep.
  • Avoid large meals before bed because they are difficult to digest.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Theories of Personalities: Everything you need to know

When you tell your friends about a date you had, how often do you immediately describe their personality? I’m sure you often find yourselves explaining how generous, soft-spoken, funny, well-mannered, or happy your date was. I’m also almost certain that you’ve found yourself explaining the negative aspects of your date’s personality. Maybe you have found yourself having to, unfortunately, explain that your date was rude, inattentive, crude, angry, cold instead of warm, or even sad. Theories of personalities are a largely debated topic through psychology, in this article, we’ll explain the different perspectives of the theories of personalities, the authors of the theories of personalities and how these theories of personalities have been so important in psychology.

Theories of Personalities

What are Theories of Personalities?

Personality plays a role in our lives every day whether we realize it or not.  From our morning interaction with the barista at our local coffee shop to deal with our boss at the office, and even our end of the day exchange with the uber driver giving you a lift home after a long day. While we can all vaguely give our own definitions of personality, and what we think it is. The American Psychological Association describes personality as patterns of cognitive processes, feeling and behaving that differs among individuals.

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Regardless of how we define personality, it is such a factor in human behavior across the globe that psychology has dedicated a whole field of study towards better defining and understanding personality. The study of personality in psychology is broken into two broad areas according to the APA: The first is understanding the differences between an individual’s characteristics, such as the ability to socialize or irritability. The second is building upon the understanding of how the parts of a person come together to form the whole.

The interest in psychology is not new by any means, this interest can be traced as far back as Sigmund Freud and his theories of personalities. Throughout the years there have been many theories of personalities put forward by some of the most notable figures in the field. Many theories of personalities have been put forward as to how people develop, what life events or milestones build a person and their personality, and just how important personality is to a person’s development and their life. Personality is thought to have multiple components, from consistency, psychological and physiological aspects.Personality is thought to be the driving force behind behavior and action, and it is believed that a personality type can have a multitude of expressions and be shown not only through behavior but also social interactions. Regardless of what definition of personality we agree upon, one thing it is one of the largest studied concepts in psychology still to this day.

Theories of Personalities Perspectives

Personality theory is not one concrete theory, but rather a plethora of theories of personalities put forward by numerous figures in psychology across many different periods of time. Theories of personalities can be broken down into four major categories or perspectives as they are more commonly known:

  • Psychoanalytic or Psychodynamic perspective
  • Humanistic perspective
  • Trait theory
  • Social Cognitive Perspective

A number of influential persons have contributed much to these perspectives and have helped shape our understanding of personality and development. People such as Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Robert McCrae, Paul Costa, and many other names will be spoken about as we take a look at each perspective in depth and take a better look at how they attempt to broaden our understanding of personality theory which plays such a crucial role in our lives and understanding or daily events.

Theories of Personalities: Psychoanalytical Perspective

Also known as the Psychodynamic Perspective, it seeks to address how the personality and person develop, in a way it also addresses human development. The main proponent of this personality theory was its founder, Sigmund Freud. Anyone who has taken a basic level psychology class has heard this famous name, most likely within the first week. This was and many consider to still be a major theory in the field of personality psychology. Freud believed that personality develops within childhood and is molded through an order of five phases of psychosexual development. Freud called his theory “the psychosexual theory of development”. Freud believed that while in each stage the child is faced is presented with a challenge, this challenge will pin the child with a conflict between a series of biological drives and a series of social expectations. If the child should complete their challenges in a manner which is acceptable then that child will have satisfactorily completed that stage of development. Successful completion of each stage would lead to an individual with a matured personality. Freud’s beliefs of personality and human development gained him a bevy of followers a few of which would go on to shape psychology with their own theories of personalities.

Alfred Adler was well-known to be a follower of Freud, he was what many in the psychology community would call a “Neo-Freudian”. He developed his own take on the psychodynamic perspective of personality which was surrounded by the idea of the individual and the notion of inferiority. He believed that individuals are constantly trying to atone for feelings of inferiority. According to Adler, the individual commonly suffers from an inferiority complex in which they do not believe they are of any worth or that they cannot measure up to societies standards. Adler agreed with Freud that personality develops in childhood, however, he did not put as much emphasis on sexual development. Instead, he put emphasis on three crucial responsibilities that all individuals must meet. These obligations are occupational tasks, societal tasks, and love tasks. Each of these shapes an individual and their personality. Through occupational tasks, Adler believed that the individual learned crucial skills in order to find a career that would enable them to construct a living. Societal tasks refer to the individual’s ability to build and maintain friendships and love tasks according to Adler refer to the individual’s ability to find a partner to build an intimate and long-term relationship. Adler believed that all three aspects were crucial to an individual’s development as well as their personal development.

Another Neo-Freudian and a highly influential person in the field of personality psychology is Erik Erikson. Erikson’s theories of personalities put forward that one’s personality develops over their entire lifespan; his belief is rooted in a psychosocial perspective. The personality of an individual develops through a series of social interactions. He was not too keen, like many others, on Freud’s belief that personality was developed through sexual stages. Eric Erikson developed an eight-stage theory of personality, through these stages he believed that the individual developed a healthy personality. This healthy development of personality was contingent upon the successful completion of each stage.  Erikson stages are as follows: Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity vs. Role Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation, Ego Integrity vs. Despair. Each of these stages is believed to play a crucial role in the personality development of the individual, Erikson believed that through each successful completion an individual develops a healthy personality.

Carl Jung came to the table with his own addition to the psychodynamic perspective of personality theory. The idea he developed is seen as a type of analytical psychology. Since all of the well-known theorists of the psychodynamic theory of personality are neo-Freudians it’s no surprise that Jung’s theory shares at least commonalities with Freud, both Jung, and Freud both shared an affinity for an individual’s unconscious and the role it plays in development and personality. However, much like the aforementioned figures, Jung also opposed Freud’s emphasis on sexuality.  Jung’s idea of personality is focused around what he called the collective unconscious. Jung believed that Freud’s theory of the personal unconscious was actually universal, in which we all have commonalities in psychological patterns and traces of memory. Jung believed that these commonalities were apparent in universal themes that can be seen across cultural literature, art, and even in the dreams of people. Jung called these collective aspects of archetypes. Jung believed that we formed our personality based on our conscious experience and our collective unconscious. Our personality is structured as a compromise between our true self, and who society expects us to be.

The last but certainly not the least influential player in regard to the psychodynamic perspective of personality is Karen Horney. Karen was the first woman of the time to be trained as a Freudian psychoanalyst. Horney also focused on the unconscious, however instead of focusing on stages, or sexuality, she believed in “unconscious anxiety”. Horney believed that this anxiety was the result of needs going unmet, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. Horney can be seen as a contrast to Freud where he is criticized for focusing on men, she focuses on women and is credited with advancing feminism in the field of psychology.

To review the main theories of personalities of the psychodynamic perspective of personality theory, the main focus is put on the unconscious mind, as well as experiences of early development. These theorists believe that what we experience in our early years of childhood plays a crucial role in how we develop as individuals as well as how our personality develops. While their ideas may slightly differ, their premise of the unconscious and childhood remains similar. Let’s review the key contributors to this perspective and their ideas:

  • Sigmund Freud: Placed heavy influence on early childhood, believed the unconscious and sexual development was key to developing one’s personality. Freud put forward the idea of the stages of psychosexual development.
  • Erik Erikson: Believed that personality develops over the individual’s entire lifespan, derived the psychosocial theory of development, and the eight-stage theory of personality.
  • Carl Jung: collective unconscious, archetypes, analytical psychology.
  • Alfred Adler: Inferiority complex, believed all people have some feelings of inferiority that they must face by overcoming challenges. Believed an individual must overcome three tasks; Occupational, Societal, and Love.
  • Karen Horney: Believed that the unconscious played a crucial role in the development and that unconscious anxiety has its roots in childhood. Parents can play a crucial role in unconscious anxiety based upon whether or not they meet the child’s needs and succeed in making the child feel wanted and secure instead of lonely and isolated. Brought feminism to the field of psychology.

Theories of Personalities: Humanistic perspective

The humanistic perspective which is also referred to as humanism is a different viewpoint on personality and a different perspective on theories of personalities.  The humanistic perspective of personality theory looks to account for the person as a whole and take into consideration the understanding of the nature of man and the human condition.  This take on psychology rejects the approach that the psychodynamic perspective takes. The psychodynamic perspective of personality theory believes heavily in the unconscious as well as putting great emphasis on early childhood experiences. The personality theory of the humanistic perspective takes a look at personality and development through the lenses of determinism, and forces of the irrational unconscious and instinct being the main driving force behind our personality, though, and behavior.

The humanistic perspective of theories of personalities was widely popular because it offered three things that its predecessors had not; it offered an understanding of human nature and condition, a bigger and broader interest in studying human behavior, and it seemed to have more practical methods in the practice of psychological therapy. The humanistic perspective of personality theory is built upon the basic ideas that humans have free will, are basically good and have a need that’s present from birth to improve the world, have a basic motivation to become self-actualized and find satisfaction through life fulfillment, and that conscious experiences are most important rather than the unconscious.

Unlike the psychodynamic personality theory, the humanistic personality theory only has two key theorists who built upon its basic beliefs and made it what it is today. These two people are Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, both names are common amongst psychology courses throughout the world. Carl roger’s main belief was that people are fundamentally good and are born with an inherent drive to improve themselves and the world. Rodgers core belief that the force behind human behavior and personality was the striving to become self-actualized. In order for an individual to grow and develop a healthy personality, Rodgers believed that they needed three things; genuineness, acceptance, and empathy. Rodgers identified five attributes that a person who has been fulfilled and developed a healthy personality should have; they should be open to experience, live existentially, have trust in their initial instincts, they should be willing to take risks and have a creative way of think, and lastly, he believed they shoals be living a fulfilled life. Aside from Rodgers’ belief of what allows a person to develop a healthy personality, he also had his own theory of what the main force behind personality development is. Rodgers believed in the self-concept, the idea of what a person thinks and believes about themselves in combination with the aforementioned factors is what is key to personality.

The other major player in the humanistic perspective of personality theory was Abraham Maslow. Maslow’s biggest contribution to the field of personality psychology is the hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a pyramid that places what a person is believed to have to accomplish in order for most basic needs, all the way up to ideas of self-worth and self-actualization. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is arranged into five levels, at the very bottom is basic needs such as food, water, and clothing. Then as the levels rise it becomes less about our basic and primal needs and more about our higher needs. Maslow believed that the individual could not skip levels and that each level had to be met before the next level was attempted or achieved. Both Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow make strong arguments for the humanistic perspective of personality theory, both take similar approaches. However, they differ when it comes to the belief in the stages of development when it comes to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the two are slightly divided. To give a brief overview of the humanistic perspective of personality theory which takes aim at looking at the person and the nature of humans to explain development:

  • Carl Rogers- People are born with ingrained goodness, with the inherent striving to do good, and better themselves and the world. Rogers believed heavily in free will and human determinism.
  • Abraham Maslow- Instead of putting emphasis on inherent goodness and free will, Maslow strongly emphasized that individuals develop through a hierarchy of needs. Known as the father of humanistic theory.

Theories of Personalities: Trait perspective 

The trait theory of personality is concerned with explaining, pinpointing, and measuring specific universal traits that come together to form the human personality. While traits may be universal in a sense, researchers believe that by gaining a better grasp of what these traits are and what implications they have in terms of personality and behavior they may be able to better understand the differences between individuals. The trait perspective of personality theory puts far more emphasis on traits that we can actually see. If you ever found yourself wondering “why does my friend always hesitate when a new situation presents itself?” then you would be focusing on a trait called introversion. The trait perspective of personality aims to look at traits such as these and through this, we may just get a better understanding of why that friend decides to hesitate in new situations or why our significant other just can’t be open to trying that new restaurant or any other new experience. The trait perspective of the theories of personalities put little emphasis on the conscious or unconscious, the individual’s childhood, or any of the other aspects that the previous personality theories put heavy emphasis on. Instead, the trait perspective of personality theory puts emphasis upon individual aspects of personalities or traits and then use those aspects to gain a deeper understanding of what is personality.

In the trait perspective of personality theory, there are three main figures who have developed this personality theory into what we understand today. These three are; Hans Eysenck, Raymond Cattell, and Robert McCrae and Paul Costa. Let’s go a little more in-depth on each of these contributors and take a look at their idea on personality theory.

Hans Eysenck held the belief that personality has dimensions he believed it could be broken down to extraversion and introversion, emotional stability and neuroticism. Extroverts are those who generally enjoy being outgoing, enjoying new experiences, and just going outside of their comfort zone; the world is usually always a new adventure for them. Then we have introverts, introverts are generally the people who keep to themselves more. Introverts enjoy routine, small groups, and staying within their comfort zone. We then have emotional stability and neuroticism. Emotional stability can be characterized by being confident in one’s initial gut feeling, rarely second guesses themselves, and just take security in their emotions in general. Neuroticism can be defined as emotional instability. These individuals are often on edge, stressed, highly irritable, do not take criticism well, and are generally less fun to be around. I’m sure we all know someone who seems like this.

Raymond Cattell had a slightly different opinion. While he stayed focused on traits, since was a contributor to the trait theory of personality, he believed that there were 16 personality traits that could be used to determine the differences between individuals. The 16 traits that Cattell believed to be;

  • Abstractedness
  • Apprehension
  • Dominance
  • Emotional Stability
  • Liveliness
  • Openness to Change
  • Perfectionism
  • Reasoning
  • Prolateness
  • Rule-Consciousness
  • Self-Reliance
  • Social Boldness
  • Sensitivity
  • Tension
  • Warmth

I’m sure there have been plenty of instances where we have referred to a friend as being too sensitive, or as someone as being a warm person, or even too apprehensive. While these traits can be used to measure personality, they can also be used in a bevy of other ways. They can be used in counseling such as, relationship counseling, deciding what field of work would be best suited for, and many other scenarios. Whether we know it or not, theories and personality play a very important role in our lives.

The last two contributors to the trait perspective of personality theory that we will mention are Robert McCrae and Paul Costa. Their contribution to the field of personality theory came as a two-man effort. They introduced the big five theory of personality which is still extraordinarily popular today. I must admit I find this contribution to be most interesting, mainly because my final project in my experimental psychology class was surrounding this theory. The big five theory states that there are five main aspects to personality. Those aspects are; Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. This personality theory is most often referred to as O.C.E.A.N in psychology classes. Each trait comes with a list of subtracts that can be used to make a hypothesis on how an individual may fair in certain situations.

Major contributors to the trait perspective of personality theory:

  • Hans Eysenck: Dimensions to personality. Extraversion and introversion, Emotional stability and Neuroticism.
  • Raymond Cattell: Belief in 16 aspects of personality.
  • Robert McCrae and Paul Costa: Created the big five theories of personalities, O.C.E.A.N.

Theories of Personalities: Social Cognitive Perspective

The personality theory of social cognitive perspective pushes forward the idea that observational learning, self-reliance, and the influence of situations through life is what is most important in the development of personality. This personality theory was derived by Albert Bandura and Julian Rotter.

Bandura believed that personality is an influence of not just one variable but many such as cognitive functions, behavior, and context of situations all come together and play a major role. When Bandura mentions cognitive functions, he is referring to anything that has been previously learned or engrained in an individual such as beliefs and social expectations. By behavior Bandura was referring to the events in which we have been either positively or negatively rewarded thus learning or rejecting certain ways of acting. For context, Bandura was referring to the situations in which we have learned or reject the ways of acting. This was an important step in personality psychology because it was the first theory that did not just focus on one’s surroundings or their behavior, but instead, it credited both along with the context that is continually influencing each other.

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The second influence of the social cognitive perspective was a man named Julian Rotter. Taking Banduras ideas of personality development, Rotter went a step further and developed what he called locus of control. Rotter defined this as the perceived amount of control has in their life. He believed that this was a major factor in the development of personality Rotter broke up his idea into two parts, the internal locus of control and the external locus of control. The internal locus of control is the belief that an individual is in control of their behavior and their life along with its outcomes. The external locus of control is the belief that one’s environment influences their behavior, and what happens in their lives.

  • Albert Bandura: Believed that cognitive function, context, and behavior constantly influenced each other in the development of personality.
  • Julian Rotter: Internal and External locus of control.

Theories of Personalities: Conclusion

Personality is still, to this day, one of the most studied and debated about topics in psychology. It’s one of the most discussed topics in general, even outside of psychology. When you tell your friends about a date you had, how often do you immediately describe their personality? I’m sure you often find yourselves explaining how generous, soft-spoken, funny, well-mannered, or happy your date was. I’m also almost certain that you’ve found yourself explaining the negative aspects of your date’s personality. Maybe you have found yourself having to, unfortunately, explain that your date was rude, inattentive, crude, angry, cold instead of warm, or even sad.

Personality is one of the most important topics in the field of psychology because it is one of the most related issues to just about everyone. Personality is universal, everyone has one. By studying theories of personalities and how personality develops is not an effort that only serves a certain set or population of people, but rather everyone around the world. Regardless of gender, race, age, religion, everyone has a personality made up of different traits.

As we can conclude from this article, were not the only ones who have put emphasis on theories of personalities, it’s evident that some of the greatest minds in psychology have pondered the same question. If we really think about it, it’s interesting that we may have asked the same questions as some of the most well-known people to influence many different fields. Personality is what makes each of us unique, we all have different traits and different combinations of traits which allow us to be the person we are. Our personality is what makes us the person all our friends, and loved one’s care for and adore. So, next time you interact with someone, try to take a moment and ponder what many of the previously mentioned people pondered “what is personality and how does it develop”? For a little-added fun, maybe you can think up your own theories of personalities. Who knows, maybe one day well be studying and talking about your theories of personalities!

References

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McLeod, S. (2014, January 01). Saul McLeod. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html

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Empathy: Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes?

You’ve probably talked or heard about it, but do you really know the implications of empathy and its meaning? Empathy is much more than putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Find out everything you need to know about empathy: What is empathy, definition, and concept, characteristics of empathetic people, types of empathy, differences between empathy and assertiveness, its benefits, how to improve or practice it and much more. If you want to share your experience or ask us any questions please leave your comment below.

Empathy

What is empathy? Definition and Concept

The term “empathy” comes from the Greek ἐμπάθεια: empátheia. Dictionaries define it as a feeling of identification with something or someone. The Oxford dictionary defines it as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

The first description of empathy is the one we usually use and refers to the emotional aspect. The second is the cause of the first since it would be impossible for us to feel if our cognition and thoughts didn’t allow it.

Therefore, we could say that empathy is the ability to put oneself in the other’s place, both emotionally and intellectually. Thus, the verb “empathize” appeals to the action of understanding other’s reality, including cognitively and emotionally.

The art of understanding emotions is more complex than it may seem. A study done by the University of Amsterdam indicates that empathy is bidirectional. This means that empathic interaction is significant for both individuals, for the one that is empathic and the one who feels comprehended.  It is easy to see that we are not empathic to the same extent everybody in the same way.

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Empathy: Characteristics of empathic people

People who feel empathy share a number of personality traits or behavioral patterns among themselves that foster the development of empathic capacity. Take a look at the following list to know the main characteristics of empathic people:

  • They are highly sensitive. Empathetic men and women are good listeners, open-minded to new experiences, kind and selfless. They are usually attentive to the needs of others and do not hesitate to lend a hand. It is not surprising, then, that they have a fascinating ability to transmit good feelings while interacting with others. However, the negative side of being highly sensitive is that people are more susceptible to feeling more empathy, more than they can handle. Therefore, any offense or ugly gesture they may receive hurts them more.
  • They capture people’s emotionality. As if it were a sponge, someone empathic is capable of absorbing the emotions of others. The mood of the other person has a significant influence on that of a person with a high level of empathy so that their emotionality is intensely adapted to both negative and positive feelings. Thus, it is difficult for them not to feel overwhelmed if they meet someone who is going through a time of anxiety and stress, or not to catch the joy of a happy person.
  • Your kindness can affect your own well-being. Having a big heart and caring sincerely for others are indisputable virtues. The disadvantage of this is that empathic people become more dedicated to other people’s problems than to their own, which often leads to frustration, stress, and difficulties in managing their lives.
  • They are careful with their language. Communication is essential to demonstrate empathic skills. When we empathize with others, we review our words twice before we say them because we are aware of the impact language can have on the other person’s well-being, for better or for worse.
  • They avoid extremes. People with empathy prefer the middle ground. They avoid extreme thinking. Therefore, when they surround themselves with someone who is extremist, they are able to teach them that not everything is black or white, but that there are many colors from which to perceive things and the most appropriate thing is to be open to that diversity that life offers us.
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Types of empathy

There are different types of empathy among which are:

Affective empathy: also called emotional empathy, it consists of three differentiated elements. To begin with, you need to feel the same emotion as the other person. Then, a distressing component appears as a natural reaction to vividly perceiving the feelings of the other. Finally, this leads to compassion.

Cognitive empathy: refers to the intellectual potential to perceive and understand the emotions of others. It could be said that cognitive empathy is the previous step to feeling affective empathy. It is necessary to learn to recognize emotions and then to understand their repercussion on one’s state of mind.

Unconscious empathy: Unconscious empathy implies a high level of involvement. Excessive involvement can lead to confusion caused by emotional contagion. Unconsciously empathetic people become so involved in others’ emotions they end up making them theirs. Consequently, controlling, and managing one’s emotions becomes tremendously complex.

Conscious empathy: This kind of empathy involves less emotional involvement. Conscious empathy allows you to observe the other person from an objective perspective and distance, which is essential to encourage emotional self-regulation and allow for a better understanding of the other person’s needs. A person who consciously empathizes is more effective in helping others because they support others without being overwhelmed with their feelings. This is the healthiest way to empathize because in this way you don’t carry the weight of the emotions that don’t correspond to yours and you can offer your best self.

Intercultural empathy

From empathy, one learns to respect and value the decisions of others, and also to understand the concerns and aspirations of others. And this process occurs in the same way across cultures. To empathize with other cultures means to know and understand the importance that each person gives to their customs, traditions and artistic productions.

To recognize multiculturalism is to accept human diversity because not all people are equal and have not grown up in the same environment. There are many cultures, languages, religions, professions, ways of thinking, skin tones, etc. and they are all equally valid.

Intercultural Empathy

It is essential to teach this kind of empathy in school, as children educated in the diversity of ethnic groups will develop a much healthier and more open way of thinking. Moreover, learning to accept the differences and not confront them will avoid numerous social problems in the future.

Empathy and assertiveness

It is important to make the distinction between empathy and assertiveness, given the confusion that both terms can cause.

To begin with, the similarities observed indicate that both empathy and assertiveness are considered to be potentially developable social skills in all human beings, since both can be learned in different contexts intentionally, by chance or due to daily life experiences.

Both skills need respect to be put into practice: respect for others (because the last thing you want is to hurt others’ feelings or hurt them) and respect for yourself (because you are defending the rights of another human being). In addition, other qualities such as honesty, integrity, and consistency are important.

The differences are more noticeable. While assertiveness implies a more personal aspect where there is a concern for not attacking others with words while allowing others to express their thoughts and opinions. Empathy doesn’t restrict or concern itself about feelings or others opinions when it needs to be expressed. Assertiveness defends the words that are pronounced, and empathy understands the words that others pronounce.

In conclusion, when we have the capacity to say what we think without hurting someone else’s feelings, and we also have the capacity to understand others by giving them the opportunity to speak, and express what they think, an enriching dialogue is established. This allows both parties to learn from each other, and communication flows clearly towards the goal that has been established.

These are two very useful skills for learning and communicating that complement each other. Both of these skills need to be learned to develop excellent communication and listening abilities.

Benefits of empathy

Empathy has many benefits. Let’s look at some examples:

1 – Helps emotional harmony:

Empathic people connect quickly with others, making the vast majority feel comfortable and making interpersonal relationships seem easier.

2- Helps to be objective and fair:

The best way to gain the respect of others is to show it to ourselves, even if we may differ in opinions.

3- It improves self-esteem and stimulates our learning:

Feeling that we have a positive effect on others works as a powerful personal enhancer. Furthermore, the empathic exercise allows us to learn from other’s, enriching the prism of reality with different perspectives.

4- It transmits generosity:

Those who demonstrate empathy are collaborative and more successful. It helps them act as brilliant catalysts for change by influencing others to achieve common goals

5- Strengthens professional relationships and maintains them over time:

Working empathically increases the strength of the bonds. This aspect is great in negotiation as well as in those cases in which it is necessary to seal agreements based on trust.

6- It helps show our most peaceful and constructive side:

There is numerous scientific evidence to corroborate that empathy and violence are, neuropsychologically, incompatible with each other. As our understanding increases, our inclination to belligerence decreases and the way we are perceived socially improves.

Keys to practicing empathy

Like all skills, empathy can be trained. Here are some tips for practicing empathy:

  • Listen with an open mind and without prejudice. Be respectful of others.
  • Pay attention and show interest in what they are telling you because it is not enough to know what the other person feels, but we have to show them you care.
  • Do not interrupt while being talked to and avoid becoming experts at giving advice, rather than trying to feel what the other person feels.
  • Learn to discover, recognize and reward the qualities and achievements of others. This will not only contribute to building their capacities but will also reveal our concern and interest in them.
  • When we have to give our opinion on what we are being told, it is very important to do so constructively, to be honest, and not to hurt anyone.
  • Be willing to accept differences with others, be tolerant and patient with those around you and with yourself.

Co-Sleeping With Your Newborn- A Complete Guide

After 9 long months of anticipation and mixed emotions, you finally get to welcome your little bundle of joy into the world. You’ve gained valuable knowledge about the pros and cons of co-sleeping vs. crib- sleeping through the hundreds of books, articles, and magazines that you’ve read. 273.75 days were spent preparing for motherhood but, you’re torn. Which do you choose? In this complete guide you will become familiar with what co-sleeping actually means, the relationship between co-sleeping and breastfeeding as well as the relationship between co-sleeping and sudden infant death syndrome, the pros and cons of co-sleeping, guidance for safe sleep and bed sharing, the relationship between co-sleeping in early childhood and social experiences during infancy, recommendations presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA), the famous Parent- Infant Co-Sleeping Debate, and tips on how to stop sleeping with your newborn.

Co-sleeping with newborn

What is Co-Sleeping?

Here in the United States, a growing trend exists among families with newborn babies. Since 1993, more moms are choosing to hold their infants close throughout the night. This child-rearing practice of bedsharing, defined as infants and young children sharing a bed with their parents for sleep, has grown from about 6 percent to 24 percent in 2015.

A recent survey of over 8,000 caregivers in the United States revealed that rates of regular parent-infant co-sleeping more than doubled between 1993 and 2000, from 5.5% to 12.8%. In contrast to the rapid practice of parent-infant co-sleeping in Western societies, clinicians continue to push for separate sleeping arrangements between parents and their infants. Truth be told, it is likely that numerous parents today feel so unsupported in their decision that they feel the need to conceal their choice from their childcare doctors.

Co-Sleeping With Siblings: Is It Safe?

In a study of urban Chicago families, researchers found that parental co-sleeping is not significantly associated with infant death, but co-sleeping with someone other than a parent, such as a sibling, was associated with increased risk.

Allowing other children to co-sleep in the bed with you and your baby is totally acceptable with caution and boundaries. Do not allow toddlers or older children to sleep directly next to the infant. If other children are sharing the bed, keep your partner between them and the baby.

Co-Sleeping With a Newborn- Instinct or Tradition?

From the moment the nurse places the newborn baby on the mother’s chest, there is an instant mother-infant interaction. This early skin- to- skin contact creates a physiological need to be together immediately after birth and during the hours and days that follow. Just like the nature vs. nurture debate, co-sleeping is both an instinct and a tradition around the world.

Co-Sleeping: Instinct

According to James Mckenna, an anthropologist who has been studying infant sleep for 40 years, mothers and infants mutually gravitate towards each other for survival. Human babies are contact seekers. What they need most is their mother’s and father’s bodies. Through the eyes of Mel Konner, an anthropologist at Emory University, the practice of bed-sharing has existed way before the discovery of the human species. Konner reveals that homo sapien moms and their newborns have been sleeping together for more than 200,000 years. Modern hunter-gatherer cultures provide insight into the traditional co-sleeping behaviors of our early progenitors. Even till this day, the practice continues to be universal and widespread around the world.

Co-Sleeping: Tradition

Yale University’s Human Relation Area Files presents evidence that bed-sharing is a tradition in at least 40 percent of all documented cultures. Some cultures even think it’s cruel to separate a mom and baby at night. In one study, Mayan moms in Guatemala responded with shock and pity when they heard that some American babies sleep away from their moms. In Japan, the most common sleeping arrangement is referred to as kawa no ji or the character for the river: 川. The child is represented by the shorter line and both the mother and father are represented by the longer lines.

Western culture, then again, has a long history of separating mothers and infants at night. Historians have noted that babies from wealthy Roman families slept alongside the bed in cradles and bassinets. By the 10th century, the Catholic Church started banning” infants from the parental bed to prevent poor women from intentionally suffocating an infant whom they didn’t have resources to care for. If a mother was caught sleeping with her one-year-old infant in her bed, she was excommunication from the church.

Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding

In the mid-1990s, Notre Dame’s James McKenna decided to figure out just what happens at night when a mom sleeps with her baby. What seemed relatively unthinkable to others was actually a relatively easy task for Mckenna and his colleagues to carry out.

To better understand the relationship between co-sleeping and breastfeeding, he transformed his laboratory into an apartment, recruited dozens of moms and babies to use in this study, and analyzed their bodies while they slept. Both the physical movements of the moms and babies were captured using infrared cameras, as well as their heart rate, breathing patterns, chest movement, body temperatures, brain waves and the carbon dioxide levels between the moms’ and babies’ faces.

What McKenna found was amazing. When the mother is breastfeeding, she positions her body around the infant that resembles a shell. Through experimental observations, he saw that the mother naturally arches her body around her baby and pulls up her knees just enough to touch the baby’s feet. Inside the “shell,” the infant hears the mother’s heartbeat and, thus, subconsciously slows down their own heart rate. Additionally, the child hears the mother’s breathing, which mirrors the sounds that the infant heard in the womb. It contains a swoosh, swoosh sound, which in turns sounds like, ‘hush, hush little baby.

 “It’s no wonder nearly every culture uses a swooshing sound to soothe a crying baby.” -Mckenna

The mom’s warm breath creates little clouds of carbon dioxide around the baby’s face. In spite of the fact that this may sound unsafe for the infant, the mother’s breath fortifies the child’s breathing and reminds them to take a full breath. McKenna found that for the duration of the night, babies who were breastfed in this investigation did not move all over the bed. Instead, newborns stood laser-focused on one location basically staring at their mother’s breast almost all night. In this study, it is evident that infants have evolved to experience this closeness, night after night after night.

Studies have shown that babies who aren’t breastfed have an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Based on James Mckenna’s research, breastfeeding keeps babies and mothers in a lighter stage of sleep, which decreases the risk of SIDS and promotes a greater awareness of what the other is doing.

Co-Sleeping and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age. Even after an autopsy, a thorough examination of the death scene, and an intense review of the deceased individual’s clinical history, an exact cause of this disease can remain unknown. Sometimes known as “crib death,” scientific researchers associate SIDS with deficits in the infant’s brain that control the infant’s breathing and arousal from sleep. While medical examiners have discovered a combination of sleep and environmental factors that might put your baby at risk, they’ve also identified simple measures that you can take to help protect your child from this tragic cause of death.

In a family co-sleeping with their newborn, possible causes of death are clarified by ecological components. On the off chance that the baby was born with brain deficits, low birthweight, or respiratory infections, the items in their crib and/or their sleeping position can ignite these physical issues. A blend of both sleep, environmental, and physical variables can extraordinarily build the danger of SIDS.

Albeit sudden infant death syndrome can strike any infant, scientists have recognized a few factors that may build a child’s hazard. They include:

  • Sex: Boys are slightly more likely to die of SIDS.
  • Age: Infants are most vulnerable between the second and fourth months of life.
  • Race: For reasons that aren’t well-understood, nonwhite infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
  • Family history: Babies who’ve had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at higher risk of SIDS.
  • Secondhand smoke: Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS.
    Being premature: Both being born early and having a low birth weight increase your baby’s chances of SIDS.

In the early 2000s, a few investigations found that bed-sharing considerably raised a child’s danger of SIDS. In these cases, the proof is solid and clear. Parents who drink or take drugs shouldn’t be sleeping with their infants since they could move over onto their child. Mothers who’ve just given birth to infants who are premature should not smoke or sleep in the same bed as their babies because of potential respiratory issues that can occur in the infant. Suffocation can likewise happen when babies sleep on couches since babies can be caught in between their parent and the cushions.

Peter Blair, a medical statistician at the University of Bristol, and his colleagues spent 25 years studying SIDS epidemiology. They found that a baby was 18 times more likely to die of SIDS when sleeping next to a parent who had been drinking. In another study, they found a similar risk for babies sleeping on sofas.

However, what about families who don’t drink or smoke? Whose babies aren’t premature or underweight?

In an analysis from two case-control studies in the UK, Robert Platt, a biostatistician at McGill University, examined the relationship between sudden infant death syndrome and infants who co-sleep in the absence of hazardous circumstances. One examination included 400 total SIDS cases and just 24 cases in which the infant had shared the bed without parental hazards. In the other examination, there were only 12 of these cases out of 1,472 SIDS deaths. In the last investigation, some data about the parent’s drinking propensities was missing. Nevertheless, the two examinations arrived at comparative conclusions. For babies older than 3 months of age, there was no detectable increased risk of SIDS among families that practiced bed-sharing, in the absence of other hazards. So far, only two studies have looked at this question.

Platt believes that there may be an increased risk among babies who are younger than 3 months. He further explains that if there is an increased risk, it’s probably not of a comparable magnitude to some of these other risk factors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. In other words, the risks present in this age group do not pose as much as a risk than parents who decide to co-sleep with their children after they’ve just smoked a cigarette or drank a beer, or two. Overall, the two studies suggest bed-sharing, when no other hazards are present, raises the risk of SIDS by about threefold.

Co-sleeping and SIDS Risk Factors

  • Parents who become tired easily, sleep heavily, consume alcohol or take medication that affects their level of consciousness
  • Illness of either the mother or the baby: First and foremost, you must take care of your health and your baby’s health before co-sleeping with your newborn. Skin- to- skin contact easily distributes germs between the mother and her baby.
  • Babies who are underweight or preterm
  • Sofas and/or waterbeds
  • Soft bedding and pillows
  • Excessive pillows and duvet covers
  • Room Temperature
  • Bedding that covers the infant’s head

Smoking serves as another significant risk factor in sudden infant death syndrome. Compared to their non- smoking counterparts, babies are 15 times more likely to die from SIDS if their mothers smoke during their pregnancy. In 1998, the Department of Health conducted a survey where only 9% of women knew that smoking in pregnancy increased the risk of SIDS. The CESDI Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI) Studies found that babies who died within the first year of life were twice as likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoke, with the risk increasing with the number of hours of exposure.

The most frequent risk in bed-sharing arrangements is paternal alcohol consumption among certain social groups. Helen L. Ball found that: “the heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.” As the numbers of babies who are breastfed increases in this section of the population, attention needs to be paid to the wider implications of these changes in infant care practices.

“The heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.”- Helen L. Ball

Guidance for Safe Co-Sleeping and Bed Sharing

  • Keep the mattress firm: Co-sleeping should never take place on a water-bed, sofa, or old sagging mattress because this can put the infant at risk for suffocation.
  • Ensure that your baby’s sleep environment is free of any gaps or small spaces
  • Maintain the room temperature at a comfortable temperature – around 18°C.
  • Do not overdress or swaddle your baby: Care should be taken to ensure that the baby cannot become entangled in loose ties from nightwear. Parents should keep a close eye on signs of overheating, such as sweating or the chest feeling hot to the touch, throughout the night.
  • Keep pillows away from the baby
  • Keep the crib bare: There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.
  • If your partner is sharing the bed with you and your baby, make sure that he/she is aware that the baby is in the bed
  • Never allow pets to share the bed
  • Become aware of the protective “C”- shaped position for co-sleeping. This is especially important for bottle-feeding mothers
  • Never co-sleep with your infant if you’re under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
  • Regardless of where the infant sleeps, always place an infant on its back to sleep.
The New Zealand Strategy

Specialists have been utilizing the New Zealand Strategy for a considerable length of time and the outcomes have been tremendous. Since 2010, mortality rates have decreased as much as 30 percent in the realm of sudden infant death syndrome.

The New Zealand Strategy specifically figures out which babies are at high risk for SIDS. Through this strategy, families will not be shamed by their decision to co-sleep, rather, they’re being taught how to bed-share more safely. Doctors will talk about what increases the risk, such as drug use and alcohol use, and families are given a so-called Moses basket so that the family can bring the baby into the bed. If parents feel less judged by their doctors, then they are able to receive better advice about the dangerous circumstances surrounding SIDS.

Co-Sleeping Pros

An implied medical advantage of bedsharing is that it encourages increased frequency and duration of breastfeeding, which is broadly held to be the best strategy for nourishing youthful babies. Bedsharing promotes breastfeeding and greater bonding opportunities. While there is no current research contending that co-sleeping has a defensive impact against SIDS, James McKenna’s exploration has demonstrated that babies who sleep by their mothers exhibit positive physiological changes. These progressions can hypothetically decrease the dangers of SIDS.

Co-Sleeping Cons

Co-sleeping puts the infant at risk for sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation, and accidental strangulation. About 3,700 babies die each year in the U.S. from sleep-related causes. From a psychiatric viewpoint, prolonged bed sharing may be considered symptomatic of maternal separation anxiety, an inability to set limits, difficulty maintaining a consistent child bedtime routine, or a disturbed mother-infant relationship.

Due to the fragmented and poor quality sleep of family members, elementary school children tend to act out and cause disruptions in family life. Concerns have been raised about the unfavorable results of bedsharing for family relations, particularly the marriage, with some warning that marital intimacy will suffer from prolonged bed sharing arrangements. Whereas bed- sharing can potentially hinder the romantic relationship between parents, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support this possible co-sleeping con. Solitary sleeping and co-sleeping families both report marital intimacy and partner satisfaction despite existing controversies.

In a study comparing both U.S. and Chinese elementary school children, the Chinese children were reported to have more sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, fear of sleeping in the dark, talk during sleep, and restless sleep. Although researchers clearly see that these children are suffering from the consequences of sleep disturbances, do nighttime care providers see these characteristics as problematic? Cultural considerations must be included as researchers evaluate the disruption posed by night wakings and other sleep behaviors. Parental recognitions are socially bound and essential to an evaluation of what constitutes a sleep issue. The definitions of sleep onset and night waking problems in young children are, to a certain extent, culturally determined.

Co-Sleeping and Safety Concerns

Those who are against co-sleeping argue that the practice is, in many ways, a dangerous one that, because of health, developmental, and safety concerns, has been and should continue to be abandoned by health professionals and parents. On the other side of the spectrum, some researchers contend that the practice of bedsharing is only a risk factor for SIDS if parents smoke or engage in other hazardous practices. They’ve also argued that entrapment/suffocation is only associated with bedsharing due to other contextual factors such as bed safety (soft mattresses, sleeping together on a couch) and parental variables (e.g. intoxication, smoking).

Co-Sleeping and Childhood Development

One one side of this controversial debate, some researchers argue that co-sleeping deters childhood development. They see the first year as an opportunity for infants to master sleep consolidation and sleep regulation. Other research views the process of sleep consolidation and sleep regulation as a natural process that matures over the course of the first several years of life. Controversy on whether falling asleep and staying asleep should be done naturally and independently or with the aid of parental involvement continues to reign as an issue for this field.

Co-Sleeping: Psychosocial Outcomes

Another formative issue concerns the psychosocial outcomes for children and parents of early sleep arrangements. Of prime interest is whether the requisite path towards independence and separation–individuation will be derailed for bed- sharing infants. In particular, Western societies believe that children should acquire the skills that are needed to thrive as independent individuals. This promotes the belief that ‘self-soothing’ in infants is an important developmental milestone. Co-sleeping or sleeping with a parent or sibling prevents the infant from becoming independent. Despite these convictions, evidence suggests that children who co- slept with their parents during the first year of life, are fundamentally more autonomous in everyday living abilities and in their social relations with peers as preschoolers compared to solitary sleeping children.

In their 18-year longitudinal study of conventional and nontraditional families, Okami and colleagues found that bedsharing during infancy and early childhood was unrelated to long-term problems in sleep, sexual pathology or problems in other areas of behaviour. Some sleep specialists see constant night wakings and excessive dependence on parental help for going to sleep and staying asleep in newborns and young children who co-sleep. However, in numerous nations around the globe where bedsharing is the norm, reports of rest issues are uncommon.

Co-Sleeping in Early Childhood and Social Experiences During Infancy

Marie J. Hayes, Michio Fukumizu, Marcia Troese , Bethany A. Sallinen and Allyson A. Gilles studied the relationship between co- sleeping arrangements in early childhood and social experiences during infancy. They monitored this relationship by using sleep- wake behaviors that took place during the infancy and early childhood periods from current and retrospective parental reports.

A convenience sample of 3-to 5-year-old children was obtained from the University of Maine’s Child Study Center in Orono, Maine. The Child Study Center is part of the Psychology Department at the University and provides a preschool educational experience to families who are encouraged to take interest in the preschool’s research mission. The average age of the children was 3.8 years, 51% were female, and 73% were breastfed during infancy.

Results showed that early childhood co-sleeping was reactive. Co-sleeping in early childhood was associated with sleep location in infancy (i.e. proximity to the mother’s bed) during wake–sleep transitions and night feedings. In infancy, researchers recalled an inverse relationship between the use of security objects in early childhood and current parent- seeking behaviors, night waking, poor bedtime routines, fear of the dark, and social contact during wake–sleep transitions. These findings suggest that co-sleeping in early childhood is related to social experiences during infancy, particularly the amount of parent social contact and security object use.

At 12 months old, a newborn’s proximity to the mother’s bed was related to co-sleeping at 2 and 4 years of age. Infant sleep location in a different room was related to self- soothing techniques that were practiced independently by the infant. Self-calming was additionally identified with a more prominent delay in parental intervention for night crying. Self-soothing opportunities are presented to the infant with increased proximal distance from the maternal bed, less parental awareness of infant awakenings, and longer delays in responding.

Interestingly enough, the use of a sleep aid may do more harm than good at sleep onset. In infancy, security object attachment and difficulty without the object were associated with more solitary sleeping and independent sleep onset skills in early childhood. Infants who did not use a sleep aid were associated with more co-sleeping in early childhood. In sum, you will find that infants who have more independent sleep onset skills, solid sleep routines, and low rates of nightwalking in early childhood have a history of using a sleep aid during infancy. In Western society, it’s possible that parental encouragement of object use may be simply a corollary of parental practices that are cultural conventions. These parents believe that early independent sleep onset skills are best developed by the parental delay in response to infant night crying and ritualized bedtime routines.

Tips on How to Stop Co-Sleeping With Your Baby

It is evident that co-sleeping has both its pros and cons. If you are a parent who is 100% comfortable with continuing on the co-sleeping route, that’s totally fine! But if you are a parent who wants to slowly wean you and your child off of a co-sleeping agenda, then stay tuned for these tips on how to stop co-sleeping with your baby.

Why did you begin to co-sleep with your infant in the first place? How you address this issue relies upon how and why you are co-sleeping with your infant. However, regardless of your condition, there are additional components for an effective change.

You must have a consistent nighttime routine

Is your child going to sleep in your bed every night or not? On the off chance that your child resists or you miss that feeling when your child slept close to you throughout the night, you are disturbing the establishment of a new sleeping pattern. Keep in mind that intermittent reinforcement is a powerful mechanism for encouraging undesirable behavior. According to Craig Canapari, director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Center, the number one reason families fail at extricating their child from their bed is that they are inconsistent.

Devise a sleep time plan

Consistency requires all hands on deck. All caregivers must be aware of what this new plan consists of. If you decide that the child will not be sharing the bed with you tonight, make sure your partner is aware of this decision. Discuss with your partner where your child will sleep during the day so you are prepared to act upon this decision at night.

Agree on a “quit date”

Choose a specific date to start a change in co-sleeping behaviors.

Make solitary sleeping fun

Feelings of apprehension are completely normal for anyone who’s facing any kind of change in a normal routine. But in terms of co-sleeping, some children might feel uncertain about spending the night alone in their own bedroom without their parents. To ease this scary situation, take your child to choose a new set of pajamas or a fun bedding set. Pick out a new stuffed animal to use as a transitional object.

Face this new experience alongside your child

The beginning of a solitary sleep routine is experienced by both the child and their family. You can’t expect your child to start sleeping by themselves in an unfamiliar place right off the bat so it’s important to ease into this new situation. Craig Canapari suggests that you move with your child in their room for a week or so before starting to withdraw your presence.

Help your baby fall asleep on their own

Your child is bound to wake up at some point during the night but in order to go back to sleep without parental aid, they have to work on falling back asleep on their own. Some parents find success in checking on their baby in the middle of the night and reassuring her, without picking her up or bringing her to bed with them.

Be patient

Rest assured, co-sleeping does not last forever! Just like any other behavior, solitary sleeping becomes automatic when the correct measures are taken. Eventually, your baby will learn how to sleep on their own and your bed will become yours again.

Please do not think of yourself as a so-called “bad parent” if you choose to co-sleep with your child at any stage of their lives. This article is not meant to make you feel that you failed your children in any way because you allow them to share the bed with you at night. I hope you found the information in this article useful and helpful. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

For further reading…

In an analysis from two case-control studies in the UK, Robert Platt, a biostatistician at McGill University, examined the relationship between sudden infant death syndrome and infants who co-sleep in the absence of hazardous circumstances. One examination included 400 total SIDS cases and just 24 cases in which the infant had shared the bed without parental hazards. In the other examination, there were only 12 of these cases out of 1,472 SIDS deaths. In the last investigation, some data about the parent’s drinking propensities was missing. Nevertheless, the two examinations arrived at comparative conclusions. For babies older than 3 months of age, there was no detectable increased risk of SIDS among families that practiced bed-sharing, in the absence of other hazards. So far, only two studies have looked at this question.

Platt believes that there may be an increased risk among babies who are younger than 3 months. He further explains that if there is an increased risk, it’s probably not of a comparable magnitude to some of these other risk factors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. In other words, the risks present in this age group do not pose as much as a risk than parents who decide to co-sleep with their children after they’ve just smoked a cigarette or drank a beer, or two. Overall, the two studies suggest bed-sharing, when no other hazards are present, raises the risk of SIDS by about threefold.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Risk Factors:

The risk factors for SIDS include:

  • Parents who become tired easily, sleep heavily, consume alcohol or take medication that affects their level of consciousness
  • Illness of either the mother or the baby: First and foremost, you must take care of your health and your baby’s health before co-sleeping with your newborn. Skin- to- skin contact easily distributes germs between the mother and her baby.
  • Babies who are underweight or preterm
  • Sofas and/or waterbeds
  • Soft bedding and pillows
  • Excessive pillows and duvet covers
  • Room Temperature
  • Bedding that covers the infant’s head

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Smoking:

Smoking serves as another significant risk factor in sudden infant death syndrome. Compared to their non- smoking counterparts, babies are 15 times more likely to die from SIDS if their mothers smoke during their pregnancy. In 1998, the Department of Health conducted a survey where only 9% of women knew that smoking in pregnancy increased the risk of SIDS. The CESDI Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI) Studies found that babies who died within the first year of life were twice as likely to have been exposed to tobacco smoke, with the risk increasing with the number of hours of exposure.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Alcohol:

The most frequent risk in bed-sharing arrangements is paternal alcohol consumption among certain social groups. Helen L. Ball found that: “the heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.” As the numbers of babies who are breastfed increases in this section of the population, attention needs to be paid to the wider implications of these changes in infant care practices.

“The heaviest drinking bed-sharing fathers were of middle- income, socioeconomic classes III and IV, with little post-16 education, whose partners were breastfeeding their first infants.”- Helen L. Ball

American Academy of Pediatrics: Recommendations on SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an association of 66,000 essential care pediatricians, pediatric therapeutic subspecialists, and pediatric surgeons. They are committed to the wellbeing, security, and prosperity of newborn children, youngsters, teenagers and youthful grown-ups.

“SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” draws on new research and serves as the first update to Academy policy since 2011. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) expressed an opposition to bed-sharing with this statement: “It should be avoided at all times with a full-term normal-weight infant younger than 4 months.”

“It should be avoided at all times with a full-term normal-weight infant younger than 4 months.”- The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA)

Newly revised recommendations call for newborn babies to share their parents’ bedroom for the first six months and, optimally, for the first year of life. Parents should rest their baby on a firm sleep surface, such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet. Lori Feldman-Winter, a member on the Task Force on SIDS, says: “There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.” While infants are at an increased risk for SIDS between the ages of 1 and 4 months, new evidence demonstrates that soft bedding continues to pose hazards to babies who are 4 months and older. To guarantee a safe resting place for your baby, stay away from soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare and the infant should be placed on their back. Research has shown that room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.

“There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating.”- Lori Feldman- Winter

Doctors strongly emphasize the importance of skin-to-skin care immediately following birth. Skin-to-skin contact ought to be limited if one, or both, parents smoke tobacco, abuse alcohol, or other illicit drugs. For this can jeopardize the infant’s health and ultimately, their life.

Breastfeeding is likewise prescribed as protection against SIDS. After feeding, the AAP urges guardians to move the infant to his or her separate sleeping space, preferably a crib or bassinet in the parents’ bedroom. Winter explains: “If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair. If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.”

“If you are feeding your baby and think that there’s even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair. If you do fall asleep, as soon as you wake up be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed.”- Lori Feldman- Winter

Other recommendations include:

  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices, including wedges or positioners, marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
  • Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development.

References

American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Safe-Sleep-Recommendations-to-Protect-Against-SIDS. (n.d.).

Canapari, C. (2015, November 10). How To Stop Co-sleeping. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://drcraigcanapari.com/want-to-stop-cosleeping-heres-how/

Goldberg, W. A., & Keller, M. A. (2007). Parent-infant co-sleeping: why the interest and concern?.Infant & Child Development, 16(4), 331-339.

Hayes, M. J., Fukumizu, M., Troese, M., Sallinen, B. A., & Gilles, A. A. (2007). Social experiences in infancy and early childhood co-sleeping. Infant & Child Development, 16(4), 403-416. ( Study)

Is Sleeping With Your Baby As Dangerous As Doctors Say?. (2018). Morning Edition

Premarital Counseling: Get to know your partner before marriage

With such a large amount of people getting married and a 50% divorce rate in the U.S., it’s important to work through as many problems with your partner as possible before getting married. Often, people use premarital counseling. What is premarital counseling? Why is it important and what are its religious traditions? What are its benefits and challenges? When should you start it and what are some tips to help make it easier?

Premarital Counseling

What is premarital counseling?

Premarital counseling, also known as pre-marriage counseling, is a type of couples therapy and counseling designed to benefit a couple who is considering long-term commitment, such as marriage. The goal of the therapy is to be able to identify, pinpoint, and address any (potential) areas of conflict within the relationship early on. The therapy also teaches each partner strategies to help effectively discuss and resolve conflicts within the relationship. This avoids further issues within the couple like depression, infidelity, etc. 

It’s such an important step in one’s life to get married. It’s also astounding the amount of divorce that couples go through not only in the U.S. but also around the world. Getting counseling beforehand has been proven to help the marriage have a lower probability of divorce. The U.S. state of Colorado considers it so important that they considered requiring premarital counseling for every couple who is engaged before they marry. According to healthresearchfunding.org44% of couples today go through premarital counseling. 

Why is premarital counseling important?

It’s important to have premarital counseling to help a couple be able to set off their marriage on the best food possible with the best coping methods and most knowledge about their relationship as possible. The counselor responsible and licensed to perform premarital counseling is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). However, people getting married in a religious setting might also have their officiant, the person performing the wedding, be their counselor, as well. 

Research has shown that prevention is 3 times more effective than intervention in relationships and on average, couples wait six years before seeking help when they have trouble. In premarital counseling, couples are able to discuss several different aspects of the relationship. With the goal of identifying problematic areas and giving coping mechanisms to help the couple through these issues, the counselor discusses, among other things, career goals, finances, child-rearing methods, intimacy, and family dynamics. Sometimes the “in case of divorce” is talked about (it’s not bad luck, but it is important to talk about). Couples can also talk about having an open marriage or how infidelity stands in the relationship during their counseling sessions

Within the counseling, couples will address as many issues as possible, but also learn how to work through the issues in the years to come. For example, the couple will figure out their finances as best as possible and then learn ways to help talk about finances in the future. In general, premarital counseling is recommended for every couple, problematic or not, because it helps couples get off on the right foot in their financial and child-rearing life.

Premarital Counseling

It depends on each therapist- some choose to see each partner one of one for a couple of sessions while other counselors whose to work with both partners at the same time during the entirety of therapy. Individual sessions are good because each partner can state any issues, concerns, weaknesses, and strengths in the relationship. Each partner can speak more openly and talk about the reality a little bit easier. Joint sessions are good because the couple talks about any issues together while the other partner is present.

Each partner has the opportunity to describe their perfect marriage and what steps they took to get towards that goal for the perfect partner. They may also talk about any challenges they feel are impeding them from getting their perfect partner.

Some therapists use a Couples Resource Map which is a “map” that helps each partner be able to find resources to use when faced with challenges- individually and as a couple. This map also works as a plan of action to use if concerns and issues arise. These additional resources to turn to when faced with challenges can include seeking spiritual guidance or going to counseling.

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Other therapists and some religious institutions like to use compatibility questionnaires in order to see where the couple stands. While sounding intimidating, a compatibility questionnaire is simply a quick assessment to see where the couples’ strong suit is. That is to say, where the couple has a solid foundation and where they need to put in some work. Rather than thinking of it as a test, because it’s not, it’s a resource used to help the counselor help the couple identify the issues they need to work on. While there are lots of questionnaires out there, here is a good example of one that covers lots of bases.

Religious traditions in premarital counseling

These days, about 75% of weddings occur in churches and religious settings. Although, that number is declining. However, many churches do not require premarital counseling in order for a wedding to happen. That said, many churches and people encourage premarital counseling. Others require that a couple goes through counseling before agreeing to perform the ceremony.

Within the Catholic Church, the Pre-Cana tradition was made to provide some form of education to premarital couples about issues such as sex, parenting as Catholics, and finances. The counseling styles range from sessions with the priest, an engaged couples’ retreat, marriage preparation classes (performed in small group settings), and even online counseling/preparation.

Within liberal Jewish traditions, it’s important to cocreate wedding traditions and rituals that work for the couples and are meaningful to them. The couple also speaks with a clergy to help answer questions such as “How can Judaism serve as a framework and basis to strengthen our relationship?”, “Do we stay kosher or give to charity (tzedakah)”, or “what do we want our home to look like spiritually?” The goal here is to help the couple get a good basis within their relationship while maintaining their religion.

Researchers from one study realized that counseling before marriage looks different within religions, between therapists, and different couples. They decided to investigate and looked at the Latino populations’ premarital counseling and found that there were common themes within their counseling. These include religion, tradition, extended family, language, sex, immigration, respect, communication, parenting roles/skills, and how to dress- with a big focus on (Catholic) religion.

Benefits of premarital counseling

Premarital counseling has been proven to lower divorce rates by 31% and has many benefits including:

  • Intimate partners by addressing concerns in the relationship
  • Better ability to manage conflict (together) now and later on in the relationship
  • Mutual goals are created so the couple and move forward together. Finding common goals within the relationship and within life can help a healthy marriage work.
  • Develop a healthy relationship in the present and in the future.
  • Avoids toxic resentments because the couple puts everything on the table sooner rather than later.
  • Helps couples feel more comfortable if they feel the need to go through counseling later.
  • Communication skills are increased. The counselor teaches the couple how to listen and communicate effectively.
  • Conflict resolution skills are increased. This includes learning how not to blow up at your partner and giving the silent treatment.
  • Addresses fears that someone might have in the relationship due to any reason. It teaches the partners how to break away from their past and make peace with it.
Premarital Counseling

Challenges to premarital counseling

Some people avoid premarital counseling because they feel fear or anxiety about it. It can be challenging because:

  • Difficult issues, serious concerns are raised
  • The choice not to marry. Some people choose that certain issues and beliefs are incompatible with the other partner’s beliefs and they choose not to get married.
  • Hearing your partner express concerns about the relationship is no easy thing.
  • Not everything has access to premarital counseling due to issues with payment, such as not having insurance. However, there are some low-cost counselors and many self-help books available for those unable to attend counseling. Furthermore, there are online therapists, too, if there isn’t a licensed one near you. 
  • Time. Some people simply don’t have the time to go to counseling.

When to start premarital counseling

There are some couples who believe that they should start premarital counseling a few weeks before their marriage. While that might work for a couple who already has a lot figured out, most often it’s best to start premarital counseling as soon as the couple is sure about where they stand. For example, when a couple first gets engaged is a good time to start going. For couples who know they are “in it for the long haul”, even if they aren’t yet engaged, it’s recommended that they go through a type of premarital counseling, too, to help them figure out finances and coping mechanisms throughout the relationship. It’s beneficial to start premarital counseling early because it enhances the communication between partners before the communication becomes too bad for the partners to stand the relationship anymore. It also helps to start early because it helps the couple plan for the future and learns how to deal with each other’s personality better. End of story: don’t put it off and start premarital counseling as soon as you’re sure about your relationship.

How to make the most out of premarital counseling

  • Accept that it’s challenging. However, it’s worth it now because marriage counseling later is harder when you already have kids to take care of.
  • Keep the sessions private. There’s no need to tell everyone about what goes on in the sessions because they are between you and your partner.
  • There is no “winning” in counseling. Everyone needs to understand that being willing and keeping an open mind is essential. Cooperation is key.
  • Show your partner gratitude. Make sure they know you appreciate that they are going through premarital counseling with you and you’re thankful for the work you two are doing together.
  • Your counselor is a “safe zone” and what you discuss with them can’t be used for future arguments or any moments like “I told you so”.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Motion Sickness: An explanation to travelling nausea

As a kid, I never felt motion sick- ever. I would go on the craziest of carnival rides and not feel dizzy one bit. Then a few years ago, I had a severe concussion and suddenly, I felt motion sick anytime I would get in a moving vehicle, train, airplane… even a moving walkway made me feel motion sick. But, why? Turns out it all has to do with the fluid from the inner ear. Check out everything about motion sickness here! What is motion sickness, the different types, symptoms, causes, and treatments? How does it affect the body? How does it affect the brain? What are some tips to prevent it or overcome it?

Motion sickness

 

What is motion sickness?

Kinetosis, the official medical term for motion sickness, is a disagreement between how the body visually perceived movement and how the body’s sensory system senses movement. Essentially, a disagreement between two sensory systems, also known as vestibular systems, within the body.

Motion sickness is known for how ill, nauseous, or bad it can make someone feel and dates back all the way to Greek and Roman times… meaning it isn’t just a new thing. It can affect everyone at different levels of severity. Depending on the cause of the motion sickness, it can also be known as air sickness, sea sickness, car sickness, and simulation sickness.

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Types of motion sickness

There are three types of motion sickness:

1. Motion that is felt, but not seen. This type of motion sickness is sensed by the sensory system which is why the motion is felt. However, the visual system doesn’t detect much, if any, motion. Examples would be car sickness, air sickness, sea sickness, visual reality, and rotating devices (such as a centrifuge).  

2. Motion that is seen but not felt. This type of motion sickness happens because the visual system detects motion, which is why the motion is seen. However, the sensory system doesn’t detect much, if any, motion. It happens due to situations which are known as visually induced motion sickness (VIMS). Examples would be movies/films, visual reality, and space sickness.

3. When both systems feel motion but they don’t correspond. This type of motion sickness happens when one is in an environment where gravity is affected and simulated with centrifugal force. This is known as the Coriolis effect and it causes a sense of motion within the sensory system that doesn’t correspond to the motion that is seen by the visual system. For example, when a vehicle is on a badly maintained road for a long period of time while going slowly, the two senses (sensory and visual) don’t match up. This is because the bad road can jerk a body around which give the sense of extreme motion to the inner ear, but due to the slow speed, the eye doesn’t feel the same amount of motion.  

Symptoms of motion sickness

If you feel motion sick, you’ll know right away that something doesn’t feel right. However, some common symptoms include:

  • Nausea. Interestingly enough, “nausea” means “sea sickness” in Greek, “naus-” means “ship”.
  • Vomiting
  • Increase in saliva production
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Hot flashes

Motion sickness- carsickness

Causes of motion sickness

Motion sickness is caused by a conflict between the different senses that are responsible for registering motion in the brain, the inner ear, the eyes, and the sensory nerves in the skin are all sending different signals to the brain. These different signals are what create dizziness. After a while, these signals create what we know to be motion sickness.

Some people begin to feel motion sickness while reading in a moving vehicle. This is because the eyes are focused on the non-moving, “steady” object while the inner ear senses motion. The brain becomes confused with all of the different brain signals sent and the person begins to feel dizzy.

The reason that people who often feel motion sickness while in a car don’t feel motion sick while driving is because they can anticipate what’s coming next. For example, they see the cars brake ahead of them, they know when a turn is coming up, they see the stoplight turn red, etc. Drivers have a more accurate internal estimate than passengers which makes them less reliant on their external senses. The anticipation that the driver feels replaces the sensory experience in the brain which prevents motion sickness.

How does motion sickness affect the brain?

Motion sickness is due to the body tried to get rid of neurotoxins. Essentially, the brain thinks it’s being poisoned so it tries to get rid of the toxins. This is thought to occur because humans weren’t made to be in moving vehicles. We have only recently started traveling on boats, cars, and trains. Our brains just haven’t adapted yet. Our bodies have been tied to walking for as long as we have had the motor ability to walk.

Our bodies use the motor cortex (the part of the brain that controls our conscious muscle movement) and the proprioception (the physical sense of ourselves) which help us know, for example, where our arm is behind our back without looking at it. We can sense it. Each of these parts of the brain supply signals to the rest of the brain about our movement.

Even though we may be traveling in a car at 50 miles an hour, our bodies perceive that we are stationary because technically, we are just sitting there not moving. At the same time, our brains know that we are going forward at a certain speed because of the balance sensors, little tubes of fluid, that are in the inner ear. When the liquid in these tubes splashes and sloshes around your brain gets mixed messages because the sloshing liquid indicates movement, but in reality, you’re just sitting still. The thalamus takes this information and tries to understand what is really going on. However, it usually comes to the conclusion that it’s being poisoned and often that leads to the feeling of nausea and actual vomiting. That’s simply the brain trying to rid itself and the body of the “apparent toxins”. Our motion sickness comes from our brain’s worry about being poisoned.

Motion sickness

Treatments for motion sickness

There are many options for treatment and remedies for motion sickness :

  • Medication can be used, such as meclizine (Bonine) or Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), that is over the counter and is meant to reduce inner-ear sensitivity. However, these medications can only be preventative and have the tendency to cause drowsiness and dry mouth.  
  • Patches are also used. These patches are called scopolamine patches and are available by prescription. However, they can be addictive because people go overboard with them and are designed for only three-day use at a time. This study proves that it’s more effective than the placebo effect.
  • Bands, such as Psy bands, are bracelets designed to target a pressure point in the wrist that is believed to help tell the body’s senses to straighten out.  
  • Training. The U.S. Department of Defense and NASA have their employees go through intense training to prevent their fighter pilots and astronauts from getting motion sickness. While that training isn’t for the average person or the faint of heart, it is an option is the motion sickness gets in the way too often.

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  • Try cutting out migraine triggers from your diet. People who suffer from migraines often are actually more susceptible to motion sickness. If you grew out of motion sickness and now it’s back, or you have terrible migraines, try taking a look at what triggers the migraines to know how to deal with the motion sickness.
  • Ginger in pill form, chews, tea, or even ginger ale is effective in terms of anti-nausea. One study found that ginger works even better than the placebo effect.
  • Papaya isn’t the most scientific treatment, nor are there any studies on the subject, but it’s theorized that papaya is effective in taking away motion sickness. It’s thought that the enzymes from the papaya relieve morning sickness and nausea. If all else fails, might as well try it!
  • Other medications include valium (diazepam) in low doses, Phenergan (promethazine) and Zofran (ondansetron) for anti-nausea.

Why do only some people get motion sick?

Motion sickness affects everyone at different levels, and we are all capable of it,  but some people are prone to it. Why? No one knows for sure why some people are more prone to motion sickness than others, but it’s thought that some people are more sensitive and reactive to the dissonance happening between reality and the body than others. Some scientists believe that motion sickness is acquired or can be eliminated with enough practice. Others believe that it’s genetic and that it runs in the family. In fact, children born to a parent who is prone to motion sickness are five times more likely to inherit that trait, as well.

Think for example about the fact that native Chinese people have the tendency to get train sick while Chinese-Americans don’t have that tendency. This is because there is less opportunity in China for the body to become accustomed to the sensations that cause motion sickness. Also, think about the fact that ice skaters are actually less likely to feel car sick. Why? Because the ice skaters are used to, like that group of Chinese-Americans, the dissonance that happens between what the body is experiencing and what the body is used to.

Motion sickness

It’s easy to feel motion sick on the metro/subway because you aren’t sure where the next turn is, when the train stops, etc. Your body can’t predict it, and your sensory and visual systems don’t line up.

According to this study published by Oxford Academic, roughly ⅓ of the overall population are highly susceptible to motion sickness. The other ⅔ can get it under extreme conditions. Women are more likely to be affected by motion sickness than men. It’s also probable that it will decrease with age. A 2013 study found that people who sway more, even when they are just sitting, are actually more likely to get body sick than those who remain rather stationary. The bad news is that this study found that if you have a healthy sensory system, you’re susceptible to motion sickness.

Tips to prevent or lessen motion sickness

  • Look out the window. Looking out the window while in a moving vehicle actually helps the brain understand that you are actually moving and that everything is okay.
  • Don’t put your head between your legs– that’s only used for low blood pressure, not dizziness.
  • Sit shotgun if you can’t be the driver. Shotgun, a.k.a. the passengers’ seat, is good because you’ll be able to not only look out the window, but be able to anticipate the twists and turns, and the starts and stops of the road.
  • Don’t reach for water. It can make you feel even more nauseous.
  • Reach for a carbonated drink. Reason being that when the stomach is upset due to nausea, the carbonation from the drink can dilute the acids and relieve the gas buildup that causes the uneasy stomach feeling.
  • Eat a light meal that is high in protein before the trip to ensure that the stomach is as calm as can be during the ride.
  • Stop the car or whatever is making you motion sick and rest a bit.
  • Find something still if stopping isn’t an option.

How do you deal with motion sickness? Let us know in the comments below!

Rhotacism: A complete guide to this speech impediment

Remember when you were a child and spoke by making your “R’s” sound like “W’s” and everything thought it was cute? That’s known as rhotacism and some people live with it even as adults. What is rhotacism, what is it like in other languages, and what are its symptoms? What does it look like as a speech impediment and what are some examples? What are its causes? How does it affect the brain? Is it curable and how can it be fixed? This article will answer all your doubts about rhotacism. 

Rhotacism

What is rhotacism?

Rhotacism is a speech impediment that is defined by the lack of ability, or difficulty in, pronouncing the sound R. Some speech pathologists, those who work with speech impediments may call this impediment de-rhotacization because the sounds don’t become rhotic, rather they lose their rhotic quality. It could also be called a residual R error.

It’s not such an uncommon phenomenon and actually also happens with the letter L, a phenomenon known as lambdacism. Sometimes people mistake these speech impediments for a lisp, of which they are not. Within the 2000-2001 school year, more than 700,000 students within the American public school system were categorized as having either a language impediment or a speech impediment. Ironically, all three speech impediments contain the troubled letter within them.

The word rhotacism comes from the New Latin rhotacism meaning peculiar or excessive use of [r]. The Latin word came from Ancient Greek word rhōtakismós which means to incorrectly use “rho” which is the equivalent of the Greek R. For language nerds, here’s a really great explanation of how the word came into being.

How does rhotacism work in different languages?

Rhotacism is, in theory, more common among people whose native language has a trilled R. For example, in Spanish the “rr” is a trilled R. Other languages with a trilled R include Bulgarian, Hungarian, Arabic, Finnish, Romanian, Indonesian, Russian, Italian, and most Swedish speakers. Some people might mock Asians, specifically Chinese, for not being able to pronounce the English word “broccoli” correctly- rather pronouncing it “browccoli”. This isn’t due to a rhotacism, however. It’s actually due to the fact that Mandarin (Chinese) words can have an “r” sound in the beginning of a word, but not in the middle or end of a word. This leads them to have issues in their phonotactics and creates an inability to pronounce the English “R” in the middle of words.

The leader of Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, is a Lebanese leader and is mocked for his rhotacism when he says,Amwīka” and “Iswā’īl” for the Arabic Amrīka (America), and Isrā’īl (Israel). He is a native Arabic speaker- a language which has the trilled R. Notice how he puts a W sound in those two words where the R sound usually is.

Symptoms of rhotacism

  • Some people try to hide their impediment by avoiding words with R’s in them.
  • An overall inability to say R sounds
  • Using trilled R’s or guttural R’s (such as the French R) when trying to pronounce the regular English R.

Rhotacism as a speech impediment

Using a strict classification, only about 5%-10% of the human population speaks in a completely normal way. Everyone else suffers from some type of speech disorder or another. For children of any language, the R sounds are usually the hardest to master and often end up being the last ones a child learns. That’s why baby talk if you think about it, doesn’t really use explicit or strong R sounds. In English, rhotacism often comes off as a W sound which is why “Roger Rabbit” sounds like “Woger Wabbit”. R is often more difficult because a child has to learn the different combination of the /r/ sounds, not just the letter itself, unlike other letters. For example, when it comes before and after vowel sounds. The combination of a vowel with the /r/ sound is called a phenome and in English, there are eight combinations of these:

–        The prevocalic R, such as “rain”

–        The RL, such as “girl”

–        The IRE, such as “tire”

–        The AR, such as “car”

–        The EAR, “such as “beer”

–        The OR, such as “seashore”

–        The ER, such as “butter”

–        The AIR, such as “software”

A speech impediment is a speech disorder, not a language disorder. Speech disorders are problems in being able to produce the sounds of speech whereas language disorders are problems with understanding and/or being able to use words. Language disorders, unlike speech disorders, have nothing to do with speech production.

Often what happens is that the person speaking isn’t tensing their tongue enough, or not moving their tongue correctly (up and backward depending on the dialect) which makes the W or “uh” sound come out. It may also be that the person is moving their lips instead of their tongue.

Rhotacism- the really red, round apple

Examples of rhotacism

  • Barry Kripke from the TV show The Big Bang Theory has both rhotacism and lambdacism- meaning he has issues pronouncing both his R’s and his L’s.
  • The most famous of rhotacism would be Elmer Fudd from Looney Tunes. He pronounces the word “rabbit” [ˈɹ̠ʷæbɪ̈t] as “wabbit” [ˈwæbɪ̈t]
  • In Monty Python’s Life of Brian, the 1979 film’s character Pilate suffers from rhotacism. In the film, people mock him for his inability to be understood easily.

Here’s a video with a woman who suffers from rhotacism. She explains how difficult it can be to have the speech impediment.

Causes of rhotacism

For many people, the causes of rhotacism are relatively unknown-, especially in adults. However, scientists theorize that the biggest cause is that the person grew up in an environment where they heard R’s in a weird way, the shape of their mouths are different than normal, or their tongues and lips never learned how to produce the letter. In children, this could happen because the parents or adults around think the way the child talks (using baby talk) is cute and the child never actually learns how to produce it.

For one internet forum user, it has to do with how they learned the language, “I speak various languages, I pronounce the “R” normal in Dutch, French, and Spanish, but I have a rhotacism when speaking English. It’s the way I learnt it.”

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For other people, speech issues are a secondary condition to an already existing, serious condition. Physically, it would be a cleft lip or a cleft palate. Neurologically, it could be a condition such as cerebral palsy. It may also be a tongue tie. Almost everyone has a stretch of skin that runs along the bottom of their tongue. If that skin is too tight and reaches the tip of the tongue, it can make pronouncing (and learning how to pronounce) R’s and L’s difficult. If the tongue tie isn’t fixed early on, it can be incredibly difficult to fix and learn how to pronounce later.

How the brain affects rhotacism

The brain affects rhotacism only for those who suffer from it not due to a physical impediment (such as a cleft palate). For some, this could happen because the brain doesn’t have the phonemic awareness and never actually learned what the letter R is supposed to sound like. This is common with kids whose parents spoke to them in “baby talk” and encouraged the child’s baby talk, too. This kind of behavior only strengthens a child’s inner concept that /R/ is pronounced like “w” or “uh”.

Another reason could be that the brain connections simply don’t allow the lips or mouth to move in the way they need to in order to pronounce the R. This inability has little to do with physical incapabilities and more to do with mental ones. Some people with rhotacism have an issue with their oral-motor skills which means that there isn’t sufficient communication in the parts of the brain responsible for speech production.

Treatment for rhotacism

Is rhotacism curable?

It can have negative social effects- especially among younger children, such as bullying, which lowers self-esteem and can have a lasting effect. However, if the impediment is caught early enough on and is treated rather quickly, there is a good overall prognosis meaning it’s curable.

        However, some people never end up being able to properly pronounce that R and they end up substituting other sounds, such as the velar approximant (like w sounds), the uvular approximant (also known as the “French R”), and the uvular trill (like the trilled R in Spanish).

How to fix rhotacism

Rhotacism is fixed by speech therapy. Before anything else, there needs to be an assessment from a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) who will help decide if the problem can be fixed. If a child is involved, the SLP would predict if the child can outgrow the problem or not. After the diagnosis, a speech therapist will work with the person who suffers from the speech impediment by possibly having weekly visits with some homework and practice instructions. Therapy happens in spouts- a period of a few weeks and a break. There is a follow-up to see if there has been an improvement in pronunciation. In the U.S., children who are in school and have a speech disorder are placed in a special education program. Most school districts provide these children with speech therapy during school hours.

Another option, often used alongside speech therapy, is using a speech therapy hand-held tool that helps isolate the sound being pronounced badly and gives an image of the proper tongue placement to enable better pronunciation.

One study tested a handheld tactical tool (known as Speech Buddies) and the traditional speech therapy methods. The study found that students who used the hand-held tool (alongside speech therapy) improved 33% faster than those who used only the traditional speech therapy methods.

Have you or someone you know ever struggled with rhotacism? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Fear: Everything you need to know about being scared

In the famous words of Franklin Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”,  but what exactly is fear, what does it look like, and how does it work? What are the different kinds? Can you actually be scared to death? What happens to our bodies and brains when we feel scared and how can it be managed? What are some tips to deal with being scared?

Fear

What is fear?

Fear is the response to something dangerous- whether emotionally or physically. Defined by the Cambridge dictionary as:

“an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen.”

It’s essential for us to feel it because if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t be protected against potential threats. It is adaptative. Fear stems from our fight-or-flight mode which comes from our sympathetic nervous system. Fear should be distinguished from anxiety– the response that occurs when a threat seems unavoidable or uncontrollable.

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What does fear mean?

Traits and behaviors of fear

Fear can make us do just about anything… buy that hotel room online because “6 other people are looking at this room right now”, buy that home security system that has everything included, or inspecting a dark attic while holding a baseball bat because your wife heard a noise. Humans are wired to feel fear and behave accordingly.

The tell-tale signs of fear are what put our body into its flight-or-flight mode. The signs include hyperventilation (a higher heart rate), the constriction of peripheral blood vessels, dilation of the central blood vessels (this causes blushing), piloerection (making a cold person warmer, making a scared animal look more impressive), muscle tension increases (this causes goosebumps), sweating, hyperglycemia (increased blood sugar levels), dyspepsia (the feeling of butterflies in the stomach), and increased serum calcium. When all of these functions happen, our brain realizes that there is danger, and the result is fear.

Can you die from fear?

Yep, it’s possible to be scared to death! When people feel quite scared, their fight-or-flight mode turns on giving them a large rush of adrenaline. This increased level of adrenaline can be damaging to the heart and triggers calcium channels in the heart to open up. When calcium goes into the heart cells, the heart muscles contract forcefully.

Essentially, the calcium doesn’t stop because the adrenaline doesn’t stop, and the heart muscles can’t relax. This can lead to the development of a heart arrhythmia known as ventricular fibrillation– when the heartbeat isn’t regular. This arrhythmia leads to a drop in blood pressure which, if strong enough, cause the brain to cease blood flow and consciousness is lost.

Causes of fear

Fear can be learned, cultural, natural, and evolutionary. If a kid has a bad experience with clowns, he might have a phobia of them later on in life. Culturally, different cultures it different phenomena. Fear is embedded into our nature- we can’t survive without it. Scientists believe that the phobia of heights is something embedded in us and that came out during the Mesozoic period of time. Since then, most of us evolved to have a slight phobia of tall heights.

Fear is characterized by rational or appropriate and inappropriate or irrational. An irrational fear is also called a phobia. It’s a twist of the normal response to fear. “Phobia” is the Greek stem for “fear of”. Some of the most common phobias are public speaking, heights, needles, spiders, snakes, ghosts, tight/enclosed spaces, and rejection.

People who suffer from a fear of fear, also known as anxiety sensitivity, are likely to have a personality or identity issue to begin with which is what helps the fear phobia develop. Many people also develop an affect phobia– a phobia of negative feelings. It’s not uncommon for those with anxiety disorders to develop a fear of phobia. This is because they perceive a fear response as negative and will do everything in their power to avoid that response. Phonophobia is the technical term for the fear of phobias.

Fear

Psychological theories of fear

Some psychologists have suggested that there are only a small set of innate and basic emotions that the rest of our emotions stem from. Of those include anger, angst, acute stress reaction, anxiety, horror, fright, panic, happiness, sadness, and fear. They believe that fear comes from a behavioral response and has been preserved through evolution.

Others suggest that the feeling of being scared isn’t only dependent on the nature of a person, but by their social and cultural interactions which help guide them to know what is scary. For example, being scared of the monster under the bed or having a parent look in the closet for the Boogeyman.

The psychoanalytic theory of fear comes from Sigmund Freud. He believes that the scary object/idea is not the original subject of fear. For instance, while I may be scared of clowns, it’s because when I was smaller, I was bitten by a dog while watching a clown.

The learning theory combines cognitive theory and behaviorism. This theory means that a phobia develops when the fear response is punished or reinforced- in either a positive or negative way.

There is also the option of a biological basis with the focus mainly on neuropsychology- mental disorders are caused by physiological factors. Neuropsychologists have found that there are some genetic factors that could play a role in phobia development. They’ve also found that certain medications that affect brain chemistry are useful in helping to treat phobias- mainly medication that raises serotonin levels.

How does fear affect the brain?

Fear neurocircuits in mammals

When fright is felt (via any of the five the senses), three main areas of the brain are affected. First, the thalamus collects the data from the senses. Second, the sensory cortex takes the data from the thalamus and begins to process and interpret it. After, the sensory cortex takes the processed information and spreads it throughout the two amygdalae (fear), hypothalamus (fight-or-flight), and the hippocampus (memory). However, it has also been found that when people are presented with a scary face, the occipital cerebellar regions of the brain are activated. Those include the fusiform gyrus, inferior parietal, and the superior temporal gyri. People who have damage to their amygdala might be unable to experience feeling scared.

The response to fear is automatic and we won’t know it’s going on until it’s over and has run its course. The main part of the brain where the feeling of scared is really felt is in the amygdala. It’s essential for our adaptation to emotional learning memory and stress. Our brain has two amygdalae and each one forms a part of our circuitry of fear learning. When we feel a threat, our fight-or-flight response begins. Essentially, this means that the amygdalae produce a secretion of hormones that influence both feeling scared and aggression.

Once the feeling of fear or aggression has started, the amygdala release hormones into the body in order to keep the human alert so they may be ready to run, fight, and move at any moment. Some of these hormones include norepinephrine (increases heart rate, blood flow, and glucose release for energy), epinephrine (regulates heart rate and metabolism, dilates air passages and blood vessels), and cortisol (increases blood sugar and the feeling of stress). Once the threat and reason for terror has subsided, the amygdala sends this information to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in order to have it stored for the future. This is known as memory consolidation and happens through a process known as synaptic plasticity.

This synaptic plasticity occurs because the amygdalae and the hippocampus work together to create memories surrounding the situation. Stimulation of the hippocampus causes the person to remember specific details about the scary situation. Neuron stimulation in the amygdalae generates memory formation and plasticity. When this process occurs frequently, known as fear conditioning, it can lead to having a phobia or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some MRI scans have shown that the amygdalae in people who have been diagnosed with panic disorders or bipolar disorder are larger overall and more wired to have a higher level of fright.

Fear pheromones

As mammals, like other birds, reptiles, insects, and aquatic organisms, we release an odor called pheromones. Also known as alarm substances, fear pheromones are signals that are chemical and meant to defend oneself from danger. For example, think of a skunk or a stink bug. When they feel scared, they release an odor- their pheromone- to try and make the danger go away via the foul smell. In many animals, the release of the pheromones is meant to let other members of the species around them know that there is danger. This pheromone-alarm can lead to a change such as defensive behavior, dispersion, or freezing depending on the species and situation. For example, it’s been found that rats can release pheromones that cause the rats around them to move away from the rat releasing pheromones.

Humans work slightly differently than animals in that respect. When we feel scared, other humans naturally react differently than how the rats acted in the scenario above. Unlike in animals, humans’ alarm-pheromones haven’t been chemically isolated yet- but we know they exist. Androstadienone is a steroid in the form of an odor that comes from deep within the human body and is found in human sweat, hair, and plasma. Androstenone is another related steroid that is used to communicate dominance, competition, or aggression. One study found that terror responses may be gender specific.

Fear

Is fear contagious?

Can it be contagious, though? An interesting study found that it’s possible to smell the difference between human exercise-induced sweat and human feeling scared/nervous/anxiety-induced sweat. This means that we can literally smell terror and that, yes, it can be contagious. When someone is scared, the other people around them can feel it. If those other people are sensitive enough, they might begin to feel it as well. This is a simple survival instinct. When one member of the gazelle herd feels scared because of a lion running towards them, the other members should, too. Unlike animals who use smell to communicate, humans usually communicate by language, both verbal and body. However, humans are able to communicate some emotions via smell and fear is one of them.

Fear isn’t just contagious via smell, but also via genetics. One study showed that a generation of lab rats who were trained to associate cherry blossoms with electric shock had children and grandchildren who were all nervous about the cherry blossom even though the younger generations had never experienced any shock association with cherry blossoms. In their brains, the areas known for smell were bigger- likely to be able to smell the cherry blossom and avoid what their ancestors were wary of. Known as epigenetics, the genetic code gets modified and turns off/activates certain genes.

Fear within society

According to a Gallup Poll done in 2015, within the U.S., the top 10 fears people have (not in any order) are:

  • Terrorist attacks
  • War
  • Gang violence
  • Criminal violence
  • Failure
  • Death
  • Spiders
  • Being alone
  • Nuclear war
  • The future

In 2008, one author analyzed the top words on the internet that followed the phrase “fear of…” and found that the top ten were:

  • Snakes
  • Failure
  • Clowns
  • Flying
  • Death
  • Heights
  • Intimacy
  • Driving
  • People
  • Rejection

Management and treatment

Pharmaceutically, fear conditioning (PTSD, phobias) has been proven to be manageable using glucocorticoids. This is because the glucocorticoids prevent the fear-conditioned behavior. Psychologically, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is successful to help people overcome what they’re scared of.

CBT is useful through exposure therapy because people are able to confront what they are scared of in a safe way that helps them learn how to suppress the fear-triggering stimulus or memory. One study has shown that up to 90% of people who try exposure therapy for phobias are able to decrease the phobias overtime. Another study showed that our brains can overwrite bad, scary memories with stimulation of the amygdala.

True facts about fear

  • Fear is contagious and we can smell it! A group of women who smelled the shirts of men- half with anxiety induced sweat and half with exercise-induced sweat- could smell the difference between the two types of sweat.
  • We remember being scared. When we are scared, our brains save the situation in our memory so we can remember not to repeat the situation.
  • Our brains can overwrite fear!
  • It’s possible to be scared to death. When our bodies produce to much adrenaline, our hearts become overworked and we can collapse unconscious.
  • Fear is genetic! Epigenetics is real and our genetic makeup can warn us to be scared and wary of something.
  • The fear gene, known as stathmin, is stored in the amygdala and is what groups us into people who can jump off cliffs and those who can’t get near one.
Fear

Tips to overcome fear

  • Be aware that you’re feeling scared. You can’t fix what you don’t know. You aren’t what you’re scared of- you’re the awareness that is experiencing it.
  • Identify what’s making you scared.
  • Find the root of it.
  • Therapy. Cognitive Behavior Therapy and exposure therapy are both forms of therapy that are helpful in overcoming phobias.
  • Hypnosis is a common method to help people overcome some phobias.
  • Yoga can help release any bad energy and anxiety in the body. By releasing some negative energy, the scared feelings can become less powerful.
  • Read books or watch movies on your phobia. Sometimes you’ll find helpful hints or interesting facts about your phobia that will help alleviate it.
  • Be grateful. Rather than being scared about having to speak publicly, think about what a great opportunity it is to be able to share what you’re going to say. Switch the situation around.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Emotional blockage: What is it and how to overcome it?

Have you ever felt so nervous about an important situation that you couldn’t react? The words aren’t coming out of your mouth? Felt paralyzed? Have you felt like you can’t get over some aspect of your life? Do you feel trapped or that there is no way out? Maybe you might have an emotional blockage. Find out what is an emotional blockage, its symptoms, functions, treatments, and more.

Emotional blockage

Emotional blockage and emotions

Emotions are part of us and are a response of our physiological system to situations or events both internal and external. All human beings experience emotions, in greater or lesser intensity and in a more adjusted or less adjusted way. Emotions affect our learning, motivation, behavior and communication with others.

When we are born we already have a wide range of experience and emotional expression called innate emotions. Among these are joy, sadness, anger, and disgust.

Based on these innate emotions and throughout our human experience, we are always broadening our emotional range, including emotions such as guilt, resentment, trust, jealousy. That is why emotional education is so important from an early age, to learn to manage them with the different situations life throws at us. All emotions have their function:

  • Sadness: its function is the withdrawal of oneself in order to assimilate the situation and recover energy to establish changes in the future.
  • Anger: its function is making decisions about the situation or person who may be hurting us, mobilizing energy to change that situation. For example, if our partner has hurt our feelings, we get angry which in turn aids our partner to readjust their behavior so as not to make us feel this way, or it would cause us to move away so that we no longer feel that negative emotion.

What is an emotional blockage?

An emotional blockage is a defense mechanism of our brain that prevents us from feeling emotions normally. It is a very unpleasant feeling that prevents us from moving forward and at the same time prevents us from thinking clearly and affects our daily actions. Not being able to think clearly, not knowing what to say, or being confused can be some indicators of emotional blockage.

Everyone at any given time in their lives has gone through an emotional blockage, and most of the time it is difficult to manage. This emotional blockage does not have to affect all areas of our lives but it may be affecting cognitive skills, emotions, and behavior of a  specific area such as work, friendship, family or love.

Symptoms of an emotional blockage

Signs that we might be experiencing an emotional blockage are:

  • Avoiding people or social situations. For example, avoiding situations because you are scared of how to act or what to say. This is usually linked to situations similar to which generated the emotional blockage in the beginning.
  • Increase in anxiety or stress levels the day before different events.
  • Lack of motivation that lasts for a long time and affects different areas of our lives.
  • Feeling negative emotions with greater intensity than before. For example, feelings like envy, jealousy, criticism, etc.
  • Worrying about different areas.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
Emotional Blockage

Functions of Emotional Blocking

An emotional blockage is activated in certain situations to cushion the impact of a negative situation or event that can be very painful for us.

In reality, it is a defense mechanism to protect our minds from what we might feel in that situation. Therefore, the mechanism blocks part of this emotion, allowing us to continue living with a certain normality in the other areas, and allows us to accept little by little what has happened in order to adjust ourselves again to the situation.

The emotional blockage allows us to take our time to process little by little the negative situation.

On the one hand, an emotional blockage is a positive mechanism because it protects us from something considered “dangerous” by our brain. During the emotional blockage, the person adapts to reality and puts starts putting into practice resources on how to manage the situation. This mechanism helps the person learn to manage other similar situations in the future.

An emotional blockage is activated especially in the event of sudden situations, which could not be foreseen, then the brain to protect itself from the stress that all this entails sets it in motion a cushion for the emotional pain.

Situations that activate an emotional blockage

Situations that trigger this emotional blockage are often negative or traumatic. They are stressful situations that the person is not used to dealing with or has no coping skills for it. For example:

  • Traumatic experience: accident, rape, assault or attack, infidelity.
  • The sudden death of a loved one.
  • Breaking up or loss of a partner.
  • Dismissal or change in employment status.
  • Diagnosis of a serious or chronic illness.
  • Unexpected change of city.

We are not only emotionally blocked by negative events, but also positive. In the face of some good news that we did not expect, we also need some time to get used to the idea and assimilate the news. For example news of a pregnancy, promotion at work, a surprise visit, etc.

Positive changes can also be a shock for us to take in, not only what it would mean for our lives but if our dreams come true, etc.  This emotional blockage is positive in order to gather your thoughts and process what changes might come to your life, whether those are positive or negative.

Is an emotional blockage a problem?

An emotional blockage becomes a problem when it remains over time and begins to affect us in other areas that it didn’t previously. It becomes a problem when it begins to hinder our goals and life dreams.

By prolonging the emotional blockage over time without actually putting the emotional work it takes to process the situation, the person will begin to feel pain without being able to express it. The person will also experience other emotions disproportionately such as anger, sadness or guilt. It starts to become part of our day to day life and the situation starts repeating itself in our minds, affecting our concentration, cognitive skills, emotions and social skills.

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At an extreme level, the emotional blockage can become so intense it can start affecting our physical health, and we start developing diseases. Some diseases are stomach ulcers, gastritis, skin conditions, etc.

The consequences of maintaining an emotional blockage for longer than necessary are:

At the behavioral level

  • Substance addictions (alcohol, antidepressant, etc.), which would worsen the emotional situation.
  • Increased experience of negative emotions at extreme levels such as anger or resentment.
  • Devastating consequences on our self-esteem.
  • Limitation of our social skills (loss of social ties, separation from family and friends, etc).

In our health

  • Psychosomatic illnesses: physical pains and digestive disorders.
  • At a more extreme level, we find stomach ulcers, skin problems, asthma, and colitis.
  • Impairment of the immune system causing especially autoimmune diseases.

Treatment for Emotional Blockage

To overcome an emotional blockage it is advisable to see a therapist. This does not mean that we cannot try it ourselves, but if after some time (it’s different for every situation) the emotional blockage persists it is more advisable to go to a therapist. The therapist will work on regulating our emotional expression in order to unblock the emotional blockage.

The treatment is usually a Cognitive Behavior Therapy focused on both cognitive and emotional level at first, because by improving those levels, as a consequence would also improve behavioral. Behavioral work is sometimes also necessary to speed up the recovery process.

The first step in the therapeutic process will be to become aware of the existence of this emotional blockage and investigate the cause or causes that may have originated it and other events that have been able to maintain and prolong it over time.

Cognitive treatment of the emotional blockage

To work on the emotional blockage, the therapist will try to work on the patient’s cognitive distortions that might be helping maintain it, even if this might be painful.

Adjusting these cognitive distortions help create more effective trains of thought and less painful ones. Many of the distortions found in these cases are about one’s own emotional experience, such as “I have to be strong and strong people are not afraid”. In this case, we would focus on accepting that the belief of being strong is not “the absence of fear”, but adjusting it to reality it would be “despite feeling fear, I will make decisions and assume consequences”.

Emotional treatment of the emotional blockage

On an emotional level, the focus would be on emotional re-education and learn to feel emotions again, both negative and positive.

Emotional self-regulation, emotional expression and evaluating emotional situations are also aspects that the therapist will help us evaluate for further situations.

The therapist will also help us develop greater emotional intelligence and the areas that integrate it.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway.

With therapy, you will be able to center your emotions and express them accurately, as well as learn to cope with similar situations avoiding another emotional blockage.

Another important aspect is the capacity to develop empathy, so as to lean on people in case another emotional blockage happens and be able to ask for help.

Behavioral treatment of the emotional blockage

It is not always necessary to work in this area in an emotional blockage, but when it is done it would focus on planning our routine to carry out activities that make us feel positive emotions. Experiencing more positive emotions helps to unblock other emotions, helping us process events better.

The whole process would always be about accepting the traumatic experience, finding a real meaning to it and integrating it into our life story. When we speak of acceptance we refer to accepting the experience as it is, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, accepting the situation as something natural that is not always under our control.

The patient will learn to see negative experiences not as something horrible to run away from, but as part of what we are going to experience in our lives. Resigning control would make us accept emotional reactions such as crying and experience them as they are, thus being functional.

Have you suffered any emotional blockages? Leave your comment.

This article is originally in Spanish. This translation is done by Alejandra Salazar.

Oedipal or Oedipal complex: What does it entail and its symptoms

The Oedipal complex is a term that everyone hears at least once in their lifetimes, but what is it? What are the symptoms? What is an Electra complex? Can an Oedipal complex be resolved? What happens if it isn’t resolved?

Oedipal

What is Oedipal?

The Oedipal complex, more famously known as the Oedipus complex, is a term that describes a child’s feelings of desire toward their opposite-sex parent and jealousy, resentment, and anger toward their same-sex parent. A girl feels she is competing with her mother for her father’s affection. A boy feels he is competing with his father for his mother’s affection. Essentially, a child sees their same-sex parent as a rival for the opposite-sex parent’s affection and attention.

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The term Oedipal complex originated thanks to Sigmund Freud, the renowned Austrian neurologist, in his 1899 book The Interpretation of Dreams and later on in his theory of psychosexual stages of development. The concept became more and more important as Freud expanded his concept of psychosexual development.

Freud named the oedipal complex after the character in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex who kills his father and marries his mother. In the Greek myth, written around 429 B.C., the character Oedipus is abandoned at birth because an oracle told his father that he would be killed by his son, so his father abandons him on a mountainside to die. Resulting in Oedipus doesn’t know who his parents are. Oedipus was rescued by a Sheppard and told that he will one day marry his mother and kill his father. Mortified, Oedipus runs away. It is only once he had killed his father and married his mother that he found out who they really were.

What is the Oedipal Complex?

The Oedipal Complex, in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, is a child’s desire for sexual involvement with the opposite-sex parent- mostly a boy’s desire for his mother. The desire is kept under wraps and out of conscious awareness by being repressed. However, Freud believed that even the repressed desire had an influence over how a child behaved and played a role in their overall development- namely in the phallic stage of psychosexual development. Freud also believed that a successful completion of the phallic stage involved identifying with the same-sex parent which would lead them to develop a mature sexual identity. The Oedipal complex occurs in between the ages of three and five.

The phallic stage of psychosexual development is the third stage in Freudian psychoanalysis that occurs between the ages of three and five or six. The theory suggests that this stage is where a child’s libido and desire center upon their genitalia as the erogenous zone. Essentially, a part of the body sensitive to sexual stimulation. The phallic stage is an important point when it comes to forming a sexual identity. Freud suggested that during this stage in the development, a child develops a sexual attraction to their opposite-sex parent and hostility toward the same-sex parent. That is to say, this is the point in which he develops the Oedipal complex.

What is the difference between an Oedipal Complex and an Oedipus complex?

There isn’t a difference between the Oedipal complex and the Oedipus complex. They refer to the same concept. Both words come from the same word stem “oedip-”. The term “Oedipus” derives from the character in the Greek myth while “Oedipal” means “of, or relating to, the Oedipus”.

Oedipal

What is the difference between an Oedipal Complex and an Electra Complex?

When Freud used the term “Oedipal complex”, he referred to both boys and girls although he admitted that each sex experiences it differently. Freud was heavily criticized on his views of female sexuality and he himself admitted that his understanding of women was a bit underdeveloped. Freud believed that girls experience “penis envy” when they discover they don’t have a penis and feel resentment toward their mother for “sending them into the world insufficiently equipped.” This resentment would give way to identifying with the mother and the process of internalizing the characteristics of the same-sex parent would begin. Psychoanalyst Karen Horney refuted Freud’s “penis envy” idea with “womb envy”. The idea being that men feel resentment because they lack the ability to bear children.

Carl Jung, among others, didn’t agree with Freud that the Oedipal complex covered both boys and girl. The term Electra complex was brought into being to describe the desire girls feel for their fathers and jealousy for their mothers. Jung also suggested that when a girl discovers that she doesn’t have the penis like the one her father has, she imagines that she will get a penis if he makes her pregnant. This results in the girl becoming more emotionally close to the father and becoming more resentful towards her mother whom she believes castrated her.

The term “Electra” comes from a Greek myth where Electra was the daughter of the Agamemnon who planned her mother’s murder.  

Symptoms of an oedipal complex

Symptoms will show both consciously and unconsciously. However, there are some signs that can show an Oedipal complex. Some of those include from a child’s perspective:

  • A little boy being possessive of this mother and telling his father not to kiss or touch her.
  • A little girl declaring that she plans to marry her father when she grows up.

Some symptoms from a man’s perspective:

  • Feeling and thinking that your father shouldn’t kiss or hug your mom. The physical intimacy between the couple makes you naturally jealous.
  • You want to sleep next to your mom. You want to try to take your father’s place.
  • You deal with sexual impotency. Essentially, every time you’re aroused, you think of your mom.
  • Your mother is your priority. You think about her constantly. She becomes more important than a wife or children.
  • You have unstable relationships and jump between relationships often. The thought of sharing a bond with another girl isn’t acceptable.
  • You get into verbal fights with your father. You may shout at him to stay away from your mother.
  • You are attracted to older people. If a woman is older and has characteristics like your mom, she’s instantly more attractive.
  • You admire your mom too much. You love the way she dresses, walks, talks, and acts. You can’t help but compliment her.

Oedipal

How is an oedipal complex resolved?

A child faces a developmental conflict at each stage in Freud’s theory of psychosexual development that must be resolved in order to create a healthy adult personality. The process to develop a healthy adult personality is to identify with the same-sex parent in order to resolve the conflict in the phallic stage (the Oedipal complex).

Within Freud’s theory, there are three types of personality: the id, the superego, and the ego. The id refers to the personality that is present at birth and acts according to a pleasure principle that needs should be met immediately. For example, if you’re thirsty, you should drink. However, needs aren’t always met immediately and tension results because of it. The id, in order to relieve tension, relies on a primary process of creating mental imagery through fantasy, hallucinating, and daydreaming. For example, you’re hungry and start daydreaming about a big, juicy burger. The superego is the moralistic part of the personality that forms later on in childhood due to parenting styles and social influences. The ego is the balance between the id and the superego by fulfilling the needs of the id and the superego yet also making sure they stay realistic.

In order to resolve the Oedipus complex, Freud suggested that while the primary id wants to get rid of the father, the more realistic ego understands that the father is much stronger than the child. Boys will experience what Freud called castration anxiety, a fear of both figurative and literal emasculation. As a boy becomes more aware of the differences physically between girls and boys, he will assume that the female’s penis has been removed and that the father will also castrate him as a punishment for desiring his mother. In order to resolve this internal conflict, identification, the defense mechanism, kicks in. This is when the superego is formed and becomes part of the inner moral authority. An internalization of the father tries to suppress the urges of the id and make the ego act upon these more ideal standards.

A child’s superego retains the character of the father and the strong feelings of the Oedipal complex are repressed because of it. However, other influences contribute to the repression of the complex, too. Such as social norms, religious teachings, and cultural influences.

It is out of the power play between the id, ego, and superego where the overall sense of right and wrong emerge. Sometimes, however, these repressed feeling can also result in an unconscious sense of guilt which can have a strong influence over the individual’s conscious actions.

What happens if an oedipal complex isn’t resolved?

When a conflict in a psychosexual stage isn’t resolved, a fixation at that point in development can be the result. Freud theorized that boys who don’t deal with their Oedipal complex become fixated with their mother, “mother-fixated”, while girls become “father-fixated”. As adults, these people will seek out partners who resemble their opposite-sex parent.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Piaget Theory: Childhood cognitive developmental stages

Piaget theory. How can I tell if my child is developing properly for his age? How do children think, and what are the stages of their cognitive development? Is it normal for my daughter to make mistakes when she talks or tries to reason? The Piaget Theory explains the different developmental stages of children. Find out if your child is developing properly for their age. We’ll help you find the answers!

Piaget theory

Piaget is one of the most well-known psychologists of our time because to his discoveries about childhood development and intelligence. Piaget dedicated his life to investigating the different stages of development and to understanding how learning and thought patterns developed throughout childhood, as well as cognitive development. This article explains the Piaget Theory and offers an explanation for the different childhood development stages.

Piaget Theory

The Piaget Theory affirms that children go through specific stages according to their intellect and ability to perceive mature relationships. These childhood stages occur in the same order in all children, across all cultures and backgrounds. However, the age at which the stage comes may vary slightly from child to child.

Piaget theory started out with two main concepts, accommodation, and assimilation.

  • Accommodation is the process of taking new information in one’s environment and altering pre-existing information in order to fit in the new information. This is important because it establishes how people are going to take in new concepts, schemas, knowledge, etc.
  • Assimilation, on the other hand, is how humans perceive and adapt to new information. It is when we are faced with new information but we look the old information we have stored in order to interpret the new one.

Both of these concepts Piaget said were essential and couldn’t exist without the other. To assimilate an object into an existing mental schema, one first needs to take into account or accommodate to the particularities of this object to a certain extent.

Parting from these concepts on how the world is processed, he decided to explore how do children develop cognitively.

It’s quite common for young children to have trouble empathizing as an adult might, and they will likely have egocentric thinking depending on their age and abilities, just like it’s normal for them to make mistakes.

During childhood, children will have a natural cognitive development stage where the child “learns to think”, or interact in the world in which they live. Doing this requires a series of evolutionary changes in the child’s life, marked by stages throughout all of their childhood, from the time they’re born until pre-adolescence. These stages, where certain cognitive abilities will be developed, are known to be divided according to the Piaget stages.

What is the Piaget Theory? Jean Piaget (Swiss psychologist and biologist) conducted a number of studies about childhood, dividing it into stages called Stages. Piaget Theory classifies the stages during the cognitive development of a child into different ages.

Piaget stages are a set of stages in the human development process that occurs in time. For example, the type of language that children use will depend on their age (cooing, made-up words, pseudowords, using the third person, echolalia, etc.), as well as their thinking (self-centered, in that everything happening in the world is happening in front of him or her), or physical skills (mimic, crawling, walking, running, etc.). All of this cognitive process development happens continuously and progressively in the Piaget stages, depending on the approximate age.

Will every developmental stage happen at the exact same time, according to the Piaget Theory?

No, not all children will hit the same stages at exactly the same age, but there are “sensitive periods” for all ages, where it is more probable that a child will develop certain cognitive skills. Developmentally, it is easier to learn a determined skill at a specific age, like learning the beginning of language at about age one and perfecting it at about age 7.

Cognitive development stages in children according to Piaget Theory

Piaget proposed four childhood development stages: 1- Sensorimotor Period (0-2 years), 2- Preoperational Period (2-7 years). 3- Concrete Operational Period (7-11), 4- Formal Operational Period (11 and older, until about 19 years old). We will look at these stages in depth below.

1-Piaget Theory: Sensorimotor Stage (children 0-2)

This developmental stage is characterized by how the child understands the world, bringing together sensory experience with the physical activity. This is the period where the child improves innate reflexes.

  • Children at this age like bright, shiny, moving stimuli with lots of contrast.
  • They construct schemes by trying to repeat an action with their own body, like making noise by hitting their toy, throwing something, or moving a blanket to get something that’s on top of it. At this age, children repeat actions randomly, experimenting with their own bodies.
  • First contact with language: The first time the baby has contact with language is when it is still in the mother’s womb when it starts getting familiar with the parents’ voices. Research shows that during the baby’s first few months of life, they prefer the sound of human voices to any other sound. It’s surprising how used to the language they are since from when the baby is born, they have an exceptional ability to distinguish spoken language. Research from DeCasper and Spence show that children are especially attracted to their mother’s voice, which they can recognize better than the voice of a stranger.
  • How do children age 0-2 years communicate? After a baby is born, its main form of communication is crying, as they’re still not able to produce other sounds. During the first few months of life, their communication will be primarily pre-linguistic, using smiles and crying involuntarily. These actions will later become voluntary when they learn to use them in a communicative manner. However, the parents are able to understand a cry or a smile from their baby, making it an unintentional form of communication. At about 6 months, the baby will learn to babble and make consonant-vocal sounds like “da da da”. The first appearance of words is at about 12 months.

Piaget Theory during this stage establishes six sub-stages that are:

  1. Simple reflexes: From birth to 6 weeks the baby will have three primary reflexes (sucking of objects in the mouth, following moving or interesting objects with the eyes, and closing of the hand when an object makes contact with the palm) As time goes by the reflexes will become voluntary actions.
  2. First habits and primary circular reactions: From 6 weeks to 4 months the child is now starting to be more aware and classical and operant conditioning begins in this phase. Imitation or reproduction of certain reactions with his own body begin.
  3. Secondary circular reactions:  From 4 to 8 months the child starts to develop habits, they are more object-oriented, repeating actions with a purpose that bring pleasurable results. He can now reproduce certain reactions but with external objects.
  4. Coordination of secondary circular reactions: From 8-12 months the child consolidates hand-eye coordination and intentionality. His actions are now goal-oriented.
  5. Tertiary circular reactions, novelty, and curiosity: From 12-18 months, the infant start exploring and investigating objects that intrigue them. It’s the stage of discovery to meet new goals. Piaget called this stage the young scientist.
  6. Internalization of schemas: From 18-24 months the infant can now use primitive symbols to form lasting mental representations. It is when the creativity stage begins and gives passage to the preoperational stage.
Piaget Theory What can we do to promote the cognitive development of the child in the sensory-motor stage (from 0 to 2 years old)?
  1. Boost circular reactions: Have you noticed your baby sucking his thumb? Or the sounds it makes when it wants to sleep? That he/she shakes the rattle and repeats this action over and over again? When a baby repeats the same behavior over and over, we are faced with circular reactions. When a baby shakes his rattle over and over again, it’s because he likes the sound and wants to hear it again. At this point you can, for example, take the rattle and shake it on another surface to make a different sound. This way the baby learns that by modifying the stimulus the sound changes and this will lead to exploring.
  2. Let the baby play and explore different objects and toys: This way the child will explore beyond himself.
  3. From 1.5+ years you can play at hiding objects:  Play Peek-a-boo where you show her a toy/your face/any object and then hide it and “find it again”.  Repeat the procedure but let the child attempt to find it.

2- Piaget Theory- Preoperational Stage (2-7 years-old)

  • This the second stage of Piaget Theory. Schooling generally starts at about 3 years-old, which brings about an important social change and causes significant social development.
  • The child will start relating to other children and people, especially peers. Before this age, the interaction was generally with family.
  • How do children aged 2-7 communicate? While between the ages 3-7 the child will largely expand their vocabulary, they are still guided by an “egocentric thinking”, meaning that the child will think according to their individual experiences, which makes their thinking and thoughts starts, intuitive, and lacking logic. This is why children until the age of about 6 will misunderstand events and will have trouble expressing them.
  • Talking in the third person is very common in this stage because children still don’t fully understand the concept of “I” or “me” that separates them from the rest of the world.
  • Children between 2-7 will be curious and want to learn, which is why they so often as “why”.
  • Children of this stage often give human characteristics or feelings to objects. This is called personification.

“Egocentric” thinking, according to Piaget Theory: Why do children in this stage have such a hard time putting themselves in other people’s position? This may be related to the “Theory of the Mind”, which refers to the ability to put yourself in someone else’s mind or in “someone else’s shoes”. Children won’t be able to do this until about 4-5 years old, which is why until they reach this age, children will think that others think how they do. This theory helps explain why children don’t know how to lie or use irony until about 5 years-old.

Each of these limitations of the pre-logical stage will be overcome at about 6 or 7 years-old, in the next cognitive developmental stage, and will consolidate until about 14 or 15 years-old.

Piaget Theory What can we do to help the cognitive development of the child in the pre-operational stage (from 2 to 7 years old)?
  1. Adjust to your child’s cognitive development: Keep in mind your child’s development stage and adapt to their thinking.
    2. Put symbolic play into practice: Through this activity, many of your children’s skills are developed and they allow them to form an inner picture of the world. Through play you can learn the roles and situations of the world around you: pretend to eat or drink, pretend to drive, pretend to be a doctor and help someone else, etc. You can practice any activity that helps your child expand his or her language, develop empathy, and strengthen his or her mental representations of the world around you.
    3. Encourage exploration and experimentation: Let him discover colors and their classification, tell him how some things happen, plants or animals, convey curiosity to learn.

3- Piaget Theory: Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years-old)

The second-to-last stage of Piaget Theory is when children start to use logic thinking, but only in concrete situations. It is at this stage that the child will be able to do more difficult and complex tasks that require logic, like math problems. However, while their ability to use logical thinking has advanced, their logic may have certain limitations during this period: the “here and now” will always be easy. Children at this age will still not use abstract thinking. In other words, they will be able to apply their knowledge to a subject that they don’t know, but it’s still difficult at this age.

Piaget considered the concrete stage a major turning point in the child’s cognitive development because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought. The child is now mature enough to use logical thought or operations but can only apply logic to physical objects. He established a series of operations pertinent to the concrete stage.

Conservation: it is the understanding that something stays the same quantity even though its appearance changes. Watch the following video for examples on how to test conservation.

Classification: It is the ability to identify the properties of categories, to relate categories or classes to one another, and use the categorical information to solve problems.  For example, group objects according to some dimension they share.

Seriation: The ability to mentally arrange items along with a quantifiable dimension, such as height or weight.

Reversibility: The ability to recognize that numbers or objects can be changed and returned to their original condition. For example, during this stage, a child understands that a favorite ball that deflates is not gone but can be filled with air again and put back into play.

Transitivity: The ability to recognize relationships among various things in a serial order. For example, when told to put away his books according to height, the child recognizes that he starts with placing the tallest one on one end of the bookshelf and the shortest one ends up at the other end.

Decentering: The ability to consider multiple aspects of a situation. For example, a child is given the chance to choose between two candies, he chooses one according to his favorite flavor regardless of the fact they were both the same size and color.

Piaget Theory What can we do to help cognitive development in the specific period (7 to 11 years)?
  1. Help strengthen your reversible thinking: Practicing these exercises can help you develop your logical and reasoning skills. Important for the management of numbers and mathematics, but also for the development of their adult life. For example, ask what is the result of adding two numbers together. If the result is 8, we can ask them to help us find two numbers that add up to 8. Reversible thinking can be exercised in almost any situation of everyday life. For example, when you are in the supermarket and you estimate the price of what the purchase will cost you. Or when you do it the other way around, and you estimate how much each food you are about to buy costs to get to you with the money you carry.
    2. Ask him or her to help you answer questions and ask questions: For example, how would you help a lost animal find its owner? How do we keep the food from getting cold? How do we get to Grandma’s house if the car’s in the shop?
    3. Help him understand the relationships between the phenomena that happen in nature or social life: Why do you think your grandfather might be sad if we don’t go to visit him, what do you think will happen if it doesn’t rain this winter?
    4. Strengthens his reasoning capacity: Help him to question concrete facts.
    5. Use validated Brain Games or cognitive stimulation programs for children: CogniFit is the leading program for brain enhancement in childhood. It takes advantage of the great neuroplasticity that happens in the early years of development to stimulate and enhance intellectual performance in childhood and adolescence. The brain exercises proposed by CogniFit consist of attractive therapeutic activities, rehabilitation and learning techniques aimed at helping retrain and improve the cognitive skills. With this program we will also be able to compare the child’s results with those of other children of his or her age. How to start using it? It’s very easy, you just have to register.

4- Piaget Theory: Formal Operational (11 years and older)

  • This last period is characterized by the acquisition of logical reasoning under all circumstances, including abstract reasoning.
  • The new aspect of this last period in relation to intelligence is, as Piaget mentions, the ability to hypothesize about something that they haven’t learned specifically.
  • This is where learning starts to take place as a “whole”, rather than a concrete form like in the previous stage.
Piaget Theory What can we do to help the cognitive development of children and adolescents 11 years and older?
  1. Try to motivate them to ask questions: Use everyday facts and try to get them to reason about the factors that have caused a certain outcome. Help him to consider deductions or hypotheses.
    2. Discuss with the child or adolescent: Try to help him/her express him/herself and explain his/her way of thinking to you when faced with different issues. Expose your way of seeing things and find the positive and negative points of each point of view. You can also address ethical issues.

Developmental theory- Piaget

Piaget Theory: Should you be worried about a delay in your child’s development?

  • First, be patient. It’s true that some periods or stages are more sensitive to learning language, as well as other skills like motor skills, cognitive development, attention, reading, etc., but according to Piaget Theory, you have to keep in mind that it’s a continuous process that may take some child more time to reach, while others hit their milestones ahead of time. Sometimes children will take longer to reach a certain stage, and that’s OK.
  • If, for example, when the child is starting school, the child shows noticeable delays in either communication or another area (playing, learning, trouble fitting in with other kids), you may want to think about bringing them to see a specialist (either a school counselor or pediatrician can give you some answers).
  • If the child doesn’t have any type of developmental or learning problem, if they are delayed, or if they have difficulties in any specific area, it’s important to reinforce skills at home and at school. Remember that a slight delay isn’t a cause for panic, and just because a child takes longer to learn something doesn’t mean that there is any problem. Not following the timeline of Piaget Theory doesn’t mean that the child won’t later develop their cognitive skills properly with the help of support and patience.
  • Remember that a 3-year-old can’t lie (that’s where the saying “kids always tell the truth” comes from), they can only talk about the small part of the world that they know. As such, you have to remember that they’re not adults and that they are learning to develop in a world where they will be more independent in the future.

Piaget Theory of Moral Development

Piaget not only studied children’s developmental stages, he also recognized that cognitive development is closely tied to moral development and was particularly interested in the way children’s thoughts about morality changed over time.

Piaget established that morality is one’s ability to distinguish between wrong and right and to be able to act on this distinction. He established that there are three stages of moral development in children.

Piaget Theory Pre-Moral Stage (0-5 years of age)

In this stage, children have little to no understanding of rules. It’s difficult for them to carry out mental operations, therefore, the behavior is regulated from outside the child, by a parent, caretaker, etc. This stage happens simultaneously with the Sensorimotor and Pre-operational stage.

Piaget Theory Heteronomous Morality Stage/ Moral Realism (5-9 years of age)

In this stage, rules are rigid and are made by adults. Rules will determine what is right and what is wrong. Children in this stage are completely obedient to authority. The rules are inflexible to these children. They also judge how wrong something might be by its immediate consequence or punishment not by intention. Adults tend to feel more comfortable during this stage since the rules are handed down to the children without discussion. This stage happens during the preoperational and concrete operational developmental stages.

Piaget Theory Autonomous Morality/Moral Relativism (10+ years of age)

Here the emphasis is more towards cooperation. Rules are changeable under certain circumstances and with mutual consent. Piaget states that children learn to critically evaluate rules and apply them based on cooperation and respect for others. Different from the previous stage, now the intention is an important concept. They judge how wrong an action might be by the intention of the person and the punishment is adjusted accordingly. They also begin to understand that the difference between right and wrong is not an absolute but instead must take into account changing variables such as context, motivation, abilities, and intentions.

As they grow, children begin to realize that when situations are handled in a manner that seems fair, reasonable, and beneficial to all, it becomes easier for people to accept and honor the decision. This concept of fairness is called reciprocity. They later switch to ideal reciprocity which refers to a type of fairness beyond simple reciprocity and includes a consideration of another person’s best interests and feelings, applying a bit of emotional intelligence.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

It’s the best description of putting yourself in another person’s shoes. According to Piaget, once ideal reciprocity has been reached moral development has been completed.

Piaget Theory, aside from explaining the different stages of development in children, also talks about the magic of children, which their egocentric thinking, their curiosity for the works, and their innocence, which can help us, as adults, reflect and understand how the child sees the world.

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated into English.

References

Hughes, M. (1975). Egocentrism in preschool children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Edinburgh University.

Rathus, S. A. (2011). Childhood and Adolescence: Voyages in Development. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Santrock, J. W. (2004). Life-Span Development (9th Ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill College.

Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2012). Life-Span Human Development. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.