Topic 3: Human development

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The theme of human development is introduced over two lectures.

In the first, we consider the remarkable helplessness of humans when they are born, and compare this situation to other animals (the altricial/precocial distinction). We then introduce two landmark figures in theories of human development: Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Finally, we consider the odd, and somewhat misplaced, enthusiasm for twin studies that have historically been associated with developmental science.

In the second lecture on this topic we look at three experimental approaches to studying sociality in the young. The Human Speechome Project of MIT gives us a contemporary glimpse of an ambitious project that set out to capture and study the linguistic output and environment of a single child over three years. We also look at two older classic studies on sociality in the very young.

Reading: The advantages of being helpless, Scientific American, Feb 9, 2010.

Optional material: The Human Speechome Project, MIT