Monday, July 18, 2016

Only Human: Back to Class

Right off the bat, let me apologize for the lack of photos in this post. I am really starting to settle into a routine here, and somehow as everything becomes less novel I am taking fewer and fewer pictures. Sweet for me, but bitter for all of you who I want to share my experience with! Never fear, though, because Wednesday night is Jazzin' at the Shedd and you best believe you will be bombarded with pictures of musicians and fish! And I'll make a better effort to have my camera out tomorrow. 

There is never a dull day in Developmental Psychology, even if we were all struggling with Monday Brain (including our professor). Nice to know that even in a condensed, collegiate level course we are all still human. The bulk of the lecture today was about attachment and social bonds, with a bit of discussion on gender as well. Since many of us were interested in the discussion of gender, sexuality, and gender roles, this was probably my favorite part of the class. 

I struggled a little bit with the study of social attachment, though. The discussion of social attachment was interesting and clearly something that is crucial in the development of young children. Unfortunately, the study of it involved a few too many terrified or heart broken little ones for my taste. Some of the best ways to test the strength of a child's attachment to a parent is to deprive the child of that attachment. We watched controlled experiments where parents walked out of a room and left a child even for just a few seconds with a stranger, causing the child to burst into tears. Even though the child was in no real danger, and the separation was only a few seconds, seeing the securely attached infants cling to their mothers and sob afterwards triggered my protective response. Other studies involved a mother playing with a baby and then suddenly putting on a completely blank face. The infant would first respond with confusion, then try everything in its power to regain the mother's attention (smiling, waving, clapping) until it gradually started to panic and exhibit high levels of anxiety.

The worst video didn't even have to do with human infants but with monkeys. Harry Harlow's left monkeys in isolation since birth to study the importance of companionship in development. It was awful to see the monkeys suffering, since the emotions on their face could so clearly be interpreted. Harlow's experiments are often credited with starting the fight for animal ethics, and I am certainly glad this was the case. Understanding suffering is a reality of psychology, but  it is certainly hard to watch. 

Luckily the class lightened up approaching and after lunch as we transitioned to the topic of gender. So much of this has to do with things that I can relate to or am passionate about, from LGBTQ rights to women in STEM careers to men not being socially permitted to express emotion. I also have some interesting perspectives because of the way I grew up. For example, most American children learn to differentiate between genders through long and short hair. But growing up with a father with long hair, this was not really my experience.

After class I went straight to the library to spend some concentrated time working on my paper. Usually I would have resented having to spend so much time working, but somehow I found a groove and was able to get my rough draft submitted pretty early in the evening. I feel like I am learning more from writing this one paper than I have in a long time, and I've barely finished the intro. I expect to get a lot of feedback, and can't wait to improve on it over the next few days!

1 comment:

  1. Great experiences you are absorbing in this class.
    Those Harlow experiments were truly appalling with the terry cloth mothers and the metal mesh mothers. Cuddling is so important to child development.
    Isn't learning fun? My heart dances with a fierce joy as I read your adventure. Hugs and kisses.