by on February 12th, 2011
Share Button

Let us start with some biological “givens” since development is fundamentally a biological process. The key concept is multi-potentiality. Any living creature, but especially the higher animals and man, possesses a large number of possibilities for action at any one time, and for development over the whole life span. One way of characterizing the whole process of development is to say that it consists of the transformation of a large number of potentialities into a limited number of actualities.

The earlier the developmental stage we are considering, the larger is the number of potentialities. The act of conception rules out a tremendously large number of egg-sperm combinations that might have occurred before one particular combination takes place. A new born infant has almost infinitely large number of possibilities for personality development that could occur in different kinds of family situation and cultural environment. All these diverse potentialities are quickly lost when he begins to develop in the one family to which he has been born. At the age of one, a child has potentialities for fluent expression in several thousand languages. By the time he is two, most of these potentialities have been lost because he has had the mark of one language stamped upon him for life.

T he second major biological pillar is the concept biologists have called time’s arrow. Whatever may be the status of time as a variable in the physical sciences, for living beings the important thing about it is that it runs in one direction .Furthermore, for any single individual, it is limited, and eventually it runs out.

The third biological fact to be emphasized follows from the first two. It is the concept of selection. From birth to death, an organism is repeatedly required to select which possibilities are to be utilized in actions and development. The factors that control the selection are in part external and in part internal-environmental pressures, motives and desires. For the human species, part of this selective process occurs through conscious choice. The person is aware of the possibilities he faces and deliberately chooses one of them.

The fourth biological imperative is a fact of a somewhat different sort-the phenomenon of spontaneous activity .It is a literal fact that a living creature is in some way active at every instant from conception to extinction. Something is always going on- the cell divides, the heart beats, the muscles contract, electrical impulses keep up their rhythmic ebb and flow. The human infant cries and kicks and looks around him, whatever his surroundings. The child walks and talks, plays and imitates, in every variety of family and culture. What those who guide development do is modify patterns of activity, not create them. Thus we should aim at an understanding of motivation that explains the direction an individual’s activities take rather than the reason for his being active at all. The emphasis psychologists have placed on stimulus-response formulations about behavior can lead to an unexamined assumption that an organism acts only when we or some other agent stimulates it. What is being emphasized here is that whether or not any identifiable stimulus is present, if a creature is alive, it will be doing something.

The fifth of the essential biological ideas is the concept of organizing structures. The thing that transforms spontaneous activity into meaningful actions and purposes can be thought of as a structure of some sort, the parts of which fit together into an organized whole. More than anyone else, it was Piaget who brought this biological concept into developmental psychology. He calls such a structure a schema, and has devoted a lifetime of research to finding out how the simple schemata that control infant behavior are elaborated into the complex schemata characterizing mature thinking.

The sixth concept, emphasized perhaps more by philosophers than by biologists themselves, is emergence. At some point in the transformation of simple organizations into systems of increasing complexity, the complex organization acquires genuinely new properties. The major evolutionary points at which such shifts have occurred are the junctures where matter took on life, and where life took on mind. According to this way of thinking, biology must make room for principles not to be found in chemistry and physics, and psychology must accommodate principles not to be found in biology. There need be nothing unnatural or supernatural about this .This new quality is a function of the complexity of the organization itself. While not all biologists and psychologists are convinced of the soundness of this concept of emergence, it is at least a useful tentative assumption in a theory designed to under gird counseling, because it leads us to attach some importance to what a person thinks, as we try to comprehend his behavior and developmental possibilities.

Prev Article: »
Next Article: «

Related Articles