We are going to revisit the Prospect Theory that we introduced in our development model, as it can offer more insight on the application of such a model, as well. Prospect Theory makes a significant contribution to the application of a contemporary developmental model is by illustrating some ways that cognitive biases can inhibit the learning process. By taking a few of these biases into account when organizing material for presentation, one can make it considerably easier for that material to be both understood and retained.
There are a decent number of biases that have been investigated and established over the last couple of decades, but we are only going to consider a few here: Availability Heuristic, Suggestibility Effect, Anchoring Effect, Conservatism Bias, Fading Effect Bias, Affect Heuristic and the Generative Effect (Kahneman, 2011). While there is much that has been written about the nature and applications of these biases and heuristics, I am going to present a brief description of each, and then illustrate the particular relevance for appliying a developmental model.
As an example, if I am coaching a soccer session on the topic of scoring goals, and I spend all my energy yelling at the kids "Don't close your eyes when you're shooting", at the end of the session if I ask the players what is the most important part of scoring a goal I will likely get a high number of answers about keeping eyes open, or looking at the ball, or looking at the target. None of those are correct, as the answer is probably just "directing the ball toward the goal". Locating an incorrect answer does not help one in finding the correct answer, and often is actively counterproductive in that regard.
The last four listed above, the Generative Effect, Attentional Bias, Affect Heuristic, and the Fading Effect Bias, talk about how we retain information. Emotions are easier to access than information. The dominant emotional stimuli in a particular situation will dictate how that situation is processed. Negative emotions, like shame or fear, make learning more difficult. Answers that the learner comes up with on their own are easier to remember. Positive emotions, like pride and acceptance, make memories easier to recall.
The combined effect is that telling people what they are doing wrong does not help them find out what they should do, and for easiest absorption and longest recall of material, it is best to create a positive, supporting environment that allows answers to be discovered by the learner. These are principles that can and should be applied not only within the context of a developmental Curriculum and Environment, but extended to the psychological developmental model itself. The current model reads much more like a list of things not to do than any kind of instruction manual.
This is the great hope of developmental psychology: by discovering the ways that we are the same we can head off some of the more painful ways that we become more different. As Tolstoy said, "Happy families are all the same; every unhappy family is unhappy in it's own way" (Tolstoy, 1964). Or to translate that into developmental psychology-ese: while there are a lot of to break someone, there is a considerably more narrow path to health. We all break the same way. While healing all those different possible wounds is very difficult, as Fredrick Douglas intimated, it is A LOT easier to avoid wounding children in the first place. Given that dysfunctions that occur earlier in the life of the individual can have a rippling effect on the developmental process down the road, it is important that we identify the particular needs of each of the aspects of development at each stage in order to provide the best arena for full growth and inclusion.