Organizing Questions for Plenary Addresses

Each of our four plenary speakers will be addressing the conceptualization and study of developmental dynamics from different theoretical/metatheoretical orientations. To highlight points of conceptual convergence and divergence across the four plenary sessions, we have asked each speaker to structure his/her talk around answers to the following five sets of fundamental questions  (download pdf here):

  • Questions pertaining to dynamics and causality

What does it mean to study the dynamics of development? How does your dynamics orientation differ from traditional, “cause-effect” or “intervening variable” approaches to the study of mechanisms and processes in psychology? How is causality conceptualized in your dynamics orientation, and what are the implications of this conceptualization for our understanding of process in development? How does the study of dynamics differ from the study of mechanisms in machines? How do the dynamics of organic systems differ from those of inorganic systems (or do they)?

  • Questions pertaining to dynamics and the nature of development

With respect to your dynamics orientation, what does it mean for a phenomenon to develop? What kinds of change over time constitute developmental change? What changes with, or emerges from, development? Do you consider it necessary to distinguish between dynamics at the level of real-time change (the generation of specific organismic actions in adaptation to real-time contexts) and dynamics at the level of developmental-time change (the emergence of new organismic skills and organizations of ability during an organism’s lifespan)? Or are developmental dynamics reducible to real-time dynamics? Is there a privileged level of analysis (i.e., the cellular level; the organismic level; the level of action-in-context; the level of organism-world relations, etc.) for studying the dynamics of psychological functioning and development?

  • Questions pertaining to a process philosophy

A focus on the dynamics of development is routinely characterized as a process orientation (in which time and variability are taken seriously) rather than a substance or structure orientation. What does it mean for the study of dynamics to involve a focus on process rather than on substance or structure? What does it mean to take time and variability seriously? Catchphrases like “embodiment” and “embeddedness” are also routinely associated with a focus on developmental dynamics. How are these terms conceptualized in your dynamics orientation? How are other catchphrases, like “novelty,” “nonlinearity,” “complexity,” “system,” and “emergence,” conceptualized in your dynamics orientation?

  • Questions pertaining to dynamics and classic systems approaches

How does your dynamics orientation relate to an understanding of development framed in terms of psychological structures, stages, irreversibility, and directionality? Is the idea of higher levels of complexity (higher stages, hierarchy, etc.) compatible with your view of dynamics? In what sense? To what extent is your dynamics orientation compatible with classic “organismic” or systems approaches to development (e.g., Piaget, Werner, von Bertalanffy)? How does the systems view of organisms as “integrated wholes” factor into your dynamics orientation? Are organisms reducible to their activities in context?

  • Questions pertaining to the methodology and analysis of dynamics

What does your dynamics orientation entail for developmental methodology and analysis, and, more generally, for orthodox scientific approaches to psychological functioning and development like the hypothetico-deductive method? What sorts of methods and analyses are and are not appropriate for the study of dynamics in development? What are appropriate units of analysis for the study of dynamics in development?

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