From stability to norm transformation: lessons about resilience, for development, from ecology

Abstract

Phenomenologists recognize the insights to be gained from looking at cognitive development. But our understanding of development, in turn, can be illuminated by ideas from ecology. Developmental studies in psychology and biology share with ecosystem ecology a concern with stability—with how things stay the same despite changes in the surrounding conditions, and how processes of change lead reliably to similar outcomes despite environmental variability. Recently, both ecologists and psychologists have reconsidered their earlier assumptions about the sources of stability, and explored new conceptions of resilience: a system’s ability to “bounce back” from a disturbance, to absorb change without harm, or to overcome obstacles to achieve good adaptive functioning. Developmental biologists, meanwhile, have explored related issues through conceptions of developmental plasticity and canalization. Distinct theoretical frameworks for resilience have emerged in these different fields, yet the phenomena that they treat are closely intertwined. Ecological work on resilience focuses on relationships between resilience, chaotic change, and adaptive function across multiple scales of nested systems, and implications for intervention or management. With some assistance from developmental biology, this body of work offers rich theoretical resources and important lessons for related thinking about cognitive development.

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Correspondence to Gillian Barker.

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Barker, G. From stability to norm transformation: lessons about resilience, for development, from ecology. Phenom Cogn Sci 16, 571–584 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-017-9527-x

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Keywords

  • Resilience
  • Stability
  • Ecology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Developmental biology
  • Fragility
  • Vulnerability