An Ecological Approach to Learning in (Not and) Development

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The ecological approach is a framework for studying the behavior of animals in their environments. My version of an ecological approach focuses on learning in the context of development. I argue that the most important thing animals learn is behavioral flexibility. They must acquire the ability to flexibly guide their behavior from moment to moment in the midst of developmental changes in their bodies, brains, skills, and environments. They must select, modify, and create behaviors appropriate to the current situation. In essence, animals must learn how to learn. I describe the central concepts and empirical strategies for studying learning in development and use examples of infants coping with novel tasks to give a flavor of what researchers know and still must discover about the functions and processes of learning (to learn) in (not and) development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-201
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Development
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Behavioral flexibility
  • Dynamics of development
  • Ecological approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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