Great Expectations (Synopsis Only)

GlobeCatching8935The human brain is an “expectation” and “prediction” organ.

If a child has parents/primary caregivers who were sensitive-enough and responsive-enough to the infant/young child’s “felt needs,” his/her brain/mind will, more likely than not, develop the “expectation” that his/her needs will be met — not just physical needs, but even more importantly the infant’s psychological needs for safety, autonomy, competence, and belonging.

Developing this expectation that one’s needs will be met as one grows from infancy to later childhood and adolescence, ensures that (absent intervening trauma) one will, more likely than not, grow into adulthood with a good “sense of self” as capable of surviving and taking care of oneself and less likely to be troubled with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, mental illness.

Conversely, if one’s parents/primary caregivers were not “sensitive-enough” and “responsive-enough” to one’s “felt needs,” the infant would begin to expect not to have his/her needs met by his/her parents/primary caregivers.

Attachment research shows that these “expectations” begin to develop around nine (9) months of age.  These infant-formed “expectations” strongly affect the lifelong development of the individual (secure vs. insecure) and the kinds of relationships (positive or negative) one will be likely to have as an adult, especially with one’s own children, but also with romantic partners.

The beginning proposed structure of the project:

(1st) focus on the research into the brain as an “expectation organ”  — simplify so that anyone with a basic 8th grade education could “get it” and, at the same time, make the summary so highly credible that readers and other writers really pay attention;

(2nd) Explore the importance of developing the skill of “taking charge of” one’s mind and one’s thoughts, so that one can “catch” one’s automatic “expectations” that aren’t really true, but which get people trapped in a “developmental cul de sac”; i.e. the importance of developing “mindfulness in everyday life”;

(3rd) Show as starkly and uncontroversially (undeniably) as possible how the infant begins to construct his/her expectations about him/her self and of other people by 8-9 months, as the attachment research theorizes and demonstrates; use stories from attachment research studies as much as possible (the attachment longitudinal studies: Berkeley; Minnesota; London parent-child study);

(4th) Show how insecure parents’ expectations from their own childhoods lead to “expectations” of their children which are not “true”, but rather are projections of the parents onto the infants, which is certainly as much an influence on “generational perpetuation of dysfunctional behavior patterns” as genetics (find support for this with interviews with attachment researchers)

(5th) Focus on the Pygmalion research study by Rosenthal, et. al. in which teachers were given phony records of new students in the beginning of the school year, showing that these students were high-achieving students, whereas their real records from prior years showed very poor achievement.  Miracle of miracles, these students, by and large, greatly improved above grade level over the course of the year, while similar students who were tracked as “controls” did not improve.  The gist of the research was how the new teachers’ expectations that these students would excel (based on the students’ phony records), influenced the teachers to expect them to do well.

(6th) to research interventions and techniques to help readers detect in themselves and others “negative or limiting expectations.”

Carol Dweck’s “Self-Theories” research would be very relevant, if not central, to the development of this project:  Specifically, the “Self-Theories Research” summarized in her books, Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and  Development  (Philadelphia: Psychology Press, 1999) and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (New York: Random House, 2006), which can be summarized as follows: (1) Roughly 40% of a random group of people will show a tendency for what the “Self-Theories research” calls “Performance Goals”, based on the self-belief (expectation) that one’s intelligence or skill is a “fixed commodity”, and therefore if something is very difficult, challenging and requires a lot of effort, one’s “self-expectation” is that one will not be able to perform the task well, so one would be much better off not to even try, which the Dweck research refers to as the “helpless response”.  (2) Roughly 40% of any random group of people will show a tendency for what the Self-Theories research calls “Learning Goals” based on the self-belief (expectation) that one’s intelligence or skill is “malleable” or “incremental” factor that can always be improved, and therefore when something is very difficult, challenging and requires a lot of effort, one’s “self-expectation” is that one will learn a lot by facing the challenge, making the effort, so “bring it on”, which the Dweck research appropriately refers to as the “mastery-oriented response”.