Recapitulation Theorylaw

biogenetic recapitulation theory = recapitul-tionism = palingenesis. This theory, developed and taught by the American psychologist Granville Stanley Hall (1844-1924), and often referred to as both a principle and a doctrine, states that the development of an individual organism is a microcosmic reenactment of the evolution of its species and emphasizes the predetermined progression in development. Hall's recapitulation theory was the direct outcome of the impact of Darwin's evolutionary theory on Hall's attempts to understand mental development. Hall argued that evolution, rather than physics, should form the basis for science, and he saw in evolution a noteworthy organizing principle that unites the phylogenetic emergence of the species with the ontogenetic development of a single individual. Hence, the well-known phrase "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" - originally called the biogenetic law by the German naturalist Ernst H. P. Haeckel (1834-1919) - captures the essence of the theory of recapitulation. Thus, the phylogenetic principle states that individuals ("ontogeny") from embryo to adulthood repeat the stages of human evolution ("phylogeny") (cf., pubertal sexual recapitulation theory - suggests that the beginning of adult sexuality development at puberty involves a recapitulation of the infantile sexuality stages, and assumes that sexuality at puberty first regresses toward the infantile state to recapitulate). Hall's evolutionary recapitulation theory was extended as development theory into educational contexts and assumed that every child from the moment of conception to maturity re-creates every stage of development through which the human race from its lowest animal beginnings has passed [cf., differential k theory - relates to the two scales of reproductive strategy of different human races ("r") or species: the "r-strategy" has high rates of population increases as compared to the "k-strategy;" whereas "r-selected" individuals reproduce at an early age, the "k-strategy" individuals produce fewer children and nurture them more carefully than the "r-selected" individuals; it is alleged that cold or harsh climates are associated with the "k-strategy," whereas warmer climates are related to the "r-strategy"]. The theory of recapitulation has had heuristic manifestations in two main areas: evolutionary biology/embryology, and developmental psychology (including perception and cognition). In the discipline of embryology, Baer's/von Baer's law is confused, often, with the theory of recapitula-tion/biogenetic law. Baer's biogenetic law -formulated by the Estonian-born German naturalist Karl E. R. von Baer (1792-1876) - is the doctrine that the embryos of different kinds of organisms are at first similar and develop for a time along similar lines, those organisms least closely related diverging first, the others diverging at later periods in proportion to the closeness of relationship. The recapitulation theory has been applied also, unsuccessfully, to anthropological contexts (and renamed the culture-epoch theory) where all cultures are assumed to evolve through a series of epochs or stages (such as hunting, pastoral, agricultural, industrial), and where each person in a culture is assumed to pass through the same steps as demonstrated in the cultural sequence. The culture-epoch theory is known, also, as the monotypic evolution theory and the unilineal/unilinear theory of cultural evolution [cf., cultural absolutism theory - states that a psychological theory developed in one culture has equal validity in a different cultural setting; and the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas' (1858-1942) theories of cultural determinism - holds that human behavior is shaped and controlled primarily by social and cultural factors, and cultural relativism - states that all cultures are equally good and have their own values and ways of understanding the world]. Hall's notion that the ontogenetic history of individuals represents a recapitulation, or repeating, of the species' phylogenetic history is discount-ed, largely, today. See also DEVELOPMENTAL THEORY; PLAY, THEORIES OF. REFERENCES

Hall, G. S. (1904). Adolescence: Its psychology and its relations to physiology, anthropology, sociology, sex, crime, religion, and education. Vol. 1. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hall, G. S. (1923). Life and confessions of a psychologist. New York: Appleton. Diehl, L. (1986). The paradox of G. Stanley Hall. American Psychologist, 4, 868-878.


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