Development describes the process of growth, improvement, or advancement in various aspects of life. It can occur at the individual, community, or global level and commonly refers to economic and social progress including improvements in education, health, infrastructure, wealth, and opportunity.
The study of development is known as developmental science and it examines the ways in which we change, or remain the same, throughout the lifespan. The field includes the study of physical, neurophysiological, and cognitive changes as well as emotional, personality, moral, and psychosocial developments.
As with all sciences, there are competing assumptions about what causes development. Some researchers believe that it is mostly determined by nature (genes, biology) while others argue that nurture is a major factor. Some theorists, such as Piaget and Vygotsky, believe that human development happens through active engagement in learning and exploration of the world around us. Other theorists, such as behaviorists and information processing theorists, view human development as a more passive experience where the environment shapes a person.
Another important assumption is that development occurs in the context of culture. This idea is relatively new and is being explored as researchers try to understand how and why some features of development are more prominent in some cultures than in others.