The development of developmental psychology.

A corpus analysis of highly cited abstracts from 1970 to 2010
Caspar Addyman*,1,2 and Tessa Dekker1

Top 100 most frequent terms per decade

Background What can data-mining tools and techniques tell us about the history of developmental psychology? Can a textual analysis of highly-cited abstracts from PsychINFO reveal trends and themes? Methods PsychINFO 4 decades for 3 journals (approx 12,000 papers) Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 12 most highly cited papers each year. 360 per decade.

Frequent phrases
Moral judgment, Individual differences, Age change, Mother father, Cognitive development, Sex differences, Age difference, Social behavior Secure attachment, Emotional regulation, Effortful control, Child behavior, Child learning, Executive function, Phonological awareness, Theory of Mind, Phonemic awareness, Short-term memory

1970’s 1980’s


Hierarchical cluster analysis

Extract & filter data from html using Python. Using the R statistical computing language and textual analysis packages tm [1,2] and RWeka [3] less freq.
learning (-73) female (-57) sex (-42) stimuli (-32) preference (-29)

more freq.
maternal (+101) adolescents (+150) environment (+159) expressions (+189) classification (+248)

Correlated terms
1970’s 1980’s 1990’s 2000’s


family, memories, emotional Identified, attributes



less freq. more freq.
reported (+83) theories (+110) gender (+137) beliefs (+285) adjustment (+287) conditions (-38) observed (-31) patterns (-31) discussed (-30) increased (-27)


Principle components analysis
behavior parent mother girl boy … infant familiar visual discrimin months-old … infant Experiment stage observe developmentmother months-old grader evidence result … … scale addition stimuli individual reliable …



less freq.
rate (-44) boys (-38) interaction (-36) affect (-29) response (-25)

more freq.
research (+56) months (+79) american (+92) authors (+122) yearolds (+182)



phonological adult read experiment task infant memory suggest ability previous … …

regulate child emotion extermal control …

child executive mathematics belief achievement mathematics academic task years-old theory … …


participants, indicated,condition, activities, environmental

1.  Ingo Feinerer (2010). tm: Text Mining Package. R package version 0.5-3. 2.  Ingo Feinerer, Kurt Hornik, and David Meyer (2008). Text Mining Infrastructure in R. Journal of Statistical Software 25/5. URL: 3.  Mark Hall, Eibe Frank, Geoffrey Holmes, Bernhard Pfahringer, Peter Reutemann, Ian H. Witten (2009); The WEKA Data Mining Software: An Update; SIGKDD Explorations, Volume 11, Issue 1

*Correspondence email 1. Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (CBCD), Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London,UK 2. Laboratoire d’Etudes sur l’Apprentissage et Développement (LEAD), Pôle AAFE, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France

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