Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Critical Period

  • Yan WangEmail author
  • Jing Guo
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1060-1



A maturational stage during the lifespan of an organism in which the organism’s nervous system is especially sensitive to certain environmental stimuli. The organism is more sensitive to environmental stimulation during a critical period than at other times during its life.


The phenomenon of critical period was first described by William James (1899) as “the transitoriness of instincts.” The term “critical period” was proposed by the Austrian ecologist based on his observations that newly hatched poultries, such as chicks and geese, would follow the object, usually their mother, if exposed to within a certain short time after birth.

According to Lorenz, if the young animal was not exposed to the particular stimulus during the “critical period” to learn a given skill or trait, it would become extremely struggling to develop particular behavioral pattern in the later life.

A vast of existing literature has...


Critical Period Hypothesis Life History Theory Fast Life History Strategy Sensitive Period Language Acquisition 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFudan UniversityShanghaiChina

Section editors and affiliations

  • Menelaos Apostolou
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus