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Growth & Development

  Emerging Adulthood
Cognitive Development
- Postformal Thought -

Growth & Development

Ψ  Formal-operational thinking is absolute, and involves making decisions based on personal experience and logic. Post-formal thinking is more complex, and involves making decisions based on situational constraints and circumstances, and integrating emotion with logic to form context-dependent principles.

Ψ  Compared with adolescent thinking, adult thinking becomes more personal, integrative and practical in response to the individual's life experiences and commitment to the responsibilities of career & family.

Ψ  Adult thinking is multi contextual.

Ψ   Developmental theorists have used 3 different approaches to explain the cognitive changes that occur throughout adulthood:

    1. The stage approach: e.g. Postformal thought is the fifth stage of Piaget's theory of cognitive development.

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

        2. The psychometric approach: Much of the early theoretical & applied work in psychometrics was undertaken in an attempt to measure intelligence.  More recently, psychometric theory has been applied in the measurement of personality, attitudes & beliefs, academic achievement, & in health-related fields. (see chapter 21 for more info.)
            3. The information-processing approach: proposed that like the computer, the human mind is a system that processes information through the application of logical rules and strategies. (see chapter 24 for more info.)

Ψ  Postformal thought is a stage in which thinking is less abstract and less absolute than formal operational thought; also more adaptive to life's inconsistencies & more dialectical - capable of combining contradictory elements into a comprehensive whole.

       Subjective thinking: arises from the personal experiences & individual perceptions.

       Objective thinking: follows abstract logic.

       Postformal thought recognizes that one's own perspective is only one of many potentially valid views & that life entails many inconsistencies.

       Postformal thought is well suited to addressing problems that have no single correct solution. Postformal thought is more practical, flexible, & more dialectical.

       Older adults regulate their emotions better than younger ones and are less cognitively and physiologically overwhelmed by deep and complex emotions. The ability to combine emotions & logical analysis is particularly useful in responding to emotional arousing situations, as when one is being stereotyped.

    •  Stereotype threat  is "the threat of being viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype, or the fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype," such as the stereotype that women perform poorly in math. Steele explains that some students try to escape stereotype threat by disidentifying with the part of life in which the stereotype originates, such as race or ethnic identities. From: "Thin Ice: 'Stereotype Threat' and Black College Students," by Claude M. Steele, The Atlantic Monthly

Ψ  Dialectical Thought (DT): most advanced form of cognition; characterized by ongoing awareness of pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages and possibilities and limitations; in daily life involves incorporating beliefs and experiences with all the contradictions and inconsistencies of life.

Three stages of the dialectical process:

1. Thesis: Proposition or statement of belief
2. Antithesis: Proposition or statement of belief that opposes the thesis
3. Synthesis: Reconciliation of thesis & antithesis into a new & more
    comprehensive level of truth

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

       In daily life, DT recognizes that most of life's important questions do not have single, unchangeable, correct answers.

       Result of DT is a continuously evolving view of oneself & the world. The dialectical thinker gets a broader & more flexible perspective that is better suited to the changing demands of adulthood.

       DT is more typical of middle-aged than of younger or older adults & is more evident in certain contexts than in others.

       Characteristics of postformal thought are not universal & do not necessarily build on the prior accomplishments of formal operations.

Growth & Development
Robert C. Gates