Postformal Thought: Beyond Piaget's Stages

Criticisms of Formal Operations

  1. Formal operations overemphasizes the power of pure logic in problem solving

  2. Formal operations underemphasizes the pragmatic quality of real life cognitive activity
  3. can not sever cognition from affective, social, and pragmatic ties

  4. Formal thinking is only suited for the problems that call for scientific thinking and logical mathematical analyses
  5. Piaget assumed - goal of mature adult to think like a scientist (Kelly)
  6. Does not apply to real-life social or interpersonal problems

  7. Formal operations is geared for the solution of closed system, well-defined problems - needs controllable, specific variables
  8. implies single correct solutions
  9. real life - unlimited number of uncontrollable, changable, and ill-defined variables
  10. Formal operations does not recognize the relative nature of knowledge and the need to adopt multiple frames of reference

  11. Formal thinking places a greater emphasis on problem solving that on problem finding
  12. Wertheimer - "Often in great discovery, the most important thing is that a certain question is found"
  13. Characteristics of Postformal thought

    Four characteristics outline by text p. 253
    • shifting gears
    • multiple causality, multiple solutions
    • pragmatism
    • awareness of paradox

    Expanded definitions

    1. Postformal thinkers possess an understanding of the relative, nonabsolute nature of knowledge
    2. Relativistic thinking
    3. Perry - students change over time
    4. Rakfeldt, Rybash, and Roodin - postformal thinkers
    5. better thereauputic process
    6. Accept contradiction as a basic aspect of reality

    7. Postformal thinkers capable of dialectic reasoning
    8. able to sythesize contradictory thoughts, emotions, and experiences

    9. A contextual approach to problem solving
    10. solve problems by continuously creating new principles based on changing circumstance
    11. instead of set principles applied to all contexts
    12. Postformal thinking tends to be domain-specific
    13. people use in some but not all areas

    14. Directed towards problem finding

    15. Based on social cognition - reasoning about the social and interpersonal world

      How does postformal thought develop - Labouvie-Vief

      • Intrasystemic level
      • corresponds to formal operations
      • unable to operate outside of system
      • can not see alternatives

      • Intersystemic level
      • aware of alternatives
      • can discuss, argue
      • see systems as distinct

      • Integrated level
      • characteristics of full postformal thought

      Is formal operational thought a lower stage of development or just different

      • social reasoning - page 250 - last paragraph
      • differences in culture p 251-253



      Wisdom in folklore, myth, and philosophy p. 258 - Jung

      Psychological concepts and assessments

      • Erikson - integrity vs. despair - basic strength wisdom
      • Clayton - "an ability to grasp paradoxes, reconcile contradictions, and make and accept compromises" post formal?
      • Meacham - more likely in youth than older adults?
      • Baltes - emprical definition p. 261 post formal?
      • Labouvie-Vief - integration of intellect and affect
      • wisdom and spiritual development