Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

Relationship of Epistemological Development with Wisdom, Age, Gender and Education

Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

Relationship of Epistemological Development with Wisdom, Age, Gender and Education

Article excerpt

When adults, face socio psychological problems that have no prescribed formula for their solution, they have to think in complex ways to sort out such problems. This involves monitoring elements of thought processes, such as sources, criteria for certainty and limits of knowledge (King & Kitchener, 2004). Such problems include dilemmas such as death of a loved one or decision regarding marriage. To resolve these problems reflective thinking leads to change in epistemological assumptions about knowledge and knowing, especially "the limits of knowledge," "the certainty of knowledge," and "the criteria for knowing" (Kitchener, 1983, p.222). These three components change with growth of an individual in the physical and cognitive domains where epistemological development can be traced to post formal thought and which includes the role of context, identity and self, in determining the adult thinking beyond formal operational stage proposed by Piaget (Marchand, 2001) characterized by logical thought, experience and context (Labouvie-Vief, 1992).

The earliest systematic work on epistemological development was carried out in a longitudinal study at Harvard by Perry (1968) who conducted interviews of students regarding their conceptualization of knowledge and meaning making process. Over the course of 15 years and having interviewed around 500 students Perry (1968) came up with his nine stage categorization of development of epistemological assumptions which he called intellectual and ethical development in adulthood and included:

1. Dualism: Thinking is dichotomous. Person thinks that knowledge is absolute. At this stage, the person thinks that absolute knowledge which is uncontroversial, cannot be debated and universally true, exists. He would for example believe that scientific truth cannot be debated and that science is the only criteria to judge the truthfulness of a knowledge claim.

2. Multiplicity pre legitimate: Person begins to see that there is more than one answer which means that there is no single absolute answer.

3. Multiplicity legitimate but subordinate: Person realizes that more than one answers are present, which means that more than one view of knowledge is present but he still thinks that only one of these many views is the right one and he searches for it.

4. Multiplicity: person realizes that all perspectives on knowledge equally hold true. There is no absolute view of knowledge. He may stop searching the 'truth' because 'truth' in the sense of absolute reality does not exist.

5. Contextual relativism: Person becomes capable of evaluating the different views of knowledge keeping in mind the context. Some views are true in one context but not true in another context. Person begins to evaluate the argument.

6. Commitment foreseen: The person begins to understand that in the multiplicity of views of knowledge available, the only way out for him is to choose one particular view that suits his context and stay committed with it.

7. Initial commitment: This stage is marked by a person's earliest experiences of commitment with what he deems to be true. Stages 8 and 9 are different mostly in qualitative terms and may not appear hierarchically very dissimilar.

8. Orientation in Implications of Commitment: At this stage the person explores the outcomes of commitment, which may not be as easy to handle were expected.

9. Stage 9 refers to maturity in dealing with the consequences of commitment experienced in earlier stages and a mellowness that keeps on developing in this process of maturing.

Many theorists use different comprehensive terms to subscribe to these stages. For example reflective judgment (Kitchener & King, 1981), epistemological reflection (Magolda, 1992), argumentative reasoning (Kuhn, Cheney & Wienstock, 2000) and reflective thinking (Kember, Leung, Jones, Loke, McKay, Sinclair, Tse, Webb, Wong, Wong, and Yeung, 2000) presented their respective stage theories but their stages correspond among Perry's nine stages which forms the common thread running through these theories (Zhu, 2016). …

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