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The overarching idea of this book is to seek and offer an integrative view on the development of adult thinking and learning processes. Nevertheless, it is obvious that it is impossible to cover the whole range of these issues with any single theme. There is just such a large variety of different approaches that it is impossible to fit them all in a single edition. Thus, the basic aim of this book is to describe some fundamental models and theories, and their links and connections to relevant major rivalling or parallel approaches. Hence, this book looks at the various aspects and research domains from multiple perspectives in an attempt to provide an integrative view on the complex phenomena involved. The general motto of the book could be “Nullius in verba”, as borrowed from the Royal Society, who adopted the phrase as their motto in the midst of the (first) Scientific Revolution.

The authors represent not only various fields of psychological research such as developmental psychology and social psychology, but also education and philosophy. This book introduces fundamental issues of both everyday and scientific thinking, accounting also for different thinking patterns relative to various real-world objects, concepts, values, social relationships, and existential issues. Some of the most important adult cognitive psychological and adult learning theories and models are addressed. Developmental psychology and learning research are independent but very closely associated areas. They both focus on the change processes of human beings during their lifespan. However, in literature these two fields are rarely examined simultaneously or together, which actually became the main impetus to this book.

This introductory chapter seeks to give an overview of the main research trends and specify the domains discussed in the articles of this book. After this introductory chapter, the edition is divided into three thematic sections. The first one of these (Chapters 2-6) deals with the so-called major developmental stages, i.e., the models by Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg and related derivative models by William Pern,’ and Carol Gilligan, which have had, and still have, implicitly or explicitly, a significant influence on the research of adult cognitive development. This section deals with the research and development of both everyday and scientific thinking. The second thematic section (Chapters 7-10) concentrates on adult learning and knowledge construction and presents major trends in this research area. The third section (Chapters 11-13) presents some new perspectives and attempts to define methods and terms in the field.

It will be demonstrated metatheoretically that the developmental psychological and learning approaches presented in this book are closely connected and have much in common. There seem to be a certain group of models with mutual commonalities, worth studying further, both empirically and theoretically. Across the thematic sections there are also references to wisdom research. Certain problematic philosophical questions will also be analysed and the results have implications, especially to the field of adult development research, but also to wisdom research as well as more generally in psychological epistemology research.

In Chapter 2 Eeva K. Kallio presents the views of modem developmental psychology on how thinking develops in adulthood and how it is linked to wisdom research. The focus is on the neo-Piagetian models of adult thinking, and thus the definition of thinking is restricted to such forms as relativistic-dialectical, postformal, or contextual integrative thinking - there are many terms in present usage. This chapter provides an overview illustrating the wide scope and multidimensionality of this field of research. The notion of universal, similar development is not new, as arguments of this kind have been presented since the days of Piaget regarding the nomothetic generality of cognitive development. Contextual integrative thinking is proposed as a term most appropriate to describe adult cognition, and this type of thinking can also justifiably be seen as part of the current psychological construct of wisdom, as a form of wise reasoning.

In Chapter 3 Hannele Seppàlà, Sari Lindblom-Ylanne and Eeva K. Kallio start with Piaget’s highly significant theory of developmental stages of logical thinking. In essence, Piaget’s theory is focused on the development of causal thinking in childhood and youth, albeit that the attainment of the highest developmental stage has been studied also in adults. Seppàlà and colleagues also proceed to describe epistemological development research by Karen Strohm Kitchener and Patricia M. King. Moreover, they analyse the results of a study in which both domains, logical and epistemological development, were studied together. The article also addresses the interesting question of how these two cognitive fields relate to each other and whether there is mutual dependency between logical-causal thinking and beliefs of knowledge.

In Chapter 4 Anna-Maija Pirttila-Backman, Salla Ahola and Inari Sakki integrate social psychology with research on the development of knowledge conceptions. Human thinking is seen from two different perspectives: as personal epistemologies and as social representations. The article deals with individuals’ assumptions and related justifications pertaining to the nature of knowledge: how Finnish people form everyday understandings of the human species within the frameworks of the evolution theory and creation story. The discussion is extended to the possibilities to integrate the respective perspectives of personal epistemologies and social representations in further research.

Chapter 5 by Soile Juujarvi and Klaus Helkama examines Kohlberg’s and Gilligan’s theories of the development of moral thinking from the perspectives of reasoning pertaining to rationality, on the one hand, and care, on the other. They trace the origins and history of these traditions and review some empirical results. They conclude that both these traditions of moral development share some similar interests, such as progress from self-concern towards concern for others.

Chapter 6 by Jaana-Piia Makiniemi and Annukka Vainio concludes this thematic section by taking a broader look at the field of moral thinking and development. The chapter presents three key models of morality: the Big Three model of morality (Richard A. Schweder), the Moral Foundations Theory' (Jonathan Haidt), and the cultural-developmental model (Lene A. Jensen). Based on the theoretical evaluation of these multiple viewpoints, it is concluded that the definitions of morality have gone through profound changes and become broader and more varied. There is obvious diversity and multiplicity' in the definitions and the phenomenon can be seen as multidimensional. The major critical concern, based on their theoretical evaluation, is that the models have not so far addressed the wider context-dependency of moral concerns.

The second thematic section deals with some models connected to adult learning. It offers first a general introduction of the field, followed by chapters on conceptual change, tacit knowledge, and expert knowledge.

In Chapter 7 Mari Murtonen and Emo Lehtinen give a preliminary introduction to some current adult learning theories. They argue that learning theories can be understood and viewed by a multiperspective approach. Learning can be studied and understood from individual, social, and cultural perspectives. On the individual level, learning is not only a cognitive phenomenon but a complex system where learning processes of different levels interact but are not reducible to each other. Some basic psychological functions, like memory', executive functions, deliberate practice, plus motivational, metacognitive, regulation, and conceptual aspects are regarded as components of learning. Learning can also be understood in larger, social and cultural contexts, as studies on situational and collaborative learning have shown.

Mirjamaija Mikkila-Erdmann and Tuike liskala (Chapter 8) examine adult learning from the viewpoint of conceptual change and metacognition research. Their article is also focused on multiperspective and integrative thinking, but here specifically on the development of scientific knowledge as contrasted to non-scientific assumptions. Conceptual change refers to learning processes in which an individual intentionally changes his or her initial understanding concerning counterintuitive concepts. Metacognition can be seen as a cognitive mechanism which monitors and regulates these thinking processes. Existing concepts can be recognised, evaluated, reviewed, and restructured when the person becomes aware of his or her prior knowledge and possible alternative models (e.g., conflicts between these and scientific conceptions). Furthermore, the authors point out some pedagogical implications as regards developing such teaching and learning practices for adults that would support conceptual change.

Chapter 9 by Auli Toom and Jukka Husu explores an expert’s or expert group’s tacit knowledge in terms of a learning product and process. Tacit knowledge refers to practice-based knowledge which has become partly latent, yet functional knowledge. The characteristics and role of tacit knowledge and knowing in the construction of expertise are discussed - the concept of expert knowledge is closely linked with tacit knowledge. In this chapter tacit knowledge is addressed in relation to various components like skills and competences and by way of explication and argumentation as to the process and product aspects, plus individual and collective aspects of tacit knowledge. Based on these, the chapter also presents a tacit knowledge model with four different perspectives. As a complex and multidimensional phenomenon, tacit knowledge and knowing are difficult to explicate, and they are closely intertwined with various cognitive and emotional aspects in thinking and action. Toom and Husu’s article points out the importance of taking into account non-logical cognition and its’ fusion to other psychological processes, and secondly, the essential role of these in deep learning processes.

In Chapter 10 Paivi Tynjâla, Eeva K. Kallio and Hannu L. T. Heikkinen continue the discussion on expert knowledge in the light of adult cognitive development and research of phroiiêsis, i.e., practical wisdom. Learning cannot be reduced just into a change in thinking or knowledge structures: it involves a complex set of phenomena. Adult thinking is viewed from the perspective of professional (learning) expertise and phronêsis. It is argued that professional expertise requires holistic thinking involving the ability to integrate or reconcile various and even conflicting perspectives in order to find new solutions to problems. Also, the role of emotions and ethical reflection is emphasised. This leads the readers to the notions of practical wisdom, and a related model of the nature of wisdom in professional expertise. The development of expertise and practical wisdom calls for pedagogical approaches that promote the deep integration of different perspectives and forms of knowledge, and ethical action in complex problem-solving situations.

The third thematic section, Chapters 11 to 13, serves as a kind of critical evaluation and epilogue for this edition. The purpose of these three chapters is to open up further views and questions on the development of adult thinking and learning processes.

Chapter 11 by Heidi Hyytinen, Liisa Postareff and Sari Lindblom-Ylânne discusses methodological challenges in the study of knowledge conceptions and psychological epistemology. Similarly to the other chapters of this book, a multiperspective approach is adopted also in this methodological context. Various mixed-methods and other combined approaches have much to offer to current adult developmental and learning research and there is also a need for an enhanced dialogue between theoretical, methodological, and empirical perspectives. The authors argue that there is an urgent need to develop and elaborate authentic and mixed methods to be used in future research.

In Chapter 12 Piijo Stahle, Laura Mononen, Paivi Tynjala and Eeva K. Kallio address the connections between systems approach, adult cognitive development and learning. Firstly, they offer an overview of the history of systems approach and describe the three main systems paradigms. They conclude that Jan Sinnott’s model of adult thinking can be partly traced to the general systems theory and chaos and complexity theories, theory of self-organising systems, and the views on self-renewing systems. They question, however, the individual-centred approach of many adult cognitive models and call for more attention to systemic, social, situational, and collaborative levels in further research.

In Chapter 13 Miira Tuominen and Eeva K. Kallio present theoretical and philosophical criticism mainly with respect to current claims and assumptions regarding adult cognitive development. They begin with the notion that the concepts of relativism and dialectical thinking are often used with reference to the core features of adult cognition and absolutistic (dualistic) thinking associated with the cognition of youth, in particular. They draw a distinction between philosophical and psychological epistemological claims and discuss the logical difficulties implied in current psychological theorisation. Furthermore, they conclude that rather than in light of epistemological relativism and dialectical thinking, mature adult cognition should be neutrally described in terms of integration. Here, integration means understanding that people have a variety of views that may differ from those of ours or some others, but we still need mutual ethical understanding and respect for each other as people while also taking into account not only rational but also emotional aspects.

All authors of these articles are Finnish scholars. This edition is based on an earlier book in Finnish (Kallio, 2016), but is a modified and enlarged version of it. In recent decades there has been considerable interest and internationally acclaimed scholarly activity regarding adult cognitive development, social psychology, and adult learning processes in Finland (e.g., Helkama & Sortheix, 2015; Hyytinen, Nissinen, Ursin, Toom, & Lindblom-Ylanne, 2015; Lehtinen, McMullen, & Gruber, 2019; Mahon, Heikkinen, & Huttunen, 2018; Pirttila-Backman & Kajanne, 2001; Toom, 2012; Tynjala, 2008).

This book offers an introduction to the closely interconnected fields of adult cognitive development and adult learning. We hope that this book will bring about further discussion on these issues more generally. The main conclusion based on these articles is that there is a need for diverse approaches, multiple perspectives and different methods, including theoretical, conceptual, and philosophical ones. In this regard, the actual challenge for the future is, however, how these diverse approaches could be integrated in one way or another into a functional framework, which in itself will probably need, and be under, constant construction.


Helkama, K., & Sortheix, F. M. (2015). Moral development, cultural differences. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International encyclopaedia of the social and behavioral sciences (2nd ed., Vol. 15, pp. 781-787). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Elsevier.

Hyytinen, H., Nissinen, K., Ursin, J., Toom, A., & Lindblom-Ylannc, S. (2015). Problem-atising the equivalence of the test results of performance-based critical thinking tests for undergraduate students. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 44, 1—8. doi:10.1016/j. stueduc.2014.11.001

Kallio, E. (Ed.). (2016). Ajattelun kehitys aikuisuudessa: Kohti monindkokulmaisuutta. |The development of thinking in adulthood: Towards multiperspective thinking] (Research in Educational Sciences No. 71). Helsinki, Finland: The Finnish Educational Research Association.

Lchtincn, E., McMullen, J., & Gruber, H. (2019). Expertise development and scientific thinking. In M. Murtonen & K. Balloo (Eds.), Redefining scientific thinking for higher education: Higher-order thinking, evidence-based reasoning and research skills, (pp. 179—202). London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mahon, K., Heikkinen, H. L. T., & Huttunen, R. (2018). Critical educational praxis in university ecosystems: Enablers and constraints. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 27(3), 463-480. doi: 10.1080/14681366.2018.1522663

Pirttila-Backman, A. M„ & Kajanne, A. (2001). The development of implicit epistemologies during early and middle adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 8(2), 81-97.

Toom, A. (2012). Considering the artistry and epistemology of tacit knowledge and knowing. Educational Theory, 62(6), 621-640.

Tynjala, P. (2008). Perspectives into learning at the workplace. Educational Research Review, 3(2), 130-154.

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