[Gerontology Department Home Page] [Generativity Club News/Events]
[Psychology Department Home Page]
Department of Psychology
Northeastern Illinois University
5500 N. St. Louis Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625-4699
Office: SCI 307-A
Optimal Environment for Older Adults
[The Concept of Wisdom]
Although its origin dates back to antiquity, until recently the concept of wisdom has attracted little attention in the field of psychology due largely to its theological, mystical connotation. However, as we experience the unprecedented rate of "graying" America, the search for positive features of aging experience has intensified. Consequently, wisdom has been revived as a legitimate scientific concept because of its historical association with old age. At present, there are at least three main investigative approaches to this new psychological construct.
One approach involves what is often called "intellectual archeology"--digging up bodies of ancient literature to discover their traditional meanings. Because most intellectual archeological effort to date has focused solely on the Western tradition (e.g., biblical and Greek literature) while neglecting the Eastern interpretations, I have tried to excavate the neglected soil of the East, especially focusing on the texts of the Veda, Hinduism, and Buddhism to discern how wisdom has been treated there. The primary finding of my research has been that the Western tradition generally defines wisdom as a cognitive ability, whereas the Eastern tradition subscribes to a more inclusive definition that emphasizes the integration of multiple aspects of human consciousness (e.g., cognition, emotion, intuition). (ABSTRACT: History of Wisdom)
The second approach concerns the extent to which the historical accounts have had an impact on how people in contemporary Western and Eastern societies generally conceptualize wisdom. Research aimed at studying the common sense views of wisdom has focused on the discovery of "implicit theories" or pristine theories that lay people have about wisdom. Implicit theories can be obtained by simply asking people to reflect on the nature of wisdom. In the absence of any cross-cultural studies in this field, I have studied, in collaboration with Prashant Bordia, how the Western (i.e., American, Australian) and Eastern (i.e., Indian, and Japanese) adults perceive the concept. As we expected, the results of Multidimensional Scaling analysis revealed that the Western sample were more likely to conceptualize wisdom as a cognitive ability than their Eastern counterparts. (ABSTRACT: Implicit Theories of Wisdom)
Finally, based on these historical and common sense accounts as well as several contemporary psychological models, I have defined wisdom from a culturally inclusive developmental perspective. Broadly, wisdom's synthetic mode entails experience as an integrated "whole-part relationship." The synthetic mode concerns the dialectic nature of the human mind (i.e., dialectic being defined as any system or structure that moves toward states of increased integration) including both mind's contemporary and developmental features. In particular, this mode focuses on the effective synthesis of different aspects of mental functions (e.g., integration of affect/cognition) and the transformational changes of human consciousness (e.g., actualization tendency).
The analytical mode, on the other hand,
entails experience as "part to part relationships." The analytic mode concerns
the reduction or analysis of global systems into elementary qualities,
and an exploration of the relationship among these qualities. When examining
the analytic mode of wisdom, the "instrumental" or "adaptive" or "procedural"
value of observed behavior becomes the focus of inquiry. As a consequence,
inquiry into this mode explores specific knowledge content in relation
to various information processing functions and practical goals in life
(e.g., solving problems, making judgments, etc.). My recent research involves
operationalization of these wisdom characteristics and investigates how
these characteristics behave across generations in the U.S. and Japan.
The overall results suggest that older adults, regardless of their cultural
background, performed significantly better than their middle-aged counterparts
on four of the five wisdom measures. (ABSTRACT:
[Deductive Reasoning Competence/Performance in Late Adulthood]
Reasoning can be either inductive (inference moving from particular instances to general conclusion) or deductive (inference moving from general principles to particular instance). Whereas the competence to employ deductive reasoning in a systematic fashion becomes prominent in problem solving activities after adolescence, evidence suggests that in late adulthood the deductive reasoning performance (i.e., the behavioral expression of this competence) becomes susceptible to contextual variables such as task content. However, the use of metacognitive strategies (e.g., information classification and task recitation) has been shown to enhance accessibility of this competence and thus facilitate reasoning performance.
Willis F. Overton and I conducted a study involving Japanese
young and older adults using task recitation as a metacognitive strategy,
and found that the strategy did help older adults to perform better on
the deductive reasoning tasks. (ABSTARCT:
Deductive Reasoning) Furthermore, we replicated this
study with older Russian Jewish immigrants, and the preliminary analysis
reveal the similar pattern of results with the previous studies. We are
now in the process of investigating how other factors (e.g., acculturation
level, number of years in the U.S., etc.) may influence deductive reasoning
[Optimal Environments for Older Adults]
I am also interested in designing and creating a comfortable environment especially suitable for the needs of older adults. Using a familiar ecological equation, B = f (P, E) ("Behavior is a function of the Person and the Environment"), as a fundamental theoretical anchor, my approach to environment designing has focused on maximizing the "environmental press" as motivating stimuli while taking some of the aging related performance decline (e.g., visual and auditory capacity) into account.
When I was working at the S.C.D. Co. Ltd., an architecture firm based in Tokyo, Japan, in 1991-1992 as a full-time marketing research consultant, I implemented some of these ideas in designing infrastructures and management systems of several retirement communities.
As we make an advancements in various aspects of living conditions while seeking existential meanings beyond material possessions, religion and spirituality are playing an increasingly important role in the lives of contemporary older Americans. In recent years, a number of research groups have been established in several public and private organizations (e.g., the Gerontological Society of America, the Fetzer Insatiate) to explore the degree to which religion and spirituality influence the psychological health of older Americans. The definitions, and the distinction, of religion and spirituality still remain elusive, however. Currently, our research team is conducting a study to clarify the conceptual boundary of these two related but distinctive concepts. (ABSTRACT: Spirituality)
University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, Tx
University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, Tx
A.A San Antonio College, San Antonio, TX