Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Emerging Adulthood, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Human Development, Indigenous Psychology, Intelligence, Neuroscience, Successful Aging, The Self.

Description: As we enter into spring I am shifting gears a little bit on my posts. Specifically, I am going to focus a little bit on the edges of Psychology – on things that are not part of the mainstream parts of the discipline or on approaches to Psychology that are based on different assumptions or different cultural foundations than mainstream Western Psychology. I am not doing this to simply focus on aspects of the obscure. Rather, I am going to focus on a couple of areas that many people — many psychologists — believe need to be considered by Psychology. One such area involves the perspectives and experiences of aboriginal/indigenous/First Nations people, communities, and cultures. There is an increasing realization, not entirely tied to the works of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that indigenous perspectives on personhood, community, world views, and other aspects of culture are not well articulated within mainstream Psychology (and are, in fact, somewhat ignored or denigrated). Just as many post-secondary educational institutions are working on some form of what is referred to as “indigenization,” there is a drive to indigenize Psychology arising from a number of areas including Cultural Psychology and concerns over the impacts of colonization, racism, and stigma on Psychological accounts of psychological, health and wellness issues within First Nations, aboriginal and Metis communities.

The second area of reconfiguration, to be introduced more fully in an upcoming post, concerns developmental psychological accounts of the transition from adolescence to adulthood (and to citizenship or engagement in community) that has, over the past few decades appeared to become a much more complex and protracted process than it was even just a generation ago. A new developmental life stage of Emerging Adulthood has been proposed as a means of seeing and understanding the processes of experience acquisition, self-reflection, and life designing that occupies emerging adults in the decade spanning 18 to 29 years of age. More on this later.

There is no simple description of what an indigenized Psychology might look like as whatever that process involves goes beyond simply considering previously ignored or understudied content from a Psychological or Cultural Psychological perspective. Rather, we need to start by understanding the assumptions about the basic nature of personhood, individuality, and community connectedness that are at the heart of Western Psychological perspectives. Much like how emerging adults need to get to where they can see the diversity of perspectives ways of being that exist in the world only after we have a corner of a realization the implication of that same diversity for doing Psychology can we begin to develop a respectful understanding of indigenous perspectives, world views and psychologies.

So where to begin? Let’s start fairly simply by looking at a concept that will not seem particularly exotic – let’s think about wisdom. What would someone need to be like, act like, think like, for you to think of them as wise? They would likely have to be old as we are to inclined to view young people as wise, but what else? Well, before getting too far into your reflections think about something the author of the article linked below opens their discussion of the concept of wisdom with – we, western civilization people, don’t actually use the concept much at all these days. Consider why this might be as you read trough the article linked below. In addition, as you read, keep inn mind that most aboriginal cultures and communities deeply respect and value the actively roles played by their Elders in their communities. It is not much of a leap to note that Elders are considered to be wise, and to be the keepers (and deployers) of traditional cultural knowledge and practices. So, a small step towards awareness of the foundational assumptions of Western Psychology can be taken by reflecting upon our societal disuse of the concept of wisdom. Start that step by reading through the article linked below.

Source: A word to the wise: Why wisdom might be ripe for rediscovery, Jonathan Rauch, Opinion, Globe and Mail.

Date: May 11, 2018

Photo Credit: Bryan Gee. Source Image: Bettmann / Getty Images

Article Links:

So, what did you think of the discussion of the concept of wisdom? It is rather fascinating, I think, to note that we (as in people in mainstream modern day western society) do not think or speak much of wisdom, do not ascribe it people who we respect, and we do not typically desire our potential political leaders to aspire to it. Despite this, wisdom is clearly a core concept for us historically. As well, some areas within Psychology (including neuroscience) are noting places for wisdom in their view of the Psychological world. This does not mean that we need to try and convince people to look more seriously at wisdom (though that view as articulated by the author of the article linked above IS rather compelling), but rather, it is valuable to simply see the gap between Psychological theory and research and the day-to-day thinking, acting, and assumptions of members of mainstream North American communities. I will take this question up in relation to consideration of the place of Elders in indigenous (Aboriginal and Metis) communities and cultures in North America (and perhaps beyond) in subsequent posts.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. What is Wisdom?
  2. How, if at all, is consideration of wisdom involved in our thinking about and acting in relation to our industrial, political, and spiritual leaders?
  3. What roles might we see wisdom playing in the ongoing functioning of community, culture and individual wellbeing?

References (Read Further):

Depp, C. A., & Jeste, D. V. (2006). Definitions and predictors of successful aging: a comprehensive review of larger quantitative studies. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 14(1), 6-20.

Jeste, D. V., & Oswald, A. J. (2014). Individual and societal wisdom: explaining the paradox of human aging and high well-being. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 77(4), 317-330.

Weststrate, N. M., Ferrari, M., & Ardelt, M. (2016). The many faces of wisdom: An investigation of cultural-historical wisdom exemplars reveals practical, philosophical, and benevolent prototypes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(5), 662-676.

Landes, S. D., Ardelt, M., Vaillant, G. E., & Waldinger, R. J. (2014). Childhood adversity, midlife generativity, and later life well-being. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 69(6), 942-952.

Ardelt, M., & Oh, H. (2016). Correlates of wisdom. The encyclopedia of adulthood and aging.

Dennis, M. K., Kepple, N. J., & Brewer, I. I. (2017). Grandparents of the community: Lakota elders’ view of intergenerational care. GrandFamilies: The Contemporary Journal of Research, Practice and Policy, 4(1), 9.