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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Social Psychology and Adult Learning

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We all interact with many people on a regular basis. Some of our encounters go better than others. Some go very well. Some leave us feeling uneasy and anxious. What elements of our personalities and of the people we meet make the difference? This is the subject of Social Psychology. Social Psychology is used to describe, explain and predict similarities and diversities in humans.


This is what has led our class to study social psychology in adult development, for each individual to gain a better perspective of ourselves through common factors and individual experiences. There are several psychologists that have developed theories to aid in defining our stages of emotional, moral, and even physical development.


Before you begin to study adult development, you must understand how we learn and interact with people. In Kolb’s Model of Experimental Learning there are four stages. Concrete experience is how we learn and what we learn. For example, where and when things happen, what you perceive is real to you. Observation and reflection, this is your thinking process. A person begins to categorize and reflect on how you felt about what happened also why it happened. This signifies a pattern of relationship.


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Formation of abstract concepts and generalizations, is the point where you begin to formulate the thought process in a particular category, your mind is trying to put concepts in order. The final stage is testing and implication in new situations, which is a pattern of focus, where we are going to put information and how we will use this information.


Erik Erickson’s Theory of Identity has been the basis and major influence in most of the stage theories of adulthood. He proposed that at each stage of life beginning at birth, we go through a dilemma defined by a pair of opposing possibilities; the other is the less healthy outcome. Erickson believed that a total healthy resolution was not the key to moving from stage to stage, nor is it the answer, the best resolution as he sees it is a balance of the two sides such as initiative vs. guilt, a child can become too much initiative causing harm to himself or to others. The identity theory also states that these crises are forced on us which moves us through the life cycle that is why each stage is age defined.


If these stages begin at birth for everyone then what influences our behavior causing us to move through the various stages? Some people argue that is in our nature that impacts us the most. Nature is what we are born with our genes and our internal make up; these factors can impact a person physically and emotionally. On the other side of the argument is the nurturing side which is environmental, meaning how a child is raised how much time is spent with that child, what has a child been taught. Both nature and nurture affect the human development.


As we begin to develop or identity and who we are, our thoughts begin to develop. Jean Piaget believed children pass through four periods of mental development. During the sensorimotor period, they obtain a basic knowledge of objects through their senses. This period lasts until about age . During the preoperational period, from about to 7, children develop such skills as language and drawing ability. In the period of concrete operations, from about 7 to 11, they begin to think logically. For example, they learn to organize their knowledge, classify objects, and do thought problems. The period of formal operations lasts from about 11 to 15. At this time, children begin to reason realistically about the future and to deal with abstractions. Abstractions are ideas about qualities and characteristics viewed apart from the objects that have them.


James Fowler presented a six-stage theory of faith development presented in his book, Stages of Faith, which has since become the most popular and commonly accepted theory


The adult stages in Fowlers theory typically include stages three through six. The earlier stages follow normal development; the various stages of faith are neither achievements, nor progressive steps to salvation, but simply degrees that ones faith goes through as it develops. The following is a brief description of the adult stages


Stage . Synthetic-conventional In this stage, a person knows why he/she believes. One pulls together various parts of faith and tends to conform to the majority, and people are rewarded or punished for following rules laid down by the proper authority (the church or Bible). Views at this stage are often stereotyped.


Stage 4. Individuative-reflective There is a relocation of authority within the self, along with a critical reflection of ones beliefs. Faith becomes uniquely ones own. In addition, there is usually a struggle to grow and understand. Stage 5. Conjunctive Individuals realize the paradoxes in faith, and learn to live with their faith and their questions. This stage involves a dynamic, trusting relationship with God. Stage 6. Universalizing Faith This stage is defined by feeling at one with God. People here invest their lives in a larger cause without being concerned by the personal cost Fowlers theory is very important, he hypothesizes that each of us develops through a shared series of faith structures(of world views, broad internal working models, meaning systems, or whatever we might choose to call them) over the course of childhood and adulthood. These stages are simply frameworks of understanding people and where they are in regard to their faith.


In the beginning of class we studied internal adult development, but in order to fully understand total development we must now turn to our external development. External development is not a formal term, it means to me the relationships you have with others and how you are affected. Sigmund Freud was a medical doctor from Vienna, who primarily worked with the mentally retarded. He formed several theories to explain how we as humans react to on another. The stage is called the ID, a drive that is in everyone, it is instinctual, and can even be traced back to cavemen. Out of the ID comes the libido, this is something energizing in the ID that wants immediate gratification. The next stage is the Super Ego, this deals with our morals, what we learned from our parents, our value system. Then there is the Ego, which Freud defines as reality, the part of the personality that seeks to satisfy the ID and the Super Ego in accordance with reality. This can also be defined as the balance between the ID and the Super Ego. In dealing with certain external factors a person may develop a generalized feeling of fear or apprehension that may or may not be associated with an object or event, this is called anxiety, anxiety is displayed through a physiological change. Anxiety is a bi product of stress caused by a stressor. A stressor is the environmental stimulant that affects the organism. In order to handle stress we protect ourselves emotionally, almost as if we are wearing a suit of armor.


This suit of armor is called defense mechanisms, an unconscious way of reducing anxiety by distorting reality. The defense mechanisms are Repression- not dealing with something may cause displaced aggression. Denial � refuse to accept the source of frustration. Projection - attribute to other people your own undesirable traits. Reaction formation - behave in a manner opposite from true anxiety provoking feelings. Sublimation - redirect socially unacceptable impulses into acceptable ones. Rationalization � reinterpret behavior to in terms to make it acceptable.


To conclude we must realize the inevitable which is we are all going to die. Kubler-Ross developed Stages of Dying. How people cope with their own death or the death of a loved one. There are five stages that all people go through, the first is denial, which is the belief that it did not happen or is not going to happen to me. Anger, why did God take this person from me, why am I going to die? Bargaining, if I do something then God will spare my life allow me to live longer or spar the life of someone else. Depression, which can be categorized as sadness and then finally the stage of acceptance, you are ready to die or you have accepted the death of your loved one.


Exploring the subjects of adult behavior has been an enlightening experience. Each theory that was studied or discussed gave me further insight into my life experience. It also helped me see where I am currently and where I would like to proceed. Life is a learning process and the more we learn about our selves in relation to the world, we then become better people. ”Life is about moving from an imperfect state to a perfect state.”











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