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Human Development--Kramer's classification of absolutist, relativistic, and dialectical styles of adult thought
Terms in this set (6)
There is always a single, clear answer to a given problem
In early adulthood, many people are in the absolutist phase: they are capable of addressing many problems, but they tend to believe that all problems have a correct answer. For example, a young person might commence university study believing that it will be a matter of learning facts and procedures, that the lecturers know everything and will tell you what is right and wrong.
individual has become aware that there are often different perspectives and the "correct" answer depends on the context
Students now appreciate that there are many theories and much conflicting evidence - but awareness of the diversity of perspectives can lead them to assume that very little is dependable. So, for example, your lecturer could spring a new theory on you at any time, and could herself be wrong. There is evidence that the undergraduate experience (where one is regularly dealing with conflicting theories and ideas) can facilitate the development of relativist thinking
reasoning in which competing positions are integrated and synthesis achieved
They can understand why there are diverse views, and they can appreciate that the overall progress and contributions of their chosen discipline derives from efforts to resolve its internal contradictions; this type of reasoning is more characteristic of people studying at higher degree level or of university staff. Although aspects of dialectical reasoning can be found in adults in their 20s and 30s, Kramer's (1989) research led her to the conclusion that this stage is only fully realized in late adulthood.
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