AdvisorMishra, Shitala P.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe effect of normative and nonnormative life events as possible determinants of wisdom in older adults was examined for two reasons. First, the study was designed to contribute to the growing body of knowledge about the aging process. Second, it explored an aspect of cognitive functioning, wisdom, that has only recently been accepted as a viable domain for scientific study and about which little is known. Because wisdom is often associated with the elderly, this study attempted to explain why it is that some older adults do, indeed, develop this optimal level of cognitive functioning and others do not. The experience of stress-producing positive and negative events over the years was looked at as a possible catalyst for the development of wisdom. The methodology was based on the seminal work of Baltes and his colleagues who have used a working definition of wisdom as "expertise in the fundamental pragmatics of life" (1987, p. 615). Ten men and twenty women, ranging in age from sixty-three to ninety-seven, volunteered for the study. These individuals, who lived in retirement communities or participated in educational programs, were physically active and mentally alert. Each subject, in a private, hour-long interview, was administered four separate procedures. First, the subject was asked four questions regarding his/her personal history. Second, the WAIS-R Information Subtest was given to screen out those who could not perform on a minimally acceptable level of cognitive functioning. Third, an original Life-Event Survey was administered to determine how many normative and nonnormative events the subject had experienced over the years. Fourth, the subject was asked to respond verbally to two hypothetical situations about older adults who faced age-specific dilemmas. This Wisdom Measure, as well as the coding of each transcribed response, was based on research by Smith and Baltes (1990). The data analyses revealed a significant positive correlation between the experience of life events and the expression of wisdom. These findings suggest that the experience of stress-producing life events over the years contributes to the development of problem-solving skills and a philosophical outlook associated with wisdom.
Degree ProgramEducational Psychology