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Aging Societies and the Ethical Challenges of Long Life  

Allison R. Heid and Steven H. Zarit

Individuals are living longer than they ever have before with average life expectancy at birth estimated at 79 years of age in the United States. A greater proportion of individuals are living to advanced ages of 85 or more and the ratio of individuals 65 and over to individuals of younger age groups is shrinking. Disparities in life expectancy across genders and races are pronounced. Financial challenges of sustaining the older population are substantial in most developed and many developing countries. In the United States in particular, employer-based pension programs are diminishing. Furthermore, Social Security will begin taking in less money than it pays out as early as 2023, and the debate over its future in part entails discussions of equitable distribution of resources for the young in need and the old. Living longer is associated with a greater number of chronic health conditions—over two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries in the United States have two or more chronic health conditions that require complex self-management regimes partnered with informal and formal care services from family caregivers and institutional long-term services and supports. Caregiver burden and stress is high as are quality care deficiencies in residential long-term care settings. The balance of honoring individuals’ autonomous wishes and providing person-centered care that also addresses the practicalities of safety is an ever-present quandary. Furthermore, complex decisions regarding end-of-life care and treatments plague the medical and social realms, as more money is spent at the end of life than at any other point and individuals’ wishes for less invasive treatment are often not accommodated. Yet, despite these challenges of later life, a large percentage of older individuals are giving financial support, time, and energy to younger generations, who are increasingly strained by economic hardship, the pressures on dual earner parents, and the problems faced by single parenthood. Older individuals’ engagement in society and the help they provide others runs counter to stereotypes that render them helpless and lonely. Overall, the ethical challenges faced by society due to the aging of the population are considerable. Difficult decisions that must be addressed include the sustainability of programs, resources, and social justice in care, as well as how to marshal the resources, talents, and wisdom that older people provide.


Culture and Intelligence  

Robert J. Sternberg

Intelligence needs to be understood in the cultural contexts in which it is displayed. For one thing, people in different cultures have different conceptions (implicit theories) of what intelligence is. Asian and African cultures tend to have broader and more encompassing views of intelligence than do Western cultures. Asians and Africans place less emphasis on mental speed and more emphasis on social and emotional aspects of behavior, as well as on wisdom. These implicit theories are important because in everyday life, people’s behavior is guided not so much by scores on standardized or other tests but rather by people’s implicit theories. For example, hiring and promotion decisions are usually based on such implicit theories, not on test scores. Studies of performances by people, especially children, in different cultures suggest that the strengths of individuals across cultures are not necessarily well represented by conventional intelligence tests. For example, in some cultures, knowledge of herbal medications used to combat parasitic illnesses, or knowledge of hunting and gathering, or knowledge of how to effectively ice fish, can be more important to assessing intelligence than scores on a standardized test. Eskimo children may know how to navigate across the frozen tundra in the winter without obvious landmarks, yet they may not be able to attain high scores on conventional intelligence tests. Some of those who would score highly on such tests would be unable to do such navigation, to their peril. There is no such thing as a culture-free test of intelligence, and there probably is no test that is genuinely culture-fair either. At best, tests should be culture-relevant, measuring the cognitive and other skills relevant to effectively adapt to particular cultures. These skills are likely to be partially but not fully overlapping across cultures. Thus, intelligence needs to be understood in its cultural contexts, not divorced from such contexts.


Historical Psychology  

Noemi Pizarroso Lopez

Historical psychology claims that the mind has a history, that is, that our ways of thinking, reasoning, perceiving, feeling, and acting are not necessarily universal or invariable, but are instead subject to modifications over time and space. The theoretical and methodological foundations of this movement were laid in France by psychologist Ignace Meyerson in his book Les fonctions psychologiques et les œuvres, published in 1948. His program stressed the active, experimental, constructive nature of human behavior, spanning behavioral registers as diverse as the linguistic, the religious, the juridical, the scientific/technical, and the artistic. All these behaviors involve aspects of different mental functions that we can infer through a proper analysis of “works,” considered as consolidated testimonies of human activity. As humanity’s successive achievements, constructed over the length of all the paths of the human experience, they are the materials with which psychology has to deal. Meyerson refused to propose an inventory of functions to study. As unstable and imperfect products of a complex and uncertain undertaking, they can be analyzed only by avoiding the counterproductive prejudice of metaphysical fixism. Meyerson spoke in these terms of both deep transformations of feelings, of the person, or of the will, and of the so-called “basic functions,” such as perception and the imaginative function, including memory, time, space, and object. Before Meyerson the term “historical psychology” had already been used by historians like Henri Berr and Lucien Febvre, a founding member of the Annales school, who firmly envisioned a sort of collective psychology of times past. Meyerson and his disciples eventually vied with their fellow historians of the Annales school for the label of “historical psychology” and criticized their notions of mentality and outillage mental. The Annales historians gradually abandoned the label, although they continued to cultivate the idea that mental operations and emotions have a history through the new labels of a “history of mentalities” and, more recently at the turn of the century, a “history of emotions.” While Meyerson and a few other psychologists kept using the “historical psychology” label, however, mainstream psychology remained quite oblivious to this historical focus. The greatest efforts made today among psychologists to think of our mental architecture in terms of transformation over time and space are probably to be found in the work of Kurt Danziger and Roger Smith.


The Origin of Psychology in the Humanities  

Sven Hroar Klempe

The term “psychology” was applied for the first time in the 16th century. Yet the most interesting examples appeared in three different contexts. The Croatian poet and humanist Marko Marulić (ca. 1520), the German philosopher and Calvinist Johann Thomas Freig (1575), and the German Lutheran philosopher Rudolph Goclenius (1590). Marulić’s manuscript is likely lost, and neither of the other two defined the term. Even the interests of the three went apparently in different directions. Marulić focused on poetry and history, Freig on physica, and Goclenius on theological issues. Nevertheless, they had something in common, and this may represent the gate through which the ways they conceived the term can be understood. They all dealt with the soul, but also that it was a highly disputable concept and not uniformly understood. Another commonality was the avoidance or reinterpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy. The Florentines’ cultivation of Plato had influenced Marulić. Freig was a Ramist, thus, also a humanist who approached philosophical questions rhetorically. Goclenius belonged partly to the same movement. Consequently, they all shared a common interest in texts and language. This is just one, yet quite important aspect of the origin of psychology as a science. Thus, these text- and humanity-oriented aspects of psychology are traceable from the very beginning. This reaches a peak point when Alexander Baumgarten publishes his two volumes on aesthetics, as they were based on Christian Wolff’s Psychologia empirica (1732). They are also traceable in Kant’s critical phase, and even more in Wundt’s folkpsychology. Thus there is a more or less continuous line from the very first uses of the term psychology and some tendencies in social and cultural psychology. In other words, psychology is pursued along an historical line that ends up in the German, and not the British enlightenment.


Time Perception in Development  

Yarden Kedar

Time is an abstract, unobservable, multifaceted, and elusive concept, whose nature has long posited a major challenge in philosophical and scientific thought. Nonetheless, despite the fact that time is not directly perceived by our senses, a universal human experience of time does exist. People are aware of time passing by; seek ways to measure it; arrange their lives around different timelines; and constantly use verbal expressions referring to time. A key question in developmental science is when and how children develop a sense and a concept of time. Infants are equipped from birth with perceptual time-tracking mechanisms for detecting patterns and changes in the physical environment, and their biological clocks reach an adult-like level already at 3 months of age. Infants have been shown to accurately register the recency, duration, frequency, and rhythmic aspects of events. Infants also gradually become more attuned to inter-sensory (visual/auditory/tactile) temporal relations based on co-occurrences of synchrony, duration, rate, and rhythm. These early abilities establish the foundation for the emergence of a metacognitive awareness and conceptualization of time in later stages of development. Several cognitive components such as attention, memory, and language are crucial in producing and maintaining our subjective perception of time. Additional factors include the social and cultural practices of time, which determine our time perspective and time perception. Verbal interactions relating to time between parents and their children aid the child in grasping distinctions between the past, present, and future, and between proximate and remote past and future times.