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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief [Apr. 3rd, 2019|09:49 pm]
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Adolescent Thought Processes

In scientific and argumentive reasoning, reasoning about possibility enables one to think in a framework of alternatives to one’s own or others’ claims, and of the evidence bearing on each of them. In this respect, adults do only slightly better than teens (Kuhn, 1991), in responding, for example, to such questions as, What might someone else who had a different view of this say? When asked to make a verdict decision following presentation of legal testimony, teens as well as adults often consider only one verdict and generate evidence to support it, without considering alternative verdicts and the degree to which they may be consistent with the evidence (Kuhn, Weinstock & Flaton, 1994).

Concepts of Self as Knower and Learner

By early adolescence, children have developed concepts of themselves that are relatively stable, well-articulated, and integrate isolated behaviors into more abstract generalizations about the self (Damon & Hart, 1998). Among the most significant of the dimensions in terms of which this generalization occurs is competence, particularly intellectual competence. Adolescents’ conceptions of themselves as intellectually able or helpless have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies-a particularly disturbing fact given the increasing tendency for self-concept to vary along gender lines, with girls more likely to view their competence in negative terms.

Becoming increasingly able to reflect on one’s own thought and take charge of it, it has been suggested, is the most significant intellectual accomplishment that may take place during the teen years. It is an achievement in metacognition, rather than cognition, and is a powerful determinant of whether and when particular cognitive skills will be applied. Knowing what you know and how you know it provides an essential foundation for determining how new information should be interpreted and reconciled with existing beliefs, and for updating those beliefs as seems warranted.

Among the epistemological beliefs that provide a foundation for intellectual self-regulation and management are what Resnick and Nelson-LeGall (1997) describe as “believing that problems can be analyzed and that solutions often come from such analysis, and believing that you are capable of that analysis” (p. 149). Such beliefs go a long way in determining how adolescents use the thinking processes of which they may be capable.


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