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Nonabsolute/relativistic (N/R) thinking: a possible unifying commonality underlying models of postformal reasoning

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Title: Nonabsolute/relativistic (N/R) thinking: a possible unifying commonality underlying models of postformal reasoning
Author: Yan, Bernice Lai-ting
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Educational & Counselling Psychology & Special Education
Copyright Date: 1995
Subject Keywords Reasoning (Psychology); Creative thinking.; Relativity.
Abstract: This dissertation identified and addressed four of the unresolved issues pertaining to the proposition that nonabsolute/ relativistic (N/R) thinking is one of the possible unifying commonalities underlying the selected models of postformal reasoning, namely Problem Finding, Dialectical Reasoning, Relativistic Operations and Reflective Judgment. A total of 254 participants aged 10 to 48 and attending Grade 5 to doctoral studies were involved. Each participant was administered eight tests in pencil-and-paper format to measure eight different constructs of thinking. Different specific hypotheses were evaluated through different statistical approaches. The four identified issues were addressed as follows: Firstly, nonabsolute/ relativistic thinking was reconceptualized and operationally defined as a multidimensional and multilevel construct. Two dimensions were proposed: the basic form and the epistemic view. Within the basic form dimension, two levels were proposed: the formal and the postformal forms. Secondly, a battery of three tests was specifically designed by Arlin and the author to measure the different dimensions and levels of nonabsolute/ relativistic thinking. Thirdly, strong empirical evidence was obtained supporting the general hypothesis that nonabsolute/ relativistic thinking is a possible unifying commonality underlying the four selected postformal models. Within the construct of nonabsolute/ relativistic thinking, two dimensions, the basic form and the epistemic view, can be differentiated as hypothesized. Fourthly, empirical evidence was also obtained supporting the general hypothesis that nonabsolute/ relativistic thinking is an instance of both formal and postformal reasoning. Specifically within the basic form dimension, two qualitatively different forms, the formal and the postformal, can be differentiated as hypothesized. Findings also suggested that the development of a nonabsolute epistemic view might play a crucial role in the development of the postformal form. Therefore, the emergence of the postformal form can be explained by a paradigm shift from an absolute to a nonabsolute epistemic view. Performances in the tests of the postformal form and of the epistemic view in combination were found to be good predictors of performances in the selected postformal tests. Significant implications of the findings are that nonabsolute/ relativistic thinking represents a form of metamorphosis from closed-system to open-system thinking and it might serve as a potential springboard in the development of higher order thinking.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/8746
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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