An Overview of Human
David S. Walonick, Ph.D.
Each of us invents informal ways of looking at our own
and other people's growth. These paradigms of human
development, while obviously lacking in scholastic rigor,
provide us with a conceptual framework for understanding
ourselves and others. This paper will discuss several
aspects of human development, including consciousness,
intelligence, learning, memory, motivation, personality
Psychological models of development
A psychological model is an attempt to map some of the
dimensions of behavior. Martone and Fredenburgh (1973)
summarize four general models of human development.
1) The Freudian psychoanalytic model view man
as an animal caught in a state of conflict between primal
urges and civilized forms of behavior. Motivation is a
manifestation of subconscious sexual and aggressive
2) The behaviorist model views man as a
machine. Learning involves the association of stimulus
and response, or secondary reinforces. Classical
conditioning theory best exemplifies the behaviorist
3) The humanistic model describes behavior as
from the perspective of self-perception. The model draws
heavily from existential themes. People are in the act of
becoming and transcendence.
4) The consistency model stresses the idea that
people generally retain the same behavior patterns during
their life-long endeavors. This model states that
individuals generally follow general principles and
courses of action. Cognitive-dissonance theory best
illustrates this model.
There is a wide diversity of characteristics involved
in human development. The most common paradigm is to view
human development from the physiological-psychological
dichotomy. Some traits seem to be genetically determined,
while others appear to be of a cognitive origin. It is
only when we integrate the two perspectives that a
coherent picture of development occurs. For example, as
the adolescent reaches puberty (a physiological change),
there are also accompanying psychological changes, and
the emotional needs and drives of the individual change.
British neurologist John Lober has examined several
children who were victims of hydrocephalus, or water on
the brain. These individuals often have less than five
percent of the normal brain cortex, yet they sometimes
have higher than average IQ scores, and show little or no
thinking impairment. This finding casts serious doubts on
the notion that the cerebral cortex is the seat of
consciousness. (Talbot, 1988)
Descartes spoke of the dualistic nature of the
physical and mental universes. Many modern thinkers have
abandoned this way of thinking and have instead adopted a
materialistic approach. They believe that the only
things that should be studied are the physical components
of the brain, and that consciousness can be understood
from a biological perspective. The latest approach,
called functionalism, is to view consciousness as
a structure, rather than a substance.
Physicist Fred Alan Wolf predicts that "the mind
will not be found in any physical pattern of our brain
material". (Talbot, 1988, p. 100) He believes that
consciousness is a nonlocal entity, and like the quantum
itself, cannot be found in any single location. This holistic
approach encompasses the idea that all things are somehow
British neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles believes
that consciousness exists apart from the brain itself,
and he has identified the portion of the brain that might
be responsible for the interaction between matter and
spirit. (Talbot, 1988) This region, known as the
supplementary motor area (SMA), was first explored in the
1920s. Several neurophysiologists found synaptic brain
activity in the SMA that preceded muscular movement by
nearly a full second. This increase in electrical
activity became known as readiness potential.
In 1980, a team of Swedish neurophysiologists Nils
Lassen and Per Roland used a new radioactive technique to
map brain activity before and during complex motor tasks.
They found that intention (the thought of making a
movement) began as brain activity in the SMA, and it
preceded all other brain activity. Eccles points out that
the bursts of activity in the SMA nerve cells were not
triggered by other nerve cells in the brain--they
originated there. Eccles takes this as irrefutable
evidence to mean that "a mental act of intention
initiates the bursts of discharges in the nerve
cells". (Talbot, 1988, p. 107)
Michael Talbot describes the activity of the SMA
following mental intention as the software of
consciousness, while the physical material of the
brain is the hardware. The link between intention
and SMA electrical activity is the at the "edge of
physical reality as we know it, and still something seems
to lie beyond". (Talbot, 1988, p. 110) Talbot
believes that something is pure information. This seems
similar to Jung's theory of a universal consciousness.
Physicist David Bohm has hypothesized a holographic
picture of consciousness, where our brains are somehow
interconnected with the rest of the universe. (Wilber,
1982, p. 44-104)
For many years, we believed that IQ tests provided a
reliable indicator of human intelligence. We held that
they provided an accurate picture of how well a person
would do in school. We even accepted their limitation
that they were insensitive to racial and cultural
differences. However, in 1987 Yale psychologist Robert
Sternberg announced that IQ tests only account for
between 5 and 25 percent of the variance in scholastic
achievement. Sternberg asserts that current tests lack
emphasis on practicality, novelty, and creative thinking.
"In requiring only the answering of questions, IQ
tests are missing a vital half of intelligence--the asking
of questions". (Ferguson, 1990, p.111) In his book, Beyond
I.Q.(Cambridge University Press, 1985), Sternberg
states that intelligence involves three major components:
Context has to do with the ability to adapt to or
shape the environment. Experience is the set of
learning situations that a person has been exposed to. Components
are the structures and mechanisms that underlie
New Zealand psychologist J.R. Flynn agrees. He
believes that IQ tests measure an abstract
problem-solving ability that is sometimes correlated with
intelligence, but that true measures of intelligence must
involve issues of motivation, cultural context, values,
incentives and environmental characteristics (Ferguson,
1990). Flynn studied the results from 14 nations and
concluded that IQ scores had increased significantly in
the last generation, but he points out several
contradictions. For example, American and Norwegian IQ
scores went up, while academic achievement in these
countries declined. In addition, American students of
Japanese and Chinese descent usually had lower IQ scores,
but often attained higher levels of academic achievement
than their white counterparts.
Benjamin Bloom and colleagues at the University of
Chicago studied top performing Americans in six fields.
They found that a child's determination (not innate
gifts) was the most important predictor of success.
Persistence and eagerness were found to be strongly
related to achievement. Bloom believes that these
qualities are learned from parents teachers and peers.
Drake University researchers Margaret Lloyd and
Theresa Zylla presented convincing evidence in 1989 that
offering students rewards could increase their IQ scores
by up to 14 points. Students were given an IQ test to
establish a baseline. A second, equally difficult, IQ
test was administered, but half the students were
promised prizes for correct answers. Fifty percent of
these students showed significant improvement in test
scores, while only one-eighth of the students in the
other group showed improvement. (Ferguson, 1990)
Piaget's theory of intellectual development was the
first to challenge the behaviorist model. While working
on the standardization of a children's intelligence test,
Piaget began focusing on children's wrong answers. He
became convinced that older children were not simple
"smarter" than younger children, but that
qualitative differences existed in their thinking. He
adopted an interview style of investigation, which was
substantially different from traditional quantitative
testing procedures. Piaget, an epistemologist, believed
that we could not understand intelligence unless we
studied its formation and evolution in childhood.
(Ginsburg and Opper, 1969)
Piaget's discoveries included the concepts of object-constancy
and conservation, or the ability of a child to
understand that some physical attributes of objects
(e.g., weight, substance, volume) are not altered if the
object changes shape. These concepts did not appear to be
something that could be taught to a child, but rather,
they appeared at a specific age during the child's
Piaget's put forth many definitions of intelligence,
but they all seem to be general..."a particular
instance of biological adaptation", "the form
of equilibrium toward which all the cognitive structures
tend", and "a system of living and acting
operations". (Ginsburg and Opper, 1969, p. 14).
Intelligence, according to Piaget, involves adaptation,
equilibrium and evolution. Operational thinking
(or the ability to manipulate abstract concepts in
creative ways) is the outward manifestation of
intellectual growth. Piaget recognized that emotions
somehow influenced thought, but did not explore the
concept in his research.
Piaget postulated that all human development involves
the biological features of organization and adaptation.
Organization is the tendency to systematize our world
into coherent structures. Adaptation is the tendency to
adapt to the environments through either assimilation or
accommodation. We assimilate features of the
"external reality" into our own psychological
structures, and we adapt our psychological structures to
meet the demands of our environment.
Piaget's understanding of intelligence changed over
time. Originally, he was concerned with the development
of verbal communication and moral issues. This gave way
to a study of the child's assimilation of various
scientific and mathematical ideas such as space, time,
velocity, and causality. Piaget's later thinking is
similar to that of author Hans Furth. In his book, Thinking
Without Language (Free Press, 1966), Furth states
that human intellect grows through contact with the
environment... and that this growth occurs even when
there is no linguistic system available.
How we learn has been the area of intense study in the
field of psychology. All theories of learning embody the
idea of establishing relationships between information.
The connectonist theory of learning holds that
a bond is established between a given stimulus and
response. This is known as the S-R law. Operant
conditioning was first proposed by Thorndike in 1898. In
1913, Watson expanded the theory to include human
learning. Classical conditioning theory was developed by
Pavlov in 1927 while studying the salivation of dogs in
anticipation of food. Instrumental conditioning is said
to occur when we repeat a behavior that has been linked
with a reward. Skinner (1951; 1953) further developed
operant conditioning and explored continuous, interval
and ratio reinforcement schedules, as well as positive
and negative reinforcement. Shaping behavior
involves reinforcing a series of continuously improving
approximations of the desired behavior. Skinner (1954) is
best known for his support of the behaviorist school and
his work with educational teaching machines.
The cognitive theory emphasizes the role of
perception, attitudes and beliefs in the learning
process. Gestalt theory (Köhler, 1929; Koffka,
1935; Perls, Hefferline, & Goodman, 1951) embodies
the two notions that "perception is organized, and
that the organization tends to be as good as the stimulus
conditions permit." (Deutsch and Krauss, 1965, p.
16) In Gestalt theory, the whole system contains more
than the sum of the parts. The greatest learning takes
place as a sudden insight when an individual perceives
the gestalt (i.e., organized whole). Field theory
(Lewin, 1935; Festinger, 1954) proposed the idea that
tension within a person drive the individual to act in
ways that will release the tension. According to this
theory, learning occurs because a person is driven to
reach a goal.
While studying outstanding achievers, Bloom (1985)
discovered three phases to the learning process. Phase
one was before age ten, where children were exposed to a
field more often by circumstance than personal choice.
During phase two (10-14 years), children became
"possessed" with the field, devoting themselves
to prolonged study and training. Finally, in phase three
(16-20+ years), they shifted from technical precision to
One recent idea of learning was proposed by Marc
Bornstein and Mariam Sigman (1987). By observing
four-month-old babies, they theorize that visual and
auditory attention are good indicators of scores on
intelligence tests. Their reasoning is that an
alert/attentive child is driven to explore the
environment, and thus has greater learning experiences.
(Ferguson, 1990, p. 111)
One novel theory of learning is proposed by George
Leonard, former senior editor of Look. Leonard
believes that the mind-set of a "fool" is most
conducive to learning. The fool sees things as if they
were being seen for the first time. The baby is allowed
to babble (like a fool) and thus learns at very rapid
rates. A "beginner's mind-set" is associated
with accelerated learning. (Ferguson, 1990, p. 119)
Human development is undergoing constant change, and
is therefore dynamic. It describes the changes
which everyone passes through during life. The epigenetic
principle states that genetic/hereditary
physiological changes lead to developmental milestones
which we normally achieve and pass. The critical
period hypothesis states that if a change doesn't
happen when it is supposed to, it doesn't happen at all.
(Martone and Fredenburgh, 1973)
Another way of learning
Cambridge biochemist Rupert Sheldrake (1981) has
pointed out many mysteries in the field of morphogenesis,
the study of how living forms come into being. While it
is clear that DNA is the blueprint, we currently have
little idea how individual cells differentiate and become
various organs of the body. Before a cell differentiates,
it has the capability to take on any form or function.
How does an individual cell know what to become? Our
understanding of regulation, the ability of an
organism to alter itself to an unexpected change, is
still in its infancy, and we also have almost nonexistent
knowledge how regeneration works. (Talbot, 1987)
The problems in understanding morphogenesis encouraged
Sheldrake to postulate the existence of a new
"morphogenetic field" (M-field). Sheldrake
believes that M-fields surround all living organisms and
govern their growth and structure. Even more important
though, is the proposal that habits and behaviors of a
species build up, and through a process called morphic
resonance, the information is transferred to the new
members of the species. Morphic resonance involves the
interspecies transfer of information without a direct
Several astonishing experiments have been done that
support this theory. Harvard psychologist William
McDougall (1927) ran a series of experiments beginning in
1920 to study how rats performed in a T-maze. Each
generation of rats seemed to be able to learn the maze
faster than the previous generation. In fact, after
twenty-two generations, rats figured out the maze ten
times faster than the first generation had. Even more
astonishing, rats who were not offspring of the trained
rats, also acquired the enhanced learning ability. In
other words, it appeared that information was somehow
being transferred, although there was no contact between
Scottish researcher F.A.E. Crew (1930) set out to
disprove McDougall's results. Crew's rats picked up where
McDougall's had left off. Even though a completely
different set of rats was involved, they seemed to have
acquired the knowledge of McDougall's rats. Australian
researcher W. E. Agar (1938) ran a similar set of
experiments for twenty-five years with identical results.
In another set of experiments with fruit flies, English
biologist Mae Wan Ho (1983) reported that genetic
mutations in one population were acquired by a completely
unrelated population. Talbot, 1987, p. 68-70)
If the M-field theory if correct, then human
development may involve more that we usually believe. If
new thoughts and behaviors were to somehow become
habitual in a sufficient number of people, it would
become increasingly easier for other members of humanity
to "tap into" this information. Biologist Lyall
Watson (1979), coined the term "hundredth monkey
effect" to describe the critical mass required
before information transfer could occur. While studying
Japanese monkeys in the 1950s, he observed that when a
sufficient number of monkeys learned a new skill, it
quickly become part of the repertoire of all monkeys in
the colony. Even more remarkable though, the new skill
simultaneously became part of the repertoire of other
monkeys that lived on different islands.
Watson believes this evidence points to the prospect
of a "group mind", similar to Carl Jung's
theory of the collective unconscious. Sheldrake's M-field
theory has produced heated response from the scientific
community. Nature, one of the most prestigious
British scientific journals, condemned Sheldrake's work,
calling it "the best candidate for burning".
(Talbot, 1987, p. 77) Sheldrake's theory, right or wrong,
is testable, and we can expect to see future studies in
Aristotle believed that the formation of memory was
like "tracing a signet ring on wax"; it depends
to a great extent on the state of the brain. He believed
that the young and the old had poor memories because they
are in a state of flux, either growth or decay.
The current estimate of the percent of our brain
capacity that we use is .01 percent. Our brain weighs a
mere three pounds, yet it possess nearly unlimited
potential. It contains between 10 and 15 billion nerve
cells. Richard Restak (1984) claims that the brain can
store more information than all the libraries in the
Johns Hopkins neurophysiologist, Neal Cohen believes
that memory defines our concept of self. It
"pervades all that we do, what we are, our
personalities, how we interact with other people..."
(Restak, 1984, p. 219) Our behavior is made from our
memories, even though we don't perceive them as such.
Russian psychologist, Aleksandr Luria, a prominent
twentieth century psychologist, had the opportunity to
test a Moscow reporter known to have a remarkable memory.
Writing about those sessions in The Mind of a
Mnemonist, Luria reports that the reporter (referred
to as S) had a near perfect memory and could recall long
strings of random digits thirty years later. S described
his technique as mostly visual, but also one of sensory
cross-over (synesthesia) where sights, sounds, taste,
smell, and feelings would become intermingled. For
example, he would speak of the color of a person's voice.
Luria's study suggests that memory depends on: 1) the
construction of stark and original images, 2) focused
concentration at the moment of memorization, 3) practice,
and 4) an intense desire to improve one's memory.
In spite of all the technological progress in
computers, it is clear that the mind is not just an
advanced computer. The mind has capabilities that the
computer cannot begin to imitate. One of the most
significant differences is that the mind can easily
recognize, complete and correct patterns, as well as
accommodate ambiguity. Computers perform these functions
quite poorly. Some recent computer programs incorporate a
technique known as fuzzy logic in an attempt to
model these aspects of the human brain. For example, all
people are different, yet, we can easily classify someone
as a person. Our definition of what defines a
"person" is necessarily vague in order to
encompass all people. Fuzzy logic is an attempt to model
that intentional ambiguity.
Restak (1984, p. 203) describes the experiments of
psychologist M. Cole that showed vast cultural
differences in memory. When twenty unrelated words were
presented to Liberian rice farmers, they could recall
only half of the words. If the words were incorporated
into a folk story, their memories improved dramatically.
Memorizing unrelated information is not compatible with a
Liberian rice farmer's learning paradigm. It is, however,
very much a part of Western education. Additional studies
have shown that the ability to memorize seemingly
meaningless information is positively correlated with
Experiments with different cultures have shown that
cultures that rely heavily on verbal communication have
better memories than those that depend on written
communication. The use of memory systems is strongly
correlated with the unavailability of books. Cultures
that depend on written records experience a kind of
disuse atrophy. (Restak, 1984).
Stanford researcher Gordon Bower and his coworkers
reported (1982) that our mood can effect our recall
ability. They found that we best remember happy events
when we are in a happy mood, and vice versa.
Additionally, they found that our mood during the
learning process was also the mood that would most likely
enable recall. "A given memory record can be
retrieved only by returning to that library, or
physiological state, in which the event was first
stored". (Ferguson, 1990, p. 122)
In a comprehensive report Remembering and
Forgetting: An Inquiry into the Nature of Memory,
Edmund Blair Bolles (1988) points out that ancient and
medieval cultures frequently used memory a system to help
the recall extensive information. The system involved
associating visual imagery and a particular space. By the
1300's, paper had become readily available, and as we
became increasingly reliant on paper, our memories
deteriorated. Bolles believes that learning occurs when
we pay attention to those things which deny our
assumptions. He maintains that "honest and
responsible remembering is a product of a lifetime of
practice. It doesn't just happen; it demands
commitment". (Ferguson, 1990, p. 122)
Researcher David Meir (1984) conducted a year-long
study of students from the University of Wisconsin. On a
simple recall test, students that used mental imagery
performed 12% better on immediate recall, and 26% better
on long-term retention tests. Furthermore, the more
senses that are involved in the learning process, the
greater the retention. At the Center for Accelerated
Learning, Meir uses a variety of techniques to construct
a total learning environment, including a relaxing
environment, high-energy involvement, music, games,
songs, positive suggestions, and humor. (Ferguson, 1990)
There are two parts to the process of memory--storage
and recall. Many researchers believe that we store all
our experiences. Considering the vast amount of
information that we are exposed to during our lifetimes,
this is truly an enormous task. Karl Pribram (1969) of
Stanford Medical School developed a holographic theory of
the brain to explain how this is possible.
Working with Karl Lashley (1950) on a series of
experiment with rats, Pribram hypothesized that memory is
not stored in a specific location in the brain, but
rather, it is distributed in some manner throughout the
brain in the same manner as a hologram. Physicist David
Bohm supports Pribram's holographic theory, and believes
that the entire universe operates in a holographic
fashion. (Wycoff, 1991)
If we are storing all experience in our brains, then
why can we not recall everything? The main reason that we
forget information is interference. Experiences interfere
with each other, and recall diminishes because the
retrieval patterns are lost.
In her book Mindmapping, Wycoff (1991, p. 17)
states that there are four primary ways that we can
1) Repetition is the customary method of
learning. There is no doubt that it works, but it may not
be the most effective method.
2) Association involves linking a piece of
information with some other information already in our
3) Intensity refers to the emotional content of
information. Information that has strong intensity or
emotional content will be more easily remembered.
4) Involvement of more than one of our senses
will help memory. The more senses that are involved, the
easier it will be to remember. Working with information
increases the chances of remembering it.
The homeostatic model of human motivation
states that biological "need" is the driving
force behind behavior. (Thorndike, 1898; Watson, 1913 )
The theory views a "need" as physiological
deprivation. The psychological consequence of a need is
"drive" (motivation). The need-drive theory
specifies the sequence of events as: 1) need, 2) drive
(tension), 3) goal seeking behavior, and 4) drive
The meta motivational model expands on the
homeostatic model. (Fromm, 1941; Maslow, 1954; Allport,
1955) It agrees that physiological deficiencies
(D-motives) are primary in nature. It states that once
physical needs have been met, there are other being-needs
(B-motives) that add to our sense of being. The hierarchy
of needs from low to high is: physiological, safety,
belongingness, esteem, self-actualization, knowledge,
understanding, and aesthetic. The theory acknowledges
that the ranking of the needs might not be the same for
A activation model of motivation is based on
the idea the brain produces "motivation
neurochemicals" in response to environmental
stimulation. (Luria, 1973; Brown, 1976; Blackmore, 1977)
This theory stresses that perception (through receptor
organs such as eyes, ears, nose, etc.) cause
neurochemical changes that create an optimal level of
excitation in the brain. It embodies the idea that
internal stimulation (thoughts) can also provide neural
The doctrine of instincts states that all
humans are born with species specific behavior
(instinct). (Martone and Fredenburgh, 1973, p. 105) The
theory encompasses the idea that there is a critical
window where specific behaviors develop. If some negative
influence prevents it, then the behavior will never occur
or it will be retarded. Once the behavior occurs, it will
be very resistant to extinction. The theory states that
individuals become ready for certain information for
brief stages during their development. Failures to grow
during these critical periods are, for the most part,
irreversible. (Piaget, 1952)
Drives that exert a positive influence on behavior are
called appetitive drives. Examples are eating to
satisfy hunger, or drinking to satisfy thirst. Food and
water would be called primary reinforcers because they
directly address the depravation. Aversive drives
exert a negative influence on behavior. An example would
be avoidance behavior. (Martone and Fredenburgh, 1973, p.
There are many alternatives to drive theory. Incentive
theory promotes the idea that incentives pull the
organism, where drives push the organism. (Janis and
Gilmore, 1965) Reinforcement theory states that
whatever motivates behavior also reinforces (rewards) it.
(Miller and Dollard, 1941; Hull, 1943) Cognitive
dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957) embodies the idea
that we attempt to maintain consistency in our attitudes,
beliefs and behaviors. When two items are in conflict,
the dissonance that exists in our minds provides the
motivation for behavior.
In the 5th Century B.C. Hippocrates proposed the idea
that personality and physique are related. In 1942,
Sheldon and Stevens developed a numerical method of
classifying body types based on bone and muscle
structure. (Fryer, et. al., 1954, p.207; Engle, 1964, p.
157) Three temperaments (personality types) were
associated with physical characteristics. This led to the
idea that personality is constitutionally (genetically)
determined. In spite of the unpopularity of the theory,
some researchers have found evidence confirming that
personality is correlated with physique. (Martone and
Most researchers, however, believe that personality is
a function of both genetics and environment. Monozygotic
twins have identical genetic structures because the egg
splits into two parts during the first cell division.
(Martone and Fredenburgh, 1973). Their twins physical
characteristics and intelligence are very similar, yet,
personality differences emerge due to social forces.
Personality traits express the uniqueness of our
There are two opposing theories to describe the
development of personality traits. One explanation known
as the gene block theory (Cooley, 1902; Tarde,
1903, McDougall, 1908; Ross, 1908) maintains that
genetics is responsible for personality differences. The
opposite view is described by sociocultural theory
(Watson, 1930; Lewin, 1935), where cultural experience
creates a mold for the personality. Both theories are
correct. (Hebb, D., 1966, p. 192-196)
Personality traits are often classified by category.
Examples of categories are: sociability, emotional
stability, objectivity, friendliness, and thoughtfulness.
Others have described personality traits as consisting of
bipolar dimensions. People are viewed as falling
somewhere on a continuum between two extremes. Examples
are: bright vs. dull, calm vs. unstable, radical vs.
conservative, insecure vs. confident, and suspecting vs.
There do not seem to be any universal rules about
aging. Cognitive aging, however, does involve a reduction
in the number of active brain cells. This somehow
interferes with short-term memory, while leaving
long-term memory relatively intact. CAT scans of very old
people confirm a measurable loss of brain cells,
resulting increased difficulty in new learning. (Restak,
1984) It is important to note, however, that intelligence
grows through the middle ages, and there is no marked
decline in I.Q. until after seventy years of age.
(Martone and Fredenburgh, 1973) Less that 5% of those
over age sixty-five have any significant memory
impairment. (Ferguson, 1990)
University of Michigan gerontologist Marion Perlmutter
believes that growth continues throughout life, and that
"mental decline is not the result of aging."
(Ferguson, 1990, p. 198) During a study of people over
eighty, Perlmutter discovered societal biases against the
elderly. For example, when young people spend more time
on a problem, we call them thoughtful, where an older
person might be called senile. As Perlmutter points out,
spending more time in thought may be a demonstration of
Modern research indicates that some forms of
intelligence show steady improvement throughout a
person's life. (Hutchison, 1986, p. 44) The term crystallized
intelligence was coined by psychologist Daniel
Goleman (1984) as "a person's ability to use an
accumulated body of general information to make judgments
and solve problems". Goleman believes that being
mentally active, educated, and flexible are the factors
that enable continued intellectual growth. Horn's
findings confirm that older people are better able to
incorporate a wider variety of information in problem
Alex Comfort, author of A Good Age (Crown,
1972) believes that 75% of the "aging" in this
country is cultural self-fulfilling prophesy made up of
folklore, prejudices, and misconceptions about age.
Comfort states that many physical illnesses are
misdiagnosed as "old age", and his reasoning
was embraced by the National Institute of Mental Health.
A Presidential Commission on Mental Health concurred, and
stated that "sick old people are sick because of
illness, not because of old age". (Ferguson, 1990,
University of Wisconsin researcher Dean Rodenheaver
(1983) describes two seasons of love in an adults life. Generative
love is of family and home and often makes sacrifices
for the next generation. Existential love comes
only with greater maturity, and it involves a deep
awareness of the fleeting nature of life. (Ferguson,
Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer points out that
shared cultural beliefs about aging are so strong that
they become shared realities. She believes that our
beliefs directly affect our aging process. In her book Mindfulness
(Addison, Wesley, 1989) Langler cites a 1970's study
where researchers created an 1959 environment for the
research participants. Men between the ages of 75 and 80
were placed in the environment and shown pictures of
themselves as they had been twenty years before. Within a
few days, participants showed a marked "decrease in
apparent age", both psychologically and
physiologically. Biological changes included increased
finger lengths, sitting height, improved manual
dexterity, and improved vision. Langer concludes that
mindfulness (remembering to pretend) is sufficient to
produce youthfulness. (Ferguson, 1990)
Researchers Margaret Linn and Kathleen Hunter (1979)
of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Miami,
Florida interviewed 150 people that were 65 or older.
They found that self-perceptions of one's relative age
are an accurate indicator of psychological functioning.
People 65 or older were asked the question "Compared
with others your age, how do you feel?". Those who
viewed themselves as younger had greater self-esteem,
more life satisfaction, were of a higher social class,
and had better health. The most important finding of this
study was that people who feel that they have control
over their own lives, also feel younger. (Ferguson, 1990,
Neurophysiologist John Lilly in The Center of the
Cyclone (1972, p. 9) reverberates Linn and Hunter's
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