Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Kids forever

Now doesn't this explain a lot? Psychological maturity comes much later than it used to and sometimes doesn't come at all. Not out of any willful refusal to grow up and accept adult responsibilities (though that may well be one of the consequences), but because of the needs of our economy and therefore of our educational system. Thus maintains Professor Bruce Charlton of the School of Biology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. It's called psychological neoteny (neoteny: The persistence in the reproductively-mature adult of characters usually associated with the immature organism).

A “child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviors and knowledge” is probably adaptive to the increased instability of the modern world, Charlton believes. Formal education now extends well past physical maturity, leaving students with minds that are, he said, “unfinished.”

“The psychological neoteny effect of formal education is an accidental by-product — the main role of education is to increase general, abstract intelligence and prepare for economic activity,” he explained.

“But formal education requires a child-like stance of receptivity to new learning, and cognitive flexibility."
Now when you read the next paragraph, do any names spring to mind?
"People such as academics, teachers, scientists and many other professionals are often strikingly immature outside of their strictly specialist competence in the sense of being unpredictable, unbalanced in priorities, and tending to overreact.”
Speaking of which, I refer you to this post from April for another take on the same phenomenon.

(via Tim Blair)

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