Adaptive Cognition and Psychological Literacy

Jacquelyn Cranney and Sue Morris

in The Psychologically Literate Citizen

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199794942
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199914500 | DOI:
Adaptive Cognition and Psychological Literacy

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Adaptive cognition can be defined as ways of thinking (and consequently behaving) that are beneficial to one’s (and others’) survival and well-being. The adaptive cognition approach draws on a number of perspectives in psychology, including developmental psychology (acknowledging the influence one’s ontogenetic experiences have had on one’s current thinking), evolutionary psychology (acknowledging the capacities and limitiations of the present-day brain given its evolutionary history), cultural psychology (acknowledging the way in which our current behaviour is shaped by culture given its history), and human ecology (acknowledging the complex interrelationships between homo sapiens and its biological and physical habitat). B.F. Skinner stated that current behaviour is determined by genetics, developmental history, and the current situation. The adaptive cognition perspective proposes that our current thoughts, feelings and behaviour—that is, our current psychological status—is determined by all of those factors, as well as our knowledge of this (metacognition). We are in the privileged position of being able to choose to utilise strategies that we know will improve our chances of achieving the goals of living a purposeful and fulfilling life. In doing so, we need to consider how we can also improve the chances of our fellow human beings achieving the same ends—simply because our capacity to adapt and survive as a species is very much dependent on our social nature. Psychology education is one arena in which this perspective can be shared and experienced.

Keywords: psychological literacy; adaptive cognition; human ecology; evolutionary psychology; cultural psychology; positive psychology; metacogntion

Chapter.  7680 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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