What Are They Thinking: Measuring Adult Thought at UDM

Frost, Sarah, Christina Thorne, and Carol Weisfeld

Cognitive development as described by Piaget is composed of progressively complex stages of thinking which occur between infancy and adolescence. Contemporary psychologists suggest that development continues in adulthood beyond the formal operations stage attained in adolescence. This concept is called post-formal thought which involves complex cognitive processes including the recognition of subjective experience together with contextual information to form logical thought. The consideration for multiple perspectives allows for adults to understand there are many solutions to one problem. The Complex Post-formal Thought Questionnaire assesses adults’ ability to engage in complex post-formal thought (Sinnott & Johnson, 1997). The Need for Cognition Scale assesses an individual’s tendency to engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive activity (Cacioppo, Petty, Kao, 1984). Both questionnaires were administered to 83 undergraduate students at University of Detroit Mercy. Results indicate that post-formal thought and need for cognition remain stable traits over the course of a semester. Also, students high in need for cognition also expressed more advanced post-formal thinking than students low in need for cognition. Furthermore, it was found that age alone does not predict the level of cognitive functioning. Implications for understanding adult thought are discussed. Applications for the new UDM Core Curriculum in terms of metacognitive skills are explored.