Adaptation for growth as a common goal throughout the lifespan: Why and how
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Psychology of Learning and Motivation
Thriving in a constantly changing environment requires human learners to adapt. In turn, adaptation requires learning new information and skills (i.e., adaptation for growth). Although specific personal goals change across the lifespan, the need for adaptation for growth is common across all ages. Yet, research with older adults often focuses on adaptation to loss, whereas research with infants and children often focuses on adaptation for growth. However, recent aging research demonstrates the possibility of cognitive maintenance, or even growth, in older adulthood. Focusing more on gains rather than losses may lead to a better understanding of adaptation for growth, and ultimately functional independence in a dynamic environment. After briefly reviewing theories on cognitive growth across the lifespan, we present a novel theoretical framework to explain why and how human learners adapt to grow in a dynamic environment from infancy to older adulthood. This framework highlights the role of real-world skill learning on three intermediate elements of learning to adapt relevant for any age. A driving metaphor conceptualizes these three elements: (1) learning what to learn and how to learn (GPS), (2) motivation to learn and adapt (fuel), and (3) cognitive abilities for learning (engine). We propose that these three elements lead to functional independence in a dynamic environment. We explain how the new framework builds on and extends existing learning research with older adults. Implications and future directions to raise the standard for cognitive aging from loss prevention and maintenance to adaptation for cognitive growth are discussed.
Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences
Strickland-Hughes, C. M.
Adaptation for growth as a common goal throughout the lifespan: Why and how.
In Kara Federmeier (Eds.), Psychology of Learning and Motivation (387–414). Cambridge, MA: Academic Press