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Define Egocentrism And Sociocentrism In Critical Thinking

Not to be confused with Narcissism.

Egocentrism is the inability to differentiate between self and other. More specifically, it is the inability to untangle subjective schemas from objective reality; an inability to understand or assume any perspective other than their own.[1][2]

Although egocentrism and narcissism appear similar, they are not the same. A person who is egocentric believes they are the center of attention, like a narcissist, but does not receive gratification by one's own admiration. Both egotists and narcissists are people whose egos are greatly influenced by the approval of others, while for egocentrists this may or may not be true.

Although egocentric behaviors are less prominent in adulthood, the existence of some forms of egocentrism in adulthood indicates that overcoming egocentrism may be a lifelong development that never achieves completion.[3] Adults appear to be less egocentric than children because they are faster to correct from an initially egocentric perspective than children, not because they are less likely to initially adopt an egocentric perspective.[4]

Therefore, egocentrism is found across the life span: in infancy[5] early childhood,[4][6] adolescence,[7] and adulthood.[4][8] It contributes to the human cognitive development by helping children develop theory of mind and self-identity formation.

During infancy[edit]

The main concept infants and young children learn by beginning to show egocentrism is the fact that their thoughts, values, and behaviors are different from those of others, also known as the theory of mind.[9] Initially when children begin to have social interactions with others, mainly the caregivers, they misinterpret that they are one entity, because they are together for a long duration of time and the caregivers often provide for the children's needs. For example, a child may misattribute the act of their mother reaching to retrieve an object that they point to as a sign that they are the same entity, when in fact they are actually separate individuals. As early as 15 months old,[5] children show a mix of egocentrism and theory of mind when an agent acts inconsistently with how the children expect him to behave. In this study the children observed the experimenter place a toy inside one of two boxes, but did not see when the experimenter removed the toy from the original box and placed it in the other box, due to obstruction by a screen. When the screen was removed the children watched the experimenter reach to take the toy out of one of the boxes, yet because the children did not see the switching part, they looked at the experimenter's action much longer when she reached for the box opposite to the one she originally put the toy in. Not only does this show the existence of infants' memory capacity, but it also demonstrates how they have expectations based on their knowledge, as they are surprised when those expectations are not met.

During childhood[edit]

According to George Butterworth and Margaret Harris, during childhood, one is usually unable to distinguish between what is subjective and objective.[10] According to Piaget, "an egocentric child assumes that other people see, hear, and feel exactly the same as the child does."[11][unreliable source?]

Jean Piaget (1896–1980) developed a theory about the development of human intelligence, describing the stages of cognitive development. He claimed that early childhood is the time of pre-operational thought, characterized by children's inability to process logical thought.[12] According to Piaget, one of the main obstacles to logic that children possess includes centration, "the tendency to focus on one aspect of a situation to the exclusion of others."[13] A particular type of centration is egocentrism – literally, "self-centeredness." Piaget claimed that young children are egocentric, capable of contemplating the world only from their personal perspective. For example, a three-year-old presented his mother a model truck as her birthday present; "he had carefully wrapped the present and gave it to his mother with an expression that clearly showed he expected her to love it."[14] The three-year-old boy had not chosen the present out of selfishness or greediness, but he simply failed to realize that, from his mother's perspective, she might not enjoy the model car as much as he would.

Piaget was concerned with two aspects of egocentricity in children: language and morality.[15] He believed that egocentric children use language primarily for communication with oneself. Piaget observed that children would talk to themselves during play, and this egocentric speech was merely the child's thoughts.[16] He believed that this speech had no special function; it was used as a way of accompanying and reinforcing the child's current activity. He theorized that as the child matures cognitively and socially the amount of egocentric speech used would be reduced.[16] However, Vygotsky felt that egocentric speech has more meaning, as it allows the child's growth in social speech and high mental development.[16] In addition to Piaget's theory, he believed that when communicating with others, the child believes that others know everything about the topic of discussion and become frustrated when asked to give further detail.[15]

Piaget also believed that egocentrism affects the child's sense of morality.[15] Due to egocentrism, the child is only concerned with the final outcome of an event rather than another's intentions. For example, if someone breaks the child's toy, the child would not forgive the other and the child wouldn't be able to understand that the person who broke the toy did not intend to break it.[15] This phenomenon can also be backed by the evidence from the findings of the case study by Nelson, who studied the use of motives and outcomes by young children as aiding to form their moral judgements.

Piaget did a test to investigate egocentrism called the mountains study. He put children in front of a simple plaster mountain range and then asked them to pick from four pictures the view that he, Piaget, would see. The younger children before age seven picked the picture of the view they themselves saw and were therefore found to lack the ability to appreciate a viewpoint different from their own. In other words, their way of reasoning was egocentric. Only when entering the concrete-operational stage of development at age seven to twelve, children became less egocentric and could appreciate viewpoints other than their own. In other words, they were capable of cognitive perspective-taking. However, the mountains test has been criticized for judging only the child's visuo-spatial awareness, rather than egocentrism. A follow up study involving police dolls showed that even young children were able to correctly say what the interviewer would see.[17] It is thought that Piaget overestimated the extent of egocentrism in children. Egocentrism is thus the child's inability to see other people's viewpoints, not to be confused with selfishness. The child at this stage of cognitive development assumes that their view of the world is the same as other peoples.

In addition, a more well-known experiment by Wimmer and Perner (1983) called the false-belief task demonstrates how children show their acquisition of theory of mind (ToM) as early as 4 years old.[6] In this task, children see a scenario where one character hides a marble in a basket, walks out of the scene, and another character that is present takes out the marble and put it in a box. Knowing that the first character did not see the switching task, children were asked to predict where the first character would look to find the marble. The results show that children younger than 4 answer that the character would look inside the box, because they have the superior knowledge of where the marble actually is. It shows egocentric thinking in early childhood because they thought that even if the character itself did not see the entire scenario, it has the same amount of knowledge as oneself and therefore should look inside the box to find the marble. As children start to acquire ToM, their ability to recognize and process others' beliefs and values overrides the natural tendency to be egocentric.

During adolescence[edit]

Although most of the research completed on the study of egocentrism is primarily focused on early childhood development, it has been found to also occur during adolescence.[18]David Elkind was one of the first to discover the presence of egocentrism in adolescence and late adolescence. He argues, "the young adolescent, because of the physiological metamorphosis he is undergoing, is primarily concerned with himself. Accordingly, since he fails to differentiate between what others are thinking about and his own mental preoccupations, he assumes that other people are obsessed with his behavior and appearance as he is himself."[19] This shows that the adolescent is exhibiting egocentrism, by struggling to distinguish whether or not, in actuality, others are as fond of them as they might think because their own thoughts are so prevalent. Adolescents consider themselves as "unique, special, and much more socially significant than they actually are."[13]

Elkind also created terms to help describe the egocentric behaviors exhibited by the adolescent population such as what he calls an imaginary audience, the personal fable, and the invincibility fable. Usually when an egocentric adolescent is experiencing an imaginary audience, it entails the belief that there is an audience captivated and constantly present to an extent of being overly interested about the egocentric individual. Personal fable refers to the idea that many teenagers believe their thoughts, feelings, and experiences are unique and more extreme than anyone else's.[20] In the invincibility fable, the adolescent believes in the idea that he or she is immune to misfortune and cannot be harmed by things that might defeat a normal person.[13] Egocentrism in adolescence is often viewed as a negative aspect of their thinking ability because adolescents become consumed with themselves and are unable to effectively function in society due to their skewed version of reality and cynicism.

There are various reasons as to why adolescents experience egocentrism:

  • Adolescents are often faced with new social environments (for example, starting secondary school) which require the adolescent to protect the self which may lead to egocentrism.[21]
  • Development of the adolescent's identity may lead to the individual experiencing high levels of uniqueness which subsequently becomes egocentric – this manifests as the personal fable.[22]
  • Parental rejection may lead to the adolescents experiencing high levels of self-consciousness, which can lead to egocentrism.[23]

A study was completed on 163 undergraduate students to examine the adolescent egocentrism in college students. Students were asked to complete a self-report questionnaire to determine the level of egocentrism present. The questions simply asked for the reactions that students had to seemingly embarrassing situations. It was found that adolescent egocentrism was more prevalent in the female population than the male.[24] This again exemplifies the idea that egocentrism is present in even late adolescence.

Results from other studies have come to the conclusion that egocentrism does not present itself in some of the same patterns as it was found originally. More recent studies have found that egocentrism is prevalent in later years of development unlike Piaget's original findings that suggested that egocentrism is only present in early childhood development.[25] Egocentrism is especially dominant in early adolescence, particularly when adolescents encounter new environments, such as a new school or a new peer group.[13]

In addition, throughout adolescence egocentrism contribute to the development of self-identity; in order to achieve self-identity, adolescents go through different pathways of "crisis" and "commitment" stages,[26] and higher self-identity achievement was found to be correlated with heightened egocentrism.[27]

During adulthood[edit]

The prevalence of egocentrism in the individual has been found to decrease between the ages of 15 and 16.[28] However, adults are also susceptible to be egocentric or to have reactions or behaviours that can be categorized as egocentric (Tesch, Whitbourne & Nehrke, 1978).[29]

Frankenberger tested adolescents (14–18 years old) and adults (20–89) on their levels of egocentrism and self-consciousness.[30] It was found that egocentric tendencies had extended to early adulthood and these tendencies were also present in the middle adult years.

Baron and Hanna looked at 152 participants and tested to see how the presence of depression affected egocentrism.[31] They tested adults between the ages of 18 and 25 and found that the participants who suffered from depression showed higher levels of egocentrism than those who did not.

Finally, Surtees and Apperly found that when adults were asked to judge the number of dots they see and the number of dots the avatar in the computer simulation sees, the presence of the avatar interfered with the participants' judgment-making during the trials. Specifically, these were the trials where the number of dots seen by the participant was inconsistent from the number of dots the avatar saw.[32] Such effect on the participants diminished when the avatar was replaced with a simple yellow or blue line, which concluded that somehow the avatar having a personal attribute implicitly caused the participants to include its "vision" into their own decision making. That said, they made more errors when they saw prompts such as "the avatar sees N" when N was the number of dots the participant saw and not the avatar, which shows that egocentric thought is still predominant in making quick judgments, even if the adults are well aware that their thoughts could differ from others.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^Anderman, Eric M.; Anderman, Lynley H. (2009). "Egocentrism". Psychology of Classroom Learning: An Encyclopedia. 1: 355–357. 
  2. ^Young 2011, p. 134.
  3. ^Pronin, Emily; Olivola, Christopher Y. (2006). Encyclopedia of Human Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference. pp. 441–442. Retrieved 20 Oct 2014. 
  4. ^ abcEpley, Nicholas; Morewedge, Carey K; Keysar, Boaz (2004-11-01). "Perspective taking in children and adults: Equivalent egocentrism but differential correction". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 40 (6): 760–768. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2004.02.002. 
  5. ^ abOnishi, K. H., Baillargeon, R. (2005). "Do 15-month-old infants understand false beliefs?". Science. 308 (5719): 255–258. doi:10.1126/science.1107621. PMC 3357322. PMID 15821091. 
  6. ^ abWimmer, H., Perner, J. (1983). "Beliefs about beliefs: Representation and constraining function of wrong beliefs in young children's understanding of deception"(PDF). Cognition. 13 (1): 103–128. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(83)90004-5. PMID 6681741. 
  7. ^Adams, G. R., Jones, R. M. (1982). "Adolescent egocentrism: Exploration into possible contributions of parent-child relations". Journal of Youth and Adolescent. 11 (1): 25–31. doi:10.1007/BF01537814. PMID 24310645. 
  8. ^Keysar, B., Barr, D. J., Balin, J. A., Brauner, J. S. (2000). "Taking perspective in conversation: The role of mutual knowledge in comprehension". Psychological Science. 11 (1): 32–38. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00211. PMID 11228840. 
  9. ^Premack, D., Woodruff, G. (1978). "Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?". Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 1 (4): 515–526. doi:10.1017/S0140525X00076512. 
  10. ^Butterworth G Harris M (1994). Principles of developmental psychology. Hillsdale, NJ England: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. 
  11. ^McLeod, Saul (2010). "Preoperational Stage". 
  12. ^Pronin, E., & Olivola, C. Y. (2006). "Egocentrism". In N. J. Salkind. Encyclopedia of Human Development. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference. pp. 441–442. Retrieved 2006. 
  13. ^ abcdBerger, Kathleen Stassen (2014). Invitation to the Life Span, Second Edition. New York: Worth Publishers. 
  14. ^Crain, William C. (2005). Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications, Fifth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. p. 108. 
  15. ^ abcdFogiel, M (1980). The psychology problem solver: a complete solution guide to any textbook. New Jersey, NJ US: Research & Education Association. 
  16. ^ abcJunefelt, K (2007). Rethinking egocentric speech: towards a new hypothesis. New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. 
  17. ^Sammons, A (2010). "Tests of egocentrism"(PDF). Psychlotron.org.uk. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  18. ^Goossens L.; Seiffge-Krenke I.; Marcoen A. (1992). "The many faces of adolescent egocentrism: Two European replications". Journal of Adolescent Research. 7 (1): 43–58. doi:10.1177/074355489271004. 
  19. ^Elkind D (December 1967). "Egocentrism in adolescence". Child Dev. 38 (4): 1025–34. doi:10.2307/1127100. JSTOR 1127100. PMID 5583052. 
  20. ^Vartanian LR (Winter 2000). "Revisiting the imaginary audience and personal fable constructs of adolescent egocentrism: a conceptual review". Adolescence. 35 (140): 639–61. PMID 11214204. 
  21. ^Peterson K. L.; Roscoe B. (1991). "Imaginary audience behavior in older adolescent females". Adolescence. 26 (101): 195–200. PMID 2048473. 
  22. ^O'Connor B. P.; Nikolic J. (1990). "Identity development and formal operations as sources of adolescent egocentrism". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 19 (2): 149–158. doi:10.1007/BF01538718. PMID 24272375. 
  23. ^Riley T.; Adams G. R.; Nielsen E. (1984). "Adolescent egocentrism: The association among imaginary audience behavior, cognitive development, and parental support and rejection". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 13 (5): 401–417. doi:10.1007/BF02088638. 
  24. ^Rycek RF, Stuhr SL, McDermott J, Benker J, Swartz MD (Winter 1998). "Adolescent egocentrism and cognitive functioning during late adolescence". Adolescence. 33 (132): 745–9. PMID 9886002. 
  25. ^Myers, David G. (2008). Psychology. New York: Worth. ISBN 1-4292-2863-6. 
  26. ^Marcia, J. E. (1980). "Identity in adolescence". In Adelson, J. Handbook of Adolescent Psychology. New York: Wiley. 
  27. ^O'Connor, B. P. & Nikolic, J. (1990). "Identity development and formal operations as sources of adolescent egocentrism". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 19 (2): 149–158. doi:10.1007/BF01538718. PMID 24272375. 
  28. ^Louw, DA (1998). Human development, 2nd Ed. Cape Town, South Africa: Kagiso Tertiary. 
  29. ^Tesch S.; Whitbourne S. K.; Nehrke M. F. (1978). "Cognitive egocentrism in institutionalized adult". Journal of Gerontology. 33 (4): 546–552. doi:10.1093/geronj/33.4.546. 
  30. ^Frankenberger K. D. (2000). "Adolescent egocentrism: A comparison among adolescents and adults". Journal of Adolescence. 23 (3): 343–354. doi:10.1006/jado.2000.0319. 
  31. ^Baron, P; Hanna, J (1990). "Egocentrism and depressive symptomatology in young adults". Social Behavior and Personality. 18 (2): 279–285. doi:10.2224/sbp.1990.18.2.279. 
  32. ^Surtees, A. D. R. & Apperly, I. A. (2012). "Egocentrism and automatic perspective taking in children and adults". Child Development. 83 (2): 452–460. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01730.x. PMID 22335247. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Caputi M.; Lecce S.; Pagnin A.; Banerjee R. (2012). "Longitudinal effects of theory of mind on later peer relations: The role of prosocial behavior". Developmental Psychology. 48 (1): 257–270. doi:10.1037/a0025402. PMID 21895361. 
  • Young, Gerald (2011). Development and Causality: Neo-Piagetian Perspectives. New York, NY: Springer. ISBN 978-1-441-99421-9. 

External links[edit]

Look up egocentrism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Why Critical Thinking?

The Problem

Everyone thinks. It is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or downright prejudiced. Yet, the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated.


A Definition

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

To Analyze Thinking

Identify its purpose, and question at issue, as well as its information, inferences(s), assumptions, implications, main concept(s), and point of view.

To Assess Thinking

Check it for clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance, logic, and fairness.

The Result

A well-cultivated critical thinker:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
  • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards
  • Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems


The Etymology & Dictionary Definition of "Critical Thinking"

The concept of critical thinking we adhere to reflects a concept embedded not only in a core body of research over the last 30 to 50 years but also derived from roots in ancient Greek. The word ’’critical’’ derives etymologically from two Greek roots: "kriticos" (meaning discerning judgment) and "kriterion" (meaning standards). Etymologically, then, the word implies the development of "discerning judgment based on standards."

In Webster’s New World Dictionary, the relevant entry reads "characterized by careful analysis and judgment" and is followed by the gloss, "critical — in its strictest sense — implies an attempt at objective judgment so as to determine both merits and faults." Applied to thinking, then, we might provisionally define critical thinking as thinking that explicitly aims at well-founded judgment and hence utilizes appropriate evaluative standards in the attempt to determine the true worth, merit, or value of something.

The tradition of research into critical thinking reflects the common perception that human thinking left to itself often gravitates toward prejudice, over-generalization, common fallacies, self-deception, rigidity, and narrowness.

The critical thinking tradition seeks ways of understanding the mind and then training the intellect so that such "errors", "blunders", and "distortions" of thought are minimized. It assumes that the capacity of humans for good reasoning can be nurtured and developed by an educational process aimed directly at that end.

The history of critical thinking documents the development of this insight in a variety of subject matter domains and in a variety of social situations. Each major dimension of critical thinking has been carved out in intellectual debate and dispute through 2400 years of intellectual history.

That history allows us to distinguish two contradictory intellectual tendencies: a tendency on the part of the large majority to uncritically accept whatever was presently believed as more or less eternal truth and a conflicting tendency on the part of a small minority — those who thought critically — to systematically question what was commonly accepted and seek, as a result, to establish sounder, more reflective criteria and standards for judging what it does and does not make sense to accept as true.

Our basic concept of critical thinking is, at root, simple. We could define it as the art of taking charge of your own mind. Its value is also at root simple: if we can take charge of our own minds, we can take charge of our lives; we can improve them, bringing them under our self command and direction. Of course, this requires that we learn self-discipline and the art of self-examination. This involves becoming interested in how our minds work, how we can monitor, fine tune, and modify their operations for the better. It involves getting into the habit of reflectively examining our impulsive and accustomed ways of thinking and acting in every dimension of our lives.

All that we do, we do on the basis of some motivations or reasons. But we rarely examine our motivations to see if they make sense. We rarely scrutinize our reasons critically to see if they are rationally justified. As consumers we sometimes buy things impulsively and uncritically, without stopping to determine whether we really need what we are inclined to buy or whether we can afford it or whether it’s good for our health or whether the price is competitive. As parents we often respond to our children impulsively and uncritically, without stopping to determine whether our actions are consistent with how we want to act as parents or whether we are contributing to their self esteem or whether we are discouraging them from thinking or from taking responsibility for their own behavior.

As citizens, too often we vote impulsively and uncritically, without taking the time to familiarize ourselves with the relevant issues and positions, without thinking about the long-run implications of what is being proposed, without paying attention to how politicians manipulate us by flattery or vague and empty promises. As friends, too often we become the victims of our own infantile needs, "getting involved" with people who bring out the worst in us or who stimulate us to act in ways that we have been trying to change. As husbands or wives, too often we think only of our own desires and points of view, uncritically ignoring the needs and perspectives of our mates, assuming that what we want and what we think is clearly justified and true, and that when they disagree with us they are being unreasonable and unfair.

As patients, too often we allow ourselves to become passive and uncritical in our health care, not establishing good habits of eating and exercise, not questioning what our doctor says, not designing or following good plans for our own wellness. As teachers, too often we allow ourselves to uncritically teach as we have been taught, giving assignments that students can mindlessly do, inadvertently discouraging their initiative and independence, missing opportunities to cultivate their self-discipline and thoughtfulness.

It is quite possible and, unfortunately, quite "natural" to live an unexamined life; to live in a more or less automated, uncritical way. It is possible to live, in other words, without really taking charge of the persons we are becoming; without developing or acting upon the skills and insights we are capable of. However, if we allow ourselves to become unreflective persons — or rather, to the extent that we do — we are likely to do injury to ourselves and others, and to miss many opportunities to make our own lives, and the lives of others, fuller, happier, and more productive.

On this view, as you can see, critical thinking is an eminently practical goal and value. It is focused on an ancient Greek ideal of "living an examined life". It is based on the skills, the insights, and the values essential to that end. It is a way of going about living and learning that empowers us and our students in quite practical ways. When taken seriously, it can transform every dimension of school life: how we formulate and promulgate rules; how we relate to our students; how we encourage them to relate to each other; how we cultivate their reading, writing, speaking, and listening; what we model for them in and outside the classroom, and how we do each of these things.

Of course, we are likely to make critical thinking a basic value in school only insofar as we make it a basic value in our own lives. Therefore, to become adept at teaching so as to foster critical thinking, we must become committed to thinking critically and reflectively about our own lives and the lives of those around us. We must become active, daily, practitioners of critical thought. We must regularly model for our students what it is to reflectively examine, critically assess, and effectively improve the way we live.

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

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