Current research by an international team from UCLA, Romania, and Israel suggests that there may be a developmental window for thinking skills as well.


The researchers found that after the fall of the authoritarian communist regime in Romania in 1989, the rapid increase in education and use of technology and the shift from a single source of information controlled by the government to various sources had a strong impact on the behavior of people, especially young people. thought about the generations and determined the truth, a process known as “epistemic reasoning”.


Epistemic thinking consists of absolutist thinking, the belief that only one proposition can be true. multiply thinking, the belief that more than one claim can be true—it’s just a matter of opinion.

Finally, evaluative thinking suggests that claims can be evaluated in terms of both logic and evidence.

“Whether we’re following different news sources or scrolling through a busy Twitter feed, we’re constantly exposed to different viewpoints on topics ranging from politics to movies,” said Amalia Ionescu, a doctoral student in psychology at UCLA and first author of the study. “Some of these topics carry infinitely more weight than others, but ultimately we use the same mechanism when deciding how to understand conflicting viewpoints.”

Cognitive Flexibility Unlocked

Developmental psychology research in the United States has shown that children typically think in absolutist terms, then progress toward pluralistic thinking, and sometimes emerge as evaluative adults, especially with relatively high levels of education and exposure to a variety of experiences and perspectives.

The study authors hypothesized that in a society ruled by an authoritarian government, with strict information controls, limited education, and little exposure to the outside world, absolutist thinking would be more dominant.

Conversely, in an open, democratic society, evaluative thinking is likely to occur more.

To test this, they focused on Romania, which became communist and merged with the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. Starting in 1965, under the authoritarian leadership of Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania fell into a state of increasing repression and isolation.

After the overthrow of Ceausescu in 1989, the country quickly moved toward democracy, transitioned to a market economy, and joined the European Union. Today, Romanians have a thriving education system and open access to technology, social media, consumer goods and travel.

How might this transition affect Romanians’ epistemic thinking, the researchers asked?

Focusing on three age groups – those born after the democratic revolution (ages 18-30), those who spent late adolescence and early adulthood under an authoritarian regime (45-59), and those who spent at least 45 years under an authoritarian regime. mode (75 and above) — the authors presented respondents with scenarios in which two characters had conflicting views.

Then the respondents were asked: Which character is correct? Or are both correct? Why?

The role of the social environment in decision making

they found that there is absolutist thinking was more common among people who experienced the transition to democracy not early in life, but in middle age.

The vast majority of those 75 or older tend to read or listen to the news and immediately accept it as truth, “perhaps the only TV program they had to watch for most of their lives and all the books, news, movies and music were under Communist censorship.” Co-author Raluca Furdui, a master’s student at the University of Western Timisoara in Romania, said: “They learned to respect the authority of teachers in schools, and some didn’t even have the chance to go to high school.

“In contrast,” Furdui said, “we, the youngest generation in our study—currently between 18 and 30—are required by our teachers to express our opinions, think critically, and verify information.”

Researchers have found that appreciation was most prevalent among this younger generation which also had the highest level of education. Lower levels of both formal education and social media use predicted higher levels of absolutist thinking and lower levels of evaluative thinking.

The authors of the study concluded that The developmental window for epistemic thinking is open during the first 25 years of life, then slowly closes. and one’s epistemic mindset will change somewhat later in adulthood.

“We found that the social environment created by the combination of democracy and the market economy leads people more often to abandon the assumption that there is one right answer and to evaluate multiple possibilities – when a person is born into this environment or lives in this environment. said co-author Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology. “We found that there is a really sensitive developmental period for acquiring a cultural mindset.”

The ‘Open Data’ Pendulum can also swing the other way

The authors also said they believe their findings may help explain why unfettered access to information, social media, and multiple personal opinions can sometimes lead in the opposite direction — absolutist thinking and authoritarian politics.

“With the rise of the Internet and social media, the United States has seen an increase in the importance of personal opinion and a decrease in the importance of agreed-upon facts,” Greenfield said.

Although the trend of increasing sources of information and ideas in Romania is related to the democratization and opening of society, in the United States the indiscriminate application of this principle everyone has the right to their own opinion has led to information silos and absolutist thinking.

“The transition from authoritarianism to democracy in Romania was associated with a decline in absolute thinking and a rise in appreciation as a form of thought,” said co-author Michael Weinstock, associate professor of education at Israel’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev. . “But based on our research, one would predict that the opposite change in the environment—towards more authoritarianism—would lead to a change in the opposite direction, toward more absolutist thinking.”

According to the authors of the study, changes in the authoritarian direction took place in the United States during the Trump administration and have recently been taking place in other countries of the world.

  1. The impact of socio-cultural changes on epistemic thinking among three generations in Romania – (

Source: Eurekalert

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