ABSTRACT Jean Piaget, one of the most influential theorists in developmental psychology, assumed that formal thought, characterized by the development of an individual’s logical capacities, was the last stage of adult thinking. In this article, we review how the brain evolved, describing its main structures, and examining each cerebral hemisphere’s specific functions. Evidence is also provided for the production of new neurons and new connections between them, forcing a revision of old theories about the decline of intellectual functions in the elderly. We then consider Jones’ theories X and Y, and the different definitions of intelligence (fluid vs. crystallized, and qualitative vs. quantitative), and how these perspectives have influenced the way we see intelligence. Evidence supporting the addition of another stage, named post-formal thought, is examined in the context of gerontagogy. Dialectical thought characterizes this stage, and developing wisdom is its main goal. We examine the two basic principles of dialectical thought, namely the principle of contradiction and the principle of relativity of everything. It is suggested that the learning of wisdom should be the focus of future university programs to educate the elderly.
Cite this paper
A. Lemieux, "Post-Formal Thought in Gerontagogy or Beyond Piaget," Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, Vol. 2 No. 3, 2012, pp. 399-406. doi: 10.4236/jbbs.2012.23046.
 F. Y. Doré and P. Mercier, “Foundations of Learning and Cognition,” In: G. Morin, Ed., Les Fondements de L’apprentissage et de la Cognition, Boucherville, Québec, 1992, pp. 65-69.
 D. Cohen, “A New Examination of Piaget,” éditions Retz, Paris, 1981, pp. 11-12.
 G. Labouvie-Vief, “Logic and Self-Regulation from Youth to Maturity,” In: M. L. Commons, F. A. Richards and C. Armon, Eds, Beyond Formal Operations: Late Adolescent and Adult Cognitive Development, Praeger, New York, 1984, pp. 158-179.
 CERI, “Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science,” OCDE, Paris, 2007, pp. 59-61.
 A. Lemieux, “Gerontagogy: A New Reality,” éditions Nouvelles, Montréal, 2001, p. 63.
 P. D. MacLean, “Expanding Life-Span Learning,” In: D. Dickinson, Ed., Creating the Future: Perspectives on Educational Change, John Hopkins University, Columbia, 1991, pp. 1-4.
 D. Chiappe and K. Macdonald, “The Evolution of Domain-general Mechanisms in Intelligence and Learning,” The Journal of General Psychology, Vol. 132, No. 1, 2005, pp. 5-40.
 P. D. MacLean and R. Guyot, “The Triune Brain,” Robert Laffont, Paris, 1990.
 R. E. Ornstein, “We Think with the Left Brain Hemisphere, We Love with the Right Brain Hemisphere,” Psychologie, No. 44, 1973, pp. 27-31.
 H. Gardner, “The Left Brain Hemisphere Does Not Understand Jokes,” Le Cerveau Gauche ne Comprend Pas La Plaisanterie, Psychologie, No. 137, 1981, pp. 29-32.
 C. Martindale, “Intelligence and Creativity,” Intelligence et créativité, Psychologie, No. 70, 1975, pp. 37-42.
 R. S. Y. Cajal, “Texture of the Nervous System of Man and the Vertebrates,” Springer-Verlag Wien, New York, 1999. doi:10.1007/978-3-7091-6435-8
 M. Ptito, “Eye and Brain in Laboratory,” L’?il et Le Cerveau En Observation, Forum, Vol. 36, No. 9, 2001, pp. 115-117.
 M. Alonso, I. Ortega-Perez, S. M. Grubbs, J. P. Bourgeois, P. Charneau and P. M. Lledo, “Turning Astrocytes from the Rostral Migratory Stream into Neurons: A Role for the Olfactory Sensory Organ,” Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 28, 2008, pp. 11089-11102.
 S. Jones, “The Abilities of the Elders: Theory X and Theory Y,” Beth Johnson Foundation Publications, London, 1976, pp. 9-29.
 M. Schwartz, “Physiological Psychology,” Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1973.
 J. E. Jones, “On Teaching Art to the Elderly: Research and Practice,” Educational Gerontology, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1980, pp. 24-25.
 R. D. Savage, P. G. Britton, N. Bolton and E. H. Hall, “Intellectual Functioning in the Aged,” Methuen and Co. Ltd., London, 1973.
 A. Heron and S. Chown, “Age and Function,” Hess, Churchill, 1967, pp. 139-146.
 E. Harwood and G. F. K. Naylor, “Changes in the Constitution of the WAIS Intelligence Pattern with Advancing Age,” Australian Journal of Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1971, pp. 297-303.
 J. Verghese, R. B. Lipton, M. J. Katz, C. B. Hall, C. A. Derby, G. Kuslansky, A. F. Ambrose, M. Sliwinski and H. Buschke, “Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly,” New England Journal of Medecine, Vol. 348, No. 25, 2003, pp. 2508-2516.
 D. Wechsler, “Manual for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale,” Psychological Corporation, New York, 1955.
 C. C. Miles and W. R. Miles, “The Correlation of Intelligence Scores and Chronological Age from Early to Later Maturity,” American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 44, No. 1, 1932, pp. 44-78. doi:10.2307/1414956
 H. E. Jones and H. S. Conrad, “The Growth and Decline of Intelligence: A Study of Homogeneous Population Between the Ages of Ten and Sixty,” Genetic Psychology Monograph, Vol. 13, 1933, pp. 233-298.
 G. E. Boring, “Intelligence as the Tests Test it,” New Republic, Washington DC, 1923, pp. 35-37.
 O. Martin, “Measure in Psychology from Binet until Thurstone,” La Mesure en Psychologie de Binet à Thurstone, Revue de synthèse, Vol. 118, No. 4, 1997, pp. 457-493.
 L. M. Terman, “The Measurement of Intelligence,” Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1916. doi:10.1037/10014-000
 J. Botwinick, “Aging and Behavior: A Comprehensive Interaction of Research Findings,” Springer, New York, 1984.
 J. L. Horn, “Organization of Data on Life-Span Development of Human Abilities,” In: L. R. Goulet and P. B. Baltes, Eds, Life-Span Development Psychology: Research and Theory, Academic Press, New York, 1970, pp. 423-466.
 P. B. Baltes and K. W. Shaie, “On the Plasticity of Intelligence in Adulthood and Old Age,” American Psychologist, Vol. 31, No. 10, 1976, pp. 720-723.
 S. L. Willis and P. B. Baltes, “Derivation of Gerontological Training Research from Theory of Intelligence: A Reply to Donaldson and Some Critical Observations,” Journal of Gerontology, Vol. 36, No. 5, 1981, pp. 634-638.
 J. Piaget, “Adaptation and Intelligence Psychology: Organic Selection and Phenocopy,” Herman, Paris, 1974.
 J. Piaget, “Basic Forms of the Dialectic,” Idées/Gallimard, Paris, 1980.
 R. Garcia, “Dialectic, Psychogenesis and the History of Sciences,” Idées/Gallimard, Paris, 1980, pp. 229-249.
 M. Basseches, “Dialectical Schemata: A Framework for the Empirical Study of Dialectical Thinking,” Human Development, Vol. 23, 1980, pp. 400-421.
 M. Basseches, “Dialectical Thinking as Metasystematic Form of Cognitive Organization,” In: M. L. Commons, F. A. Richards and C. Armon, Eds., Beyond Formal Operations: Late Adolescent and Adult Cognitive Development, Praeger, New York, 1984, pp. 216-238.
 M. Basseches, “Dialectical Thinking, an Adult Development,” Ablex, New York, 1984.
 J. D. Sinnott, “Postformal Thinking: The Relativistic Stage,” In: M. L. Commons, F. A. Richards and C. Armon, Eds., Beyond Formal Operations: Late Adolescent and Adult Cognitive Development, Praeger, New York, 1984, pp. 298-325.
 G. Holton, “Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein,” Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1973.
 A. Colby, L. Kohlberg, J. Gibbs and M. Lieberman, “A Longitudinal Study of Moral Judgement. Monographs of the Society for Research,” Child Development, Vol. 48, 1983, pp. 1-124.
 P. K. Arlin, “Cognitive Development in Adulthood: A Fifth Stage?” Developmental Psychology, Vol. 11, No. 5, 1975, pp. 602-606. doi:10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.522
 J. M. Rybash, W. J. Hoyer and P. A Roodin, “Adult Cognition and Aging: Developmental Changes,” In: Processing Knowing and Thinking, Pergamon Press, New York, 1986.
 J. D. Sinnott and D. Guttmann, “Dialectics of Decision-Making in Older Adults,” Human Development, No. 21, No. 3, 1978, pp. 190-200. doi:10.1159/000271582
 D. Kramer and D. Woodruff, “Relativistic and Dialectical Thought in Three Adult Age Groups,” Human Development, Vol. 29, No. 5, 1986, pp. 280-290.
 D. Moshmann, “Exogenous, Endogenous and Dialectical Constructivism,” Developmental Review, Vol. 2, No. 4, 1982, pp. 371-384. doi:10.1016/0273-2297(82)90019-3
 R. J. Sternberg “Wisdom. Its Nature, Origins and Development,” Cambridge University Press, New York, 1990.
 A. Lemieux, G. Boutin, M. Sanchez and J. Riendeau, “Gerontagogy Bewond Words : A Reality,” éditions Nouvelles, Montréal, 2005.