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In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life Paperback – August 20, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0674445888 ISBN-10: 0674445880 Edition: 4th Printing

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 4th Printing edition (August 20, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674445880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674445888
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A stimulating tour through the modern mind in society...In Over Our Heads is full of insight; it reflects broad learning and enormous intellectual effort. (David Mehegan Boston Sunday Globe)

[This book] is intellectually exciting and far-reaching in its implications...Kegan's writing has much to offer developmental psychology, which suffers from a dearth of theoretical frameworks in the area of adult development...This book invites readers to work hard but rewards them greatly. There are foundation-shaking theoretical and research challenges here for mainstream psychology, especially behavioral and social learning approaches that focus on skill training and cumulative (quantitative) change...I thoroughly recommend this exciting book...It has the potential to transform our texts on life span development. It is a book that opens up whole new vistas for developmental researchers, as well as psychologists whose practice includes adult clients. (Marie R. Joyce Contemporary Psychology)

A dazzling intellectual tour...In Over Our Heads provides us with entirely fresh perspectives on a number of cultural controversies--the "abstinence vs. safe sex" debate, the diversity movement, communication across genders, the meaning of postmodernism. (Health and Recovery)

About the Author

Robert Kegan is the William and Miriam Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

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Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

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See all 15 customer reviews
A very important and impressive book.
Keith A. Price
He writes about sophisticated ideas and complex topics in a clear and approachable way.
disco75
I have shared this book with more people than I can recall.
Shawn B. Phillips

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Marcy L. Thompson VINE VOICE on January 1, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was amazed by this book. I was reading it when we left for a two-day driving trip. Even though I am unable to read in a moving car, I kept it near at hand to read whenever we stopped at a rest area or gas station. It was so compelling that when I finished it, I immediately tossed it back near the top of my to-read pile. The second time through, I found that it had just as much to offer (if not more) as it had the first time.
Every once in awhile, I run across a book that helps me reorganize the way I think about the world. This is such a book. Through the use of examples and detailed examination of various aspects of modern life, Kegan considers what kinds of demands the world puts on us for thinking and relating. He makes a very solid case that cognitive development does not end after one passes through the developmental stages of childhood and adolescence (magical, concrete and abstract).
By carefully considering what it is exactly that we ask adolescents to do in making the transition from concrete to abstract cognition, Kegan sets the groundwork for a careful explantion of what the next order of thought is, what it looks like, and how the modern world demands that we master it. he looks in detail at just what we ask from adults in the areas of parenting, partnering, work, dealing with differnce, healing and learning. In each case, he shows that the modern world is set up so that people thrive best if they can use what he calls a fourth-order way of relating to the world, other people, and oneself.
This book helped me understand observations that had puzzled me, and suggests ways in which adult education theories (which generally drive me crazy) need to be expanded to explain what really happens when adults come together to learn.
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86 of 90 people found the following review helpful By disco75 on August 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
This tour-de-force does much to explain how people's interactions are affected by their developmental stage and goes a long way toward fleshing out adult developmental theories. It hypothesizes that mental development is intricately entwined with world view and one's understanding of events and roles. It explains relations between romantic partners, family members, communities, and cultures. Kegan's hypotheses are informed, but not limited, by existing psychological frameworks. He is like a sociologist in his outlook and a psychologist in his theorizing. He writes about sophisticated ideas and complex topics in a clear and approachable way. His conception of mental development is not easy to grasp in its entirety but pondering it is well worth the effort. The book is one of the best written in the last 20 years in any field.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Keith A. Price on November 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
So often we struggle in a confusing and demanding world. Kegan shows us why - the bar has been raised so much so quickly that many of us are left behind. Usually we blame ourselves for being stupid, unmotivated, lazy or whatever. If, however, we realise that the level of awareness and self-motivation expected of us is so much greater than anything most of our parents were required to exhibit - and Kegan makes this case very convincingly - we can start to get a handle on it for ourselves and help others much more effectively. A very important and impressive book.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Chad Oberholtzer on August 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I will begin by simply admitting that of all the books that I have read in my life, this was one of the most laborious for me to finish. The first several chapters were rather grueling, I settled into things a bit in the middle, and the end was downright painful. I am not conceited enough to think that no book should ever be written that might challenge my mind, but I am also not some sort of mental misfit.

My frustration centers around the fact that Kegan's writing was so dense. Some of his sentences were whole paragraphs long, with multiple parenthetical phrases. I realize that Kegan is an intellectual giant and works in academia, but it seems to me that his greatest weakness (and the most significant barrier that prevents his ideas from reaching a broader audience) is his inability (or refusal, whichever the case may be) to write in a more accessible style. He mentioned in his Prologue that he apparently received considerable criticism about his earlier book, "The Evolving Self," for its inaccessibility. If "In Over Our Heads" is an improvement, I shudder to think about reading its predecessor.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that Kegan doesn't have some helpful things to say. In fact, the overarching premise of the book (that modern life demands adults to process on a fourth level of consciousness, which is all too rare and leaves many people struggling to keep their heads above water) is solid and makes sense. And the anecdotes and stories that he includes are helpful in clarifying his points. But I just didn't think it was worth the effort to try to wade through his writing style. I'm sure that many social scientists have been captivated by this book, but for the general population, only the rarest of readers will find Kegan sufficiently engaging to endure this beast. I'm glad that I got through it, but I'm hard-pressed to recommend it to others.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
By using various theories and examples, this book explains the parallels between the evolution of consciousness and the development of human consciousness in a lifetime. It is an exciting book that places our problems and developmental steps in the context of the evolution of our mind and how the two are related to each other as well as how we can become fragmented when the two are out of sync with each other. It is an excellent book that allows us to make sense of our present state and also take a glimpse into the future of our evolution. If you like books like this on consciousness, I would highly recommend "The Ever-Transcending Spirit" by Toru Sato. It is an absolutely fascinating book that explains these things in a simple (perhaps Zenlike) way that everybody can grasp. Two thumbs up both Kegan and Sato!
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