- Paperback: 396 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; 4th Printing edition (July 21, 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: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life 4th Printing Edition
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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)
From the Back Cover
As parents and partners, employees and bosses, citizens and leaders, we constantly confront a bewildering array of expectations as well as a confusing assortment of expert opinions on what each of these roles entails.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
One very interesting thing about this book is that Kegan is able to report on research studies that support his theory. Probably the most important thing this book does is to provide a framework for considering people in the context of how they individually construct the world and their relationship to it, which allows me to judge whether a person is authentic, courageuos or generous on his own terms, not on mine.
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.