J Adult Dev (2010) 17:81–93 DOI 10.
Experiential Wisdom and Optimal Experience: Interviews with Three Distinguished Lifelong Learners
Published online: 26 August 2009 Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009
Abstract The present article suggests that lifelong learning is enhanced by the capacity to make experiential course corrections that lead back to states of interest and ﬂow experience. The notion of experiential wisdom is introduced to describe such a capacity for navigation. A person with experiential wisdom recognizes that optimal experiences are more likely to occur when an affectively charged intuitive mode works in synchrony with a deliberative rational mode and is better able to cultivate situations where the interrelation of these two modes is optimized. The ﬁrst part of the article provides a framework for understanding experiential wisdom and the regulation of optimal experience. The second part illustrates the practice of experiential wisdom by drawing on interviews with three distinguished lifelong learners—poet Mark Strand, social scientist Donald Campbell, and medical researcher Jonas Salk. Keywords Wisdom Á Flow experience Á Lifelong learning Á Intuition Á Interest
No thinker can ply his occupation save as he is lured and rewarded by total integral experiences that are intrinsically worthwhile. Without them he would never know what it is really to think and would be completely at a loss in distinguishing real thought from the spurious article. –John Dewey
K. Rathunde (&) Department of Family and Consumer Studies, University of Utah, 225 S. 1400 E. Rm. 228, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0080, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The main theme of the present article is that lifelong learning can be greatly enhanced by the regulation of optimal experience. The notion of optimal experience is used here to refer to both the general experience of interest (Renninger et al. 1992) and the more intense experience of ﬂow, or a state of total absorption in some activity (Csikszentmihalyi 1990). To state the theme more directly: Lifelong learning can be enhanced when one has the ability to make experiential course corrections that lead back to states of interest and ﬂow. Such an argument is unlikely to be very controversial. It simply states that if one can sustain interest, and occasionally be rewarded with experiences of ﬂow that renew and deepen interest, then one will continue on a path of learning and growth. The idea of ‘‘regulation’’ put forward here, however, does not depict a consciously directed process where a person is in complete control of ﬁnding interest and ﬂow. How can we become immersed in some activity? How can we get interest back when the feeling fades? To answer these questions requires a more subtle and nuanced concept of regulation that will be referred to as experiential wisdom. A person with experiential wisdom is better able to put themselves in situations where intuition and rationality work in a complementary fashion. Such a concept will not eliminate a role for conscious decisions that can inﬂuence optimal experience, but it will place an increased emphasis on recognizing the role of more pre-conscious, affective, and intuitive modes that frame situations and set the stage for more conscious and voluntary processing. The ﬁrst part of the article will provide a conceptual framework for thinking about experiential wisdom and the regulation of optimal experience. It draws from a number of different psychological and philosophical accounts of experience, including perspectives on emotion and intuition discussed in the growing literature of positive psychology (Seligman
and Csikszentmihalyi 2000). The second part of the article illustrates experiential wisdom by drawing on interviews with three noted individuals whose lives have been guided by a sustained and abiding interest—the Pulitzer Prizewinning poet Mark Strand, the distinguished social scientist and methodologist Donald Campbell, and the medical researcher and virologist Jonas Salk, inventor of the ﬁrst successful polio vaccine. These interviews were originally collected as part of Csikszentmihalyi’s (1996) study of creativity in later life. In order to frame the argument that follows, several caveats are worth mentioning. First, the perspective here is not that a person needs to be able to articulate their experiential wisdom in order to stay on a path of lifelong learning. Although the interviews with Strand, Campbell, and Salk reveal an unusual understanding of the process of regulating experience and the ability to talk about it, many, if not most, individuals who are able to sustain interest in their lives do so without any meta-awareness of the process. Developing a conceptual framework for describing the process, however, could prove useful for teaching skills of regulation to young students or others who are struggling to stay engaged. Secondly, it is not suggested here that there is one model of regulation that neatly describes the learning process. The interviews, in fact, reveal an idiosyncratic mix of techniques to stay engaged and interested. Nevertheless, there are common principles in the three accounts, principles that help to clarify the meaning of experiential wisdom and serve as a valuable road map for how to sustain interest and trigger episodes of ﬂow experience.
Navigating a Path of Abiding Interest: A Framework for Interpreting the Interviews Much is known about the importance of interest for learning. A number of studies show that when feeling interested, students learn more efﬁciently (Renninger et al. 1992). Likewise, occasional episodes of peak or ﬂow experience accelerate learning and growth (Csikszentmihalyi 1990; Dewey 1934; Maslow 1968). It is less clear, however, why some individuals are able to regulate such positive states along a path of abiding interest and lifelong learning, while others jump from one interest to the next or lose interest entirely. In other words, how is it that some individuals are able to make their interest abide and have more frequent episodes of deep engagement that refresh the feeling of interest? Providing a good answer to these questions is difﬁcult because it requires understanding the ﬂuid patterns of attention that sustain interest and occasionally trigger ﬂow experience. Adding to the difﬁculty is a paradigm shift in
contemporary philosophy and cognitive science that increasingly recognizes that attention is more inﬂuenced by pre-conscious, emotional, intuitive considerations than previously thought (Haight 2009; Lakoff and Johnson 1999). In other words, the Socratic tradition in the West that has viewed thinking and decision making as primarily a matter of reasoned deliberation is not holding up in the face of new research. To accomplish the task of describing how to navigate abiding interest, therefore, the approach here relies on perspectives from phenomenological philosophy and contemporary thought on the embodied mind. Playing key roles in this regard are the American philosopher John Dewey, the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, as well as several contemporary thinkers whose work investigates embodied knowledge (Damasio 1994; Johnson 2007; Lakoff and Johnson 1999; Leder 1990). These perspectives will offer needed insight for conceptualizing the intricacies of ongoing experience and will help provide a framework for interpreting the interviews. A central theme of the framework presented here is that sustained interest and ﬂow experience are more likely to occur when two facets of attention work in synchrony: an affectively charged, intuitive, taken-for-granted orientation we bring to a task, and the selective, deliberate, focused concentration we use to work on a task. When one or the other mode works in isolation or without the ‘‘help’’ of the other, the quality of experience degenerates and staying on a path of abiding interest becomes difﬁcult. That two different modes of relating to the world are intrinsic to human nature—one more intuitive and the other more rational—is a theme that has been repeated throughout history and has been increasingly emphasized in the adult development literature (see Hoare 2006; Kramer 2000; Labouvie-Vief 1990, 1994). Yet the former mode is often underemphasized or ignored completely in many accounts of self-regulation and learning (e.g., Zimmerman 1990). The notion of experiential wisdom is meant to correct this imbalance and place a stronger emphasis on the overlooked roles of emotion and intuition in setting the stage for more selective concentration. Having experiential wisdom presumably facilitates these two modes working together; as a result, it helps to sustain interest and leads to more ﬂow experience. Despite the existence of many bimodal and dialectic conceptions of how the mind works, most accounts of learning have focused on what can be easily talked about and measured, namely, the deliberate way we focus attention, makes plans, block out distractions, and complete tasks. In his pioneering work on attention, William James (1890) referred to this effortful and sequential mode of processing as voluntary attention. Others have called it selective attention (see Kaplan 1995). There is no doubt that voluntary or selective attention is necessary for staying
Experiential Wisdom and Optimal Experience
on a path of lifelong learning and must be a part of any worthwhile description of experiential wisdom. However, the regulation of experience is not a purely rational or conscious enterprise. Even in the absence of sophisticated theoretical accounts of why this is so, every parent and teacher knows from experience that when one tries to ‘‘force interest,’’ the motivation to learn often evaporates and the opposite effect can take place. There must also be a present-centered context of meaning and emotional relevance that sets the stage for voluntary concentration. Both modes, one involuntary and immediate, and one effortful and sequential, perform a vital role in sustaining interest. When voluntary attention is used in relative isolation from involuntary attention, it results in mental fatigue and negative moods (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989); when involuntary attention is the only operative mode, it can give way to disorganized thought and aimless distraction (Dewey 1933). Merleau-Ponty (1962) described the immediately presented context for speciﬁc action as pre-objective intentionality or an ‘‘inner diaphragm’’: Prior to stimuli and sensory contexts, we must recognize a kind of inner diaphragm which determines… what our reﬂexes and perceptions will be able to aim at in the world, the area of our possible operations, the scope of our life (p. 68). Dewey (1922) described this implicit context simply as habit. All habits are demands for certain kinds of activity; and they constitute the self. In any intelligible sense of the word will, they are will. They form our effective desires and they furnish us with our working capacities (p. 25). When selective attention is exercised within such motivated frameworks, there is ‘‘emotionalized thinking’’ (Dewey 1934, p. 74). In other words, these immediately given meanings, in addition to providing the scope for possible action, provide the impetus and emotional energy for the rational processes that follow. The same theme of a pre-conscious frame that sets the stage for rational thought has recently been elaborated in multidisciplinary perspectives on embodiment (Johnson 2007; Lakoff and Johnson, 1999). Human embodiment suggests that abstract/conceptual thought is grounded in our sensorimotor experience and esthetic grasp of a situation. An embodied view of meaning looks for the origin and structures of meaning in the organic activities of embodied creatures in interaction with their changing environment. It sees meaning and all of our higher
functioning as growing out of and shaped by our ability to perceive things, manipulate objects, move our bodies in space, and evaluate our situation (Johnson 2007, p. 11). Current perspectives on embodiment offer a direct critique of dichotomous views of the mind that separate emotion (body) from cognition (mind), and privilege the latter. In his book Descartes Error, the neurologist Antonio Damasio, a leading researcher on embodied cognition, has shown that when injuries occur to areas of the brain that are important for experiencing emotion, the process of reasoning is adversely affected. He comments (1994): The process of emotion and feeling are indispensable for rationality… The lower levels in the neural ediﬁce of reason are the same ones that regulate the processing of emotions and feelings, along with the body functions necessary for an organism’s survival. In turn, these lower levels maintain direct and mutual relationships with virtually every bodily organ, thus placing the body directly in the chain of operations that generate the highest reaches of reasoning, decision making, and, by extension, social behavior and creativity (p. xiii). Current work in positive psychology on emotion is yet another area that has questioned whether rational processes have the directive quality once prescribed to them. In relation to morality and behavior, for example, Haight (2009) suggests that moral emotions have a powerful shaping effect on how a situation is framed, and reasoning in more of a ‘‘servant’’ than a ‘‘high priest’’ in the temple of morality. Such emotional frames are presumably shaped by cultural experience and the cooperative and competitive evolutionary forces that have been at play in the development of the human species. If emotions are downplayed or ignored, especially positive emotions such as joy and curiosity, it would be hard to explain the expansion or broadening of thought that is characteristic of positive adult development (Fredrickson 2009). What has been referred to here as pre-conscious, habitual, emotional, or an esthetic grasping of a situation is often described simply as intuition (Myers 2004). For the sake of clarity, this inclusive term will primarily be used to describe this particular mode. The actual deﬁnition ﬁts extremely well: intuition is the act of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes. Myers (2004) refers to intuition as the ‘‘automaticity of being’’ and summarizes the growing body of research that is revealing its operation in everyday life. Moreover, to have an intuition (or hunch) implies that there is something incomplete in a situation that needs to be made clear. Therefore, the notion also leaves the door open, so to speak, for voluntary processes
that can be used for elaboration and clariﬁcation. Intuition gives concentration its motivational charge to bring something—a new connection or distinction—to light. Creativity research has for many years suggested such a dynamic and vital role for intuition in the early phases of the creative process (i.e., preparation, incubation, and insight, see Wallas 1926). In addition, other theoretical models of creativity have postulated the interplay of intuitive and rational modes as essential for creative thought (see Barron 1969; Kris 1952; Martindale 1999).
Experiential Wisdom and the Regulation of Optimal Experience Abiding interest and lifelong learning are presumably enhanced by the interplay between intuition and voluntary attention. Knowing this, however, does not bring the interest-regulation process under a person’s direct control. Even when discussing individuals who have led remarkable lives, the path of lifelong learning is never self-directed or self-regulated—it is navigated. A navigator is reading a map or following the stars in order to reach a destination; it is an active process, but one that depends upon following certain predetermined signs. Navigating a path of lifelong learning is similar: a person actively makes adjustments, yet must follow a course that is highlighted by experiences and habits. Experiential wisdom navigates by ﬁrst recognizing which way forward is the right direction, and then actively setting out on that course. Even though direct control is impossible, there is little doubt that some individuals are better able to stay on a course of sustained interest and learning. Experiential wisdom enhances this ability to navigate well. It allows a person to ‘‘read the map’’ of intuition and make appropriate course corrections with the effort of voluntary attention. Because intuition operates in a pre-conscious way, it is not always easy to recognize its signals. To do so, also to let it operate unimpeded, requires a relaxed openness, patience, and a tolerance for ambiguity, qualities that have traditionally been attributed to a creative person (see Barron 1969; Csikszentmihalyi 1996; Sternberg 1988). Sometimes such openness may even lead to a dramatic change in longheld interests in order to keep the process of inquiry fresh. In other words, the goal of sustaining interest may sometimes be furthered by changing past interests. More speciﬁc examples of how to let intuition do its work will be provided by the interviews with Strand, Campbell, and Salk. It is not just letting intuitions unfold that manifests experiential wisdom; it is also the capacity to willfully act on them in ways that transform the person and the situation, thus leading to the creation of new habits and intuitions, and so on in dialectical fashion. For instance, when a
musician is inspired by a particular melody that spontaneously comes to mind, and then consciously works to ﬂesh it out and write it down, that melody becomes part of the musician’s taken-for-granted knowledge that provides a context for the intuition of new melodies. An intellectual process is no different than the artistic process and moves forward in a similar way (see Dewey 1934). When an author is working on a manuscript and senses that there is something important missing in the argument, intuition is at work. The desire to amend the manuscript is thereby created, and selective concentration sets out to ﬂesh out the problem and resolve it. The amended argument, in turn, sets the stage for the intuition of the next problem in need of correction. Maintaining interest and ﬁnding ﬂow depends upon these interrelated course corrections. An intuited problem will introduce frustration and tension until it is resolved. When voluntary attention is able to bring the problem into focus and start resolving it, the learning/creative process moves forward, and a person is more likely to be rewarded with the heightened intensity of a ﬂow experience. John Dewey (1934) called the intensiﬁcation of experience at this point of culmination an integral experience. It was integral because for that brief episode, a continuity between past, present, and future experience emerged. A more detailed look at the ﬂow experience also reveals why experiential wisdom is beneﬁcial for intensifying experience, maintaining optimal arousal, and avoiding prolonged impasses in states of boredom and anxiety. The need for optimal arousal is a genetically based part of human nature (Berlyne 1960; Hebb 1955). That the human organism is born trying to maintain optimal arousal is demonstrated by an infant’s attempt to avoid too much or too little stimulation (Caron and Caron 1968). Flow can be thought of as an optimal state of arousal that combines a sense of order and novelty at the same time. This combination is represented in the ﬂow model by the constructs of skill and challenge, respectively, and ﬂow is thought to occur more often when a person’s skills and challenges are similarly strong and balanced (see Csikszentmihalyi 1990). Such an optimally arousing condition, however, is unstable. If an activity is repeated over and over without any variation or change, it loses its intensity. It is this fact that makes the ﬂow model a dynamic one related to learning and development. As Piaget (1962) observed, disequilibrium between the processes of assimilation and accommodation is inevitable; continually re-establishing equilibrium is the motor of cognitive development. In a phenomenological perspective, disequilibrium is subjectively signaled by boredom and anxiety—two inevitable life experiences, and ﬂow is a felt manifestation of reestablishing equilibrium (Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi 2006).
Experiential Wisdom and Optimal Experience
Flow, therefore, represents a healthy solution to the inevitable problems of boredom and anxiety. To resolve a feeling of boredom (i.e., low challenge with high skill), a person must raise their challenge level and initiate a feeling of change and expansion. Conversely, to alleviate a feeling of anxiety (i.e., high challenge with low skill) a person needs to raise skills and thereby increase a sense of order and emerging control. A person with experiential wisdom would be better equipped to respond to boredom and anxiety and make these adjustments. For example, if feeling bored, intuition could set in motion a problem-ﬁnding mode. The hunch or feeling that something was incomplete in a situation would be followed by voluntary processing, thereby bringing the new challenge into focus and providing an antidote to boredom. Conversely, if a person was feeling anxious, intuition can set in motion a problemsolving mode. Once there is a dimly perceived sense of connection or resolution to the problem, voluntary processing can ﬂesh it out and make it explicit. In this way, the bimodal attributes of experiential wisdom can work to differentiate and integrate knowledge and make ﬂow more likely to reoccur (Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi 2006). In Piagetian terms, they can help move assimilation toward accommodation and then back again, with each traverse holding the promise of equilibrium and temporary episodes of optimal experience. Apter (1989) has suggested that such reversals of arousal depend upon the juxtaposition of more spontaneous (paratelic) and goal-oriented (telic) modes. Having experiential wisdom, therefore, makes it easier to instigate such reversals by using intuitive and rational modes to problem-ﬁnd and raise arousal, or problem-solve and lower arousal, depending on what adjustment is needed in order to get back to ﬂow. In summary, intuitive and voluntary modes must work together to intensify the present moment beyond what either mode could accomplish on its own. It is this total involvement, and the intensiﬁcation of energy associated with it, that triggers the subjective feeling of ﬂow. Experiential wisdom sets in motion a recurring cycle of problem-ﬁnding and problem-solving. It thereby insures an intrinsic tension and rhythm in the learning process. If intuition is the only mode that can be brought to bear on some task, the likely result will be a series of disconnected thoughts and associations that will eventually dissipate energy; if focused concentration is all that is brought to an activity, mental fatigue will eventually deaden the quality of experience. As James (1890) noted, it takes great effort to hold some topic or thought in consciousness while suppressing other competing stimuli. If a person does not beneﬁt from a spontaneously given, affective, intuitive orientation to a situation, even great effort will falter.
Examples of Experiential Wisdom: Interviews with Mark Strand, Donald Campbell, and Jonas Salk The interviews with Strand, Campbell, and Salk reveal a self-conscious understanding of the process of regulating optimal experience. Although leading a life sustained by interest does not require such a meta-awareness, it is likely to be helpful to those who possess it. Each of these remarkable individuals provides idiosyncratic descriptions with respect to how intuitive and voluntary processes were coordinated to further their interest and work. The interview material does not attempt to prove a hypothesis; the goal is to present detail from the interviews in order to help ﬂesh out a better understanding of experiential wisdom.
Making Meaning, Dismantling Meaning, and Remaking it: Mark Strand Mark Strand is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and essayist; he is also a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (‘‘genius award’’). He served as Poet Laureate of the United States in 1990 and has taught literature and creative writing at a number of prestigious universities, including John Hopkins University and the University of Chicago. He is currently at Columbia University. Paying attention and witnessing. A sense of mortality was important to Strand. It informed how he related to the world, one aspect of which he called paying attention. ‘‘To say that I have an aim or a purpose would make it seem too grandiose,’’ he said, ‘‘my purpose, if I have one, is just to pay attention.’’ He elaborated on this idea. I think that it [paying attention] grows out of a sense of mortality. I mean, we’re only here for a short while on earth, and I think it’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention… We are, as far as we know, the only part of the universe that’s self-conscious… we’re combined in such a way that we can describe what it’s like to be alive, to be witnesses. ‘‘Paying attention’’ and ‘‘witnessing’’ are key elements in Strand’s abiding interest in poetry and represent the movement between intuitive and voluntary attentional processes. Paying attention is staying acutely sensitive to the moment and being alive; witnessing is responding with thought and consciousness to what one is experiencing. These same two elements were also evident in his advice to an aspiring poet: I would say to read a great deal, withhold opinion, keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut for as long as possible… be a receiver for as long as is
possible until it becomes unbearable [and] you can’t just receive anymore—you must produce. In the above quote, the immediacy of paying attention and self-conscious witnessing are described in passive and active terms: one receives as long as possible, and then one responds and produces something from that experience. Such is the dynamic in Strand’s poetry. Becoming conscious of experience through the process of writing was clearly an essential component as far as Strand was concerned. He noted, however, that not all felt as he did, and he found it paradoxical that some young people might think the witnessing component to be a corruption of poetry: ‘‘You ﬁnd a lot of young people… don’t even want to write their poems down. [They] would rather recite them to you as if poetry were strictly performance, like it was all intuition and improvisation, nothing to do with thought or the interventions of consciousness.’’ Perhaps, he surmised, that this was because of the difﬁculty of writing, especially the difﬁculty in ﬁnding the right words that are both novel and familiar at the same time: ‘‘Writing is very difﬁcult. It’s very difﬁcult because you… have to use language in a compelling and different way, and language is the one thing that we all have in common.’’ The immediacy of paying attention and conscious witnessing were both important, but Strand recognized that they did not easily ﬁt together and could result in different kinds of writer’s block if not coordinated. For instance, Strand noted that a phase of receiving can reach a point where it becomes ‘‘unbearable,’’ and the longer one was in this phase without reacting, the more ‘‘frustration’’ one feels. There was also, however, a different kind of impasse or block that resulted from the overuse of selective, conscious processes. He said that one of the ‘‘worst’’ things one could do as a writer was to go back over poems and ask, ‘‘How did I do that?’’ When feeling desperate to get started on something, the urge may come to shortchange the holistic, dialectical process and simply repeat oneself; this, he thought, was a dead end course. Such an impasse occurred the ﬁrst time Strand was hired to be a poet, and the obligation to write interfered with the natural process: ‘‘I’d never really chosen to be a poet, it just happened along the way… I was sort of stuck with the obligation to write poetry because here at the university I’d been hired to be a poet.’’ The only way to overcome this impasse was to ‘‘begin from ground zero,’’ and go through the entire process of paying attention and witnessing. This receiving/responding dialectic of ﬁrst paying attention by keeping one’s eyes and ears open, and then by witnessing through writing, was a process that pervaded all of Strand’s life. He had a constant feeling that he was ‘‘never ﬁnished.’’ Even when nearing the end of a poem there was a feeling of anticipating getting on to something
new: ‘‘So you never have a feeling that you’re caught up. Which is a good thing, I guess. I think if you ever caught up… you’re sort of dead.’’ Strand’s relationship to poetry, therefore, was locked in a continual cycle: new experiences needed to be witnessed, and this witnessing set the stage for more openness to experience, even before one poem was completely ﬁnished. Through this reoccurring process, Strand coordinated an immediate openness with more selective attention. It is interesting to note the reﬂection of these ideas in the titles of two of Strand’s books: Sleeping with one eye open and The continuous life. The former conveys the sense of immersion in life with a corresponding self-consciousness (presumably the one open eye), and the latter conveys the sense that the dialectic never rests. Phases of indirect and direct thinking. A poem might begin in the morning when Strand felt the ‘‘freshest’’ and his awareness was the most acute. And it often began with the desire to write and a feeling of intuition. Things begin with the desire to sit down and write. Sometimes I don’t have anything in mind, I just have the desire to write. I’ll jot a few words down, and that’s a beginning. It can happen when I’m reading something else. It’s different all the time, there’s no one way… One of the amazing things about what I do is you don’t know when you’re going to be hit with an idea, you don’t know where it comes from. New ideas occurred in a variety of unpredictable ways: being receptive to language, seeing a new possibility in someone’s use of a phrase or a word, reading something, remembering something from one’s past, or just seeing something in a new way. Strand provided an excellent illustration of experiential wisdom in describing how he tried to prolong a phase of openness and indirect thinking by using distractions. I often, in the middle of work, play solitaire to get my mind off what I’m doing, so I [can] come back, say in 20 minutes or a half an hour, and approach it with a new freshness. Sometimes I’ll get in the car and drive, put on music, and do meaningless errands so I can sort of forget what I’m doing but think about it at the same time—both. When you drive you have to concentrate on the road, and you have to stop at stoplights… you realize the meaninglessness of your errand all the time but yet you realize that it’s getting you away from your work and you need that time away. Then you come back, and you run upstairs and work again. Sometimes it works, sometimes I just [get] back and I’m just as lost as I was. These distractions apparently served the purpose of slowing down the onset of rational and voluntary processes
Experiential Wisdom and Optimal Experience
that were, at the moment, incompatible with intuitive spontaneity. Strand thought of voluntary processes as ‘‘direct thinking,’’ and if they occurred before they could be put to good use in the writing of the poem, they were destructive of the writing. He needed sometimes to get out and get his ‘‘mind off’’ what he is doing: ‘‘I think I’m always thinking about what I’m writing. I think that maybe it’s not always direct thinking… I become impatient, have to get out and slow down, and think of something else.’’ In addition to solitaire, driving, and doing errands, he had other ‘‘little rituals’’ that he relied upon. Sometimes he went downstairs and looked in the refrigerator and thought about lunch. At other times he scanned through pictures. Even other forms of writing—if they were not ‘‘too extended’’—took his mind off of a poem: ‘‘I can always pick up something else and begin working and it doesn’t necessarily interfere with the poetry. It can, if it’s too extended. But I tend to write in paragraphs, anyway… I can write a paragraph, save it, [and] go back to my poem.’’ From the perspective of experiential wisdom, these distractions allowed Strand to continue using his intuition (Myers 2004), inner diaphragm (Merleau-Ponty 1962), habits (Dewey 1922), or esthetic grasping of a situation (Johnson 2007). In Strand’s view, these rituals and distractions allowed indirect thinking to run its course. However, after returning from doing these other things, he might directly engage the poem: ‘‘Then I will get off alone and tune in to what’s happened back there.’’ This tuning in involved the use of voluntary and selective attention and represented the more deliberate phase of trail and error in the laborious process of writing. This phase of the process—in contrast to the distractions that helped further intuition—required solitude and quiet to enhance focus and concentration. In the creativity literature, such a phase is referred to as elaboration (Wallas 1926). Strand described it as ‘‘working hard’’ on the poem to ﬁnd closure: ‘‘If I’m working hard on a poem, I’ll keep visiting it through the afternoon and into the evening in an effort to complete it, to get rid of it. Also if I’m working on something as I’ve described, I’ll get up very early and see if I can get rid of it.’’ When I asked him to expand upon what he meant by ‘‘getting rid’’ of a poem, he continued: ‘‘Finishing it. I mean, getting rid of that sort of nagging sense of responsibility I have toward ﬁnishing it, so I can begin something new.’’ An extended present. Strand’s experiential wisdom allowed him to navigate the pitfalls and impasses that could have derailed the creation of the poem. When things were going well, he enjoyed the process of writing and was in a ﬂow-like extended present. Well, you’re right in the work. You lose your sense of time. You’re completely enraptured. You’re
completely caught up in what you’re doing. It’s not that you’re… swayed by the possibilities you see in this work, that is, the eventual end of it, although that’s a little of it. If that becomes too powerful, then you get up… because the excitement is too great. You can’t continue to work, or continue to see the end of the work, because you’re jumping ahead of yourself all the time. The idea is to be so saturated with it that there’s no future or past, it’s just an extended present in which you’re making meaning and dismantling meaning, and remaking it, with undue regard for the words you’re using. It’s meaning carried to a high order. It’s not just essential communication, daily communication; it’s a total communication. When you’re working on something and you’re working well, you have feeling that there’s no other way of saying what you’re saying. In the above passage, Strand describes several familiar dimensions of a ﬂow experience, including the loss of a sense of time, a merging of awareness with the activity, an extended present or one-pointedness of mind, and the feeling of intrinsic motivation, or that things are proceeding exactly as they should be proceeding (see Csikszentmihalyi 1990). In addition, he points out that there is an inkling of self-awareness during ﬂow that exists alongside the sense of being immersed and enraptured. This is an important point, because ﬂow states are sometimes mistakenly thought of a lacking any consciousness that stands alongside the sense of immersion. Strand’s is an eloquent statement of being of two minds at once, or what Dewey (1910) described as the ideal mental condition of being ‘‘playful and serious at the same time’’ (p. 218). There is both a ‘‘playful’’ attention to the means of an activity and a ‘‘serious’’ attention to its ends; this full and undivided attention is what makes the moment so exhilarating. If the awareness of the ‘‘eventual end’’ of the poem grows too strong, Strand realized, the extended present and ﬂow experience would be lost. Finally, after describing what it felt like to be in an extended present, Strand demonstrated another central aspect of experiential wisdom—recognizing the temporary nature of such a ﬂow state. He commented that he could ‘‘never stay in that frame of mind for an entire day,’’ and that kind of intensity ‘‘comes and goes.’’
There is a Fringe There: Donald Campbell Interested in the philosophy of science and writing at a time when methodology in psychology was comprised almost entirely of the inherited scientiﬁc dogma of random assignment to treatments, Donald Campbell’s methodological innovations led to increased research outside of the
laboratory and the consideration of new threats to validity and reliability that would be encountered. He was honored for these pioneering contributions by the American Psychological Association (APA; Distinguished Scientiﬁc Contribution award; APA President, 1975) and the American Educational Research Association (AERA; Distinguished Contribution to Research in Education award). He died in 1996. Friendly skeptical. Campbell, like Strand, was an articulate spokesman for how to stay on a path of abiding interest and expressed experiential wisdom in a variety of ways. One of the more striking examples was his suggestion that learning coincided with adopting a mental attitude of ‘‘friendly skeptical.’’ For instance, a student should not suppress their skepticism, doubt, and ambivalence regarding the things they are being taught; but neither should they immediately adopt a rebellious attitude. If they are being taught something and they do not understand it, they should consider the possibility that what they have been taught is not coherent. It has hidden assumptions. In other words they should not take a rebellious rejection attitude, but an awareness that this is unﬁnished and everybody has to pronounce truth without yet having had it… I think I have always been able to be a good student without being a passive and gullible student. There is an important recognition of the role of intuition in the above comment on pronouncing truth before we have it. In other words, we need to in some circumstances to take a ‘‘friendly,’’ welcoming attitude toward something that is ambiguous in order to take meaning from our social contexts. By looking at something as being ‘‘in need of revision,’’ rather than in need of rejection, an opportunity is created to further one’s learning. Such a dual attitude provides students with a way to be open to the ideas transmitted by teachers, yet still see them as ‘‘fallible and criticizable.’’ Such an attitude also conveys the realization that there are passive and active phases to the meaning making process. Campbell described this in-between space that was important for learning in several other ways, all of them providing insightful illustrations of experiential wisdom. For instance, he thought it important to have an element of ‘‘recreation’’ in one’s scholarly pursuits; otherwise the process could turn into drudgery. ‘‘We go into academic life because we want to make a profession out of our hobby,’’ he commented, ‘‘and that is a very dangerous thing to do. If you loved taking photographs as a high school student, and you become a professional photographer, what you did enjoy becomes a drudgery.’’ To avoid this unfortunate outcome he had intellectual pursuits that were ‘‘not close enough to home,’’ so that he could ‘‘dabble’’ in them
and exercise some choice. In other words, in addition to his major ﬁeld of study, he would become a ‘‘young outsider’’ in other areas of interest in order to enjoy them and avoid the feeling that he had a professional obligation with respect to them. Individuals who lacked this recreational element, such as students or professors who only felt a ‘‘professional responsibility’’ to their work, or that it was only part of their ‘‘professional self-ego,’’ were the most susceptible to drudgery. Campbell thought they more easily fell into the trap of thinking that ‘‘every interesting article that you see in your own ﬁeld makes you anxious because you have not read it, or because they have done it before you have.’’ Even in one’s main ﬁeld, he commented, ‘‘We should somehow come to grips with the fact that we are only going to dabble in the literature; keeping up with it is a sure way to become overwhelmed.’’ Cultivating the recreational side of scholarship also meant allowing some unhurried time each day for solitude and not getting anxious about the fact that time was being used for such a seemingly unproductive purpose. Being treated as a fellow explorer. Campbell’s experiential wisdom was also evident in relation to his thinking about the kinds of social contexts that preserved the ability to be friendly skeptical, to dabble in an area as a young outsider, and so on. He learned this lesson in his family and extended it to other professional contexts. My parents treated me as an intellectual equal long before I deserved to be treated as an intellectual equal. So that this kind of family environment in which children’s opinions are listened to and argued with, but where the child feels that they are free to argue back, is certainly a middle class blessing. Freedom to argue back preserved the right to be an outsider; being listened to as a respected part of a group, on the other hand, allowed one to be an insider at the same time. Campbell recognized that ‘‘situational contributions’’ could affect interest and learning by over-emphasizing the rigor of work and prematurely closing off an intuitive, openness to experience. That is why he emphasized the importance of ﬁnding a social context in which ‘‘you are being treated as a fellow explorer, rather than as a passive learner.’’ The context should encourage ‘‘equal status scientiﬁc participation,’’ where colleagues were ‘‘working on exciting issues and the interpersonal relations of people to people are mutual encouragement, rather than competitive put down.’’ Campbell thought that professors who were pressured to publish a certain number of papers a year in order to retain their jobs and gain promotion had the most to lose. They accommodated and adapted, he thought, but ‘‘their freedom
Experiential Wisdom and Optimal Experience
to be creative…is being reduced by the pressure for quickness and number.’’ Because of a few prestigious publications in his early years, Campbell felt some ‘‘freedom to be wasteful of time.’’ Of course, this was not wasteful at all in that the time was put into exploration that eventually fed back into the quality of subsequent work. Because he was so aware of these situational inﬂuences, Campbell took steps to ﬁnd a social context that was well suited for his intrinsically motivated work. He explained his point of view in the following excerpt about how he would advise young scholars. You have two job offers, both of them have reasonable teaching loads. One job is going to be under high publish or parish pressure. The other job you are going to feel adequate and under less pressure. Obviously the two universities have two different national esteem levels. Which one job would you take? I say clearly take the one where you will be free of tenure anxiety and be free to intellectually explore. Now, if you spend that time developing an apple orchard rather than scholarship, well, that’s a different matter. He would offer the same advice to students entering a graduate program, ‘‘Go to the place where you can enter as soon as possible into a more or less equal status scientiﬁc participation, rather than to a place which has high prestige in which you will be demoted to being a freshman all over again.’’ A self-driving momentum. As was the case in the Strand interview, much of Campbell’s experiential wisdom was evident in relation to protecting a ‘‘fringe’’ space for exploration, a space for affective immediacy and intuition to ﬂourish. ‘‘I think that if you are blessed with curiosity, that is a blessing for a scientiﬁc career… it is hard to keep this curiosity from being contaminated with ambitiousness and upward mobility and the like.’’ To preserve a space for curiosity, he even worked questions he was thinking about into his teaching: ‘‘teaching gave [me] more back burners to opportunistically develop.’’ Inevitably, though, a problem would grab him and call for meticulous work. He noted, ‘‘But if you can keep this curiosity unanxious and playful… it is very clear that there is a threshold of problems. One is attracted by problems that are puzzling but seem within reach of solutions. There is a fringe there.’’ Campbell would show patience in the exploration process until an idea came, but once it did, it was pursued with ﬁerce selective attention and coincided with a ﬂow-like momentum: I would have… several afternoons a week in which… I could go to my carrel in the library with a view over
the lake and be in solitary scholarly meditation… Once a problem has grabbed me… then I do show an amazing ability to drag that manuscript along with me and write on it 15 min here and 15 min there… I am able to keep a self-driving momentum going in spite of lots of little interruptions when I am in a ﬂow period. For Campbell, as for Strand, the reward of optimal experience was the payoff of his experiential wisdom. By protecting the opportunity for intuition, and waiting for the appropriate moment to apply the full force of voluntary attention, a ﬂow-like, self-driving momentum was created. In Dewey’s (1934) perspective, it was these integral experiences that lured and rewarded Campbell, and allowed him to distinguish real thought from the spurious article.
The Capacity to Make Retrospective Judgments Prospectively: Jonas Salk Jonas Salk was best known for his discovery and development of the ﬁrst effective polio vaccine. Introduced in 1955, the vaccine came as an answer to one of the most terrifying public health problems in US history. Salk was widely hailed as a miracle worker for his 8 years of research that went into developing the vaccine and his refusal to proﬁt from it. He was a recipient of the prestigious Lasker Award for medical research, but never received the Nobel Prize many thought he deserved. In 1963, he founded the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. He died on June 23, 1995, at the age of 80. Going from the intuition department to the reasoning department. This interview took place at the Salk Institute in May of 1991. At one point during the interview, Salk started discussing the beautiful setting of the Institute which was built in 1965 by the great American architect Louis I. Kahn. He mentioned that guests of the Institute and faculty members often commented on the meditative effect of the surroundings and its inspirational properties. This effect, he said, was an intentional part of the design. He elaborated on his discussions with Kahn about the design and focused on one particular meeting after having a restless night of sleep. It was at this meeting that many of the creative elements of the design were ﬁnally resolved, including the decision to emphasize a feeling of space and openness by eliminating two of the proposed four buildings. The anecdote served to illustrate the great importance Salk placed on ‘‘making visible the invisible.’’ The ‘‘invisible’’ referred to the insights he had during meditative or sleep-like states that needed to be harvested with
clear and rational thinking. Salk was acutely focused on this process of moving between unconscious and conscious states. He even attempted to notice small physiological changes that neuroscientists suggest signal more right or left brain activity. The following quotes illustrate the way he conceptualized the process. The relation to concept of experiential wisdom is obvious. So the intuitive realm and the rational realm… reﬂect both sides of the brain, separately, and by the time you’re ready to write, whatever it is that is going on that I’m not aware of, that comes to which words are attached and can be expressed, is the result of the merging of the two. So that the processing on the right gets to the left and takes on words [and] form. In response to a question on how the two are interrelated, he added: I don’t think you can dissect it because if you did, you would not see it… You have to let it run its course, so to speak, in order to recognize it… I see it that way, as going back and forth… I speak of going from the intuition department to the reasoning department and then back and forth to check it out to make sure it’s still true, so to speak. Salk intentionally tried to cultivate this bimodal process throughout the day. For instance, he would enter a more meditative state by walking on the beach, slowly waking from a nap, or just sitting quietly. At such times, he would experience ‘‘an outpouring of insights’’ or an ‘‘inner vision’’ and he tried to calmly observe what was going on in his mind. ‘‘It is as if anticipatory ideas arise to help put into the future, so to speak. It’s almost as if it prepares me for what is likely to happen.’’ After a period of calm observation, sometimes he would try to put words to the ideas. I’m awakened in the night and when… I don’t quite know what it is that is on my mind. But it eventually surfaces, and after that point of ﬁve minutes, I begin to see an unfolding, as if a poem or a painting or a story or a concept begins to have taken form… I can’t possibly go back to sleep. So, I will lie quietly and let things happen. And after an hour I would fall into a deep sleep unless I write, so I sit up in bed with the light on, and I might write for a half hour, 45 minutes. I’ve accumulated a considerable amount of material over the last several years that I’m now beginning to work with—actually work with me—to try to understand or see the themes that have come forth this way. A second anecdote about his work designing the Salk Institute with Louis Kahn illustrated the same dynamics.
Plans for the building were nearly complete when Salk visited the site and looked at it from a cliff. ‘‘Something disturbed me,’’ he said, ‘‘and I slept restlessly that night.’’ The following morning he met with Kahn and spontaneously sketched out a design similar to what now constitutes the Institute. ‘‘I didn’t know what I was doing, but that was how I expressed it.’’ That was not the end of it, however. Salk explained that it took 7 weeks of persistent arguing to come to agreement and work out the ﬁnal details of the design. Intuitive and rational processes were also at play in the development of the polio vaccine. As a second year medical student Salk attended a lecture where he was told that you could immunize against virus diseases with chemically treated toxins; in another lecture, he was told that a person had to experience the infection itself for immunization to occur; that is, exposure to a chemically treated or noninfections virus was not sufﬁcient. ‘‘Well, it struck me that both statements couldn’t be true,’’ Salk commented. For the time being, Salk accepted the ambiguity and sorted the whole thing away. When Salk had the opportunity to work in a laboratory on an inﬂuenza virus, this implicit question had not disappeared; instead it framed his work: ‘‘I then chose to see whether or not this [presumed inability to immunize] was true for ﬂu.’’ Salk discovered that he could introduce an inactivated virus that would stimulate the production of an antibody, without the need for the person to experience infection. This led to the development of the ﬂu vaccine. The work on the polio vaccine was an extrapolation of this line of work. When I had an opportunity to work on polio, I just invoked the same idea, and attempted to see what could be done there and it proved to be successful. Since then, of course, all of the genetic engineering and the other things that are done to parts of the virus are continuations of the principle. So I tend to see patterns, I tend to see patterns in data when I do experiments, and I look for patterns… I recognize patterns that become integrated and synthesized and I see meaning. I see, I see, I see. Salk was also fully aware of optimal experiential states that sometimes occurred during the intuition-rationality cycle. He spoke of the exhilaration involved with a ‘‘revelation,’’ when he ‘‘begin to see the relationships of things that I didn’t see before.’’ He remarked: ‘‘The exhilaration is more of a form of a reduction and a disappearance in the feelings… that are associated with something going on and I’m not aware of.’’ In other words, the exhilaration followed the reduction of the tension set up by a more intuitive mode. Such a mode introduced a sense of agitation that needed resolution. It was only after beginning to write after some moment of inner vision that he would begin to say, ‘‘I see, I see, I see.’’
Experiential Wisdom and Optimal Experience
Salk’s way of looking at things closely resonates with the notion of experiential wisdom. In fact, he used the concept of wisdom to describe the creative process. Salk commented, ‘‘I deﬁne wisdom as the capacity to make retrospective judgments prospectively.’’ In other words, wisdom was good judgment as to a course of action that would later be conﬁrmed as ‘‘good’’ if we could turn around and analyze the choice retrospectively. Salk drew a ﬁtting analogy between his conception of wisdom and immunization to again express his point about the interrelation of intuition and rationality. I think of the analogy to immunization. The immune system is capable of producing antibodies, let us say. Now if you wait until the infection occurs, then the virus… has a head start and the immune system has to catch up. If you immunize ﬁrst, then it’s already had prior experience, and the system says, ‘‘well, I’ve seen you before’’ and reacts immediately. That’s the reﬂection of the wisdom of the body, the wisdom of nature; and if you watch animals you see they have this capacity to sense, to do things that obviously they can’t be thinking about or calculating. So we’re just at a higher form of that kind of functioning, adding the reasoning part to the intuition; making it possible to do the extraordinary things that we do and seem to go beyond that which occurs in nature. Bridge the both. Like Campbell, Salk had given quite a bit of thought to those characteristics of social contexts that provided a more congenial environment for the intuitionrationality cycle. As a result, he tried to recruit to his Institute individuals who had the wisdom to work in this bimodal way. He did not want someone who could only see the whole, or just see the part, he wanted individuals who could ‘‘bridge the both.’’ Salk was, in other words, interested in ﬁnding kindred spirits to populate his Institute. It comes through… a process of self-selection of likeminded individuals… I can see there are some individuals who have qualities that work on both sides… I practice the art of science, as distinct from the way science is practiced by many others. But there are many scientists… who also function that way, but I would say they’re in the minority. Salk did not want to build a culture at the Institute where scientists mistakenly believed in unmitigated objectivity and did not grasp the ‘‘human side of science.’’ That’s why recognizing kindred spirits was important. In typical fashion, ﬁnding kindred spirits was a creative process like any other; therefore, the same dialectical processes came into play. In addition to contact and interaction, he noted it is ‘‘almost like there are pheromones that are discerned, or the equivalent of that.’’
Conclusions A central theme presented here is that lifelong learning can be enhanced by the capacity to make experiential course corrections that lead back to states of interest and ﬂow. This capacity is not thought of as a consciously directed process; rather, the notion of experiential wisdom was selected to portray a more nuanced process of navigation rather than self-regulation. If it is true that sustained interest and optimal experience are more likely to occur when an affectively charged intuitive mode works in concert with a deliberative rational mode, then experiential wisdom is not only the recognition that both modes are important, but also the capacity to put oneself in situations where the interrelation of these two modes is optimized. In this sense, the notion shares similarities with other contemporary models of development (e.g., Baltes’ (1997) selection, optimization, and compensation (SOC) model) that suggest a person’s development is best conceptualized in terms of a continual person–context interaction. The interviews revealed much about why Strand, Campbell, and Salk were able to continually ﬁnd episodes of deep engagement that sustained their interest. Although the speciﬁc approaches of each contained an eclectic mix of techniques and strategies, there were common themes in the three accounts that helped to clarify the meaning of experiential wisdom and disclose what it looks like in practice. One commonality that allowed all three to navigate well was their recognition and protection of the time it takes for intuitive insights to set the stage for subsequent selective attention. Because intuition operates in a preconscious way, it is not always easy to recognize its signiﬁcance or facilitate its operation. To do so requires a relaxed openness, great patience, and the capacity to tolerate considerable ambiguity. It was in this area that the interviews revealed the most fascinating insights. All three were careful to let intuition do its work without shortchanging it and cutting it off prematurely. To accomplish this, all three had unique strategies to delay the onset of rational processing until it could be optimally effective. Strand tried to keep his eyes and ears open and ‘‘mouth shut’’ while in a receptive mode. He cultivated multiple starting points for a way into a poem and used distractions like solitaire, driving, music, errands, and even other writing projects, so that he did not rush the process of paying attention. Campbell adopted a ‘‘friendly skeptical’’ attitude that preserved openness without sacriﬁcing a critical awareness. He did so by thinking of something encountered (e.g., an idea) as tentatively true but in ‘‘need of revision.’’ He steadfastly protected some ‘‘recreation’’ in scholarly pursuits where he had freedom to ‘‘waste time’’ and ‘‘dabble’’ in areas where he was an outsider. To let new ideas simmer on the ‘‘back burners’’ he might retreat to a
library carrel with a view of the lake, or integrate the ideas into a course he was currently teaching. He avoided competitive pressures (e.g., for quick publications, feeling responsible to read everything in one’s ﬁeld) that would monopolize time and crowd out other essential pursuits, even if this meant shunning contexts that conferred more prestige. Finally, Salk intentionally cultivated physical environments that contained beauty and awe, and understood that a walk on the beach might be just as important for scholarship and creativity as diligent work in a lab. This insight is consistent with ancient wisdom about the importance of nature and a growing body of contemporary empirical work on its beneﬁts (Kaplan 1995). He learned how to sit quietly and calmly after a nap, or after waking up in the middle of the night, to see whether there were any ideas to cultivate. He tried to surround himself with artistscientists who understood the ‘‘human side of science.’’ He even tried to notice physiological changes that might indicate right or left brain processing. The second commonality across all the interviews had to do with the equally important component of rational and voluntary attention to work out a problem. Although the interviews had less variety on this component of experiential wisdom, it was clear that Strand, Campbell, and Salk—when the moment was right—had a ﬁerce capacity for hard work. Strand recognized when the time came to ‘‘get rid’’ of a poem, and worked relentlessly on it until he could move on to something new. Campbell admitted that he when the time came to write, he showed ‘‘an amazing ability’’ to drag a manuscript along with him and work on it continuously, even if distractions split the work into 15min intervals. Finally, Salk had a stubborn streak that sharpened his focus to realize his vision, whether it was years of dogged work in the laboratory or weeks of arguing with the architect of his Institute. A third commonality was perhaps the most important: each recognized the signiﬁcance of moments of deep engagement of ﬂow that reinforced and refreshed a path of sustained interest and learning. Experiential wisdom is not just the understanding that intuitive and voluntary modes must work synchronistically to sustain interest, it is the realization that neither mode in isolation can generate the total involvement and intensiﬁcation of energy needed to trigger the subjective rewards of ﬂow. The experiential wisdom of Strand, Campbell, and Salk set in motion a recurring cycle of ﬁnding a problem in need of resolution and solving the problem that was introduced. This cycle maintained an intrinsic rhythm in their learning processes. Only along such a dialectical path, and the reversals of boredom and anxiety associated with it, could episodes of deep engagement be realized. Each intimately knew these moments. Strand referred to an ‘‘extended present,’’ and his phenomenological description of these states precisely
mirrored descriptions of ﬂow. Campbell talked about a ‘‘self-driving momentum’’ when ideas started to ‘‘ﬂow.’’ Salk used the more traditional terms of ‘‘revelation’’ and ‘‘exhilaration’’ to describe moments of ﬂow.
Future Directions for Thought on Experiential Wisdom The concept of experiential wisdom helps to answer the question: how is it that some individuals are able to make interest abide and experience more frequent episodes of deep engagement? Although all three interviews presented were with males, previous work suggests that the same combination of intuition and rationality is also related to the abiding interest and lifelong learning of females (see Rathunde 1995). Furthermore, empirical evidence using the experience sampling method (ESM) reinforces the interviews and shows that male and female adolescents who successfully develop their talents are better able to coordinate their affect and cognition in states of optimal experience (see Csikszentmihalyi et al. 1997). For these reasons, exploring the potential of teaching experiential wisdom to students or other individuals who are struggling to stay engaged is a worthwhile goal for the future thought and research. However, a more important question that has an even greater scope for application emerges from these interviews: how is experiential wisdom developed? There was much less information in the interviews on this crucial subject. There were some promising leads in the Campbell and Salk interviews with respect to how social contexts (e.g., families and schools) affected the development of experiential wisdom. Campbell, in particular, pointed to being treated as an intellectual equal in his family, even before he became one. He also stressed the importance of school and work environments that reduced competitive pressure and supported the values of exploration and interpersonal respect. Salk wanted to populate his Institute with kindred spirits, those who were part artist and part scientist. In this way, he could create a context that placed an equally strong emphasis on intuition and rationality. There are in these brief comments some strong connections to the literature on the kinds of family and school contexts that support intrinsic motivation and interest (Anderman et al. 1999; Brophy 1998; Rathunde and Csikszetnmihalyi 2005; Sternberg 2001; Wentzel 1998). It may be that contexts that promote more frequent experiences of interest and ﬂow are the same type of contexts that support—over the long term—the development of experiential wisdom. This possibility has far-reaching implications and should be pursued in the future. Some well-intentioned family and school contexts over-emphasize the support of playful exploration; others put a
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