People begin to construct their understandings of other people in childhood. Some such constructs are referred to as prejudices. Studying ways children understand children with learning difficulties is one way to understand such constructions. Following insights from Jean Piaget and Ernst von Glasersfeld such constructions are influenced by the social experiences during childhood. Here different school experiences are shown to influence the children’s constructions in different ways. A sample of 125 girls in third and sixth class in two non-urban primary schools were given a questionnaire to assess their attitudes towards children with mental handicap. One school was integrated with two special classes of children with moderate mental handicap, the other school was not integrated. Results indicate that the girls in the integrated school are significantly more prosocial along dimensions having to do with sociability with, and social concern for children with mental handicap. Comparisons between this data set and a similar urban one reveal urban/non-urban differences in both attitude and understanding of academic difficulties. An intervention programme in the integrated school was evaluated and changes were noted in the attitudes of participants reflecting a maturing of the relationship towards children with mental handicap. Relevance: The value of inclusive experiences is shown in the different social representations constructed by children in different schools (one with experience of children with learning difficulty and the other without such experience).
Purpose: This conceptual-epistemological paper deals with the old problem of inversion of thinking, as typified by traditional metaphysics-ontology. It is proposed that a thorough constructivism – which views structures of mind, nature, and all, as not derived from (not referring to) any pre-structured given mind-independent reality (zero-derivation, 0-D) – can go beyond this conceptual impasse; it can also serve as a fall-back position for positive ontologies. Practical implications: The practical result of 0-D is that all structures of experience are understood as tools serving individual and collective subjects. Conclusion: This conceptual correction results in a simplification for the understanding of some conceptual puzzles, such as the mind-brain relation, but also in a considerable increase of responsibility, because entities and agents formerly considered responsible, and outside the mind, are recognized to be extensions of the subjects.
Purpose: To show that the mind–brain relation can be understood from a perspective that keeps the mind at the center. Problem: Since at least the time of Augustine, the puzzle of the mind–brain relation has been how the mind is attached to, or originates from, the body or brain. This is still the prevalent scientific question. It implies assumption of a primary (ontological) subject–object split, and furthermore that subjective experience can be derived from, or even reduced to, a fictitious mind-independently pre-structured reality. This belief in mind-independent reality is closely related to the development and use of language. It in turn means that the mind cannot be real because it cannot be mind-independent and so disappears from discussion, preventing access to the mind–brain question. Solution: The problem requires an epistemology which keeps subjective experience at the center but does not interfere with objective methods. The un-testable proposition of mind-independent structures can be re-formulated as the use of templates for thinking: a method created by humans, a knowable tool, that is, “working” or “as-if” ontology-metaphysics. Truth and reality, including the reality of objective brain activity, then become working tools within ongoing subject-inclusive encompassing experience. Conclusion: The traditional mind–brain puzzle is the result of erroneous premises, and can be replaced by the question: how does working-objective knowledge originate within encompassing experience? This is a novel and contradiction-free approach to studies of the mind–brain relation and related questions.