Category Archives: stages

The stage theories: are they all fiction?

I normally do not like to thrash articles or opinion pieces, but this article by Michael Shermer, in the Scientific American, has to be dealt with as it as masquerading as an authoritative debunking by one of the foremost skeptics in one of the most respected magazines. Yet, it is low on science and facts and is more towards opinions, biases and prejudices.

Shermer, from the article seems to be generally antagonistic to stage theories as he thinks they are mere narratives and not science. The method he goes about discrediting stage theories is to lump all of them together (from Freud’s’ theories to Kohlberg’s theories), and then by picking up on one of them (the stages of grief theory by Kubler-Ross) he tries to discredit them all. This is a little surprising. While I too believe (and it is one of the prime themes of this blog) that most of the stage theories have something in common and follow a general pattern, yet I would be reluctant to club developmental stage theories that usually involve stages while the child is growing; to other stage theories like stages of grief, in which no physical development is concurrent with the actual stage process, but the stages are in adults that have faced a particular situation and are trying to cope with that situation. In the former case the children are definitely growing and their brains are maturing and their is a very real substrate that could give rise to distinctive stages; in the latter case the stages may not be tied so much to development of the neural issue; as much they are to its plasticity; the question in latter case would be viz does the brain adapt to losses like a catastrophic news, death of loved one etc by reorganizing a bit and does the reorganizing happen in phases or stages. The two issues of childhood development and adult plasticity are related , but may be different too. With adult neurogenisis now becoming prominent I wont be surprised if we find neural mechanisms for some of these adult stages too, like the stages of grief, but I would still keep the issues different.

Second , assuming that Shermer is right and that at the least the stage theory of grief, as proposed by Kubler-Ross is incorrect; and also that it can be clubbed with other stage theories; would it be proper to conclude that all stage theories were incorrect based on the fact that one of them was incorrect/ false. It would be like that someone proposed a modular architecture of mind; and different modules for mind were proposed accordingly; but on of the proposed modules did not stood the scrutiny of time( lets say a module for golf-playing was not found in the brain); does that say that all theories that say that the brain is organized modularity for at least some functions are wrong and all other modules are proved non-existent. Maybe the grief stages theory is wrong, but how can one generalize from that to all developmental stage theories, many of them which have been validated extensively (like Paiget’s theories) and go on a general rant against all things ‘stages’!!

Next let me address another fallacy that Shermer commits; the causal analogy fallacy: that if two things are analogous than one thing is causing other , when in fact no directional inference can be drawn from the analogical space. He asserts that humans are pattern-seeking, story-telling primates who like to explain away there experiences with stories or narratives especially as it provides a structure over unpredictable and chaotic happenings. Now, I am all with Shermer up till this point and this has been my thesis too; but then he takes a leap here and says that this is the reason we come up with stage theories. Why ‘stage’ theories? Why not just theories? any theory, in as much as it is an attempt to provide a framework for understanding and explication is a potential narrative and perhaps anyone that tries to come up with a theory is guilty of story-telling by extension. The leap he is making here, is the assumption that story-telling is a ‘stage’ process and a typical story follows a pattern, which is, unfolding of plot in distinct stages.

Now, I agree with the leap too that Shermer is making- a narrative is not just any continuous thread of yarn that the author spins- it normally involves discrete stages and though I have not touched on this before, Christopher Brooks work that delineated the eight basic story plots also deals with the five -stage unfolding of plot in all the different basic story plots. so I am not contesting the fact that story-telling is basically a stage process with distinct stages through which the protagonist pass or distinct stages of plot development; what I am contesting is the direction of causality. Is it because we have evidence of distinct stages in the lives of individuals, and in general, evidence for the eight-fold or the five-fold stages of development of various faculties, that our stories reflect distinct stages as they unfold and the mono myth has a distinct stage structure; or is it because our stories have structures in the form of stages, that the theories we develop also have stages? I believe that some theorizing in terms of stages may indeed be driven by our desire to compartmentalize everything into eight or so basic stages and environmental adaptive problems we have encountered repeatedly and which have become part of our mythical narrative structure; but most parsimoniously or mythical narrative structure is stage bound, as we have observed regularities in our development and life that can only be explained by resorting to discrete stages rather than a concept to continuous incremental improvement/ development/ unfolding.

Before moving on, let me just give a brief example of the power of stage theories and how they can be traced to neural mechanisms. I’ll be jumping from the very macro phenomenon I have been talking about to the very micro phenomenon of perception. One can consider the visuomotor development of a child. Early in life there is a stage when the oculomotor control is mostly due to sub cortical regions like superior colliculus and the higher cortical regions are not much involved (they are not sufficiently developed/ myelinated) . The retina of eye is such that the foveal region is underdeveloped; and all this combination means that infants are very good at orienting their eyes to moving targets in their peripheral vision, but are poor at colour and form discrimination. Also, they can perform saccades first, the capability to make antisaccades develops next and the capacity to make smooth pursuit movement comes later. There are distinct stages of oculomotor control that a child can move through and this would definitely affect its perception of the world. (for example on can recognize an disicrimintae based on form first and color later as the visual striated areas for these mature in that order. In sort, there are strong anatomical, physiological and psychological substrates for most of the developmental stage theories.

Now let me address, why Shermer, whom I normally admire, has taken this perverse position. It is because his Skeptic magazine recently published an article by Russell P. Friedman, executive director of the Grief Recovery Institute in Sherman Oaks, Calif. (www.grief-recovery.com), and John W. James, of The Grief Recovery Handbook (HarperCollins, 1998), which tried to debunk an article published by JAMA that found support for the five stage grief theory. Now, that Skeptic article had received a well-deserved thrashing by some reputed blogs, see this world Of Psychology post that exposes many of the holes in Friedman and James’ argument, so possibly out of desperation Shermer though why not settle the scores and expose all stage theories as pseudoscience. Unfortunately he fails miserably in defending his publication and we have seen above why!

Now, let us come to the meat of the controversy: the stages of grief theory of Kubler-Ross for which the Yale group found evidence and which the Skeptics didn’t like and found the evidence worth criticizing. I have read both the original JAMA paper and the skeptic article and see some merits to both side. In fact I guess the stance that Friedman et al have taken I even agree with to an extent, especially their decoupling of stages of grief from stages of dying person/ stages of adjustment to catastrophic death. Some excerpts:

IN 1969 THE PSYCHIATRIST ELIZABETH KÜBLER-ROSS wrote one of the most influential books in the history of psychology, On Death and Dying. It exposed the heartless treatment of terminally-ill patients prevalent at the time. On the positive side, it altered the care and treatment of dying people. On the negative side, it postulated the now-infamous five stages of dying—Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance (DABDA), so annealed in culture that most people can recite them by heart. The stages allegedly represent what a dying person might experience upon learning he or she had a terminal illness. “Might” is the operative word, because Kübler-Ross repeatedly stipulated that a dying person might not go through all five stages, nor would they necessarily go through them in sequence. It would be reasonable to ask: if these conditions are this arbitrary, can they truly be called stages?

Many people have contested the validity of the stages of dying, but here we are more concerned with the supposed stages of grief which derived from the stages of
dying.

During the 1970s, the DABDA model of stages of dying morphed into stages of grief, mostly because of their prominence in college-level sociology and psychology courses. The fact that Kübler-Ross’ theory of stages was specific to dying became obscured.

Prior to publication of her famous book, Kübler-Ross hypothesized the Five Stages of Receiving Catastrophic News, but in the text she renamed them the Five Stages of Dying or Five Stages of Death. That led to the later, improper shift to stages of grief. Had she stuck with the phrase catastrophic news, perhaps the mythology of stages wouldn’t have emerged and grievers wouldn’t be encouraged to try to fit their emotions into non-existent stages.

I wholeheartedly concur with the authors that it is not good to confuse stages that a dying person may go through on receiving catastrophic death of terminal illness, with grief stages that may follow once one has learned of a loss and is coping with the loss(death of someone, divorce of parents etc); in the first case the event that is of concern is in the future and would lead to different tactics, than for the latter case when the event is already in the past and has occurred. thus, as rightly pointed by the authors, denial may make sense for dying people – ‘the diagnosis is incorrect, I am not going to die; I have no serious disease.’; denial may not make sense for a loos of a loved one by death, as the vent has already happened and only a very disturbed and unable to cope person would deny the factuality of the event (death). but this is a lame point; in grief (equated with loss of loved one), they stage can be rightly characterized as disbelief/dissociation/isolation, whereby one would actively avoid all thoughts of the loved one’s non-existence and come up with feelings like ‘I still cannot believe that my mother is no longer alive’ . Similarly My personal view is that while anger and energetic searching of alternatives may be the second stage response to catastrophic prospective forecast; the second stage response to a catastrophic news (news of a loss of loved one) would be more characterized by energized yearning for the lost one and an anger towards the unavoidable circumstances and the world in general that led to the loss.

The third stage is particularly problematic; in dying people it makes perfect sense to negotiate and bargain, as the event has not really happened (‘I’ll stop sinning, take away the cancer); but as rightly pointed out by the authors it doesn’t make sense for events that have already happened.while many authoritative people have substituted yearning for the third stage in case of grief , I would propose that we replace that with regret or guilt. I know this would be controversial; but the idea is a bargaining of past events like ‘God, please why didn’t you take my life, instead of my young son’ ; it doesn’t make sense but is a normal stage of grieving – looking for and desiring alternative bad outcomes (‘I wish I was dead instead of him’. The other two stages depression and acceptance do not pose as much problems, so I’ll leave them for now. suffice it to say that becoming depressed / disorganized and then recovering/ becoming reorganized are normal stages that one would be expected to go through.

What I would now return is to their criticism of Kubler-Ross. They first attack her saying her evidence was anecdotal and based on personal feelings then , instead of correcting this gross error and themselves providing statistical and methodological research results, present anecdotal evidence based on their helping thousands of grieving persons.

Second they claim, that this stage based theories cause much harm; but I am not able to understand why a stage based theory must cause harm and , for all their good intentions, I think they are seriously confused here. On the one hand they claim (for eg in depression section) that stages lead to complacency:

It is normal for grievers to experience a lowered level of emotional and physical energy, which is neither clinical depression nor a stage. But when people believe depression is a stage that defines their sad feelings, they become trapped by the belief that after the passage of some time the stage will magically end. While waiting for the depression to lift, they take no actions that might help them.

and on the other hand they claim that labeling something causes over reactivity and over treatment:

When medical or psychological professionals hear grievers diagnose themselves as depressed, they often reflexively confirm that diagnosis and prescribe treatment with psychotropic drugs. The pharmaceutical companies which manufacture those drugs have a vested interest in sustaining the idea that grief-related depression is clinical, so their marketing supports the continuation of that belief. The question of drug treatment for grief was addressed in the National Comorbidity Survey published in the Archives of General Psychiatry,Vol. 64, April, 2007). “Criteria For Depression Are Too Broad Researchers Say—Guidelines May Encompass Many Who Are Just Sad.” That headline trumpeted the survey’s results, which observed more than 8,000 subjects and revealed that as many as 25% of grieving people diagnosed as depressed and placed on antidepressant drugs, are not clinically depressed. The study indicated they would benefit far more from supportive therapies that could keep them from developing full-blown depression.

Now, I am not clear what the problem is – is it complacency or too much concerns and over-treatment. And this argument they keep on repeating and hammering down – that stages do harm as them make people complacent that thing swill get better on its own and no treatment is needed. I don’t think that is a valid assumption, we all know that many things like language develop, but their are critical times hen interventions are necessary for proper language to develop; so too is the case with grieving people, they would eventually recover, but they do need support of friends and family and all interventions, despite this being ‘just a phase’. I don’t think saying that someone would statistically go away in a certain time-period eases the effects one if feeling of the phenomenon right now. An analogy may help. It is statistically true, that on an average, within six months a person would get over his most recent breakup and start perhaps flirting again; that doesn’t subtract from the hopelessness and feelings of futility he feels on teh days just following the breakup and most of the friends and family do provide support even though they know that this phase will get over. Same is true for other stages like stages of grief and the concerns of authors are ill-founded.

The concerns of the author that I did feel sympathetic too though was the stage concept being overused in therapy and feelings like guilt being inadvertently implanted in the clients by the therapists.

Grieving parents who have had a troubled child commit suicide after years of therapy and drug and alcohol rehab, are often told, “You shouldn’t feel guilty, you did everything possible.” The problem is that they weren’t feeling guilty, they were probably feeling devastated and overwhelmed, among other feelings. Planting the word guilt on them, like planting any of the stage words, induces them to feel what others suggest. Tragically, those ideas keep them stuck and limit their access to more helpful ideas about dealing with their broken hearts.

Therapists have to be really careful here and not be guided by pre-existing notions of how the patient is feeling. they should listen to the client and when in doubt ask questions, not implicitly suggest and assume things. That indeed is a real danger.

Lastly the criticism of stages/ common traits vs individual differences and uniqueness have to be dealt with. the claim that each grieves uniquely is not a novel claim and I do not find it lacking in evidence too. It is tautological. But still some common patterns can be elucidated and subsumed under stages. These stages are the ‘normal’ stages with enough room for individual aberration . I think there has to be more tolerance and acceptance of the ‘abnormal’ in general – if someone directly accepts and never feels and denial he too is abnormal – but one we readily accept as a resilient persons; the other who gets stuch at denial has to be shown greater care and hand-holded through the remaining stages to come to acceptance.

In the end I would like to briefly touch on the Yale study that reignited this controversy. Here is the summary of An Empirical Examination of the Stage Theory of Grief by Paul K. Maciejewski, PhD; Baohui Zhang, MS; Susan D. Block, MD; Holly G. Prigerson, PhD.

Context The stage theory of grief remains a widely accepted model of bereavement adjustment still taught in medical schools, espoused by physicians, and applied in diverse contexts. Nevertheless, the stage theory of grief has previously not been tested empirically.

Objective To examine the relative magnitudes and patterns of change over time postloss of 5 grief indicators for consistency with the stage theory of grief.

Design, Setting, and Participants Longitudinal cohort study (Yale Bereavement Study) of 233 bereaved individuals living in Connecticut, with data collected between January 2000 and January 2003.

Main Outcome Measures Five rater-administered items assessing disbelief, yearning, anger, depression, and acceptance of the death from 1 to 24 months postloss.

Results Counter to stage theory, disbelief was not the initial, dominant grief indicator. Acceptance was the most frequently endorsed item and yearning was the dominant negative grief indicator from 1 to 24 months postloss. In models that take into account the rise and fall of psychological responses, once rescaled, disbelief decreased from an initial high at 1 month postloss, yearning peaked at 4 months postloss, anger peaked at 5 months postloss, and depression peaked at 6 months postloss. Acceptance increased throughout the study observation period. The 5 grief indicators achieved their respective maximum values in the sequence (disbelief, yearning, anger, depression, and acceptance) predicted by the stage theory of grief.

Conclusions Identification of the normal stages of grief following a death from natural causes enhances understanding of how the average person cognitively and emotionally processes the loss of a family member. Given that the negative grief indicators all peak within approximately 6 months postloss, those who score high on these indicators beyond 6 months postloss might benefit from further evaluation.


I believe they have been very honest with their data and analysis. They found peak of denial, yearning, anger , depression and acceptance in that order. I belie they could have clubbed together anger and yearning together as the second stage as this study dealt with stages of grief and not stages of dying and should have introduced a new measure of regret/guilt and I predict that this new factors peak would be between the anger/yearning peak and depression peak.

Thus, to summarize, my own theory of grief and dying (in eth eight basic adaptive problems framework) are :

Stage theory of dying (same as Kubler-Ross):

  1. Denial: avoiding the predator; as the predator (death ) cannot be avoided , it is denied!!
  2. Anger/ Searching: Searching for resources; an energetic (and thus partly angry)efforts to find a solution to this over looming death; belief in pseudo-remedies etc.
  3. Bargaining/ negotiating: forming alliances and friendships: making a pact with the devil…or the God …that just spare me this time and I will do whatever you want in future.
  4. Depression: parental investment/ bearing kids analogy: is it worth living/ bringing more people into this world?
  5. Acceptance: helping kin analogy: The humanity is myself. even if I die, I live via others.

Stage theory of grief (any loss especially loss of a loved one)

  1. Disbelief: Avoiding the predator (loss) . I cant believe the loss happened. Let me not think about it.
  2. Anger/ Yearning: Energetic search for resources (reasons) . Why did it happen to me; can the memories and yearning substitute for the loved one?
  3. Bargaining/ regret/ guilt: forming alliances and friendships: Could this catastrophe be exchanged for another? could I have died instead of him?
  4. Depression: parental investment/ bearing kids analogy : is it worth living/ bringing more people into this world?
  5. Acceptance: helping kin analogy: Maybe I can substitute the lost one with other significant others? Maybe I should be thankful that other significant persons are still there and only one loss has occurred.

Do let me know your thoughts on this issue. I obviously being a researcher in the stages paradigm was infuriated seeing the Shermer article,; others may have more balanced views. do let me know via comments, email!!

ResearchBlogging.org

Paul K. Maciejewski, PhD; Baohui Zhang, MS; Susan D. Block, MD; Holly G. Prigerson, PhD (2007). An Empirical Examination of the Stage Theory of Grief JAMA, 297 (7), 716-723

After Social Maturity, Emotional Maturity or EI/ EQ

My last two posts have dealt with the Social Maturity theory of the developmental psychologist Robert Kegan. This post is about emotional maturity as reflected in Emotional quotient (EQ) / Emotional Intelligence (EI).

I presume that everybody is familiar with the term Emotional Intelligence, thanks to Daniel Goleman. It can be defined as:

Emotional Intelligence (EI), often measured as an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ), describes an ability, capacity, skill or (in the case of the trait EI model) a self-perceived ability, to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups.

As per Goleman, a person has many emotional competencies, related and measured by the above EQ, and these fall in five broad domains.

The Five Components of Emotional Intelligence

Self-awareness. The ability to recognize and understand personal moods and emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. Hallmarks* of self-awareness include self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, and a self-deprecating sense of humor. Self-awareness depend on one’s ability to monitor one’s own emotion state and to correctly identify and name one’s emotions.

Self-regulation.The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, and the propensity to suspend judgment and to think before acting. Hallmarks include trustworthiness and integrity; comfort with ambiguity; and openness to change.

Motivation. A passion to work for reasons that go beyond money and status, which are external rewards. A propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Hallmarks include a strong drive to achieve, optimism even in the face of failure, and organizational commitment.

Empathy. The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. A skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. Hallmarks include expertise in building and retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity, and service to clients and customers. (In an educational context, empathy is often thought to include, or lead to, sympathy, which implies concern, or care or a wish to soften negative emotions or experiences in others.) See also Mirror Neurons.

It is important to note that empathy does not necessarily imply compassion. Empathy can be ‘used’ for compassionate or cruel behavior. Serial killers who marry and kill many partners in a row tend to have great emphatic skills!

Social skills. Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks, and an ability to find common ground and build rapport. Hallmarks of social skills include effectiveness in leading change, persuasiveness, and expertise building and leading teams.

These can easily be related to the Big five traits (although I am not aware of any research that does so). Below I try to correlate them to the Big five. Some of the material is taken from this source.

I) SELF-AWARENESS:

  • Emotional Awareness:recognizing one’s emotions and their effect
  • Accurate Self-assessment: knowing one’s strengths and limits
  • Self-confidence: A strong sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities

One can easily relate this to Neuroticism as I believe that N underlies the awareness of emotions for the first time in the child.

II) SELF-REGULATION

  • Self-control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check
  • Trustworthiness: Maintaining standards of honesty and integrity
  • Conscientiousness: Taking responsibility for personal performance
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change
  • Innovation: Being comfortable with novel ideas, approaches and new information

Introduction of Conscientiousness as a sub-competency in this domain makes it easy to correlate this with Conscientiousness . Also note the emphasis on impulses.

III) MOTIVATION

  • Achievement drive: Striving to improve or meet a standard of excellence
  • Commitment: Aligning with the goals of the group or organization
  • Initiative: Readiness to act on opportunities
  • Optimism: Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks

This can be related to Positive emotionality or Extarversion as the emphasis seems to be on developmental of positive emotions and general energy and motivation level.

IV) EMPATHY

  • Understanding others: sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, taking an active interest in their concerns
  • Developing others: Sensing others development needs and bolstering their abilities
  • Service orientation: Anticipating, recognizing, and meeting customers’ needs
  • Leveraging diversity: Cultivating opportunities through different kinds of people
  • Political Awareness: Reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships

This also by being named Empathy , is clearly reflective of Agreeableness. The focus for the first time shifts from self to others.

V) SOCIAL SKILLS

  • Influence: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion
  • Communication: Listening openly and sending convincing messages
  • Conflict management: Negotiating and resolving disagreements
  • Leadership: Inspiring and guiding individuals and groups
  • Change Catalyst: Initiating or managing change
  • Building bonds: Nurturing instrumental relationships
  • Collaboration and cooperation: Working with others toward shared goals
  • Team capabilities: creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals

This can be stretched to correlate to Rebelliousness-conformity/ openness/ intellect. It reflects how one uses the acquired emotional knowledge about others emotional states to advantage.

Please note that while the first three domains refer to individual’s self-reflective behavior, the last tow are focused on how individual relates with others. I believe it is possible to move a notch higher and add three more domains to this – one that relate to how groups themselves function effectively in emotional settings. Note that the definition of EI contains references to how groups behave wisely, but that is not captured in above analysis by Goleman, which is confined to individuals self-reflective or other-oriented behavior, but does not cover group dynamics.

Now, many people have dismissed Goleman as Pop science, So I would like to move beyond Goleman to other people working in the same field like Mayor and Salovey and Heins. Mayor and Salovey have defined EI as :

The Four branches of EI:

1. Perception Appraisal and Expression of Emotion
2. Emotional Facilitation of Thinking
3. Understanding and Analyzing Emotions; Employing Emotional Knowledge
4. Reflective Regulation of Emotions to Promote Emotional and Intellectual Growth

Perception, Appraisal and Expression of Emotion

  • Ability to identify emotion in one’s physical states, feelings, and thoughts.
  • Ability to identify emotions in other people, designs, artwork, etc. through language, sound, appearance, and behavior.
  • Ability to express emotions accurately, and to express needs related to those feelings.
  • Ability to discriminate between accurate and inaccurate, or honest vs. dishonest expressions of feeling.

Emotional Facilitation of Thinking

  • Emotions prioritize thinking by directing attention to important information.
  • Emotions are sufficiently vivid and available that they can be generated as aids to judgment and memory concerning feelings.
  • Emotional mood swings change the individual’s perspective from optimistic to pessimistic, encouraging consideration of multiple points of view.
  • Emotional states differentially encourage specific problem-solving approaches such as when happiness facilitates inductive reasoning and creativity.

Understanding and Analyzing Emotions; Employing Emotional Knowledge

  • Ability to label emotions and recognize relations among the words and the emotions themselves, such as the relation between liking and loving.
  • Ability to interpret the meanings that emotions convey regarding relationships, such as that sadness often accompanies a loss.
  • Ability to understand complex feelings: simultaneous feelings of love and hate or blends such as awe as a combination of fear and surprise.
  • Ability to recognize likely transitions among emotions, such as the transition from anger to satisfaction or from anger to shame.

Reflective Regulation of Emotion to Promote Emotional and Intellectual Growth

  • Ability to stay open to feelings, both those that are pleasant and those that are unpleasant.
  • Ability to reflectively engage or detach from an emotion depending upon its judged informativeness or utility.
  • Ability to reflectively monitor emotions in relation to oneself and others, such as recognizing how clear, typical, influential or reasonable they are.
  • Ability to manage emotion in oneself and others by moderating negative emotions and enhancing pleasant ones, without repressing or exaggerating information they may convey.

I would like to modify and extend the Mayor and Salovey breakup of EI into the following eight components. It is also my thesis that they occur in the following order:

  1. Emotional self-Awareness: people can differ in how much aware are they of their own internal emotional states.
  2. Emotional tone/ vivacity : people can differ in how much emotion they feel for the same external / internal triggers. some may have vivid emotions while some may have bland emotions.
  3. Emotional understanding/analysis/ knowledge/ monitoring : people can differ in how they interpret ones emotional states- which states they deem as close, positive, negative etc and whether they identify the states correctly.
  4. Emotional self-regulation: people can differ in their abilities to regulate their emotional states: some states may be more desirable and some need to be replaced with other depending on external exigences.
  5. Emotional Maturity/development/ refinement: people may differ in the extent to which they let their lives be defined by a prominent emotional/ mood state. Some may devlope their primary emotion to be Joy while others may define them primarily by sad emotions.
  6. Emotional others-awareness or empathy: while the discussion till now was focused on the individual’s emotions, it now moves to others’ emotions. People may differ in their ability to perceive and feel the correct emotional state of others
  7. Emotional communication/ labeling/ expression: People may differ in their ability to communicate their emotions to others, to label them correctly in such verbal/ non-verbal communication.
  8. Emotional Integrity/ holism : people may differ in their ability to feel contradictory emotions within themselves and integrate in an overarching integral framework. they may also differ in their ability to judge the honesty or trustworthiness of others’ expressed/ subtle emotions.

To me this seems a promising framework using one which could investigate the EQ/ EI conundrum. However, the above is juts a hypothesis; I believe it is testable and generates many predictions that can, and should, be tested and the theory verified or rejected accordingly. I also belive that these competencies develop in stages and follow a distinct developmental pattern. this too can be verified or rejected.

Robert Kegan’s stages of Social Maturity/ orders of consciousness

I happened to stumble upon recently on an excellent two series article by Mark Dombeck about the theories of Robert Kegan. The articles are really good and I strongly recommended that you go there and read the stuff in its entirety.

Robert Kegan is a developmental psychologist, based at Harvard, and inspired by Piaget’s stage theories, he has proposed his own stage theory as to how we become socially mature. Critical to understanding his theory are some concepts related to subject-object consciousness. Subject consciousness refers to self-concepts to which we are attached and thus cannot take an objective look. Object consciousness is also part of self, and was a subject consciousness in an earlier stage, but now we can detach ourselves from the underlying phenomenon and take an objective look at that part of self.

It is his thesis that as babies we feel everything as self and actually have no concept of self different from that of the world. Slowly as we develop, we start identifying with our bodily sensations, reflexes, movements, desires, needs etc and our sphere of objectivity grows bigger, while our sphere of subjectivity narrows and shrinks.

He also maintains that we pass through discrete developmental stages , wherein we take a leap from one stage to another, and while stuck in that developmental stage , are not passively dividing the world and self in subject and object consciousness, but it is a dynamic process, though in equilibrium. At each leap, what was earlier subjective, now becomes objective. another way to say the same is that what was concrete (my perspective and thus available to me) becomes abstract(another’s perspective and thus not available to me, but can only be imagined from abstraction)

More complex appreciations of the social world evolve into existence as a person becomes able to appreciate stuff abstractly that they used to appreciate only in concrete (obvious, tangible) forms. This is to say (using Kegan’s terms) that people are initially embedded in their own subjective perspective. They see things only from their own particular point of view and fundamentally cannot understand what it might be like to see themselves from another perspective other than their own. Being unable to understand what you look like to someone else is the essence and definition of what it means to be subjective about yourself, for example. Being able to appreciate things from many different perspectives is the essence of what it means to be relatively objective.

With this introduction, I’ll now like to introduce readers to the seven stages he has identified (he has missed the eighth stage in his analysis!)

Kegan is suggesting that as babies grow into adults, they develop progressively more objective and accurate appreciations of the social world they inhabit. They do this by progressing through five or more states or periods of development which he labeled as follows:

  • Incorporative
  • Impulsive
  • Imperial
  • Interpersonal
  • Institutional

In their beginnings, babies are all subjective and have really no appreciation of anything objective at all, and therefore no real self-awareness. This is to say, at first, babies have little idea how to interpret anything, and the only perspective they have with which to interpret things is their own scarcely developed perspective. They can recognize parent’s faces and the like, but this sort of recognition should not be confused with babies being able to appreciate that parents are separate creatures with their own needs. This key recognition doesn’t occur for years.

Kegan describes this earliest period as Incorporative. The sense of self is not developed at this point in time. There is no self to speak of because there is no distinction occurring yet between self and other. To the baby, there is not any reason to ask the question, “who am I” because the baby’s mind is nothing more and nothing less than the experience of its senses as it moves about. In an important sense, the baby is embedded in its sensory experience and has no other awareness.
Babies practice using their senses and reflexes a lot and thus develop mental representations of those reflexes. At some point it occurs to the baby that it has reflexes that it can use and senses that it can experience. Reflex and sensation are thus the first mental objects; the first things that are understood to be distinct components of the self. The sense of self emerges from the knowledge that there are things in the world that aren’t self (like reflexes and senses); things that I am not. To quote Kegan, “Rather than literally being my reflexes, I now have them, and “I” am something other. “I” am that which coordinates or mediates the reflexes…”
Kegan correspondingly refers to this second period of social appreciation development as Impulsive, to suggest that the child is now embedded in impulses – which are those things that coordinate reflexes. The sense of self at this stage of life would be comfortable saying something like, “hungry”, or “sleepy”, being fully identified with these hungers. Though babies are now aware that they can take action to fulfill a need, they still are not clear that other people exist yet as independent creatures. From the perspective of the Impulsive mind, a parent is merely another reflex that can be brought to bear to satisfy impulses.

The objectification of what was previously subjective experience continues as development continues. Kegan’s next developmental leap is known as the Imperial self. The child as “little dictator” is born. In the prior impulsive self, the self literally is nothing more and nothing less than a set of needs. There isn’t anyone “there” having those needs yet. The needs alone are all that exists. As awareness continues to rise, the child now starts to become aware that “it” is the very thing that has the needs. Because the child is now aware that it has needs (rather than is needs), it also starts to become aware that it can consciously manipulate things to get its needs satisfied. The impulsive child was also manipulative, perhaps, but in a more unaware animal manner. The imperial child is not yet aware that other people have needs too. It only knows at this stage that it has needs, and it doesn’t hesitate to express them.

The Interpersonal period that follows next starts with the first moment when the child comes to understand that there are actually other people out there in the world whose needs need to be taken into account along side their own. The appreciation of the otherness of other people comes about, as always by a process of expanding perspectives. The child’s perspective in this case expands from its own only to later include both its own and those of other important people around it. It is the child’s increasingly sophisticated understanding of the idea that people have needs itself which cause the leap to occur. To quote Kegan again,”I” no longer am my needs (no longer the imperial I); rather I have them. In having them I can now coordinate, or integrate, one need system with another, and in so doing, I bring into being that need-mediating reality which we refer to when we speak of mutuality.”
In English then, the interpersonal child becomes aware that “not only do I have needs, other people do too!” This moment in time is where conscience is born and the potential for guilt and shame arises, as well as the potential for empathy. Prior to this moment, these important aspects of adult mental life don’t exist except as potentials.
The interpersonal child is aware that other people have needs which it needs to be taken into account if it is to best satisfy its own needs. There is no guiding principle that helps the interpersonal child to determine which set of needs is most important – its own, or those of the other people. Some children will conclude that their own needs are most important to satisfy, while others will conclude that other’s needs should be prioritized, and some children will move back and forth between the two positions like a crazy monkey.

As the child’s sense of self continues to develop, at some point it becomes aware that a guiding principle can be established which helps determine which set of needs should take precedence under particular circumstances. This is the first moment that the child can be said to have values, or commitments to ideas and beliefs and principles which are larger and more permanent than its own passing whims and fears. Kegan refers to this new realization of and commitment to values as the Institutional period, noting that in this period, the child’s idea of self becomes something which can be, for the first time, described in terms of institutionalized values, such as being honest. “I’m an honest person. I try to be fair. I strive to be brave.” are the sorts of things an institutional mind might say. Values, such as the Golden Rule (e.g., “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”), start to guide the child’s appreciation of how to be a member of the family and of society. The moral, ethical and legal foundations of society follow from this basic achievement of an Institutional self. Further, children (or adults) who achieve this level of social maturity understand the need for laws and for ethical codes that work to govern everyone’s behavior. Less socially mature individuals won’t grasp why these things are important and cannot and should not simply be disregarded when they are inconvenient.

For many people, social maturity seems to stop here at the Institutional stage. Kegan himself writes that this stage is the stage of conventional adult maturity; one that many (but not all) adults reach, and beyond which most do not progress. However, the potential for continued development continues onwards and upwards.
The next evolution of self understanding occurs when the child (by now probably an adult) starts to realize that there is more than one way of being “fair” or “honest” or “brave” in the world. Whereas before, in the interpersonal mindset, there is only one possible right way to interpret a social event (e.g., in accordance with one’s own value system), a newly developed InterIndivdiual mindset starts to recognize a diversity of ways that someone might act and still be acting in accordance with a coherent value system (though not necessarily one’s own value system).
For example, let’s consider how someone with an Institutional mindset and someone with an InterIndividual mindset might judge someone who has become a “draft dodger” so as to avoid military duty. There are precisely two ways that an Institutionally minded person might look at such an action. If he or she is of the mainstream institutional mindset, draft dodging is a non-religious sort of heresy and a crime which should be punishable. If, on the other hand, he or she is of a counter-cultural institutional mindset, then judgements are reversed and draft dodging is seen as a brave action which demonstrates individual courage in the face of massive peer pressure to conform. An institutionally minded person can hold one or the other of these perspectives but not both, because he or she is literally embedded in one or the other of those perspectives and cannot appreciate the other except as something alien and evil.

A person who has achieved InterIndividual social maturity is able to hold both mainstream and counter-cultural value systems in mind at the same time, and to see the problem of draft dodging from both perspectives. This sort of dual-vision will appear to be the worst kind of wishy-washiness and flip-floppery to someone stuck in a conventional Institutional mindset and maturity level. However, if you are following the progression of social maturity states, and how one states’ embedded subjective view becomes something which is seem objectively alongside other points of view as social maturity progresses, you will see that such dual-vision is indeed the logical next step; what a more socially mature sort of human being might look like.

Please note that though Mark only identifies five stages upfront, he mentions another one , which is inter-individualistic as the sixth stage. The reason he is reluctant is because most adults presumably never reach this stage. Also Kegan himself, in this interview talks about fifth-order of consciousness , which is equivalent to the seventh stage and defines it as a self-transforming stage:

WIE: So what about that tiny percent of people beyond self-authoring, or fourth order—what are the characteristics of the next, fifth order of consciousness?

RK: When you get to the edge of the fourth order, you start to see that all the ways that you had of making meaning or making sense out of your experience are, each in their own way, partial. They’re leaving certain things out. When people who have long had self-authoring consciousness come to the limits of self-authoring, they recognize the partiality of even their own internal system, even though like any good system, it does have the capacity to handle all the “data,” or make systematic, rational sense of our experience. In the Western world, we often call that “objectivity.” But just because you can handle everything, put it all together in some coherent system, obviously doesn’t make it a truthful apprehension—or truly objective. And this realization is what promotes the transformation from the fourth to the fifth order of consciousness, from the self-authoring self to what we call the self-transforming self. So, you start to build a way of constructing the world that is much more friendly to contradiction, to oppositeness, to being able to hold on to multiple systems of thinking. You begin to see that the life project is not about continuing to defend one formation of the self but about the ability to have the self literally be transformative. This means that the self is more about movement through different forms of consciousness than about the defending and identifying with any one form.

WIE: I think Don Beck would call your fifth order of consciousness a move to the Second Tier, which is an evolutionary transformation that takes us beyond survival mode to a more integral perspective on life.

RK: Yes. And it is also important to keep in mind that in this move from the fourth to the fifth order, from self-authoring to self-transforming, you have very important distinctions between those who are in the earlier process of that transition and those in the later stages—who have actually achieved the fifth order. So, there’s a critical distinction between on the one hand, a negative postmodernism that is all about trashing any ideological form, which is only deconstructive and is all about a fatigue with and critique of the ideological, and on the other, what I call a more reconstructive postmodernism that is not just about trashing. When you get to the other side of this four to five shift, and you’ve moved to this more reconstructive or transformative side, then there’s a whole capacity for reconnecting to these ideologies and recognizing that each of them is partial. You’re building relationships among them rather than holding on to one and projecting the other. It’s a much more positive spirit.

To clarify things a bit, in his later analysis , Kegan has replaced the stages of social maturity with orders of consciousness.

In In Over Our Heads, Kegan stops using the five stages described above in favor of the newer “orders of consciousness” scheme.

First order consciousness corresponds (roughly) to Incorporative and Impulsive stages and describes awareness which is fixed upon sensation and movement and impulse. It is awareness but it is not really yet a self.

Second order consciousness corresponds roughly to the Imperial self stage. It is awareness of self as a singular point of view without any real comprehension of others as independent selves in their own right.

Third order consciousness corresponds to Interpersonal and Institutional self stages, and describes a sense of self which is aware of both self and other as independent needful beings all of which are (or ought to be) guided by a consistent set of values.

A final fourth order of consciousness is also described which corresponds to the Interindividual self stage in which self-determination and tolerance and acceptance of formerly rejected aspects of self and society becomes possible.

The idea is that all people pass through these various stages as they develop, but not all people make it to the end of the line. Adolescence is typically characterized by the transition from second order to third order consciousness, but not all adolescents end up achieving third order consciousness by the time they become adults. Similarly, adulthood is typically characterized by the movement from third order consciousness into fourth order consciousness, but many adults do not make this transition either. Nevertheless, the institutions we live under (in America and in the West) tend to make demands on us as though we have all achieved fourth order consciousness.

Please note that in the interview Kegan clearly talks about a fifth order of consciousness and thus a seventh stage of social maturity.

To me the stages correspond neatly with the general eight-stage framework:

  1. The incorporative stage is all about the initial formation of a self concept that is different from world and the dawning of the subjective self or subjectivity.
  2. The impulsive stage is all about impulses that drive the self and with which one start identifying.
  3. The imperial stage is all about leveraging ones own interests vis-a-vis those of significant others. Here, there is awareness of others and interaction with them, but only as agents or obstacle- thus the persons are objectified and not treated as persons.
  4. The interpersonal stage is all about treating significant others as real people who can have as much desires, needs etc as one himself can. For the first time empathy comes into picture.
  5. The institutional stage is all about some values which one can abstract and make as guidelines for ones life. One realizes that people can have different values, but thinks that one’s own value system is the best/correct one.
  6. the inter-individual stage is all about appreciating that others can have different, yet equally valid value systems and for the first time one can be said to take the true perspective of another individual.
  7. the self-transforming stage is all about becoming aware that there are multiple value-systems suitable for different occasions and to become comfortable with contradictions in the value systems.
  8. The eighth stage I hypothesize would have to do with finding an integrity or integral perspective wherein one find that the value-systems one is using is holistic , despite contradictions and is able to resolve the apparent contradictions. One would see one as an object and there would be no subjectivity involved at all.

I’ll now briefly touch upon spiral dynamics, because in Kegan’s interview one of the spiral dynamics stages is equated with kegan’s stage/ order of consciousness.

Here again we find that there are eight stages , though unfortunately first six are grouped under tier I and the last 2 under tier II; while as per my framework only the flirts five should be in tier I and the last 3 in tier II.

They are :

Beige

Archaic-instinctive—survivalistic/automatic/reflexological
From 100,000 BC on
“Express self to meet imperative physiological needs through instincts of Homo sapiens.”

  • Purple

Animistic-tribalistic magical-animistic Tribal order
From 50,000 BC on
“Sacrifice to the ways of the elders and customs as one subsumed in group.”

  • Red

Egocentric-exploitive power gods/dominionist
From 7000 BC on
“Express self (impulsively) for what self desires without guilt and to avoid shame.”

  • Blue

Absolutistic-obedience mythic order—purposeful/authoritarian
From 3000 BC on
“Sacrifice self for reward to come through obedience to rightful authority in purposeful Way.”
(Amber is Ken Wilber’s current name for Blue)

  • Orange

Multiplistic-achievist scientific/strategic
From 1000 AD on (as early as 600 AD according to Graves and Calhoun)
“Express self (calculatedly) to reach goals and objectives without rousing the ire of important others.”

  • Green

Relativistic-personalistic—communitarian/egalitarian
From 1850 AD on (surged in early 20th century)
“Sacrifice self interest now in order to gain acceptance and group harmony.”

  • Yellow

Systemic-integrative
From 1950s on
“Express self for what self desires, but to avoid harm to others so that all life, not just own life, will benefit.”

  • Turquoise

Holistic
From 1970s on
A sacrifice self-interest system which is still forming

That should be enough for today!! Take the above spiral dynamics correlation with a pinch of salt, as Clare Graves on whose theory this work is build is explicit that these should not be confused with personality traits, though I am tempted to correlate this with the big eight and propose that when one gets stuck at lower level of development one has more of that trait in the negative direction.

Allport’s eight stages of self (proprium) development

While we are at the subject of personality, it would be instructive to note the contributions of Gordon Allport. He has had a seminal influence, introduced traits, but was simultaneously a believer in the uniqueness of an individual and wholeness of personality. His identified adjectives, amongst others, were subjected to factor analysis by Goldberg and that revealed the famous five (or the Big Five). However, one of the things that never caught up , was the term proprium he introduced for self. However some of his concepts for self have stood the test of time.

This post is about the development stages by which the self or unifying personal meaning construct of a person develops. Like most of the other developmental stage theories (like Loevinger’s ego development theory) this too follows a eight stage unfolding of self.

  1. The Sense of Bodily Self, which is a sense of one’s own body, including bodily sensations, attests to one’s existence and therefore remains a lifelong anchor for self-awareness.
  2. The Sense of Self-identity , which is the second aspect of the proprium is self-identity. This is most evident when the child, through acquiring language, recognizes himself as a distinct and constant point of reference.
  3. The Sense of Self-Esteem or Pride, which is an individual’s evaluation of himself and the urge to want to do everything for oneself and take all of the credit.
  4. The Sense of Self-Extension, occurs during the third year of life, which states that even though some things are not inside my physical body they are still very much a part of one’s life.
  5. The Self-Image, or how others view “me” is another aspect of selfhood that emerges during childhood.
  6. The Sense of Self as a Rational-Coper occurs between the ages of six and twelve in which the child begins to realize fully that he ahs the rational capacity to find solutions to life’s problems, so that they can cope effectively with reality demands.
  7. Propriate Striving, which Allport believed to be the core problem for the adolescent. It is the selection of the occupation or other life goal, the adolescent knows that their future must follow a plan, and in this sense makes them lose their childhood.
  8. Self as a Knower:The knower (thinking agent) “rides” on top of them. The thinker is different from his or her thoughts, is Allport’s stand, contrary to William James, who ridiculously maintains that “The thoughts themselves are the thinker”

Note that this concept of self is more in cognitive terms while Loevinger’s is more in psychoanalytical terms.

Another alternative description of the same stages is present here:

Sense of body develops in the first two years of life. We have one, we feel its closeness, its warmth. It has boundaries that pain and injury, touch and movement, make us aware of. Allport had a favorite demonstration of this aspect of self: Imagine spitting saliva into a cup — and then drinking it down! What’s the problem? It’s the same stuff you swallow all day long! But, of course, it has gone out from your bodily self and become, thereby, foreign to you.

Self-identity also develops in the first two years. There comes a point were we recognize ourselves as continuing, as having a past, present, and future. We see ourselves as individual entities, separate and different from others. We even have a name! Will you be the same person when you wake up tomorrow? Of course — we take that continuity for granted.

Self-esteem develops between two and four years old. There also comes a time when we recognize that we have value, to others and to ourselves. This is especially tied to a continuing development of our competencies. This, for Allport, is what the “anal” stage is really all about!

Self-extension develops between four and six. Certain things, people, and events around us also come to be thought of as central and warm, essential to my existence. “My” is very close to “me!” Some people define themselves in terms of their parents, spouse, or children, their clan, gang, community, college, or nation. Some find their identity in activities: I’m a psychologist, a student, a bricklayer. Some find identity in a place: my house, my hometown. When my child does something wrong, why do I feel guilty? If someone scratches my car, why do I feel like they just punches me?

Self-image also develops between four and six. This is the “looking-glass self,” the me as others see me. This is the impression I make on others, my “look,” my social esteem or status, including my sexual identity. It is the beginning of what conscience, ideal self, and persona.

Rational coping is learned predominantly in the years from six till twelve. The child begins to develop his or her abilities to deal with life’s problems rationally and effectively. This is analogous to Erikson’s “industry.”

Propriate striving doesn’t usually begin till after twelve years old. This is my self as goals, ideal, plans, vocations, callings, a sense of direction, a sense of purpose. The culmination of propriate striving, according to Allport, is the ability to say that I am the proprietor of my life — i.e. the owner and operator!

I can easily relate these to the general eight stage framework:, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the readers!!

The big fight: The Big Five or The Big Eight?

The big question of the day is whether to overthrow the last 40-yrs mature conventional wisdom that there are only five personalty traits or factors. The introduction of Big Five or FFM model of personality had spawned a big research paradigm and there are many independent confirmations; so before I try to throw the baby out with the bath-water, let me just say at the outset that just like the big five model is not incompatible with Eysneck’s PEN model, so is my proposed eight factor model not inconsistent with the Big Five model- it just extends it and introduces a few new traits or dimensions. I have written in the past about personality, so it may help to read a few articles to know where I am coming from. I especially recommend this one related to perfectionism and personality.

First a quick review. the big Five personality dimensions are (in no particular order): Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. It is to be recalled that these traits were discovered by lexical analysis of adjectives/ nouns and then doing factor analysis on the data to discover the minimum number of factors required to account for the variation in the data set. This way five factors have been discovered by exploratory Principal component analysis in many languages.

Recall that in PCA, factors are ordered. First factor is more important and can explain most of the variance. Second is less important/ responsible for variance and so on. It is my thesis that these personality traits would occur in a factor analysis in the order in which they evolve/develop , with the most evolved/ developed trait , which is most under hereditary control, reflected more in language and accounting for more variance in the data set.

Now, I do not have access to the original Goldberg or any McRae and Costa factor analysis results , so cannot say what the order of factors was. I propose, from my theoretical leanings and ordering of eight basic adaptive problems, the order would be (in order of less importance) : Neuroticism, conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Openness.

I have done some quick lookup on Google , but could not find much data related to how the five factors are ordered. One source I found, found support for NECAO ordering if only items from NEO-PI were analyzed; but NCEAO i.e. my order when additionally Zuckerman scales were also taken into account.

Let me delineate this further:

  1. Neuroticism (N): personality more focused towards solving the adaptive problem of avoiding predators. marked by negative emotionality, worry etc. Nettle calls these Worriers. The plot that works for them is ‘overcoming the monster’: everything apprised as a monster. primary mode of being: emotional.
  2. Conscientiousness (C): personality more focused on optimally finding and utilizing resources (or finding food) Nettle calls them controller. The plot that works for them is Rags to riches. How to become successful. Primary mode of being: motivational.
  3. Extraversion (E): personality more focused on forming alliances/friendships and thus issues of dominance- hierarchy. Nettle calls them wanderers. The plot for them a Quest, where they wander adn on the way make alliances/ friends to reach the illusive goal. The Journey , and the energy imbued with travel, becomes more important than the Goal. Primary mode of being: behavioral/social.
  4. Agreeableness (A): personality more focused on care of close ones; be it friends or children. Nettle calls them Empathizers. not sure if voyage and return is an apt plot for them. Primary mode of being: attachment/ care/ responsibility.
  5. Openness (O): Here I’ll like to re-categorize this as rebelliousness vs social conformity: adaptive problem to be solved : who am I and who are like-minded people / roles that I should help. Nettle calls them Poets. The plot that works for them is comedy wherein one has to find true identities of disguised people or become reunited with twins/ kin etc. Primary mode of being: cognitive and self-appraisal

I’ll like to add three more factors to the above based on CPS scales and any other theoretical as well as factor-analytic considerations:

6. Trust vs defensiveness (T): personality more focused on who can be trusted and who cannot. trying to see behind someones apparent persona.
7. Activity (Act) : personality more focused on being active, communicative, lively and humorous.
8. Masculinity- femininity (M-F): personality more focused on becoming desirable to the opposite sex.

The reasons I extend this are:

I) The evidence for Comrey Personality scales:

  1. Trust vs. Defensiveness ; A new factor (T above)
  2. Social Conformity vs. Rebelliousness: same as O
  3. Emotional Stability vs. Neuroticism: same as N
  4. Mental Toughness vs. Sensitivity: Same as Masculinity- femininity above
  5. Orderliness vs. Lack of Compulsion: Same as C
  6. Activity vs. Lack of Energy: A new factor (Act above)
  7. Extraversion vs. Introversion : same as E
  8. Empathy vs. Egocentrism : Same as A

II) when Nouns are factor analyzed we get eight factors (in the order of importance of factors)

  1. Social Unacceptability (Scum, tarsh, mororn): N (negative emotion)
  2. Intellect (philosopher, artist,nonconformist): C? (not conscientious person?)
  3. Egocentrism (snoop, busybody, know-it-all): E (not extarverted person)
  4. Ruggedness (tough, gentleman, fighter) : A (not agreeable person)
  5. Delinquency (law-breaker, googdy-ggody, innocent): O (more rebellious person)
  6. Attractiveness (babe , doll, hero) : T ??(a trustworthy person is attractive??)
  7. Liveliness (joker, chatterbox, loudmouth): Act ( a more active/ communicative person)
  8. Disorientation: (klutz, novice, daydreamer): M-F ? (are we being sexually selected for more ‘orientation’?)

III) Goldberg, who had originally proposed the Big five has revised them to include two more ; he calls them Religiosity and WYSIWYG respectively.

Goldberg (Goldberg 1992b) has identified the “next two” factors that might be used to augment the big five. The first, tentatively called Religiosity, includes adjectives ranging from prayerful and reverent at the north pole to irreligious and unreligious at the south pole. The second, tentatively called what you see is what you get, includes adjectives ranging from undevious and unsly at the north pole to slick and aristocratic at the south pole. He goes on to point out that “there are no additional domains with anywhere near the breadth of the Big-Five factors”.

IV) Wikipedia entry says that others have also proposed more traits (and presumably also found in their factor analytic studies evidence for such traits)

Some psychologists have dissented from the model precisely because they feel it neglects other domains of personality, such as Religiosity, Manipulativeness/Machiavellianism, Honesty, Thriftiness, Conservativeness, Masculinity/Femininity, Snobbishness, Sense of humour, Identity, Self-concept, and Motivation.

See this also on personality research:

Saucier and Goldberg (1998) presented evidence that nearly all clusters of personality-relevant adjectives can be subsumed under the Big Five. Paunonen and Jackson (2000), however, argued that this study used too loose a criterion for inclusion in the Big Five–namely that the Big Five account for at least 9% of the variance in the adjective cluster. Reanalyzing the same data using a stricter criterion of 20% explained variance resulted in nine clusters of traits that fell outside of the Big Five: Religiosity, Honesty, Deceptiveness, Conservativeness, Conceit, Thirft, Humorousness, Sensuality, and Masculinity-Femininity. These analyses do not imply that the clusters are unrelated; for example, Honesty and Deceptiveness may be highly (negatively) related as opposite sides of the same dimension. Nevertheless, these results suggest that several important personality traits lie beyond the Big Five.

Considering all the above factors , especially keeping in mind the fact that Goldberg;’s new proposed religiosity may be more close to the now-traditional openness which I have re-characterized as rebellious- conformity ; and that Goldberg’s unsly, slick, aristocratic and undevious may correspond to trust-defensiveness dimension; what we see is that the traditional intellect that Goldberg uses may be better thought of as Activity dimensions which relates to how lively, communicative and active a person is . Also he completely misses the last factor related to masculinity / femininity.

For the other proposed dimensions by Johnson et al , it is easy to see that religiosity can be subsumed under my definition of Opennnes; honesty/deceptiveness are opposite poles of the trust-defensiveness (T) trait); Conservativeness, Conceit, Thirft, Humorousness are better conceptualized as per me into Activity trait (Act) and that leaves us sensuality and Masculinity-Femininity as the last trait with these being two poles: at one end the role is more gender conformant; at the other it is more open and sensual in nature. If ever Humans speciate, it would because of this dimension!! It has been my thesis that we have been developing in diversity along these personality dimensions, but speciation would most likely happen only when assortattive mating and sexual selection acts at the eighths trait and the eighth trait is under more and more genetic control. Such a scenario may, thankfully, be far away!!

Evolution of Life: the eight stage process repeating again and again?

This post is regarding the evolution of Life-forms on earth. I’ll start from the primordial soup/ sandwich and try to show how life developed in stages and how development of a particular life-form was an adaptation to a particular adaptive problem. My thesis is that life should evolve in eight stages each , with each evolutionary stage solving one adaptive problem.

For reference, I have heavily used this post titled ‘The Making of Catby Roger Berton and Nancy Creek. I would however present the finding in my own idiosyncratic way , using as my reference the eight-fold evolutionary/ developmental stages. I have also used the 21 major animal phyla classification as present on Wayne’s Word site.

  1. Co-Evolution of genes and proteins/ amino-acids: Life first originated in the primordial soup/sandwich of molecular compounds. Proteins may be thought of as chemicals (enzymes) that helped speed up the chemical process in desired direction and provided stability to the gene-protein complex, while at the same time destabilizing other combination of compounds; while genes as replicators that ensured that the gene-protein complex could not only survive but reproduce or help make copies of oneself. Here the first problem was that of how to avoid being broken-up by other proteins/ enzyme that worked to break other chemical compounds in the soup. Thus the evolution of genes and proteins was primarily driven by how they could become stable and get into such stable configurations that the corrosive influence of the primordial soup could be withstood and an identity asserted!
  2. Evolution of the chromosome or two strands of DNA: Once stable gene-protein couplings could come together the next problem was how to extract the maximum from the primordial soup for self-maintenance and self-enhancement. The problem was solved by genes and non-genetic code coming together to form a DNA strand and then two DNA strands and a layer of water coming together to form a chromosome. A similar approach was taken by viruses, but it contained RNA instead of DNA and hence juts a single strand, which proved ineffective against the double helix. Eventually, though viruses continue to evolve, life evolved in the direction of DNA.
  3. Evolution of a simple unicellular prokaryotic-bacteria-like cells: Once chromosomes outwitted viruses, the next problem facing them was how to maximally defend against predators (other destabilizing compounds) and also eat or grow maximally (use the soup maximally). Here they thought that forming alliance was a good step. So a few chromosomes came together and the chromosomes and the proteins they made, especially the outer cellular wall, gave rise to simple prokaryotic cells. These cells were simple- no nucleus, no specialized organelles. The key was that 2 or 24 chromosomes were better than single chromosomes.
  4. Evolution of simple unicellular Archea-like cells: It is assumed that Archea is just a type of bacteria or Prokaryotes, but it has been proposed that these are more similar to Euaryotes than prokaryotes and may be the missing link in evolution and may have been the common ancestor of eukaryotes. Anyway, the problem facing the primordial animal after the first three problems had been faced was how to share resource optimally between one and one’s offspring. The reproduction was still asexual but different asexual techniques like binary fission, multiple fission, fragmentation, budding etc were tried. Techniques like horizontal gene transfer came into picture. The whole idea being what is the best parental investment while reproducing asexually. Here also for the first time, DNA contained introns or non-coding DNA (whose significance, we still do not know!!).
  5. Evolution of simple uni-cellular Eukaryotic like cells: It is generally agreed that eukaryotes evolved from simple prokaryote-like cells, or better still Archaea like cells.
    These cells are more specialized and have a nucleus as well as other specialized structures enclosed in membranes. It is my thesis that this centralization of DNA in nucleus and also concurrent appearing of different specialized organelles like mitochondria was key step in evolution, that for the first time made permissible a central command system (nucleus). The adaptive problem to be solved was how to help those specialized structures that were related or kin-like from conflicting demands on the cytoplasm (the common pool) and a central command center (nucleus ) evolved!
  6. Evolution of simple colonies of cells (first animal phylum: the porifera or sponges) : Once a central command (nucleus) originated that could control the organelles within, it’s command was turned outwards to manage conflicts with other similar cells and form a co-operating colony of identical cells. This was the biggest leap-to-date and gave rise to multi-cellular organisms.These were simple in the sense that all cells were the same : there was no specialization: no digestive tract. There was also radial symmetry. The problem to be solved was how to know which cells would co-operate and which not (akin to reading the cells mind or having a theory-of-cell-mind module) . Somehow, I believe that having radial symmetry sort of solved this trust problem.
  7. Evolution of multi-cellular organisms with digestive tracts (second animal phyla coelenterate): These are the modern day jelly fishes and corals. They solved the internal communication problem that was facing them. How to tell each cell what to do. Some cells specialized as digestive tract based on signaling during development. There are three classes : Hydrozoa (Hydra),Scyzophoa (jelly fish), Anthozoa (anemones and corals ) of these. Reef corals may form (1) fringing reefs extending out to 0.4 kilometers from shore; (2) barrier reefs separated by a lagoon of considerable width and depth from a shore; and (3) atolls or circular reefs that encircle a lagoon of water and not enclosing an island. this is just to highlight the importance of number three at stage seven of evolution! I also believe that for the first time reproduction sexually became paramount and gave rise to germ-line gametes of sperms and eggs and also soma cells that reproduced by mitosis and not meiosis. Specialization of cells into structures like Gonads became possible; just like the digestive tract, once the problem of internal communication and command was solved. Please also note that for the first time we have a polyp type or medusa like stage.
  8. Evolution of multi-cellular organisms moving towards a CNS( bilaterality) (third animal phyla :Ctenophora (Comb Jellies)): These have biradially symmetric bodies. It is my contention that a move from radial to biradial may have arisen just by chance and due to sexual selection and may have ultimately kled to bilaterally symmetric bodies, which somehow necessitated or gave rise to the CNS. Externally there are eight plates of fused cilia that resemble long combs; the rows of ciliated comb plates are used for locomotion. These are also bio-luminescent , perhaps another property to make them attractive to mates and arose out of sexual selection. The problem to be solved : attracting ‘right’ mates; the solution bio-luminescence and move towards bilateral symmetry. These are also solitary creatures and have no polyp stage.

This brings us finally to the completion of first round of evolution, with the move from genes to fully-functional multi-cellular animals; but still simple and not having a CNS. After this CNS somehow developed along with bilaterality and a new chain of evolution started. I’ve thus reset the count of evolutionary stage to 1.

  1. Phylum Platyhelminthes (Flatworms): bilateral symmetry with CNS,No body cavity.
  2. Phylum Nemertea (Ribbon Worms)
  3. Phylum Rotifera (Rotifers): Coelem incomplete.
  4. Phylum Gastrotricha (Gastrotrichs).
  5. Phylum Nematomorpha (Horsehair Worms).
  6. Phylum Nematoda (Nematodes): a special level of evolutionary jump and that is why we scientists study this a lot.
  7. Phylum Acanthocephala (Spiny-Headed Worms).
  8. Phylum Bryozoa (Bryozoans): body with, for the first time, a true coelom.

And of course this paves way for the next wave of evolution of protosomians: Blastopore forms mouth, schizocoelom present. Their list goes as follows: again evolutionary stage reset to 1.

  1. Phylum Tardigrada (Tardigrades).
  2. Phylum Brachiopoda (Brachiopods).
  3. Phylum Mollusca (Mollusks).
  4. Phylum Annelida (Segmented Worms).
  5. Phylum Sipunculoidea (Peanut Worms).
  6. Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods): Evolutionary jump. Body consisting of three parts: head, thorax and abdomen.
  7. Phylum Chaetognatha (Arrow Worms). Phylum Echinodermata (Echinoderms).I’ll like to club these two together.
  8. Phylum Hemichordata (Acorn Worms):

And then we come to another major evolutionary jump or invention: the spinal chord: the phylum chordata or vertebrates, having a spinal chord. The classes within vertebrates (chordata):

  1. Class Osteichthyes (bony fishes) : driven by avoiding predation
  2. Class Amphibia (Amphibians): driven by exploring surrounding
  3. Class Reptilia (Reptiles): driven by forming alliances between small groups
  4. Class Aves (Birds): driven by best reproductive/parental strategy
  5. Class Mammalia (Mammals): driven by kin-related concerns?/ specialization/ division of labor??

From the above it seems that much more good things (than mere humans/mammals) are in the offing!! I have bought (and actually generated the argument) the argument hook , line and sinker, what about you!

The (eight) basic adaptive problems faced by all animals (esp humans)

Today I discovered a new blog called The Amazing world of Psychiatry, and this book review of Introducing Evolutionary Psychology by Evans and Zarate caught my eye. As I own a copy, so I had a quick look and indeed found the book very pleasurable to read (Its in comic book format) and recommend it wholeheartedly.

In it Dylan Evans and Oscar Zarate claim that all animals, and especially humans face a few adaptive problems and have developed modular adaptions in the brain to handle those problems that were encountered in the EEA. now , the massive modularity hypothesis is a topic for another day; today I’ll restrict to how they had organized their typical adaptive problems into seven groups and how I propose to modify it by introducing an eighth group to make it more in line with my eight stage evolutionary and developmental theory.

To quote:

So what are the adaptive problems faced by our hominid ancestors? Various considerations drawn from Biology, Primateology, Archeology and Anthropology suggest what the most important adaptive problems would have been:

  1. Avoiding Predators
  2. Eating the Right Food
  3. Forming Alliances and Friendship
  4. Providing help to Children and other Relatives
  5. Reading other people’s minds
  6. communicating with other people
  7. selecting mates

They then go on to describe each problem and the corresponding modules that evolved to serve these needs.

I’ll now elaborate a bit on the thesis and would like to split the 4th level into two: one for parental investment and parent-offspring related issues and second with kin-selection issues. I’ll draw heavily on their work. Its also my thesis that most of these (at least the first five issues ) are faced by most higher animals , like all mammals.The evolutionary problems and the specific modules they give rise to are described below:

  1. Avoiding Predators:The first need for a gene to be successfully passed in further generations, and thus be selected for, is that it enables the possessing organism to survive (against predators) and avoids them being eaten away. Thus the prime importance of this adaptive problem to be solved cannot be stressed enough. This problem can be solved by a) detecting predators b) detecting false alarms and c) taking action (running away (flight), freezing or fighting it).
  2. Eating the right food: The second problem, once you have avoided being eaten and wiped out of the gene pool, is to exploit your environment to the fullest such that you can enhance and maintain the robot (organism) that is carrying you (the gene). In other words, find food to sustain oneself and meet metabolic needs. Here not only rich sources of food need to be detected, but bad and poisonous sources avoided. Emotion of Disgust as well as the sweet tooth are result of adaptations to this problem. To generalize it, you need to discover, exploit and protect resources that could nourish you and avoid those that can harm you. I would club territoriality behavior and food ranges also as another module related to this same adaptive problem. You have to exploit your environmental niche to the fullest and be the fittest.
  3. Forming alliances and friendships : The third problem, for those animals that are not solitary, and are social in nature, is to form alliances and friendships within the group to which they belong. Group avoidance of predators (which may be big for an individual) and group sharing of food (big game hunting/ unpredictable foraging/ agriculture etc) is more beneficial than solitary hunting/ predator avoidance/food gathering. But with group formation comes the problems of group living – co-operation evolution and maintenance and the free-rider problem. Basically, how to detect cheaters and free-riders who take benefits from the group but do not pay back. If unchecked, the genes conferring such free-riding behavior will proliferate in the gene pool and destabilize co-operation and thus effective groups. It has been proposed by Robert Axelrod, that co-operation can evolve only if a) organisms encounter each other repeatedly (live in a group) b) they can recognize those they have met before and distinguish them from strangers and c) organisms can remember how those they have met before have treated them on previous occasions. Thus we need modules for recognizing con-specifics and for remembering their past actions, for solving this adaptive problem; many animals including elephants, who live in large groups, have solved this problem to an extent. This model is called reciprocal altruism and the strategy used is called tit-for-tat strategy in a repeated prisoners dilemma game of whether to co-operate or to defect. This also lays the foundation for a social exchange module whereby one calculates the costs and benefits keeping in mind the context under which the favor was given/ received.
  4. Helping Children / Parental investment: Most of the animals reproduce and that too sexually. In case of sexual reproduction, the child contains only half the genes of each parent and thus from gene’s point of view an offspring’s welfare is only half as important as one’s (parents ) own welfare. So it might be conceived that the selfish gene would juts work towards prolonging the life of the organism that contains it, but at some point the benefits of reproducing and passing the genes to future generations may become more cost-effective in the long run. But, reproduction is not a child’s play! The mother (in most animals) usually invests a lot of her energy and resources while gestating or lactating. The father too, in many species, including humans has to expend considerable resources to the well-being of his dependent children. Parent-offspring conflict arises as for parents all children are equivalent (in terms of gene value), but for siblings a sibling is only half as worth as self. A parent has to decide how many offspring to have to maximally pass on the genes. One approach could be to have a big litter; but this reduces the individual care or investment the parent can make in a child; thus leaving many to die or in hands of fate. The other strategy could be to have a few children , but to invest heavily in them so that most of them do live to reproduction themselves and are able to pass the genes forward. These two strategies are known as the r-strategy and the K-strategy of mating and parental care and apartment investment respectively. However along with strategies for parent investment , the most prominent problem to be solved by this adaptive problem of helping children, is to be sure that they are your children! Thus, mate guarding , jealousy , sticking to monogamy (and love which makes you monogamous in the critical parental investment period) , a mothering/fathering caregiver module may be some modules that are brought forth as a measure of solving this adaptive problem of how best to reproduce and let ones genes pass on through direct descendants.
  5. Helping Kin or Kin-selection: While ensuring survival of individuals and direct descendants is beneficial to the gene; it also benefits from inclusive fitness i.e. if some other related / unrelated organism that contains the gene survives at the cost of the original organism carrying the gene. Hamilton first formulated this using his famous equation that an organism will act altruistically to help another member (that is benefit other at cost to oneself) if r> c/ b; where r is how related you are to the individual in question (r is 1 for self, 0.5 for siblings/ children who share half the genes, 0.25 for first cousins etc ) , c is cost to yourself and b is benefit to the individual in question. Thus as it is difficult (though not impossible ) to determine from overt behavior/ phenotype, the genotype of the organisms (the famous green beard problem) , the only clue one has to whether one shares anthers genes is the degree of relatedness. Thus, other things being equal, one would favor one’s kin above others leading to nepotism. But more than that the chief feature of this level of selection is captured by the phrase that one could die to save two siblings, four first cousins, eight second cousins etc. Thus, though one would get nothing in return, one would still co-operate and help. This mechanism is definitely different from reciprocal altruism that we discussed in the context of social exchange. However, with this level of selection comes the additional problem of how to identify kin and people carrying similar genes. I don’t think people have asked this question much, (except for relatedness coefficients) , so there is scope for much work here. I propose that a minimum one would need a family-stability and family-institution-concept module to ensure that indeed whom one encounters the most are one’s blood relatives. Similarly, a trust module would be present to trust the fidelity of your parents, uncles, aunts , grandparents, children etc, so that what you believe as blood relatives are indeed blood relatives. I also believe that biases may be build into us, such that we treat people more similar to us favorably and this could be the working of this module. We all know this bias that we have that if someone is like us or mirror our actions/ accent etc, we tend to favor him over others. This could be a result of this mechanism whereby we try to ascertain or make an approximation of the genotype of the individual from his phenotype and try to see how similar it is to our genotype. In short, we favor those who look and behave like us; or are related to us by blood ties.
  6. Reading other minds: Till now we have looked at how genes work at the level of individual (avoiding predators, eating food) , level of a few close fiends/ alliances , at the level of nuclear family (parents -offspring) and at the level of extended family (kin-selection) to ensure that they are passed on. Although in each case it is the genes that are selected for, they act at a level of an organism or a unit of organisms and show their effects most in interactions amongst that unit. Now its time to move a notch higher and move towards group-selection mechanisms whereby genes show their effects at the group level where the group is big enough (say the society/ population in which one lives). For humans this group size of a day-to-day interactions is supposed to be 150. (the size of our ancestor bands). Despite not being related to someone by way of kinship, alliance or friendship, when one lives in a group one has to work with other people with which one may or may not have good relations. To ensure survival of ones kin/ friends over ones enemies one needs to indulge in a bit of Machiavellian intelligence. This involves keeping track of who is sleeping with whom (and using that information to ones advantage) or indulging in some social politics. Information becomes paramount and thus rumor, reputation management and gossip is important!! It is presumed that this social intelligence was a driver for human large brain evolution. It is important to keep track of who is allied with whom and to use this knowledge well in forming alliances with an enemy of a common enemy. However, at the same time it is important to tolerate enemies, when one is not in a strong position and in general not to reveal ones true intentions, desires, beliefs etc to others. Information(social) is advantage. At the same time realization dawns that others may be concealing things from oneself and thus a need to know their true intentions, thoughts, beliefs. Thus a need for a Theory of Mind module that would keep track of what others are thinking or about what has been left unstated (by way of behavior). Thus, to be able to compete with one’s con specifics , who may not be related or friendly and may have hidden, selfish intentions, it becomes important to read their minds properly and to mislead them, even using deception or lies to ensure that one is helped even by those who might not have the best interests in their heart.
  7. Communicating with others: This level of selection would ensure a generalized-reputation-based -reciprocity wherein the individual helps others based on how this individual has helped others in the past. If one can ensure that reputation of an individual correctly reflects his co-operative nature, then this sort of co-operation based on reputation can emerge. However, one needs to solve the problem first of what the reputation of an individual is. This is usually using the gossip mill mechanism, wherein having a good communicative ability is essential. In short, problem to be solved: correct reputation or credibility: modules involved: gossip, language etc.- level of selection: society or whole group that can properly ascertain correct reputations and benefit from reputation-based altruism will thrive/ flourish. Typical module: the language acquisition device.
  8. Mate-selection: This is sexual section and I believe is self-explanatory. This however can lead to arbitrary features developing that are not adaptive in the traditional sense; so this is a whole new level of evolution. This also leads to runaway evolution and emergence of beauty like the peacocks tail which are non-utilitarian . This via assortative mating may also lead to speciation. The idea is to improve the genotype and not just survive/ reproduce/ thrive; so one mates with another individual having ‘best’ compatible genes. Problem to be solved: best compatible genotype that will result in best offspring . Best is relative as the only best thing about them may be that the offspring can find a mate and thus ensure that the lineage continues. A recursive definition of best.

As you can make out , I am quite excited by this line of work. My thesis has always been that evolutionary/ developmental constraints have lead to the eight stages that we see in most phenomenon. I can readily map most of the eight stage phenomenons to these evolutionary problems. By way of an example consider the eight basic story plots. These enduring myths or basic plots are embedded in our memory becuase the hero solves a particular evolutionary problem and that acts as a parable for all others. Consider this:

  1. Overcoming the Monster plot ( avoiding predator)
  2. Rags to Riches plot (finding food/ resources): how one successfully gets resources like money.
  3. Quest plot ( forming friends and alliances) : the most important element of such plots is the journey in which a hero is accompanied by some friends and allies.
  4. Voyage and return plot( might be related to parental investment conflicts) :one goes on a journey in a different land and returns. cant fit this in, sorry about that!
  5. Comedy plot: (kin selection): the typical plot involves family disjointed, twins to create confusions, disguised identities etc: overall recognizing similar people and kin.
  6. Tragedy plot (might be related to Machiavellian manipulations and theory of mind confusions) : tragedy normally follows because one did not understood the unsaid correctly and made false premises.
  7. Rebirth (communicating with others) ; haven’t read Christopher Booker’s book till here so cant comment!!

I’m convinced! What about you?