I have written about poverty/SES and its effects on brain development/IQ earlier too,and this new review article by Farah and Hackman in TICS is a very good introduction to anyone interested in the issue.
The article reviews the behavioral studies that show that SES is correlated with at least the two brain systems of executive function and language abilities.It also review physiological data that shows that even when behavioral outcomes do not differ ERP can show differential activation in the brains of people with low and middle SES , thus suggesting that differences that may not be detected on behavioral measures may still exist. They also review (f)MRI data that shows no structural differences in the brains of low and middle SES children, but definite functional differences.they also review experimental manipulation of social status in labarotaories, and show how those studies also indicate that SES and executive function are correlated.
They then turn to the million dollar question of the direction of causality and for this infer indirectly based on the SES-IQ causal linkages.
What is the cause of SES differences in brain function? Is it contextual priming? Is it social causation, reflecting the influence of SES on brain development? Alternatively, is it social selection, in which abilities inherited from parents lead to lower SES? Current research on SES and brain development is not designed to answer this question. However, research on SES and IQ is relevant and supports a substantial role of SES and its correlated experience as causal factors.
Slightly less than half of the SES-related IQ variability in adopted children is attributable to the SES of the adoptive family rather than the biological. This might underestimate environmental influences because the effects of prenatal and early postnatal environment are included in the estimates of genetic influence. Additional evidence comes from studies of when poverty was experienced in a child’s life. Early poverty is a better predictor of later cognitive achievement than poverty in middle- or late-childhood, an effect that is difficult to explain by genetics. SES modifies the heritability of IQ, such that in the highest SES families, genes account for most of the variance in IQ because environmental influences are in effect at ceiling in this group, whereas in the lowest SES families, variance in IQ is overwhelmingly dominated by environmental influences because these are in effect the limiting factor in this group. In addition, a growing body of research indicates that cognitive performance is modified by epigenetic mechanisms, indicating that experience has a strong influence on gene expression and resultant phenotypic cognitive traits . Lastly, considerable evidence of brain plasticity in response to experience throughout development indicates that SES influences on brain development are plausible.
Differences in the quality and quantity of schooling is one plausible mechanism that has been proposed. However, many of the SES differences summarized in this article are present in young children with little or no experience of school , so differences in formal education cannot, on their own, account for all of the variance in cognition and brain development attributable to SES. The situation is analogous to that of SES disparities in health, which are only partly explained by differential access to medical services and for which other psychosocial mechanisms are important causal factors .
The last point is really important and can be extended. Access to health services for low SES people may be a reason why , for eg, more schizophrenia incidence is found in low SES neighbourhoods. which brings us to the same chicken-and-egg question of the drift theory of schizophrenia- whether people with schizophrenia drift into low SES or low SES is a risk factor in itself. Exactly this point was brought to my attention when I was interacting with a few budding psychiatrists recently, this Martha Farah theory about the SES leading to lower IQ/ cognitive abilities. It is important to acknowledge that low SES not only leads to left hypo-frontality (another symptom of schizophrenia), schizophrenia is supposed to be due to lessened mylienation and again nutritional factors may have a role to play; also access to health care, exposure to chronic stress and lesser subjective feelings of control may all be mediating afctors that lead low SS to lead to schizophrenia/ psychosis.Also remember that schizophrenia is sort of a devlopmenetal disorder.
Well, I digressed a bit, but the idea is that not only does low SES affect ‘normal’ cognitive abilities, it may even increase the risk for ‘abnormal’ cognitive abilities that may lead to psychosis, and his effect of SES on IQ/cognitive abilities/ risk of mental diseases is mediated by the effect of SES on the developing brain. I have already covered the putative mechanisms by which SES may affect brain development, but just to recap, here I quote from the paper:
Candidate causal pathways from environmental differences to differences in brain development include lead exposure, cognitive stimulation, nutrition, parenting styles and transient or chronic hierarchy effects. One particularly promising area for investigation is the effect of chronic stress. Lower-SES is associated with higher levels of stress in addition to changes in the function of physiological stress response systems in children and adults. Changes in such systems are likely candidates to mediate SES effects as they impact both cognitive performance and brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, in which there are SES differences.
We can only hope that the evil of low SES is recognized as soon as possible and if for nothing else, than for advancing science, some intervention studies are done that manipulate the SES variables in the right direction and thus ensure that the full cognitive potential of the children flowers.
HACKMAN, D., & FARAH, M. (2009). Socioeconomic status and the developing brain Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13 (2), 65-73 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.11.003
While people generally do not squirm on reading a headline claiming neural correlates of religion, god, trust, consciousness, political/ sexual orientation etc, I am sure the title neural correlates of Poverty would have lead to some uneasy shuffling around. How can poverty that is clearly a result of economic opportunities/ capabilities be reduced to brain? Are we claiming that low inherent IQ and the neural correlates thereof define and lead to poverty? Or is the claim instead that poverty leads to definite changes in the brain, which may lead to manifestation of low IQ and the sustenance of the vicious circle of poverty? The regular readers of the blog will know which side of the fence I am sitting on!
The blogosphere is normally abuzz with controversial topics like atheism, meaninglessness of evolution and race and gender differences(for eg. in IQ) and people defend these sacred dictum doggedly, claiming that ‘is’ and ‘ought’ need not be confused, especially in a cold, logical science which deals with all facts and should not be guided by values. Yet, the same blogosphere generally silently ignores, or does not take a stand , when the ‘is’ and ‘ought’ are in sync and something morally significant is also found to be scientifically valid. Rather the apology for such facts is made very cautiously, with the spirit of not offending the people who have a different, and in my view, an inferior moral system.
I believe whenever people discuss poverty/SES, they have either of the two moral systems: first, the world is unfair and poor people are poor because of some external factors/ circumstances; addressing them may solve/ eliminate the problem of poverty; and second: the world is fair (like an idealized free market) and if someone is poor they are due to either inherent internal flaws (bad genes) or maybe bad choices (they want to be poor/ are lazy and unindustrious etc); so the problem of poverty cannot/ should not be solved. I subscribe to the first moral system and believe in interventions to solve the problem of poverty. I am glad to have scientific facts to my side and have been addressing these issues in a series of posts .
The latest impetus to write on the topic comes form reading Lehrer’s post titled Poverty and the brain at the Frontal cortex and I am glad to have found a fellow blogger who doesn’t mind speaking on such controversial topics and take a stand for ‘is’ that is in sync with ‘ought’. It is an excellent post regarding how early interventions can help alleviate poverty and how a poor person suffers from the viscous circle of poverty by the mediating influence of brain and IQ.
Lehrer also mentions the work of Martha Farah (of Visual Agnosia fame whose earlier work was on vision) on the same and I recommend reading at least this article by Martha and colleagues, although many other invaluable gems are present on her site.
The article begins with an anecdotal reference to how Martha first became aware of the gravity of the issue, when she saw her babysitters / maids steeped in poverty and the low IQ and SES viscous circle. this resonates with me and I can easily relate to this as my child enjoys a lot of toys while our maid’s children are faced with lack.
I would now quote extensively from the aforementioned article:
It seemed to me that children’s experience of the world is very different in low and middle SES environments. Most middle SES children have abundant opportunities to explore the world, literally, in terms of people met and places seen, and figuratively, in terms of the world of ideas. In contrast, low SES children generally have fewer interactions with the wider world and much of what they do experience is stressful. Basic research with animals has established the powerful effects of both environmental impoverishment and stress on the developing brain.
She then goes on to make out the case for NCC of poverty:
For the sake of exploring the cognitive neuroscience perspective on transgenerational poverty, and discovering what, if anything, it can contribute to correcting socioeconomic inequality, the first order of business is to ask whether socioeconomic status bears any straightforward relation to brain development. On the face of things it might seem unlikely that characteristics such as income, education and job status, which are typically used to estimate SES, would bear any systematic relationship to physiological processes such as those involved in brain development. It is, however, well established that SES affects physical health through a number of different causal pathways (Adler et al. 1994), many of which could play a role in brain development. It is also clear that poverty is associated with differences in brain function on the basis of the differences in standardized test performance cited earlier, as cognitive tests reflect the function of the brain. However, for a cognitive neuroscience approach to be helpful, the relations between socioeconomic status and the brain must be relatively straightforward and generalizable. The first question that my collaborators and I addressed was therefore: Can we generalize about the neurocognitive correlates of socioeconomic status? Once we have established the neurocognitive profile of childhood poverty, we can begin to test more specific hypotheses about causal mechanisms.
I will now digress a little from the main topic and introduce the five neurocognitive systems that Martha and colleagues have identified and how they tested some children from low and middle SES for finding their capabilities in these systems.
The children were tested on a battery of tasks adapted from the cognitive neuroscience literature, designed to assess the functioning of five key neurocognitive systems. These systems are described briefly here.
• The Prefrontal/Executive system enables flexible responding in situations where the appropriate response may not be the most routine or attractive one, or where it requires maintenance or updating of information concerning recent events. It is dependent on prefrontal cortex, a late-maturing brain region that is disproportionately developed in humans.
• The Left perisylvian/Language system is a complex, distributed system encompassing semantic, syntactic and phonological aspects of language and dependent predominantly on the temporal and frontal areas of the left hemisphere that surround the Sylvian fissure.
• The Medial temporal/Memory system is responsible for one-trial learning, the ability to retain a representation of a stimulus after a single exposure to it (which contrasts with the ability to gradually strengthen a representation through conditioning-like mechanisms), and is dependent on the hippocampus and related structures of the medial temporal lobe.
• The Parietal/Spatial cognition system underlies our ability to mentally represent and manipulate the spatial relations among objects, and is primarily dependent upon posterior parietal cortex.
• The Occipitotemporal/Visual cognition system is responsible for pattern recognition and visual mental imagery, translating image format visual representations into more abstract representations of object shape and identity, and reciprocally translating visual memory knowledge into image format representations (mental images).
Not surprisingly, in view of the literature on SES and standardized cognitive tests, the middle SES children performed better than the low SES children on the battery of tasks as a whole. For some systems, most notably the Left perisylvian/Language system and the Prefrontal/Executive system, the disparity between low and middle SES kindergarteners was both large and statistically significant.
Thus, they found, in a small group of children , that Language and Executive systems’ performance differed in low and middle SES children and they were able to replicate this finding with a larger group of children too. This time they broke executive function further into components and found a finer granularity of how SES affects the brain:
As before, the language system showed a highly significant relationship to SES, as did executive functions including Lateral prefrontal/Working memory and Anterior cingulate/Cognitive control components and the Parietal/Spatial cognition system. With a more demanding delay between exposure and test in the memory tasks, we also found a difference in the Medial temporal/Memory system. Performance on the Parietal/spatial system tests also differed as a function of SES.
They also did some studies with older children and to summarize the results of all these studies in their own words:
In sum, although the outcome of each study was different, there were also commonalities among them despite different tasks and different children tested at different ages. The most robust neurocognitive correlates of SES appear to involve the Left perisylvian/Language system, the Medial temporal/Memory system (insofar as SES effects were found in both studies that tested memory with an adequate delay) and the Prefrontal/Executive system, in particular its Lateral prefrontal/Working memory and Anterior cingulate/Cognitive control components. Children growing up in low SES environments perform less well on tests that tax the functioning of these specific systems.
Next they look at the causal versus correlational nature of findings and if causal, then the directions of causality. It is this paragraph , that amazed me, for they seem to be apologetic for the fact that their findings are also ethically good ones.
Do these associations reflect the effects of SES on brain development, or the opposite direction of causality? Perhaps families with higher innate language, executive and memory abilities tend to acquire and maintain a higher SES. Such a mechanism seems likely, a priori, as it would be surprising if genetic influences on cognitive ability did not, in the aggregate, contribute to individual and family SES. However, it seems also seems likely that causality operates in the opposite direction as well, with SES influencing cognitive ability through childhood environment. Note that the direction of causality is an empirical issue, not an ethical one. The issue of whether and to what extent SES differences cause neurocognitive differences or visa versa should not be confused with the issue of whether we have an obligation to help children of any background become educated, productive citizens.
Then, quite important from this blog’s point of view, they review the literature that supports SES to IQ direction of causality.
Cross-fostering studies of within- and between -SES adoption suggest that roughly half the IQ disparity in children is experiential (Capron & Duyme, 1989; Schiff & Lewontin, 1986). If anything, these studies are likely to err in the direction of underestimating the influence of environment because the effects of prenatal and early postnatal environment are included in the estimates of genetic influences in adoption studies. A recent twin study by Turkheimer and colleagues (2003) showed that, within low SES families, IQ variation is far less genetic than environmental in origin. Additional evidence comes from studies of when, in a child’s life, poverty was experienced. Within a given family that experiences a period of poverty, the effects are greater on siblings who were young during that period (Duncan et al. 1994), an effect that cannot be explained by genetics. In sum, multiple sources of evidence indicate that SES does indeed have an effect on cognitive development, although its role in the specific types of neurocognitive system development investigated here is not yet known.
Next they tried to tease out what specific SES related factors can affect the different neurocognitive systems. They list both physical and psychological factors that have been hypothesized and researched on in relation to SES and IQ.
Potential causes, physical and psychological
What aspects of the environment might be responsible for the differences in neurocognitive development between low and middle SES children? A large set of possibilities exist, some affecting brain development by their direct effects on the body and some by less direct psychological mechanisms. Three somatic factors have been identified as significant risk factors for low cognitive achievement by the Center for Children and Poverty (1997): inadequate nutrition, substance abuse (particularly prenatal exposure), and lead exposure.
As with potential physical causes, the set of potential psychological causes for the SES gap in cognitive achievement is large, and the causes are likely to exert their effects synergistically. Here we will review research on differences in cognitive stimulation and stress.
They then discuss the psychological factors, which they then investigated, in more detail.
One difference between low and middle SES families that seems predictable, even in the absence of any other information, is that low SES children are likely to receive less cognitive stimulation than middle SES children. Their economic status alone predicts that they will have fewer toys and books and less exposure to zoos, museums and other cultural institutions because of the expense of such items and activities. This is indeed the case (Bradley et al. 2001a) and has been identified as a mediator between SES and measures of cognitive achievement (Bradley and Corwyn 1999; Brooks-Gunn and Duncan 1997; McLoyd 1998). Such a mediating role is consistent with the results of neuroscience research with animals. Starting many decades ago (e.g., Volkmar & Greenough, 1972) researchers began to observe the powerful effects of environmental stimulation on brain development. Animals reared in barren laboratory cages showed less well developed brains by a number of different anatomical and physiological measures, compared with those reared in more complex environments with opportunities to climb, burrow and socialize (see van Praag et al 2000 for a review).
The lives of low SES individuals tend to be more stressful for a variety of reasons, some of which are obvious: concern about providing for basic family needs, dangerous neighborhoods, and little control over one’s work life. Again, research bears out this intuition: Turner and Avison (2003) confirmed that lower SES is associated with more stressful life events by a number of different measures. The same appears to be true for children as well as adults, and is apparent in salivary levels of the stress hormone cortisol (Lupien et al. 2001).
Why is stress an important consideration for neurocognitive development? Psychological stress causes the secretion of cortisol and other stress hormones, which affect the brain in numerous ways (McEwen 2000). The immature brain is particularly sensitive to these effects. In basic research studies of rat brain development, rat pups are subjected to the severe stress of prolonged separation from the mother and stress hormone levels predictably climb. The later anatomy and function of the brain is altered by this early neuroendocrine phenomenon. The brain area most affected is the medial temporal area needed for memory, although prefrontal systems involved in the regulation of the stress response are also impacted (Meaney et al. 1996).
They then go on to discuss how this information can be used to formulate mechanisms that mediate the effect of low SES on diffrent neurocognitive systems.
The latest phase of our research is an attempt to make use of the description of the SES disparities in neurocognitive development in testing hypotheses about the causal pathways. Drawing on our previous research that identified three neurocognitive systems as having the most robust differences as a function of SES (Perisylvian/Language, Medial temporal/Memory, and Prefrontal/Executive), we are now testing hypotheses concerning the determinants of individual differences in the development of these systems in children of low SES. Specifically, we are investigating the role of childhood cognitive stimulation and social/emotional nurturance (Farah et al. 2005; Childhood experience and neurocognitive development: Dissociation of cognitive and emotional influences).
They then describe an observational study of interaction between children and parents and how they assess the cognitive simulation an social/emotional nurturance using HOME assessment battery. What they found follows:
Children’s performance on the tests of Left perisylvian/Language was predicted by average cognitive stimulation. This was the sole factor identified as predicting language ability by forward stepwise regression, and one of three factors identified by backwards stepwise regression, along with the child’s gender and the mother’s IQ. In contrast, performance on tests of Medial temporal/Memory ability was predicted by average social/emotional nurturance. This was the sole factor identified as predicting memory ability by forward stepwise regression and one of three factors identified by backwards stepwise regression, along with the child’s age and cognitive stimulation. The relation between memory and early emotional experience is consistent with the animal research cited earlier, showing a deleterious effect of stress hormones on hippocampal development. Our analyses did not reveal any systematic relation of the predictor variables considered here to Lateral prefrontal/Working memory or Anterior cingulate/Cognitive control function. In conclusion, different aspects of early experience affect different systems of the developing brain. Cognitive stimulation influences the development of language, whereas social/emotional nurturance affects the development of memory but not language.
Here is what they conclude:
What are the implications for society of a more mechanistic understanding of the effects of childhood poverty on brain development? To different degrees, and in different ways, we regard children as the responsibility of both parents and society. Parents’ responsibility begins before birth and encompasses virtually every aspect of the child’s life. Society’s responsibility is more circumscribed. In the United States, for example, society’s contribution to the cognitive development of children begins at age 5 or 6, depending on whether public kindergarten is offered. The physical health and safety of all infants and children is a social imperative, however, well before school age. Laws requiring lead abatement in homes occupied by children exemplify our societal commitment to protect them from the neurological damage caused by this neurotoxin. Research on the effects of early life stress and limited cognitive stimulation has begun to show that these concomitants of poverty have negative effects on neurological development too, by mechanisms no less concrete and real. Thus, neuroscience may recast the disadvantages of childhood poverty as a bioethical issue rather than merely one of economic opportunity.
In my view the societal implications are far reaching, if low SES leads to lowered cognitive functioning, it becomes our duty to provide more cognitive stimulation and ensure that all children get sufficient social/ emotional nurturance so that their IQ can flower to its full potential.
I would have liked to end on this note, but cant help pointing that the five neurocognitive systems Martha has identified, to me seems to follow in stages, with the later systems maturing later :
1) Occipital/ visual : describe/ perceive the world/ self 2) Parietal/ spatial:explain the world/self (may be involved in consciousness) 3) Temporal/ Memory: predict the world/self 4) Frontal/ executive: control the world/ self 5) Sylvian/ Language: improve the world/ self
We all know that language abilities develop the oldest and vision is more or less developed at birth; also the fact that SES should affect the latter stages of neurocognitive systems also gels in. the fact that cognitive stimulation affects language and emotional/social nurturance affects memory to me also fits in.
Anyway whatever the implication sof this research for stage theories, they have far reaching and imprortanat implications for social policy and education. Farah, M.J.,Noble, K.G. and Hurt, H. (2005). Poverty, privilege and brain development: Emprical findings and ethical implications. In J. Illes (Ed.) Neuroethics in the 21st Century. New York: Oxford University Press.
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):
Denial: avoiding the predator; as the predator (death ) cannot be avoided , it is denied!!
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.
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.
Depression: parental investment/ bearing kids analogy: is it worth living/ bringing more people into this world?
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)
Disbelief: Avoiding the predator (loss) . I cant believe the loss happened. Let me not think about it.
Anger/ Yearning: Energetic search for resources (reasons) . Why did it happen to me; can the memories and yearning substitute for the loved one?
Bargaining/ regret/ guilt: forming alliances and friendships: Could this catastrophe be exchanged for another? could I have died instead of him?
Depression: parental investment/ bearing kids analogy : is it worth living/ bringing more people into this world?
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!!
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
I am afraid I will be posting one of my old posts today: a post relating Poverty and SES to IQ and I am also publishing some relevant comments as the comment length generally exceeded the article length:-):
The post, comments and my response to comments are as follows; I would love to rekindle debate on SES/Poverty and IQ again and am looking for more discussions. Also please check out this earlier post on the simillar poverty and IQ topic:
Original Post: Is low IQ the cause of income inequality and low life expectancy or is it the other way round?
As per this post from the BPS research digest, Kanazawa of LSE has made a controversial claim that economic inequality is not the cause of low life expectancy, but that both low life expectancy and economic inequality are a result of the low IQ of the poor people. The self-righteous reasoning is that people with low IQ are not able to adapt successfully to the stresses presented by modern civilization and hence perish. He thinks he has data on his side when he claims that IQ is eight times more strongly related to life expectancy, than is socioeconomic status. What he forgets to mention(or deliberately ignores) is growing evidence that IQ is very much determinant on the socioeconomic environment of its full flowering and a low IQ is because of two components- a low genetic IQ of parent plus a stunted growth of IQ/intelligence due to impoverished environment available because of the low socio-economic status of the parents.
A series of studies that I have discussed earlier, clearly indicate that in the absence of good socioeconomic conditions, IQ can be stunted by as large as 20 IQ points. Also discussed there, is the fact that the modern civilization as a whole has been successful in archiving the sate of socioeconomic prosperity that is sufficient for the full flowering of inherent genetic IQ of a child and as such the increments in IQ as we progress in years and achieve more and more prosperity (the Flynn effect) has started to become less prominent. This fact also explains the Kanazawa finding that in ‘uncivilized’ sub-Saharan countries the IQ is not related to life expectancy, but socio-economic status is. although, he puts his own spin on this data, a more parsimonious ( and accurate) reason for this is that in the sub-Saharan countries, even the well -of don’t have the proper socio-economic conditions necessary for the full flowering of IQ and thus the IQ of both the well-off and poor parents in these countries is stunted equally. Thus, the well-off (which are not really that well-off in comparison to their counterparts in the western countries) are not able to be in any more advantageous position (with respect to IQ) than the poor in these countries. The resultant life expectancy effect is thus limited to that directly due to economic inequality and the IQ mediated effect of economic inequality is not visible.
What Kanazawa deduces from the same data and how he chooses to present these findings just goes on to show the self-righteous WASP attitude that many of the economists assume. After reading Freakonomics, and discovering how the authors twist facts and present statistics in a biased manner to push their idiosyncratic theories and agendas, it hardly seems surprising that another economist has resorted to similar dishonest tactics – shocking people by supposedly providing hard data to prove how conventional wisdom is wrong. Surprisingly, his own highlighting of sub-Saharan counties data that shows that life-expectancy is highly dependent on socio-economic conditions in these countries is highly suggestive of the fact that in cultures where the effects og economic inequality are not mediated via the IQ effects, economic inequality is the strongest predictor of low life expectancy.
Instead of just blaming the people for their genes/ stupidity, it would be better to address the reasons that lead to low IQs and when they are tackled, directly address the social inequality problem , as in the author’s own findings, when IQ is not to blame for the low life expectancy, the blame falls squarely on economic inequality (as in the sub-Saharan countries data) .
First of all, I beg you pardon for my limited english. I find quite interesting your findings. But there could be an issue which limits the reasoning: how the IQ is meassured? or what does it really meassures? Does it really defines how smart or clever a person is? I think there must be a lot of denounces about it. So, I think it’s important to recognize the limits of this aproach based on IQ meassurment limitants. Of course, there could be a reference in your and Kanazawa’s articles (I have not seen none of them). All of this is beacuse I have met childs quite smarts living in the poorest zones of my city (Bogotá, Colombia), I would say all of them seems to be quite smart, at least form my point if view. They are all really quick undertanding abstract problems and linking things. I think they have a strong capability to analize any situation. So, if you are able to meassure their IQ using problems wich need, for instance, to apply Phitagora’s theorem, surelly they will be in trouble. So I think education could explain better economic inequalities and, thus, low life expentacy. I never have explored this issue, so I would thank you refering me to some relevant literature related. Even telling me if I am quite wrong or not.
Sandy G said…
I appreciate your thoughtful comments. It is true that intelligence consists of a number of factors (as large as 8-10 broad factors), and is also differentiated as crystallized(Gc) and fluid (Gf); but for most analysis a concept of a general underlying common factor , spearman’s g, is taken as reflective of intelligence and measured by the IQ scores.
In this sense, IQ/g does reflect how clever or smart a person is, but success/outcome in life is affected by other factors like motivation, effort, creativity etc.
I agree that many children in impoverished environments are quite smart, but you would be surprised to discover how providing an enriched environment to them, at their critical developmental periods,would have resulted in lasting intelligence gains. They are smart, but could have been smarter, if they had the right socioeconomic environment. On the other hand, an average child from well-to-do family would be able to maximally develop its inherent capabilities and thus stand a stronger chance than the poor smart child, whose capabilities haven’t flowered fully.
Cultural bias in IQ measures have been found in the past, but the field has vastly improved now and these biases are fast disappearing leading to more accurate and valid cross-cultural comparisons.
The key to remember here is that poor socio-economic condition affects longevity via multiple pathways- one of them is direct by limiting access to good health care and nutrition, but there are also indirect effects mediated by , as you rightly pointed, education (poor people get less education and not vice versa) and also intelligence.
Garett Jones said…
Two words: East Asia.
If bad social and economic outcomes were the key driver of low IQ, then we’d expect East Asians to have had low IQ’s back when they were poor–say, back in the 50’s and 60’s. Check out Table 4 of my paper (page 28) to see if that’s the case…
Guess not. So, East Asians have been beating Causasians on IQ tests (on average) for as far back as we have data. You can get more historical data along these lines from Lynn’s (2006) book, Race Difference in Intelligence.
And one can go even further back if you look at brain size, which correlates about 0.4 with IQ. Asian brains have been well-known to be larger than Caucasian brains for as long as folks have been measuring both of them. Hard to fit that in with WASP-driven science…
So simple reverse causality surely plays some role, but it can’t explain East Asia…..
Sandy G said…
Thanks for dropping by and commenting.
I guess we agree on more things, than we disagree on. For example, in section IID of your paper, you concur with my explanation of Flynn effect that it is most probably due to the increase in living conditions and due to environmental factors enabling the full flowering of potential. Environment can and does have a strong disruptive negative effect, though it only has a limited positive enabling effect (no amount of good environment can give you an intelligence that is disproportionate to what your genes endow on you; but even minor lack of right environmental inputs or toxins, can lead to dramatic stunted achievement of that potential intelligence).
Also, it is heartening to note, that early on in your paper you take the position that your paper will not settle genetic vs environmental debate on IQ, but would only provide evidence that national IQ is a good indicator of ntaional productivity.
I have no issue with the same and agree that if one disregards the process by which adult stable IQs are archived, then the stable adult IQ that has been archived would be a very good predictor of productivity and economic status (in a free market environment where other conditions re not adversely affecting success). There is no qualms with the causal relation between a better IQ leading to better SES, in a fair world.
What I do strongly disagree with is the assumption that low IQ is solely dependent on genetic factors. Bad socio-economic factors are the key drivers of low IQ- especially in situations where the socio-economic status is so low that it does’nt guarantee access to basic amenities of life like proper nutrition/ health care.
It is interesting to note that poor SES would cause stunted growth of IQ, and due to the causal relation between IQ and SES would lead to less productivity and lower income, thus maintaining or even aggravating the low SES. This is the downward vicious cycle from which it is very hard to emerge. This type of economy and culture would definitly have lower IQ than what could have been achieved in the right conditions. The sub-saharan countries that Kanazawa used in his study, match this pattern and some of the African countries National IQ (as per data appendix in your paper) viz. Kenya: 72, south afric: 72, ghana : 71 confirms to this pattern).
The opposite observation, that a spiraling economy should radically lead to high IQs is not reasonable, as the circle is vicious only in the downward direction. Monumental leaps in SES would not lead to dramatic effects in IQ, if the earlier SES levels were just sufficient to ensure that no negative effects of environment come into play. The Flynn effect is a tribute to the fact that high jumps in SES (above the base level) only lead to small incremental changes in IQ.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when the SES to low IQ causal link is suggested it is only for the achievement of the stable adult IQ and instrumental during the critical childhood developmental periods. Although, environmental toxins do have the capability to adversely affect IQ during adulthood, and there is emerging evidence for plasticity and neurogenesis in adulthood, a simpler and reasonably model is whereby adult IQ is stable and not much affected by SES changes (either up or down) once it has been stabilized. Thus, even if some positive effects of rising SES have to be observed, they would be observable only in children exposed to that SES and not in the IQ of the rest of the adult population, that has already acheived a stable IQ.
Thus, I do not agree with your explanation of the east Asian example. To me the data set appears to be very limited ( no IQ results before the 1950’s; no data sets for the same country or population over time) and even if we assume that only after the 1980s the SES of these countries rose above the minimal needed SES, we still do not have the data for the IQ of children born under theses SES condition, to proclaim that ther eis no rise in IQ.
Further, it is quite plausible that productivity is dependent on many other factors than IQ, some of which are directly related to SES independent of IQ. Given a base level of SES, in which the East Asians had managed to develop their inherent genetic IQ to the fullest, the SES may still not be good enough to convert that IQ advantage to productivity. For example, a given household that has sufficient SES to provide good nutrition and health care, and thus ensure that its children archive their full IQ potentiality, may still not have enough resources to send them to a good school (or any school for that matter), may lack access to basic infrastructure support which handicaps the utilization of its intelligence and so on. Thus despite having the human capital, lack of the more prosaic monetary capital, may prevent them from archiving their full productivity. Thus, IQ may increase first to the maximal achievable level and only then SES increase dramatically.
It would be interesting to turn the East Asian example on its head and beg the question that if IQ is the definitive causal relation leading to SES , how do you explain the anomaly that despite high IQ’s in 1950s (or for that matter Asian big brain since time immemorial) he East Asian countries did not have the corresponding productivity levels or SES. You might counter by saying that IQ -> SES causal link is mediated by factors like free markets, reforms etc to ensure that proper economic conditions are in place etc etc and only if these ideal market conditions are in place then only IQ predicts SES.
To that my simple counter-argument would be that SES -> IQ causal link also works but only in conditions when the SES is below the base level and that SES would not predict IQ absolutely. Given the same optimal SES in differnet countries, different cultures (which have different genetic pools) will have different IQ levels based on their inherent genetic capabilities. As per this the IQ of east asians can be explained as either arising from the fact that they have already archived the SES required for full flowering; or that they still have to archive their highest IQ levels and their IQ levels are genetically vastly superior and may show more rise in future.
From Anecdotal evidence I can tell you that an average Indian has far more intelligence and creativity potential that the average IQ of 82 would suggest; most of the high SES families that have archived that high IQ migrate to US/ west and archive high SES there. What brings down the national average is the sad fact that still a lot of Indians live below the poverty line – living in sub-optimal SES conditions that leads them to have low IQ’ than what their genes or genetic makeup would suggest.
Looking forward to a fruitful discussion. PS: Despite the tone of my original mail, I have high regards for economists in general and people like Amartya sen, Kahnman and Traversky in particular.
12:31 PM Anonymous said…
Interesting blog entry. Has the author of it actually read the paper he is criticizing? I noticed that it costs $15 online. If not, is the author of the blog certain that the statistical methods employed by Kanazawa do not take his complaints into account implicitly? One hopes that the author is not criticizing a peer-reviewed scientific paper without having read it.
Sandy G said…
It would be better if, after having read the paper (otherwise by your own high standards you wouldn’t have defended an article without having read it first), you would be kind enough to tell the readers of this blog how Kanazawa has taken the effects of low SES-low IQ developmentally mediated effect in consideration in his study.
You are correct in guessing that I haven’t read the article (I believe in free access; so neither publish nor read material that is not freely available). I’ll welcome if you or someone else could mail me the relevant portions or post them on this blog (under fair use).
As for invoking authority covertly by referring to peer-review in a prestigious journal, I would like to disclose that I haven’t taken a single course or class in psychology- either in school or college- so if authority is the determinant: you can stick to reading articles in scholarly journals by those who have doctoral degrees. Blogs are not for you. Otherwise, if you believe more in open discussions and logical arguments, lets argue on facts and study method weaknesses etc and rely more on public-review to catch any discrepancies.
What I could gather from the abstract was that “The macro-level analyses show that income inequality and economic development have no effect on life expectancy at birth, infant mortality and age-specific mortality net of average intelligence quotient (IQ) in 126 countries”. I take this to mean, that SES has no effect on longevity , if the effects of IQ are factored out. the ‘if’ is very important. This a very perverse position. This assumes that longevity is due to IQ and if IQ mediated difference in longevity data is factored out, the effcets on longevity of SES are negligible. This depends on an a priori assumption that longevity is primarily explained by IQ; and only after taking its effects into consideration, we need to look for an effect of SES on longevity.
What prevents the other, more valid and real interpretation : that SES predicts longevity and that there is little effect of IQ on longevity net of SES. Here the variation in longevity is explained by SES and after taking that into account, it would be found that, independent of IQ as a consequent of SES, IQ by itself would have little effect on longevity. the same set of data leads to this interpretation, because IQ and SES are related to a great degree and both are also related to longevity. It is just a matter of interpretation, that which is the primary cause and which an effect.
To take an absurd position, I can argue that longevity predicts/ causes both SES and IQ and reverse the causal link altogether. One can take a theoretical stand, that if people live longer , we have more labor force, blah, blah,blah… so more prodcutivity so better SES; further longevity menas that there are more wise old folks in the society and as IQ is mostly deterinmed by social influences (I do not subscribe to this, I am just taking an absurd position to show the absurdity of Kanazawa position), hence longevity of the population(more wise men) causes high IQs.
Also, please note that the above conclusion is only for the macro data he has. That interpretation is independent of his micro level data that found that self-reported health was more predicted by IQ than by SES. That micro data has nothing to do with the interpretation of the macro data. Again I don’t know where he got the micro data, but I’m sure that would be a developed world population sample. I am somewhat familiar with the macro data on which he is basing such claims, and there I do not see any reason to prefer his interpretation over other more realistic interpretations.
In the future, lets discuss merits of arguments, and not resort to ad hominem attacks over whether someone is qualified to make an argument or not. (in my opinion, by reading an abstract too, one can form a reasonable idea of what the arguments and methodologies employed are, and is thus eligible to comment)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Emotional self-Awareness: people can differ in how much aware are they of their own internal emotional states.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
In my last post I touched upon Robert Kegan’s Social Maturity theory whereby as humans develop they become more and more objective and loose more and more of their subjectivity. Today I read a blog post on PsyBlog about self-control and how the techniques for self-control relies on becoming more and more abstract and more and more objective. But first the importance of self-control.
One of humanity’s most useful skills, without which advanced civilizations would not exist, is being able to engage our higher cognitive functions, our self-control, to resist these temptations. Psychologists have found that self-control is strongly associated with what we label success: higher self-esteem, better interpersonal skills, better emotional responses and, perhaps surprisingly, few drawbacks at even very high levels of self-control.
Now how raising self-control is akin to becoming more objective or more socially mature. (emphasis mine)
It’s not hard to see the convergence between the idea of ‘psychological distance’ and high-level construal. Both emphasise the idea that the more psychological or conceptual distance we can put between ourselves and the particular decision or event, the more we are able to think about it in an abstract way, and therefore the more self-control we can exert. It’s all about developing a special type of objectivity.
Now for the ways in which self-control can be enhanced. Jeremy provides three ways in which we can raise our self-control (emphasis mine):
Fujita et al.’s (2006) studies, along with other similar findings reported byFujita (2008), suggest that self-control can be increased by these related ways of thinking:
Global processing. This means trying to focus on the wood rather than the trees: seeing the big picture and our specific actions as just one part of a major plan or purpose. For example, someone trying to eat healthily should focus on the ultimate goal and how each individual decision about what to eat contributes (or detracts) from that goal.
Abstract reasoning. This means trying to avoid considering the specific details of the situation at hand in favour of thinking about how actions fit into an overall framework – being philosophical. Someone trying to add more self-control to their exercise regime might try to think less about the details of the exercise, and instead focus on an abstract vision of the ideal physical self, or how exercise provides a time to re-connect mind and body.
High-level categorisation. This means thinking about high-level concepts rather than specific instances. Any long-term project, whether in business, academia or elsewhere can easily get bogged down by focusing too much on the minutiae of everyday processes and forgetting the ultimate goal. Categorising tasks or project stages conceptually may help an individual or group maintain their focus and achieve greater self-discipline.
These are just some examples of specific instances, but with a little creativity the same principles can be applied to many situations in which self-control is required. Ultimately these three ways of thinking are different ways of saying much the same thing: avoid thinking locally and specifically and practice thinking globally, objectively and abstractly, and increased self-control should follow.
To me, this looks like a very apt illustration of why developing social maturity is important. It helps in increased self control and thus better behavioral outcomes.
I happened to stumble upon recently on an excellent twoseries 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:
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:
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.
The impulsive stage is all about impulses that drive the self and with which one start identifying.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :
Archaic-instinctive—survivalistic/automatic/reflexological From 100,000 BC on “Express self to meet imperative physiological needs through instincts of Homo sapiens.”
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.”
Egocentric-exploitive power gods/dominionist From 7000 BC on “Express self (impulsively) for what self desires without guilt and to avoid shame.”
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)
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Self-Image, or how others view “me” is another aspect of selfhood that emerges during childhood.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Egocentrism (snoop, busybody, know-it-all): E (not extarverted person)
Ruggedness (tough, gentleman, fighter) : A (not agreeable person)
Delinquency (law-breaker, googdy-ggody, innocent): O (more rebellious person)
Attractiveness (babe , doll, hero) : T ??(a trustworthy person is attractive??)
Liveliness (joker, chatterbox, loudmouth): Act ( a more active/ communicative person)
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.
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!!
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 Cat‘ by 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!).
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!
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.
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.
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.
Phylum Platyhelminthes (Flatworms): bilateral symmetry with CNS,No body cavity.
Phylum Nemertea (Ribbon Worms)
Phylum Rotifera (Rotifers): Coelem incomplete.
Phylum Gastrotricha (Gastrotrichs).
Phylum Nematomorpha (Horsehair Worms).
Phylum Nematoda (Nematodes): a special level of evolutionary jump and that is why we scientists study this a lot.
Phylum Acanthocephala (Spiny-Headed Worms).
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.
Phylum Tardigrada (Tardigrades).
Phylum Brachiopoda (Brachiopods).
Phylum Mollusca (Mollusks).
Phylum Annelida (Segmented Worms).
Phylum Sipunculoidea (Peanut Worms).
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods): Evolutionary jump. Body consisting of three parts: head, thorax and abdomen.
Phylum Chaetognatha (Arrow Worms). Phylum Echinodermata (Echinoderms).I’ll like to club these two together.
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):
Class Osteichthyes (bony fishes) : driven by avoiding predation
Class Amphibia (Amphibians): driven by exploring surrounding
Class Reptilia (Reptiles): driven by forming alliances between small groups
Class Aves (Birds): driven by best reproductive/parental strategy
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!