Thursday, March 29, 2018

Levels of development, the self-system and the center of gravity

See this research that refutes developmental center of gravity. From Mascolo, p. 6: 

"It follows that individuals never operate at any single level of development. Instead, they operate within a developmental range – a series of levels that vary with task, domain, context, emotional state, and so forth. Given such dynamic variation, there can be no broad-based stages of development. It is thus not helpful to think of a person or a person’s abilities as being 'in a stage' of development. Development does not move through a series of fixed steps; development operates more like a constructive Web."

Also this article on the model of hierarchical complexity which said: 

"In mapping the mathematical orders of order of hierarchical complexity and of stage transition on to real world data, there are a number of considerations. Because the model does not call for global measures (e.g., of a person’s 'center of gravity'), it is possible to look at change trial by trial, choice by choice, task action by task action" (318).

 Reams, J. (2014). "A brief overview of developmental theory." Integral Review, 10:1.

"What we can see upon first glance is that ego stage models tend towards describing a center of gravity, a structure of self-understanding and meaning making that is
relatively stable with periodic transformations, and within which variability happens, but is harder to account for. Fischer’s dynamic skill theory, on the other hand, starts from two different sets of empirical findings. One is that variability is central to performance, understanding etc. and that this variability is both moment to moment within an individual and across individuals. Thus statistical norming or establishing a center of gravity is not in focus. The other is that the unit of analysis is the skill being performed and the hierarchical complexity of it, not an individual ego and its stage of development. Individuals are simply the means through which we can observe these structures" (126-27).

 Some consequences of the 'center of gravity' approach, by Rob McNamara on Kurt Fischer's work:
"For those of us interested in adult development, too often we tend to focus on stages. [...] Implicit inside these assumptions about development is that we can be located at a specific stage of development. [...] The antidote to this ‘vertical pursu-itis’ is to look instead at what we call developmental range. This is different from our 'center of gravity, an abstracted normative range in which you (or others) tend to show up developmentally, but which moves us away from the specificity of our aliveness in any given moment. Developmental range instead steers us towards specific contexts, particular behaviors and distinct skills. Instead of generalized abstractions, developmental range focuses on the immediacy of our developmental complexity in response to environmental and contextual surrounds from moment to moment. The concept of developmental range focuses us on the dynamic, relational quality of our skills and behaviors." 

Zak Stein

"The idea that a holistic assessment could tell us about the essence of a person is absurd and flagrantly ideological. Development assessments at their best can only paint pictures of the differential distribution of capabilities within persons. We can't assess people as a whole, we can only assess their performances along particular lines in particular contexts. And performances vary across contexts, which means that you may perform at one level in one context and at a very different level in another context" (11).

See this article is on the neuroscience of the self. Like Damasio there are 3 selves: the experiential enactive self (EES, akin to Damasio's proto-self); the experiential phenomenal self (EPS, akin to the core self); and the narrative self (NS). These are roughly analogous to Wilber's anterior, proximal and distal selves, but not quite. The proximal or narrative self is where we get a stable sense of ourselves over time via memory and anticipation.

According to Wilber this is where we get self stages and this article seems to agree. However, within the narrative self "there may very well be distinct substrates across each domain as there is likely distinct forms of 'me-self' in as many social relationships as there are individuals who recognize each one uniquely." This again supports the MHC and Fischer's empirical findings, as the NS has different senses of itself in different domains and circumstances. Plus there are competing senses of self with the EES and the EPS.

The article goes into the neuroscience of meditation, its main theme, to be explored later in a different thread. E.g., it also "suggests that an integrative network supported by mindfulness may improve efficiency and guide changes in self-specific, affect-biased attention by integrating information from the three self-specific networks [... it] is uniquely situated to integrate information coming from the other three systems and facilitate global reorganization or plasticity amongst the networks."

The take-away point is that this integrative network is NOT self-related, hence not about developmental levels of the narrative self, or even the self-system more generally. Meditation (meta-awareness) though develops this integrative network. The authors speculate that this network "may effectively facilitate context-appropriate switching between anticorrelated networks," the latter meaning the EES and EPS v. the NS. Hence once again the different aspects of the self are at various levels depending on tasks appropriate to the context.

Which raises another point, the relationship between this integrative 'state' of meta-awareness and stages of any line, including the ego or cognitive lines. Recall it is this 'state' that does the integration between the different selves, NOT one of the selves including the ego system.


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