Integral Review

A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal For New Thought, Research, and Praxis

Posts Tagged ‘cognitive development’

Using Developmental Theory: When Not to Play Telephone Games

Sara Nora Ross

Abstract: As a powerful way to help understand the behaviors of people and social groupings of all kinds, developmental stage theory attracts attention and use outside of purely academic environments. These uses take the form of written materials and many kinds of interventions. The level of accuracy of developmental theory information generated and used outside of academe demonstrates wide variety. This variety is reflected in materials and interventions. The information used in materials and interventions becomes increasingly distorted as it becomes further removed from original theoretical sources. This has major implications for the ethics and expertise issues that are inherent in applied developmental theory. A classification scheme of information-use behaviors, many of which contribute to distortion processes, is used to code actual cases of creating and disseminating distorted developmental theory information, invoking the metaphor of telephone games. Case evidence indicates that casual, illustrative figures in a 2006 book by Wilber were used by others for various serious and theoretical purposes, and resulted in major distortions of developmental theory. Wilber’s figures represent problematic issues and errors, including distortion of theory, if they are used—as they indeed were—for any purpose more serious than his original purpose. Stemming from those issues and errors, a highly distorted picture of cognitive development and a pseudo-version of Commons and Richards’ Model of Hierarchical Complexity theory emerged, telephone game-like, in the cases discussed. Errors were widely propagated on the internet. Because outside of academe, specialized expertise in developmental theory is difficult to acquire, the sub-field of applied developmental theory requires not only accurate information but also strong communication ethics to govern behaviors of information providers. Such providers need to protect themselves at the same time they protect and inform consumers of their information. This process of knowledge sharing and knowledge building can be shaped by adopting guidelines and a basic operating principle proposed here. Guidelines and principles, without institutionalization, are insufficient support. A new Institute of Applied Developmental Theory could provide the supports, standards, and effectiveness the sub-field of applied developmental theory needs if its power to address 21st century challenges, which sorely need it, is to be realized.

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Modeling the demands of interdisciplinarity: Toward a framework for evaluating interdisciplinary endeavors

Zachary Stein

Abstract: I suggest there are two key factors that bear on the quality of interdisciplinary endeavors: the complexity of cognition and collaboration and the epistemological structure of interdisciplinary validity claims. The former suggests a hierarchical taxonomy of forms of inquiry involving more than one discipline. Inspired by Jantsh (1972) and looking to Fischer’s (1980) levels of cognitive development, I outline the following forms: disciplinary, multi-disciplinary, cross-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and trans-disciplinary. This hierarchical taxonomy based on complexity is then supplemented by an epistemological discussion concerned with validity. I look to a handful of philosophers to distil the general epistemological structure of knowledge claims implicating more than one discipline. This involves differentiating between levels-of-analysis issues and perspectival issues. When all is said and done, we end up with a “language of evaluation” applicable to interdisciplinarity endeavors. Ultimately, this suggests an ideal mode of interdisciplinary endeavoring roughly coterminous with Wilber’s (2006) Integral Methodological Pluralism.

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