Category Archives: developmental psychology

Hanzi Freinacht on effective value memes

The author of the metamodern treatise Nordic Ideology. From this interview:

“I’d like to say then about effective value meme that a lot of people are familiar with something quite similar, namely value memes from the spiral dynamics thinking. And it’s not just in the spiral dynamics framework, it’s all over adult development psychology really, that people have noticed, and it’s not just actually in adult development psychology, it’s also in anthropology. Those anthropologists that still or again start believing in the stage development and the evolution of stages of societies. They notice that there is a pattern here. They notice that people in smaller societies and farther back in history tend to believe more in magic and rituals and rights, for instance, in spirits, and things go on from there to larger and larger core principles or universal stories or narratives and perhaps the gods, or perhaps one God over all gods, which unify many people, many perspectives, and so on, and find one higher truth, the truth higher than any person.
“And then people go on from there noticing that, “Hey, there are many visions of this one God, there are many visions of objective reality. And then in modern society, even that objective reality seems to break down under the weight of so many perspectives. Some people start to wondering into what’s called post-modern perspectives and ideas. So these things align anthropology, history, psychology and personality. They align around some kind of stages which are recognizable. And even in any society, people aren’t just of one stage that correspond to that kind of society. Rather, you can see on the one hand, that people have learned a certain code or demeanor or worldview from the society that we’ve been brought up in. But at the same time, we also develop differently as human beings, as persons. Some people never really grasp the society and the narratives we’re in and go back to ways of grasping the world which would have resonated more with earlier societies.
“Others go on and pick up more conventional views and some even start to experiment with post-conventional views, which may intuit, perhaps, societies of the future or future forms of human life and life philosophies. So an example would be that in late medieval times, there were some intuitions of the renaissance and modernity. For instance, Roger Bacon, this monk was before his time in, I believe, may have been the late 13th century. And he intuited that we will study nature and there will be wagons that roll without horses. And there will be machines flying in the air and boats made of metal traversing the sea with no sails, and so on. He didn’t really know about any of the technology or couldn’t guess on it, but he was before his time. He was thinking already according to, well, according to what, and there it is, a value meme which corresponded to a society after his own. He was before his time in that developmental sense.
“So in any population, let’s say you’re in Switzerland, you’re going to have some kind of a normal distribution that’s not exactly a normal distribution, but something along those lines with some people having simpler worldviews and effective value memes that come before, that would have resonated with earlier societies. A large bulk of people who resonate with what’s conventionally Swiss in the 2020s, for instance, and then a minority of people who already are hooked on to some kind of cultural resonance which perhaps is more of what is going to emerge or emerging already. And I call these then, effective value meme because the theory here I’m commenting upon is called spiral dynamics and it has these color codes for these different value memes.
“So you can have traditional values, you can have modern values, you can have postmodern values. Traditional values would be more authoritarian and you believe in maybe one God, one truth, one religion. Modern values would be perhaps more achiever-oriented and have to do with business and democracy and, well, a materialist reductionist world view for instance. And postmodern values would be seeing the world more relationally and having more egalitarian views and wanting to soften the hard and harsh sides and destructive sides of modern life and society. So the problem I noticed with this developmental view was that people seem to fit in some ways within these categories and in others, they didn’t. So some people were complex thinkers, but maybe spiritually relatively flat. Some people have profound emotional and spiritual depths, but they’re not necessarily super smart. Some people are very learned in terms of all the progressive ideas out there, but understand them in flattened ways so they’re reduced to cliches, and so on.
“There appear to be at least four dimensions then, that put together is not necessarily a value meme that is recognizable as such, but if you put them together there is still a pattern that is vaguely recognizable, and that’s why I call them effective value meme. In effect, this person will reproduce the values of modern society. Why? Well, because they are at a certain, you mentioned four dimensions. They are at a certain level of complexity in terms of their thinking. They have a certain worldview which they have imbued from our surroundings. They have a certain level of introspective individuation or divination as a human being, knowing their own emotions, and so on, and defining their own self and their own life philosophy. And they may have a certain level of subjective states or happiness which facilitate this kind of life and participation in these kinds of values.”

What is metamodernism?

A few of you have wondered what is metamodernism? One of my FB friends wrote this piece giving a broad overview of the history of the movement and some of it’s implications. The opening paragraph:

“What is metamodernism and how can it help us collectively navigate these troubled, transitional times? The meaning of such a word must be disambiguated and its complexity foregrounded. At this point, there is no shortcut. As my colleague Hanzi Freinacht says, there’s no elevator pitch, you have to take the stairs. In this article, I will try to carry you, dear reader, up a few flights.”

Hanzi Freinacht on Nordic Ideology

We’ve briefly discussed metamodernism before. Hanzi has written two books on the subject. In this interview he discusses his latest book Nordic Ideology. There’s also a transcript available if you prefer reading. The blurb:

“Hanzi Freinacht, political philosopher, historian, sociologist, & author talks with Jim about effective value memes, cultural code, what it means to have high depth, dynamics of cognitive complexity, the changeability of culture & systems, social engineering, compulsion vs seduction, prioritizing subjective states, cultural attractor points & bad attractors, game acceptance vs denial & how they impact game change, relative utopias, a brief overview of Hanzi’s six types of politics, and more.”

Living in the future’s past

I watched a good documentary last night titled, Living in the Future’s Past, a project organized, produced, and narrated by Jeff Bridges. It’s available through your Albuquerque Public Library account’s access to Hoopla Digital, Amazon Prime video, and other services. It lays out the modern dilemma of having a pre-neolithic brain in a Neolithic era and posits several questions that align closely with the theme of our current discussion . The film has commentary from diverse scientific experts, including Daniel Goldman (emotional and social intelligence and mindfulness). The upshot is a recurring suggestion our current brain functionality is capable of reframing our perspective and modulating our perceptions and behaviors around carefully constructed focal questions that get at what sort of future(s) we desire. I like this approach—so well in fact that I Had reserved some web domains months ago:,,, and These domains are not active yet. They will relate to the novel I’m writing and to a related non-fiction project. Edward is onto an important approach in looking to semantics (framing, etc.).

Also, on a short-term level, cultural evolution (including language and semantics) appears much more potent a driver than physiological evolution. Given that, I recently purchased a book by an author who goes into great depth on cultural evolution. The book is Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking, by Cecelia Heyes. I may put it forward for a future discussion.

Cracking the code of rapid social transformation

If interested sign up for this free one-hour presentation on Wednesday, January 15. The blurb:

Terry Patten and other activist leaders facing the grim implications of climate chaos are seeing surprising glimpses of evolutionary emergence in culture around the world.

Are we capable of making a huge, visible difference? How could each of us live differently to actually make it happen? Which cutting-edge communities and collectives are emerging to catalyze rapid social transformation?

Questions Terry will address include:

  • What is our best real-world evidence of change agents and spiritual practitioners around the world rapidly advancing culture?
  • What are the new potentials for technological breakthroughs that can open a window of opportunity for fundamental systems redesign?
  • What catalytic work is being done already by volunteers and organizers around the world, and particularly in the USA, leading up to the 2020 election?
  • What are the scientifically-grounded, realistic, transformative potentials disclosed by quantum social theory?
  • How might the emerging field of intentional cultural evolution already be setting the stage for rapid social transformation — visible now only in thousands of seemingly insignificant but daring conscious social experiments?

More on Haidt

Continuing this previous post:

I’m looking at the section “conclusion and critique” of Haidt starting on p. 31. Gibbs appreciates that we should account for our earlier human history and more primitive brain centers in describing morality. But to limit it to these structures and history at the expense of later brain structures and evolutionary development is another thing.

“The negative skew in Haidt’s descriptive work discourages study in moral psychology of higher reaches of morality such as rational moral reflection, empathy for the plight of entire out-groups, moral courage, and the cultivation of responsible, mature moral agency —broadly, study of ‘the scope of human possibilities, of what people can do morally, if they are prepared, through development and education, to approach life’s important issues in a thoughtful way’” (34).

Several neuroscientific studies make clear which parts of the brain are emphasized in liberals and conservatives. The amygdala (indicative of fight or flight fear) is a much older evolutionary brain structure, while the anterior cingulate cortex (higher thinking functions) much newer. Hence there is neuroscientific brain evidence for the evolution of morality per Kohlberg. Haidt admits that conservative morality is rooted in these more evolutionary earlier brain structures, and liberal morality in the newer structures.

The newer neocortex then coordinates and integrates the older brain functions so that the latter do not dominate and send us backward in evolution. It’s not that liberals don’t have the conservative moral traits like Haidt claims; it’s that those earlier evolutionary traits are now modified under neocortex control. Yes, there is a value judgment involved here, but it’s supported by evolutionary science, not ideology.

The abstract from “Neural correlates or post-conventional moral reasoning”:

“Going back to Kohlberg, moral development research affirms that people progress through different stages of moral reasoning as cognitive abilities mature. Individuals at a lower level of moral reasoning judge moral issues mainly based on self-interest (personal interests schema) or based on adherence to laws and rules (maintaining norms schema), whereas individuals at the post-conventional level judge moral issues based on deeper principles and shared ideals. However, the extent to which moral development is reflected in structural brain architecture remains unknown. To investigate this question, we used voxel-based morphometry and examined the brain structure in a sample of 67 Master of Business Administration (MBA) students. Subjects completed the Defining Issues Test (DIT-2) which measures moral development in terms of cognitive schema preference. Results demonstrate that subjects at the post-conventional level of moral reasoning were characterized by increased gray matter volume in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, compared with subjects at a lower level of moral reasoning. Our findings support an important role for both cognitive and emotional processes in moral reasoning and provide first evidence for individual differences in brain structure according to the stages of moral reasoning first proposed by Kohlberg decades ago.”

From Mendez, M. (2017). “A neurology of the conservative-liberal dimension of political ideology.” The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences.

“Differences in political ideology are a major source of human disagreement and conflict. There is increasing evidence that neurobiological mechanisms mediate individual differences in political ideology through effects on a conservative-liberal axis. This review summarizes personality, evolutionary and genetic, cognitive, neuroimaging, and neurological studies of conservatism-liberalism and discusses how they might affect political ideology. What emerges from this highly variable literature is evidence for a normal right-sided cconservative-complex’ involving structures sensitive to negativity bias, threat, disgust, and avoidance.”

New scientific model can predict moral and political development

According to this study in Nature Human Behavior, in time frames about fairness and preventing harm triumph over those about loyalty, purity and authority. The latter might succeed temporarily, like now in the US, but the more the former frames are strongly and repeatedly reinforced the quicker the results. Let’s keep up our passionate frames, for this research supports that we will overcome the dark forces that have a temporary hold on our government. Also see Kohlberg‘s moral stages, showing that the former frames are more developed that the latter set.

“Their conclusion is that the key characteristic of opinions that gain ground is that they are supported by arguments about what is fair and what does not cause harm to others. […] Opinions based on other classical grounds used to determine right and wrong actions—loyalty, authority, purity, religion—can gain support temporarily, but over time, opinions based on these arguments lose support all over the political spectrum. The stronger the connection an opinion has to arguments about fairness and harm, the greater the probability that it will gain ground in public opinion. Also, the stronger the connection is, the faster the change will come.”

Rapid Personality Change and the Psychological Rebirth

Informative video on this process. Ofttimes we need to descend into hell before we can ascend into a new life. And this seems the overall process of human development, that for each stage we must go through this spiraling process of dissolution and reorganization. Hence we are far more than twice-born; we are multiply born anew at each stage. It seems though that the further we go in this process the greater the risks and rewards.

Speaking of which, the inaugural issue of Phi Mi Sci will address this issue:

“The inaugural issue of PhiMiSci will be a Special Topic on Radical Disruptions of Self-Consciousness (see the Manifesto of the Selfless Minds workshop). The call for papers for this Special Topic was closed on May 1. Submissions are currently under review. The guest editors of this Special Topic are Thomas Metzinger (Mainz) & Raphaël Millière (Oxford). The expected publication date of this Special Topic is late 2019.”

Book: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

In his new book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David J. Epstein investigates the significant advantages of generalized cognitive skills for success in a complex world. We’ve heard and read many praises for narrow expertise in both humans and AIs (Watson, Alpha Go, etc.). In both humans and AIs, however, narrow+deep expertise does not translate to adaptiveness when reality presents novel challenges, as it does constantly. 

As you ingest this highly readable, non-technical book, please add your observations to the comments below. 

history and philosophy of ecological psychology

Article from Frontiers in Psychology at this link. From the Introduction:

“Ecological psychology is an embodied, situated, and non-representationalist approach to cognition pioneered by J. J. Gibson (1904–1979) in the field of perception and by E. J. Gibson (1910–2002) in the field of developmental psychology. Ecological psychology, in its very origins, aimed to offer an innovative perspective for understanding perception and perceptual learning that overcomes the traditional psychological dichotomies of perception/action, organism/environment, subjective/objective, and mind/body.”