Thursday, December 05, 2013

An Introduction to Mindset Agency Theory

In this paper, Yolles and Fink assemble a mindset theory not at all related to that of Carol Dweck's popular model. Rather, these authors build off of the work of personality modelling approaches which were broadly described as classificational, relational, or dynamic/causational.
Jung’s, Bandura’s and Piaget’s theories are all causational; MBTI and FFM are classificational; and Maruyma’s Mindscape theory is relational. Because of its epistemological and relational basis, we found that Maruyama’s Mindscape theory has a better potential capacity to explore cognitive patterns of personality than MBTI and FFM. However, Maruyama’s Mindscape theory does not have the generative transparency of MBTI. To improve on the generative transparency of Mindscape theory, Boje’s had introduced three “real traits”. However, Boje’s approach remained qualitative without the immediate possibility of empirical support, and is thereby not improving the potential for broader use of Mindscape theory.
The result is an interesting values frame and a multi-perspectival model of mindsets.

An Introduction to Mindset Theory

  • Maurice Yolles: John Moores University - Centre for the Creation of Coherent Change and Knowledge (C4K)
  • Gerhard Fink: IACCM International Association for Cross Cultural Competence and Management
November 1, 2013


The plural agency is a self-referential, self-regulating, self-organizing, adaptive, pro-active and culturally stable collective, having a normative personality belonging to a psychosocial framework of the "collective mind." The agency can be characterized by Mindset types, a derivative of Maruyama’s Mindscape meta-theory -- a little known but powerful epistemic approach that can anticipate an agency’s patterns of behavior and demands. A Mindscape is a construct from which coherent sets of behavioral mind-sets can emerge. However, Mindscape theory lacks generative transparency, and the Mindset theory we develop changes this. Mindset Theory is based on the Sagiv-Schwartz (2007) cultural values study from which eight Mindset types are generated that individually or in combination can characterize personality and anticipate behavior.


This paper is interested in two aspects of personality: a theory of personality that indicates its nature, how it functions, and an identification of variables that might represent its major characteristics, and personality assessment through an ability to identify and evaluate these variables. Our purpose in this paper covers both of these attributes. In respect of the first, we aim at creating a dynamic socio-cognitive theory of human agency having as its core a normative personality.

When we refer to normative personality, we do not mean this within the context of the ambient normative social influences that exist during the formation of personalities and that mould them (Mroczek & Little, 2006). Rather, the term is being used to refer to the norms in a collective that may together coalesce into a unitary cognitive structure such that a collective mind can be inferred, and from which an emergent normative personality arises. To explain this further, consider that a potentially durable collective develops a dominant culture within which shared beliefs arise in relation to its capacity to produce desired operative outcomes. Cultural anchors arise which enable the development of formal and informal norms to which patterns of behaviour, modes of conduct and expression, forms of thought, attitudes, and values are more or less adhered to by those that compose the plural agency. When the norms refer to formal behaviours, then where the members of the collective contravene them, they are deemed to be engaging in illegitimate behaviour which, if discovered, may result in formal retribution - the severity of which is determined from the agency’s ideological and ethical positioning. This occurs with the rise of collective cognitive processes that start with information inputs and through communication and decision processes result in orientation towards action; and it does this with a sense of the collective mind and self. It is a short step to recognise that the collective mind has associated with it a normative personality. Where a normative personality is deemed to exist, it does not necessarily mean that individual members of the collective will all conform to all aspects of the normative processes: they may only do so “more or less.” According to Yolles (2009), as long as a plural agency has a durable culture to which participants more or less conform through its norms, a “collective mind” is implied that operates through meaningful dialogue and agreement. As such the plural agency may appear to behave more or less like a singular cognitive agency. While the plural agency is ultimately composed of singular agencies, they are similar, can suffer from related pathologies that include: dysfunctions, neuroses, feelings of guilt, adopt and maintain collective psychological defences that reduce pain through denial and cover-up, and operate through processes of power that might be unproductive (Kets de Vries, 1991).

In the same way that singular agencies learn, so do plural agencies. We represent this capacity of the normative personality through cognitive learning theory (e.g., Miller & Dollard, 1941; Miller et al., 1960; Piaget, 1950; Vygotsky, 1978; Argyris & Schön, 1978; Bandura, 1991; Nobre, 2003; Argote & Todorova, 2007), where “learning is seen in terms of the acquisition or reorganization of the cognitive structures through which agencies process and store information” (Good and Brophy, 1990, pp. 187). Set within cognitive information process theory, the collective mind is seen as an information system that operates through a set of logical mental rules, and strategies (e.g., Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968; Bowlby, 1980; Novak, 1993; Wang, 2007).

In this paper we adopt a theoretical approach intended to represent the personality through a set of traits, and we develop Mindset theory as a means by which normative personalities can be assessed. Mindset theory is a derivative of Mindscape theory, a little known approach for reasons that likely include its lack of generative transparency. In order to correct this we will create Mindset theory by adopting the cybernetic trait model of Yolles, Fink & Dauber (2011). Then, to facilitate assessment we connect this with the extensive empirical study by Shalom Schwartz (e.g., Sagiv-Schwarz, 2007) on epistemic cultural values. In particular we shall show that normative personalities can take Mindscape types which can be transparently generated from combinations of bi-polar traits that arise from Sagiv-Schwartz theory.

Having referred to traits, it is useful to consider something more about them. A trait is usually seen as a distinguishing feature, characteristic or quality of a personality style. It creates a predisposition for a personality to respond in a particular way to a broad range of situations (Allport, 1961). Traits are also described as enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts. They constitute habitual patterns of thought, emotion and stable clusters of behaviour. They are therefore better seen as constructs that reflect different sets of values and attitudes. There may be a variety of traits, but we can also identify super-traits (Bandura, 1999) or global traits (Van Egeren, 2009) which play a formative role in the development of personality. These formative traits are constituted as self-regulatory propensities or styles that affect how individuals characteristically pursue their goals (Van Egeren, 2009). In this paper when we refer to traits, we shall mean formative traits. These operate as continuous variables that together are indicative of personality, and are subject to small degrees of continuous variation. Traits may take scalar values that for Eysenck (1957) determine personality type. As an illustration, the Five Factor Method (FFM1 or the Big Five) is an empirically based classificatory trait approach where the traits take on single pole and bi-polar values (Cattel, 1945; Goldberg, 1993; Costa & McCrae 1992).

Normally, type theory is useful in personality assessment since they represent conditions of a personality that can be associated with a set of characteristics or properties that establish a penchant towards certain patterns of behaviour. There are schemas (models that may or may not be developed into or be connected with full theories) that explore types, though sometimes as in the MBTI (Myers, 2000) schema the traits are inferred as existing virtually, and unspecified. While explicitly defined traits take on identifiable personality control functions, virtual traits also take on control functions, but in this case they would be implicit and unidentified (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990).

While traits constitute useful variables for the characterisation of personality, there is some confusion in the literature in the way that types are defined. Some authors (e.g. Eysenck, 1957) find that simple distinguishing marks may qualify single traits as types, while Myers-Briggs when referring to types means meta-types, i.e. a determinable collection of types (Myers, 2000). Following Eysenck, types can be defined through a trait that can characterize a system. If more than a single trait is needed to characterize a system, then types may occur as some composite of several traits with certain distinguishing marks. Thus for instance consider the case of the extreme poles of bi-polar traits. The number of types (z) to be generated from bi-polar traits depends on the number of traits (n) that constitute a system: z = 2n. In a case where three states of a trait (e.g., the extremes and a range in the middle) constitute a system, then z = 3n. We have already referred to MBTI as a “personality type” approach with virtual traits, and which operates as a classificatory system that was created from Jung’s (1923) bi-polar temperament personality theory. From 4 bi-polar virtual traits, a system of 16 personality types was created by Myers-Briggs (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk & Hammer, 1998).

While personality traits create a potential for the generation of descriptive clusters of behaviour, many consider them to represent the ultimate causes of patterns of behaviour. However, if such a view is to be sustainable, then additional theory is needed that ties trait schemas that simply classify personalities to one type or another, to dynamic schemas that involve causative processes and allow for personality shifts, as for instance through: (a) Piaget’s (1950) concepts of child development and Bandura’s (2006) psychology of the human agency that would allow traits to take a role that is significantly beyond their use as classification systems; and (b) Piaget’s ideas of intelligent behaviour and Bandura’s interest in efficacy and performance that establish ideas of change in behaviour through learning that existing trait theories are unable to currently represent. It may be possible for trait theory to embrace such concepts by seeing them as enduring patterns of cognitive schemas that arise from such phenomena as perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself, i.e., they condition decision making processes in some way. Action then emerges from the major processes of cognition, motivation, affect, effectiveness recognition, and selection of available patterns of behaviour.
Moving on from the Introduction, I wanted to share a pretty large section of this paper because I believe it offers an unique and useful model for making sense of values frames in both individual and cultures.
In contrast to MBTI, Maruyama developed his socio-cognitive personality type theory through a schema of epistemological meta-types, which he called Mindscape theory. This schema permits personal determinants to operate dynamically within causal structures. Meta-types are combinations of epistemic values (which we call enantiomers) which are constituted as elements of human culture, material objects, or human practice (Maruyama, 1988). Mindscape analysis, Maruyama claims, is particularly suitable for complex and multifaceted environments, and can be used to explore the interrelations among seemingly unrelated aspects of human activities. While Mindscape theory is represented as an epistemological typology, its purpose and use lie in interrelating seemingly separate aspects of human activities (Maruyama, 1988, p.311). While Mindscape modes are numerous and vary from individual to individual, they cumulate into at least four common and stable types that may be partly innate and partly learned.

Social collectives have a normative collective cognitive ability (Thompson, Leigh and Gary Alan Fine, 1999), and as such they also have what we shall call a normative personality - a principle also supported by, for instance, Bridges (1992), Kets de Vries (1991) and Yolles (2006), and already implicitly embedded in Mindscape theory and MBTI. Hence, Mindscape theory can apply to social personality and individual personality contexts. Within the context of the social personality "one of the [personality] types becomes powerful for historical or political reasons, and utilizes, ignores or suppresses individuals of other types" (Maruyama, 2002, p167; cited by Boje, 2004). Following Maruyama (1988; 2001; 2008) and Boje (2004), four types of Mindscapes always exist in any culture, though their percentage distribution varies across cultures3. Available data on cross-cultural migrants indicate that some aspects of Mindscapes are formative in childhood and become irreversible at the age of around ten, approximately corresponding to the child’s formative years. An agency with one Mindscape mode may "learn" to "understand" by some intellectual process a figurative structure that is conceptualized in other Mindscapes, but the results of such attempts are likely to be highly distorted or psychologically artificial. This becomes clearer, for example, when an agency is a human activity group that holds a particular paradigm in science (Kuhn, 1970).

Gammack (2002), in his discussion of Mindscape theory, noted Maruyama’s rejection of the common simple-minded typologies in favour of a “relationology” that goes further than temperamental classifications of individual qualities. Rather it specifies an epistemological basis from which communicative and behavioural styles result. Cultures are seen to be epistemologically heterogeneous, and a number of canonical Mindscape modes exist that are each represented within them in some proportion. These epistemological modes are seen to be prior to, and transcendent of, nationality and culture (Maruyama, 1988; 2001). Indeed, as indicated by Maruyama (1974) these epistemological types are directly related to personality characteristics and cultural backgrounds. An epistemic description of each of these Mindscapes has been proposed by Dockens (2004) (adapted from Maruyama, 1980) as shown in Table 2. Here the epistemic categories cover, for Dockens, a typology of knowledge that constitutes the basis of the Mindscape types. The names given to each of the mindscape types while having there origin in Maruyama (1974), arise from Boje (2004).

Mindscape types were perceived by Maruyama (1988) to be quite different from the Jungian psychological typologies. They provide a link between seemingly separate activities such as decision process, criteria of beauty, and choice of science theories. They do not line up on a single scale, nor do they fit in a two-by-two table. Rather, Maruyama considered, they are more like the four corners of a tetrahedron. Mindscape theory is not a classificational typology (like that of Myers, 2000) since its purpose and use “lie in interrelating seemingly separate aspects of human activities such as organizational structure, policy formulation, decision process, architectural design, criteria of beauty, choice of theories, cosmology, etc.” (Maruyama, 1988:2). Maruyama assumed that it has a relational basis.

Maruyama’s (2002, p167) argument has already been noted that a social system develops an affinity for one personality meta-type over another for historical or political reasons, and ignores or suppresses individuals of other types. This perception is in contrast to Jung (1923), Schwartz (1990) and to Tamis-LeMonda et al (2007). Maruyama settles on the ‘opposing view’ perception of alternate poles.

Using Mindscape theory provides a broad and potentially dynamic capacity to describe agencies, and thereby can generate explanations about situations in which they were involved, or expectations about their potential behaviour in anticipated situations.

Creating Eight Mindset Types from the Sagiv-Schwartz Trait Basis

Following an interest in characterising societal culture, Schwartz (1999, 2004) undertook an extensive study (60,000 respondents) to explore the dimensionality of cultural orientations. It derived cultural orientations from a priori theorizing (unlike previous approaches such as: Hofstede, 1980, 2001; House, Javidan, & Dorfman, 2001; Inglehart & Baker, 2000) rather than post hoc examination of data. The measuring instrument Schwartz used a designated set of a priori value items to serve as markers for each orientation. These items were tested for cross-cultural equivalence of meaning. The items were demonstrated to cover the range of values recognized cross-culturally. In addition, it specified how the cultural orientations are organized into a coherent system of related dimensions and verified this organization, rather than assuming that orthogonal dimensions best capture cultural reality. Finally, it brought empirical evidence that the order of national cultures on each of the orientations is robust across different types of samples from many countries around the world.
Sagiv and Schwartz (2007) identified three bipolar dimensions of culture that represent alternate resolutions to each of three challenges that confront all societies. In the context of the agency, these bipolar dimensions constitute enantiomer pairs that (like Boje’s (2004) conceptions where he formulated a set of Foucaultian based traits to create a Mindscape space) can be assigned to some originating trait, the names of which have been influenced by Piaget’s (1950) theory of human commonalities. These traits with paired enantiomers are: cognitive (embeddedness, autonomy), figurative (hierarchy, egalitarianism) and operative (mastery, harmony). These are explained briefly in Table 3.

(1) Cognitive Trait Enantiomers

Embedded cultures are consistent with a collectivistic view, where meaning in life can be found largely through social relationships, identifying with the group, participating in a shared way of life, and the adoption of shared goals. Values like social order, respect for tradition, security, and wisdom are important. There tends to be a conservative attitude in that support is provided for the status quo and restraining actions against inclinations towards the possible disruption of in-group solidarity or the traditional order.

Autonomy cultures are consistent with an individualistic view, where meaning is found in the uniqueness of the individual that is encouraged to express internal attributes (preferences, traits, feelings, motives). Two classes of cultural autonomy arise: Intellectual and Affective Autonomy. Intellectual autonomy presumes that individuals are encouraged to pursue their own ideas and intellectual directions independently (important values: curiosity, broadmindedness, creativity), while in affective autonomy individuals are encouraged to pursue affectively positive experience for themselves. The values are: exciting life, enjoying live, varied life, pleasure, and self-indulgence. At this point it is important to note that there are notable reasons why Shalom Schwartz has kept affective autonomy separately from intellectual autonomy. Affective autonomy is also positively correlated with Mastery, and it is granting that those who achieve high efficacy through mastery also can enjoy the benefits of their efforts. These two facets of the enantiomer constitute an important element of individualism and are in contrast to harmony.

(2) Figurative Trait Enantiomers 

Mastery promotes the view that active self-assertion is needed in order to master, direct, and change the natural and social environment to attain group or personal goals (values: ambition, success, daring, competence). Mastery organizations tend to be dynamic, competitive, and oriented to achievement and success, and are likely to develop and use technology to manipulate and change the environment to achieve goals.

Harmony promotes the view that the world should be accepted as it is, with attempts to understand and appreciate rather than to change, direct, or exploit. There is an emphasis on fitting harmoniously into the environment (values: unity with nature, protecting the environment, world at peace). In harmony organisations, there is an expectation that they will fit into the surrounding social and natural world. Leaders that adopt this type try to understand the social and environmental implications of organizational actions, and seek non-exploitative ways to work toward their goals.

(3) Operative Trait Enantiomers

Hierarchy supports the ascription of roles for individuals to ensure responsible, productive behavior. Unequal distribution of power, roles, and resources are seen to be legitimate (values: social power, authority, humility, wealth). The hierarchical distribution of roles is taken for granted and to comply with the obligations and rules attached to their roles.
Egalitarianism promotes the view that people recognize one another as moral equals who share basic interests. There is an internalisation of a commitment towards cooperation, and to feelings of concern for everyone's welfare. There is an expectation that people will act for the benefit of others as a matter of choice (values: equality, social justice, responsibility, honesty).

These traits and their enantiomer characteristics are summarised in Table 3 together with a listing of keywords that are relevant to the types. Setting the cultural-level Sagiv-Schwartz enantiomers into a trait space thereby enables the generation of what we call a set of Sagiv-Schwartz Mindset Types (Table 5). As explained earlier, while they come from a similar frame of reference to that of Maruyama, their epistemology arises differently.

For the formation of Sagiv-Schwartz Mindset Types we use the Schwartz (1994) set of values and formation of value dimensions (Table 3). Using the same epistemic mapping technique as adopted by Maruyama to compare his Mindscapes with Harvey, we compared the Maruyama constructs with those derived from Sagiv and Schwartz (2007). For Sagiv-Schwartz Mindset Types, we have found better comparability with the Maruyama Mindscape types when, from the Schwartz value inventory, we closely relate ‘affective autonomy’ to ‘mastery’ and form a composite epistemic bi-polar trait (Mastery & Affective Autonomy vs. Harmony).

When comparing the values and attitudes of the Maruyama Mindscape types with the Sagiv & Schwartz value dimensions in an epistemological mapping, we easily find values/items of the Schwartz universe which fit part of the respective Maruyama Mindscape types as shown below.

The H type contains numerous items which are similar or can be related to notions of embeddedness and hierarchy of the Schwartz system: hierarchical, homogenist (conventionalist), classification (neat categories), universalist, sequential, competitive, one truth, eternal, unity by similarity, ethics to dominate the weak, ingroup, self-stereotyping, group bounded, prone to collectivism.

The I type contains numerous items which are similar or can be related to notions of intellectual autonomy, affective autonomy and mastery of the Schwartz system: independent, heterogenistic, unconventionalist, individualistic, uniqueness, separation, caprice, subjectivity, isolationist, temporary, no order, identity, specialization, indifference, poverty self-inflicted, prone to individualism.

As a reflection of the ‘mutualists Mindscape types’ mentioned previously and arising from Maruyama (1974), we find similarities to the notions egalitarianism and harmony of the Schwartz system: heterogenistic, interactive, mutualizing, relating, simultaneous, positive-sum, poly-ocularity, absorption, contextual, non-hierarchical. The consequent differentiation between the G type and the S type apparently is influenced by a slightly stronger orientation towards intellectual autonomy of the G type and towards embeddedness of the S type. Considering the Schwartz value universe (Figure 1) which was produced with the Co-Plot [4] technique of Raveh (2000), we find that Maruyama intuitively discovered that neighbouring ‘value fields’, i.e. combinations of positively correlated values, form the basis of emergent behavioural types. In terms of the Schwartz value universe: ‘hierarchists’ have a preference for hierarchy and embeddeness, ‘indivudualists’ have a preference for autonomy and mastery, and ‘mutualists’ have a preference for egalitarianism and harmony.

Now, we can note that the route suggested by Boje (2004) can be further pursued with a more differentiated system of 8 types derived from Sagiv-Schwartz (2007) traits. To do this we initially formulate a labelling code as shown in Table 4. These arise from epistemic cross-comparison deriving from the traits poles (the enantiomers), and permit choices to be made for labels from the options available.

As a result we can formulate the Mindset types against the enantiomers and their epistemic values as shown in Table 5. The type numbers do not imply trait importance, but simply are counting the number of types.

Graphically, the relations between the eight Mindset cognitive types shown in the Mindset Space of Figure 2 are extreme types. Four pairs of Mindset types can be seen that are in diametric contrast. However, the 8 types can be multiplied since balances between the types can also develop, which is something that we shall return to in due course. Four of these eight Mindset Types correspond to the four Maryuama Mindscape Types. With this it is possible to fill a gap indicated by Boje (2004) and identify four additional Mindset Types.

For further analysis beyond contrasting Mindset types, where all three alternate enantiomer poles are different, we may also take a look at variation, where two enantiomers are the same and only one is varied. In the Sagiv-Schwartz value universe six options arise, which are presented in Table 7. We begin with Harmony and move clockwise around the Schwartz value universe (Figure 1). We present variations, where two central pairs of constructs are kept constant. In the Sagiv-Schwartz universe these pairs are located next to each other, because these constructs are correlated to each other.

Now, one remaining open issue is whether the number of types is appropriate to characterize variety within and between social systems? Apparently, any number of types could be created from any number of traits. Once, in an interview Geert Hofstede said to one of the authors: “Values - you can have as many as you want. The issue is, whether you have a sufficiently large number, for differentiation, and a sufficiently small number to be remembered by the audience.” The number of traits quickly increases when several states of a trait are considered to be type forming. In Figure 2 we illustrate 8 types which emerge from the alternate poles of 3 traits: 8=23. In a case where three states of a trait (e.g. the extremes and a range in the middle) constitute a system, then z=3n. E.g. one could assume that the upper and lower third of a trait represent the two poles of a trait, and the middle third represents a balanced attitude. In that case we would end up with 27 possible types: 27=33.
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