Thursday, September 18, 2014

A TRULY Integral Model of Psychological Development

Here is a TRULY integral perspective on psychological development that comes from Willis F. Overton, Thaddeus L. Bolton Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at Temple University. A great number of his papers are available on Research Gate.

The quotations below come from a paper by three other authors, but they are heavily influenced by Overton's Relational Developmental Systems model of development (see here and here for papers by Overton describing his model).

From "Emergence, Self-Organization and Developmental Science"
By Gary Greenberg, Kristina Schmid Callina, & Megan Kiely Mueller
Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 44
"With respect to embodiment, Overton (2008) states, “embodiment [is not] about a set of genes causing behavior, or a split-off brain causing or being the mind …. Embodiment is a concept of synthesis, a bridge that joins broad areas of inquiry into a unified whole (e.g., the biological, the phenomenological, the sociocultural and environmental) as relative standpoints that together constitute the whole” (p. 3, emphasis added)." (p. 118)
Incorporating "the biological, the phenomenological, the sociocultural, and environmental" in his model, Overton has covered each of the AQAL quadrants (biological = it; phenomenological = I; sociocultural = we; and environmental = its). He does this within an embodied and embedded framework, and it is also enactive - but he uses the terms relational, or relationism instead.

This model is focused on development, but is also is applied to all other realms of inquiry, including mind and consciousness. Importantly, Overton puts a special emphasis on the embodied nature of all of these processes.
"Consistent with our definition of psychology as a biopsychosocial science, development is an embodied phenomenon (Overton, 2006, 2007). Among the implications of embodiment is that at any point in time, development cannot be understood in reference to a single variable or a single dimension, either internal or external. As we have pointed out, the study of cognitive development, brain development, personality development, or any psychological phenomenon must recognize the fusion of these processes with other internal and external dimensions of change in which they are fused. Of course, embodiment with all levels of the ecology necessarily includes the individual’s embeddedness with temporality (history) that involves at the very least ontogenetic and phylogenetic time (Elder, 1998). Furthermore, embodiment is not static; that is, due to epigenesis, developmental scientists should expect qualitative discontinuities in the nature of the embodied developing individual across time and place, both ontogenetically and phylogenetically." (p. 119)
Here, the authors adds something I have not seen explicitly stated in the AQAL model - temporality, or history. We are always embedded not just in space, but also in our unique time. The author cited here is Elder, but I have seen this same distinction made in Overton's work as well. 

Here is one last quote from Overton and Lerner, from a 2014 article that served as an introduction to a special issue of Research in Human Development.
"It will come as no surprise to the readers of this issue that we seriously embrace the relational scientific paradigm, which we have referred to as relationism and relational developmental systems (e.g., Lerner & Benson, 2013; Lerner & Overton, 2008; Overton 2010, 2013; Overton & Lerner, 2012). Briefly, the primary ontological and epistemological categories of this paradigm are (1) process (vs. Cartesian substance), (2) becoming/being (vs. Cartesian being), (3) holism (vs. Cartesian atomism), (4) relational analysis (vs. Cartesian either/or split analysis), (5) multiple perspectives (vs. Cartesian dualistic split objectivism– subjectivism), (6) coaction (vs. Cartesian split interaction), and (7) multiple forms of determination (vs. Cartesian-Newtonian efficient/material causality).
As a derivation from these relational categories, the relational developmental systems paradigm characterizes the living organism as a spontaneously active, self-creating (autopoetic, enactive), self-organizing, and self-regulating nonlinear complex adaptive system. The system’s development occurs through its own embodied activities and actions operating in a lived world of physical and sociocultural objects, according to the principle of probabilistic epigenesis. This development leads, through positive and negative feedback loops created by the system’s action, to increasing system differentiation, integration, and complexity, directed toward adaptive ends.

The categories and characterizations of relational developmental systems are abstract and form the frame within which the meanings of lower order concepts become defined. As Searle (1992) pointed out, categories and characterizations of the sort we describe lead to vocabularies, and these vocabularies ultimately affect the way we think about issues and investigate empirical questions."

Overtone and Lerner, "Fundamental Concepts and Methods in Developmental Science: A Relational Perspective." Research in Human Development, 11: 63–73, 2014.

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