Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences


Clare W Graves’ Research

Updated: 17 December 2020 Clare W Graves (1914-1986) was the psychologist on whose work Spiral Dynamics and several other powerful and practical conceptual models have been built. Although he achieved the eminent position of ‘Professor of Psychology Emeritus’ at Union College, Schenectady, New York State, when he retired through ill health in 1978, he was not particularly well known outside of certain academic and management theory networks and he has been largely ignored since his death. However, his model and the theory that supports it are without doubt amongst the most powerful and certainly the most cohesive and comprehensive of all attempts to map the development of the human psyche. Those who get to grips with Graves’ work tend to become decidedly passionate about it – such is the power of the model! His work is critical and fundamental to the aims of Psychology and the other behavioural sciences and is at the core of Integrated SocioPsychology. Graves was an associate professor at Union when he began his remarkable project in 1952. (He became a full professor in 1956.) At the time Graves recognised the frustration of his students when trying to make sense of the differing theories of personality development and… Read More

3 Stage Theories of Development

Updated: 15/12/20 The work of Clare W Graves (1970) and its Spiral Dynamics ‘build’  (Don Beck & Chris Cowan, 1996) theorise about motivational systems and their emergence. Where the emergent system reaches its nodal peak in matching the life conditions (internal and or external), this can be considered an ‘existential state’, level or stage. In the period Graves was constructing his concept from the results of his research, several other developmentalists were coming up with very similar theories and models. Unlike Graves who perceived ‘stages’ as merely markers in the processes of emergence, however, these other researchers tended to see development in more or less discreet stages which were distinct from each other. In spite of the limitations of these stage theories, the findings of their developers offer much additional insight into the characteristics of vMEMES, vMEME transition states and the workings of the Spiral. These additional insights are discussed in the pages on vMEMES. The purpose of these pages is to describe the basic structures of what are arguably the 3 most important stage models and to provide some background and critiquing of these theories. The Comparison Map places these and some other leading developmental models into a schematic to enable… Read More


Updated: 12 December 2020 One nomenclature Don Beck & Chris Cowan (1996) have used for the YELLOW vMEME, the first of the 2nd Tier, is ‘Flexiflow’. This captures both the incredible flexibility in this level of thinking and the sense of peak performance Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1993) identifies athletes, musicians, etc, experience when they enter the state of ‘flow’. In both his posthumous works (1971b/2002, p25; 1978/2005, p148), Clare W Graves unequivocally equated his seventh level G-T (YELLOW) to “Maslow’s self-actualising man”. Jane Loevinger (1976, p46) equated her Autonomous Stage of Ego Development with Self-Actualisation and Graves (1978/2005, p444) equated G-T with Autonomous…so it’s clear that Graves and Loevinger, both of them steeped in years of hard research, very much felt they were talking about the same way of thinking as Abraham Maslow (1943; 1954; 1956). However, this equation is not without controversy; nor is the term ‘Self-Actualisation’ used here in quite the same way as it is most commonly in Psychology. So there is some need to clarify our understanding(s) of ‘Self-Actualisation’ before we can benefit fully from this equation with YELLOW. Goldstein’s Self-Actualisation The term ‘Self-Actualisation’ was originally introduced by the Organismic theorist Kurt Goldstein (1934) for the motive to realise… Read More

Graves: Systems more than Stages

30 August 2020 Historically Psychology is full of stage theories. From Sigmund Freud’s (1905) Psychosexual Stages, through Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages, Jean Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development, Abraham Maslow’s (1943) Hierarchy of Needs, Lawrence Kohlberg’s (1958) Stages of Moral Development, Jane Loevinger’s (1976) Stages of Ego Development to Michael Commons et al’s (1998) Model of Hierarchical Complexity, etc, etc, etc. Sociology has a fair few stage theories too – such as Max Weber’s (1922) Social Action Theory and Theodore Adorno et al’s (1950) Types of Prejudiced & Unprejudiced Persons. A stage is a period in development – often, but not always, related to age – in which people exhibit behaviour patterns and establish particular capacities typical to that particular stage. Most stage theories have people pass through the stages in a specific order, with each stage building on capacities developed in the previous stage. This suggests that the development of certain abilities in each stage, such as specific emotions or ways of thinking, have a definite starting and ending point – ie: the stages are discreet from each other The pros and cons of stage theories Stage theories allow us to look at motivations, emotions, cognitions and behaviours that seem to cluster… Read More

Could the Political Centre be making a Comeback?

    Could it just be that, with Bernie Sanders’ 13 April endorsement of Joe Biden as Democratic candidate in November’s presidential election – see the ABC News clip above – and the 4 April ascension of Keir Starmer to leadership of the Labour Party, the ‘centre’ is making a comeback in American and British politics? A new poll reported by The London Economic’s Jack Peat puts the centrist Starmer’s net favourability 50 points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn, the ‘hardcore leftie’ he succeeded. (Of course, Corbyn was not really the Marxist the right-wing media slandered him as, though his views  were well to the left of Labour under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and even Ed Miliband) Meanwhile Sanders’ concession to Biden effectively signals the end of what might be termed the Democrats’ ‘hard left’ campaign to win the nomination for presidential candidate. (By ‘hard left’ here, we mean the leftie side of social democracy; again Sanders is nothing like the Marxist some on the hard right claim he is!) Biden is decidedly centrist in his politics – some might even argue right of centre – but that enables him potentially to pick up leftie Republican votes, especially those who are totally… Read More

Vulnerability to Stress

Updated: 11 April 2020 Clearly some people become stressed more easily than others and some have the experience of stress – fight or flight  – more strongly than others. So what are the factors that influence these phenomena? A vMEMETIC approach One way of looking at this is to take a Maslowian viewpoint – ie: people have needs and having those needs unfulfilled causes stress. The vMEMES identified via the work of Clare W Graves are then the drivers to fulfil those needs. Of course, Graves held that motivational systems (vMEMES) emerge in symbiotic interaction with the life conditions in the environment – an internal response to external stressors and almost certainly the first emergence of a vMEME is an example of epigenetic modification. Graves’ position has been upheld completely by Chris Cowan (2004). However, Don Beck (2002a), with his concept of the prime directive, does imply that there is a maturational factor in the emergence of vMEMES. He has not said explicitly that vMEMES are programmed to emerge in sequence as someone develops through life, irrespective of the life conditions; but the implication that maturation matters is inescapable. The position Beck appears to be working towards is perhaps best represented… Read More

A 2nd Tier Approach to a 1st Tier World

Published in the Integral Leadership Review e-zine – – August 2018. Guest editor Robin Lincoln Wood had been asked to put together a special issue both to celebrate and follow on from the Spiral Dynamics Summit on the Future that May. As one of the conference speakers I was asked by Robin to write an article which both built on the theme of the presentation and took it forward. The version republished here is only very marginally-different from that which appeared in Integral Leadership Review. The Spiral Dynamics Summit on the Future (Dallas, 20-22 April 2018) was a fairly awesome event. A gathering of leading Gravesian practitioners (both on the stage and in the audience), partly to honour Spiral Dynamics co-developer Don Beck and partly to focus on how the Gravesian approach can be used to tackle the current malaises afflicting the world. (Many of the presentations are reflected in the articles comprising the special edition of ILR.) Speaker after speaker gave us theoretical understandings and practical applications. All were good. All were insightful. Some were simply inspirational. There was a great sense of community amongst the participants, whether speaker or non-speaker, and fascinating discussions took place on the side-lines of the conference in the breaks, in the evenings… Read More

Influences, Acknowledgements & Gratitude

Update: 25 October 2019 Along the way, certain people have been particularly influential in terms of career progression and/or personal development; so it’s appropriate to acknowledge as many as I can remember. So here goes… Close friends and relatives My parents Ted & Betty Rice, of course. My uncle George Chandler who, playing guitar in a nightclub jazz trio and building a yacht to sail around the world, epitomised ‘cool’ to an impressionable 10-year-old. Rita Smith, always the aunty I was closest to and her daughters Norma (now Norma Klunder) and Maureen (now Maureen Williams) who embodied the mysteries of ‘teenage girl’ to their younger, only child male cousin. Ex-wives Linda Rice and Jane Rice inevitably have left their marks on me – as have ex-fiancees Jennie Beasty and Val Horsfall. Liz Olson was an American and a fellow Jefferson Starship fan who flew across the Atlantic to challenge some of my precepts! My 2 oldest friends, Chris Scurrah and David Burnby have been hugely influential in very different ways – Chris for inspiring me and supporting me to become a musician and Dave for supporting me in applying the Gravesian approach to real life. My stepdaughter Viki Harris has sometimes forced me to think about things differently… Read More


PART 3 BLUE (D-Q) (elements of Maslow’s Cognitive/Loevinger’s Conformist L-3/Kohlberg’s Law & Order) The BLUE vMEME is concerned with the imposition of order and the one right way of doing things. It often runs a Little Detail meta-programme because deviation from the ‘One True Way’ cannot be tolerated. BLUE-related memes are often couched in negative don’t! terms.) Cook-Greuter (p14) states that “Blind conformism, fundamentalism and prejudice can be expressions of this frame of mind.” Doing what is right is far more important than compassion or consideration of human cost. BLUE carries out the Conscience function of Freud’s Superego. In anthropological/historical terms, a major example of the large-scale emergence of the BLUE vMEME in the Western world was the coming of the mercantile trading laws in the 17th Century. (These are embodied today in the work of the World Trade Organisation.) However, the monasteries of the Middle Ages, several hundred years before, were prominent in promulgating a rigid set of moral ideals based on the ‘word of God’. In fact, it’s possible to trace BLUE back at least as far as Moses and the writing of the Pentateuch. BLUE’s requirement of detail means that the written word, particularly in terms of the… Read More

Just what is Nigel Farage up to?

Well, one glance at the papers over the past few days and it’s pretty clear that Nigel Farage is back in a big way. He’s rather grandly attempting to shape the Brexit debate, reinvigorate –  if not relaunch – the Leave campaign and position himself as the Great Saviour of the referendum result of 23 June 2016. Not that Farage has ever exactly gone away; but his credibility as an influential politician has been in steady but sure decline for over a year. He may have been the first foreign politician to visit Donald Trump following his election; but, as reported by commentators such as The Independent’s Joe Watts (2016) any hope Farage had that Theresa May might use him as go-between with Trump were swiftly dashed by Downing Street. Then there was the disastrous endorsement of far-right Republican Ray Moore in the Autumn 2017 campaign for one of Alabama’s Senate seats. Not only did Moore lose the election in large part due to serious allegations of sexual assault but Farage foolishly defended Moore against the allegations – as reported by The Independent’s Andrew Buncombe (2017a). Perhaps the nadir of Farage’s post-referendum political life was last Monday 8th’s meeting with EU chief… Read More