Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences


The EU: an Organisation divided by Values

Why the European Union is not an Integrated Entity by Alan Tonkin 23 August 2010 Alan Tonkin is Chairman of the Global Values Network Group whose web site is one of the most advanced in the world at using Spiral Dynamics to monitor shifts in societies and assess impacts at both national, international and even global levels. This piece was written for the August 2010 special edition of the highly thought-provoking e-zine Integral Leadership Review focusing on German-speaking cultures. Alan thought it would also sit well as an article on and graciously offered it for publication here as well. The European Union (EU) is a body which is divided by widely differing values in terms of the ‘Old Europe’ and the ‘New Europe’. This is how Donald Rumsfelt described the EU while serving as US Defence Secretary in the Administration of President George W Bush. In examining this statement it is interesting to consider the very different history and backgrounds of the original founding countries – and including core states such as Germany, France and Britain – compared to some of the recent entrants and the pending request to join the EU from Turkey and other countries. Although nominally part of… Read More

Can vMEMES cause Clinical Depression..? #2

PART 2 The frustration of needs Abraham Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs (1943, 1971)  effectively describes the sequential levels of needs/goals of the emerging vMEMES. Eg: PURPLE wants to find safety in belonging; RED craves esteem; etc. As Maslow theorised mainly from case studies, rather than the kind of methodological research Clare W Graves undertook, it’s hardly surprising that his Hierarchy does not match exactly to Graves’ Spiral. However, the match is close enough  – see the Comparison Map – for us to consider Maslowian concerns and principles from the perspective of vMEMES. By doing this, we see not the ‘theoretical needs’ so often associated in a rather abstracted way with Maslow’s Hierarchy but living neurological systems within us desperate to be fulfilled. Maslow’s Hierarchy is looked upon by a number of psychologists as a guide to ‘ideal mental health’. In other words, if an individual is able to progress up the Hierarchy, with their needs met at each level, then they will move beyond the lower subsistence/deficiency levels and start to meet their ‘growth needs’ and eventually their ‘being needs’. According to Marie Jahoda (1958), Self-Actualisation – YELLOW in the Graves construct – is  a key element of ideal mental… Read More

A Spiral Perspective on Human Development..?

by JERRY L COURSEN April 2003 Jerry Coursen is both a notable academic in the world of what he calls the ‘hard sciences’ and a leading Gravesian thinker. In this short humorous article, he uses Spiral Dynamics in broad strokes to recap human social evolution. He emphasises: “It does not begin to reflect the fits-and-starts, the progress-and-regression, the emergences-and-extinctions that characterise the dynamics of the underlying system. In this regard, it is more a fictional summary than a factual synopsis.” To contact Jerry, please use the Contact page to send me your comments/queries which I will forward for his response. A major interview with Jerry in which he ruminates on his background and key Gravesian concepts can be viewed by clicking here. What are BEIGE humans like? Evolutionarily, they have been around for a longer time than all of the other colours combined. They were humans but humans without what we’re aware of as ‘consciousness’. But this didn’t keep them from forming groups, hunting and/or foraging together, fighting with each other over food and mates, hassling each other just to be annoying, forming hierarchies within their groups, fighting with other groups, etc. In other words, if you were to watch a group… Read More


Updated: 2 April 2018 This vMEME is barely present in the world yet. Although there are increasing numbers of people in certain circles – eg: Integral salons – who claim to think in this way, there is yet to be sufficient scientific evidence to say for sure what the TURQUOISE way of thinking is. From the Gravesian approach Don Beck & Chris Cowan (1996) posit it will be on the collectivistic self-sacrificial side of the Spiral and it will be a more complex way of thinking than Self-Actualisation/YELLOW. Lawrence Kohlberg & Clark Power (1981, p257) note it is “much less unitary and definable”. Beyond this, with only tiny samples and anecdotal evidence, it is as much an untested hypothesis as a reality and descriptors must be read with great caution. Humanistic psychologists like Abraham Maslow (1943) and Carl Rogers (1959) considered Self-Actualisation to be the pinnacle of development of the human mind. When someone had become all that they could be and fulfilled all their potential, then they could be said to have completely self-actualised. Maslow’s (1956) attempt to be specific about how a self-actualised person would think defined a way of thinking he thought of as ‘being’ rather than ‘becoming’. However, by attempting… Read More


Updated: 30 March 2018 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… Read More

Theory FAQs

Click the question to go to its answer… 1. What is the relationship between the Gravesian approach, Spiral Dynamics and Spiral Dynamics integral? 2. What’s the difference between 1st Tier and 2nd Tier in the Gravesian approach? 3. What’s the difference between Integrated SocioPsychology and Integral Psychology and where does Integrated SocioPsychology fit in with the concepts of Integrated Spirituality? 1. What is the relationship between the Gravesian approach, Spiral Dynamics and Spiral Dynamics integral? Updated: 16/05/16 Just as the ‘Freudian approach’ is to do with the work of Sigmund Freud himself and/or developments of Freud’s work which adhere very closely to the principles of his theories, so the ‘Gravesian approach’ is to do with Clare W Graves’ research and/or developments of it. Spiral Dynamics was developed by Don Beck & Chris Cowan (1996) from Graves’ work by linking it with the new science of Memetics developed by the likes of Richard Dawkins (1976) and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (1993). They coined the term ‘vMEME’ for the Gravesian systems of thinking and saw them as attracting memes pertinent to the vMEME’s motivation. Thus, they extended Graves’ concept of his systems (themas) having preferred schemas. Beck & Cowan also colour-coded the levels to make them easier… Read More

3 Stage Theories of Development

Updated: 29 March 2018 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… Read More


Updated: 19 December 2016 ‘Selfplex’ is the term used by Susan Blackmore (1999) to depict ‘self’ effectively as the key confluence of schemas – ‘the ultimate memeplex‘ – which provides the concept of ‘I’, the cognitive awareness of who I am, how I think, what I feel, what I believe…why I am the way I am. Someone’s sense of identity or identities. The term ‘ego’ is widely used in Psychology and the other behavioural sciences as a cipher for ‘self’. It has even entered mainstream popular language in usages such as: “That’s egocentric” or “He’s got a lot of ego”. The very diversity of usages makes it too vague to use as a term for ‘self-concept’ – though it is often used in that context – which is why ‘selfplex’ is preferable. Sigmund Freud (1923b) used ‘Ego’ in a very specific yet cohesive sense. It is a force which attempts to balance the motivations of the Id and the Superego where they compete for dominance and restrains the more socially-unacceptable demands of the Id. This latter function can be seen in the way the PURPLE vMEME submits to the family or group to gain acceptance. Yet Freud also perceived the Ego as… Read More

A Biological Basis for vMEMES…?

Updated: 16 November 2015 vMEMES, the motivational systems identified in the Gravesian approach and termed such in Spiral Dynamics, clearly have to have a neurological basis. Whatever your views on Dualism and the ‘Mind-Body Debate’ – whether or not we think there is a ‘mind’ or ‘soul’ distinct from the brain – the motivational effect we recognise as the product of what we call a ‘vMEME’ has to have a concomitant pattern of neural activity. So where is it? Or: where are they…the 8 vMEMES identified so far from Clare W Graves research, that is? When Graves career’ imploded in 1978 (due to major health problems), CAT scans – the first technique for providing truly detailed images of the brain – were only just coming onstream and research into the brain was still relatively primitive. With exceptions such as the remarkable mapping of motor and sensory areas of the brain by Wilder Penfield – Wilder Penfield & Edwin Boldry (1937), Wilder Penfield & Theodore Rasmussen (1950) – research was largely dependent on invasive surgery on animals, post-mortems and cognitive and behavioural studies of brain-damaged patients. Early in the 21st Century, the technology to ‘look inside’ the brain is considerably more advanced… Read More

Clare W Graves’ Research

Updated: 12 June 2018 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 emminent 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 human… Read More