Sketch of human developmental models, courtesy Bill Harris

(see http://www.centerpointe.com/blog/)

Jean Piaget model of cognitive development:

Susanne Cook-Greuter model of development of sense of self:

Summary:

At the preconventional and conventional stages we’re concerned with gaining more and more knowledge about how to operate effectively in the world. Progress is defined by noticing increasingly more pieces of the puzzle; discovering patterns, rules, and laws that govern how things work; learning to better predict, measure, and explain the world; seeing and taking into account an increasingly larger time span; and, in general, being able to know and do more and be more in charge of one’s life.

At these preconventional and conventional stages (which together include over 90% of people in Western nations) we are for the most part socially programmed, we use conventional linear thinking, and seek increased differentiation–in other words, we create an increasingly solid individual and independent sense of self.

When (or if) we enter the postconventional stages, we begin to move away from increased differentiation and toward greater integration. We more and more see how things go together and how we are connected to others rather than individually distinct, and begin to deal with the world from this perspective, and move away from the individualistic perspective we’ve been developing so far. Our sense of self becomes more about connection than agency. And, we begin to recognize and question the fundamental assumptions of the previous stages–even including the reality of our sense of being a separate self.

At the postconventional and unitive stages we increasingly see the world as a giant, dynamic, interconnected system rather than a random assortment of individual units and events. We began our life embedded in the world in a completely undifferentiated way, unable to tell the difference between me and not-me. From that point, we have gradually differentiated into an independent and separate self. Now, as we move into the postconventional stages and beyond, we move the other way, toward seeing and experiencing what many describe as an ultimate “oneness with everything.”

Archaic/sensorimotor

Preconventional

Conventional

Formal operational

Postconventional Development (Cook-Greuter model)

Summary:

These stages are about increased differentiation–in other words, the creation of an increasingly solid sense of self who can effectively operate and succeed in the world.

In the postconventional stages, something new begins to happen. Differentiation is no longer the end-game. Instead, we begin to move toward greater integration. While the previous stages were more about turning outward to master the world, the postconventional stages (and the unitive stages that follow) are more about turning inward. One’s perspective begins to shift to a greater recognition of how things go together, and how we’re connected to others rather than being individually distinct.

This doesn’t mean that we lose our sense of individual agency (in fact, the first postconventional level is called the Individualist), but we do move away from an emphasis on the individualistic perspective we’ve been developing up to this point, and begin to balance it with a recognition of how things are connected and interrelated. And, finally, we begin to recognize and question many of the fundamental assumptions of the previous stages.

At the postconventional and unitive stages we increasingly see the world as one big, dynamic, interconnected system rather than a random assortment of individual things and events. We began our life embedded in the world in a completely undifferentiated way, unable to tell the difference between me and not-me. From that point, we’ve gradually differentiated into an independent and separate self. Now, as we move into the postconventional stages and beyond, we move more toward seeing and experiencing what many describe as an ultimate “oneness with everything.”

One huge difference in the postconventional stages is a new recognition that nothing is fixed, and that everything exists in relation to everything else. From one spot, things looks like this, from another spot they look like that. Everything is dependent upon context and relationship.

Postmodern, postconventional, postrational, postformal

Unitive or Transcendent