Capella University Models of Development Individual and Holistic Discussion Questions

Integrative and Holistic Models of Development

Psychology focuses on predicting human behavior and explaining it. Sociology focuses on the relationship of individuals in a social economy. Human development examines stages of behavior. Isolating all of these concepts provides us with a picture of what could be but never allows for the whole. Our need to review the complementarities of these disciplines, drawing from all resources to create an explanation of human interaction and possibility, grows as we become more global and universal. We are enriched through understanding not only the specific disciplines but the interactions among them creating opportunities for the emergence of new data as well.

Based on your research for your PowerPoint, the interaction on a local level with your community, and the program investigation, how does an integrative model of relational development refine and expand the need for resolving the issue you have researched? Incorporate ideas from the article Holistic Human Development to explain the integration of theories that support a concept of development that encourages holism. Integrate the concepts from The Holistic-Interactionistic Paradigm: Some Directions for Empirical Developmental Research to examine how the research you have begun on the topic of your choice, can be impacted through integrating a perspective of holism within the interpretation of relationships. In this context, consider leadership and advocacy and the approaches needed to work with individuals from a variety of worldviews.

Spirituality and Wellness in Holistic Approaches

Read The Holistic Flow Model of Spiritual Wellnessfor this discussion. This model of wellness incorporates and focuses specifically on the spirituality of the individual and its contribution to personal development. Through the historical development of the role of spirituality in healthy development, models of spirituality have been incorporated in treating individuals as well as, for our purposes, in researching the components of individual well-being. Although our focus does not include clinical approaches in human studies, we will be working with individuals who may provide clinical resources for individuals in the community. Incorporating an understanding of their viewpoints and how they are utilizing holistic treatment for individuals is critical for our ability to work collaboratively with them. Utilizing all dimensions of development for individuals of different cultures, including spirituality and wellness, will allow us to cater to their needs and thus move us toward greater anthropological insight into their world as we collaborate with professionals to develop advocacy for them from other disciplines.

How has research utilized spiritual and holistic topics for directing our focus in understanding social and behavioral services for clients? In what ways does incorporating wellness and spirituality in your particular topic of interest impact the local community? Discuss their incorporation of these dimensions within the developed program.

Holistic Flow Model of Spiritual Wellness
Purdy, Melanie;Dupey, Peggy
Counseling and Values; Jan 2005; 49, 2; ProQuest Central
pg. 95
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J Adult Dev (2009) 16:53–60
DOI 10.1007/s10804-009-9052-4
Holistic Human Development
Carter J. Haynes
Published online: 17 January 2009
 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009
Abstract One of the tenets of holism is that the whole is
greater than the sum of its parts. Applying this theorem epistemologically, we could say that a holistic view is greater than
the sum of the specialized views that contribute to it. Within
the framework of three divergent worldviews (mechanistic,
organismic and contextual) as originally proposed by Pepper
(World hypotheses: A study in evidence, University of
California Press, Los Angeles, 1961), holism as both a
philosophical position and a practical approach to research is
applied to the study of adult human development. Because
spiritual development has received less scholarly attention
than biological, cognitive, or emotional functioning, topics
such as meditation research, non-religious spirituality, and the
concept of soul are covered to promote a balanced developmental perspective. Historical and philosophical factors
leading to holism are described, a sampling of interdisciplinary dialogue between psychology and theology is presented,
and conclusions regarding the need for holistic thinking and
the relationship between religion and spirituality are offered.
Keywords Holism  Interdisciplinary  Epistemology 
Development  Psychology and religion
what it means to progress developmentally. Although
specialization is important and needed, this article looks at
the project of adult development from a holistic perspective. One of the pitfalls of intellectual confinement to a
specialized field is the natural human tendency to forget
what we do not focus on regularly. By taking a step back
and adopting a wider view, it may be possible to reinvigorate and refresh the passion with which we pursue our
individual areas of investigation. As will be seen, one of
the tenets of holism is that the whole is greater than the
sum of its parts. Applying this theorem epistemologically,
we could say that a holistic view is greater than the sum of
the specialized views that contribute to it.
Beginning with some thoughts on epistemology as they
relate to adult development, we will consider holism as both
a philosophical position and as a practical approach to
research. Because the spiritual arena has received less
scholarly attention than biological, cognitive, or emotional
functioning, topics such as meditation research, non-religious spirituality, and the concept of soul will be introduced
to promote balance in our view of developmental processes.
A description of current interdisciplinary dialogue between
psychology and theology is presented, and the final section
of the article provides discussion of the issues presented and
conclusions regarding the need for holistic thinking and the
relationship between religion and spirituality.
Articles on human development tend to focus on a particular aspect of study as opposed to more global concepts of
Human Development in Epistemological Context
C. J. Haynes
School of Human and Organizational Development, Fielding
Graduate University, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
C. J. Haynes (&)
P.O. Box 276785, Sacramento, CA 95827-6785, USA
One way to conceptualize the philosophical and theoretical
systems used to describe the human sciences is to group
them into categories based on the worldview they seem to
espouse. Although initially proposed in relation to the
philosophy of science, Pepper’s (1961) system of ‘‘world
views’’ (mechanistic, organismic, and contextual) has been
widely applied to theories of human development. Mechanism as a developmental perspective focuses primarily on
human behavior, and is associated with the attempt to
discover universal laws that would explain a wide range of
human activity. This perspective was the dominant source
of developmental theory throughout the twentieth century,
and can clearly be seen in behaviorism, cognitive psychology, and the developmental theories that are based on
physiological research. Its methodology is scientific and
quantitative; there is a premium on the antecedent conditions that result in specific behaviors and on the causes that
produce behavioral effects. For mechanists, a general goal
of developmental study is the prediction of future behavior,
and the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior;
hence, the focus on scientific observation, quantification,
and the use of statistical modeling and prediction.
Organismic perspectives focus on the interaction
between developmental phenomena, which are seen as
meaningful only as they relate to each other. The reductionism characteristic of mechanistic theories is not
possible in an organismic worldview. Behavior change is
seen as a normal part of the life of the organism and is not
determined by factors external to that organism. Adaptive
development involves the increasing integration of existing
developmental fragments and the assimilation of unique
fragments into the system. This process of system development and expansion is dialectical in nature. The existing
organic whole is a thesis to which antithetical fragments
are integrated over time to form a synthesis. The new
synthesis, in turn, becomes a new thesis to which additional
unique fragments can be added. In an organismic system,
the fragments all take meaning from each other and are
interconnected: a force impinging on the organism from the
outside affects the entire organism. Organismic data collection and theory building begin not with observation, but
with reflection on the internal workings of the organic
whole. Developmental theories arising from an organismic
perspective include Piaget’s constructivist theory of cognitive development, Freudian psychoanalytic theory, and
neo-Freudian psychodynamic theory (Goldhaber 2000).
Developmental theorists holding to a contextual worldview propose that events have meaning only in the context of
the larger environment in which they occur. Unlike the
organismic perspective, in which the internal environment of
the organism is paramount, the contextualist focuses on
external environmental factors. For example, a contextual
theorist might ask questions about the historical, cultural, or
sociological concomitants of a particular developmental
phenomenon. Because context is dependent upon time and
place, the meanings of two seemingly identical developmental events will be disparate if the events occur in separate
temporal and/or spatial contexts. The philosophy of
C. J. Haynes
relativism is clearly at play here: reality and truth change
relative to context (Goldhaber 2000). Contextual views are
becoming more popular partly because of disillusionment
with traditional constructivist approaches to cognitive (Piaget 1965), moral (Kohlberg 1984), and faith (Fowler 1995,
2001, 2004) development. Constructivist theories outline
stage-based progressions of development that apply universally across gender, culture, and historical period. This ‘‘one
size fits all’’ approach to development has been challenged
by other researchers (Gilligan et al. 1988; Streib 2001) and is
clearly at odds with a context-sensitive orientation.
An intellectual trend in recent years has been the
movement away from developmental theories centering on
childhood to those addressing the entire human lifespan.
Because lifespan-centered theories allow for more individual variation in developmental experience, new
philosophical arguments have been needed to explain
phenomena which do not fit neatly into mechanistic or
organismic formulations of child-centered theory. Other
changes which have led to the need for contextualist
explanations include the increasing prominence and influence of cross-cultural studies and the effect of postmodern
thought on the social sciences (Goldhaber 2000, and see
section ‘‘The Postmodern Soul’’ below).
Because researchers enter the arena of theory building
with divergent worldviews, nurturing a holistic approach to
adult development can be a challenge. From the mechanist
perspective, for example, considering the spiritual function
could well seem a waste of time and effort. The organismic
worldview has the advantage of recognizing multiple inputs
and valuing many ways of experiencing and knowing, but
has trouble accounting for the power of economic, political,
and cultural phenomena that affect the organism’s developmental trajectory. Those with a contextual bent can easily
integrate socio-political factors but may struggle with the
study of religious phenomena because strict relativism
makes it difficult to evaluate truth claims.
All this begs the question: ‘‘What sort of epistemological set is most conducive to holistic thinking and
investigation?’’, or, stated another way, ‘‘What sort of
perceptive stance would be necessary in order to take
mechanistic, organismic, and contextual worldviews at
face value, making maximum use of each, without
excluding areas of study because they do not align with our
predetermined expectations’’? These questions summarize
the impetus for the current article: the desire to generate a
holistic way of thinking about human development.
What is Holism?
Holistic thought is a product of the postmodern era and is
‘‘emerging as a serious, comprehensive critique of modern
Holistic Human Development
industrial culture’’ (Miller 1991, p. 54). Holism is an
inclusive, meaning-centered, experience-focused paradigm
that emphasizes the intrinsic connectedness in life. Nondualistic in its mission, holism attempts to bridge the divide
between mind and matter, individual and group, and artificial and natural, which have contributed to the psychic
and spiritual fragmentation of meaning and purpose in
postmodern society. Drawing from the fields of physics,
biology, neuroscience, economics, political theory, and
mystical spirituality, holism ‘‘points toward the existence
of a transpersonal, supersensible context of all life’’ (p. 55).
Holistic thought is concerned with bridging the divide
between the egoic self and the true self; it is humanistic and
centered on healthy development, but is also spiritually
attuned and oriented.
One factor motivating the holistic study of human
development is the belief that a synergistic expansion of
knowledge is created by multi-faceted investigation.
Dividing human experience into neat compartments that
correspond to academic disciplines creates artificial barriers to integrated knowledge. Considering more than one
field or approach simultaneously helps to break down
these barriers. Two underlying premises of holistic
thought in this context are: (1) the various human and
social sciences all make valuable and unique contributions
to our overall knowledge of human development, and (2)
each of these fields is able to assess, describe, and affect
only one part of the whole. Psychology speaks to the
internal workings of the mind, but not to the religious or
spiritual aspects of human experience that are the domain
of theologians and scholars of religion. Sociologists specialize in studying the social context and meaning of
phenomena, but do not investigate the philosophical
underpinnings of the human enterprise in the same way
that philosophers do.
Consider a practical example of holistic thought and
action from the history of education. Jean Jacques Rousseau, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and Friedrich Froebel
created a bridge for their students between traditional
religion and a more expansive and inclusive worldview.
They moved away from the rigid, authoritarian, and punitive conception of God often found in Christian theological
writings and elucidated instead a picture of God as eternally creative, completely unitive, and thoroughly loving.
Although each of these men was Christian, their way of
incarnating this tradition was more practical than lofty,
more personal than formal, and more immanent than
transcendent. In their view, God was not just a heavenly
benefactor who deigned to smile on humanity from time to
time; God imbued humans with the very qualities and
attributes of perfect being. Humans were created with a
devastatingly spacious capacity for creativity, love, compassion, and mystical experience (Miller 1991). This
integrative approach modeled intellectual openness, religious tolerance, and the simultaneous consideration of
multiple points of view in order to enrich one’s own
thinking and experience.
A Four-Component Holistic Worldview
Seaward (2000) notes that ‘‘if you were to talk to the
shamans, sages, mystics, healers, and wisdom keepers from
all times, all cultures, and all ages’’ about what it means to
be truly human, ‘‘you would quickly learn that there is an
intuitive wisdom honoring four components: mind, body,
spirit, and emotions’’ (p. 242). This view puts the affective
and spiritual elements on par with those that have historically been the subject of Western scholarly investigation:
the biological and cognitive. Until the seventeenth century,
the four components existed together peacefully in the
minds of serious thinkers. But Cartesian dualism led to an
ideological division between scientists and theologians:
empirically minded individuals began to focus their
investigations exclusively on observable phenomena and
spiritual concerns became the sole domain of the clergy.
This bifurcation of the four components continued unabated for over 300 years. Then, in the mid-twentieth
century, physical/spiritual dualism finally started to break
down as thinkers from both camps began asking questions
that required a more holistic response. Some of the reasons
for this historically recent reuniting of the four components
will be described later in this article. At present we can
assert that, in considering both scientific and spiritual
aspects of human development, we move toward a postCartesian, holistic worldview.
Holistic Medicine
Another practical application of the holistic worldview is
Holistic medicine, which developed as a reaction to the
rigid reductionism of medical science. Holistic medical
care takes into consideration the mental, emotional and
spiritual needs of patients while also addressing the traditional biological focus of healthcare. Whereas conventional
medical wisdom defines health as ‘‘the absence of disease,’’
holistic physicians talk about a range of positive outcomes
that include not only physical health but mental well-being,
peak states, emotional joy, and spiritual creativity. Maslow’s (1982, 1994) work is seen as providing a pivotal
link between general medical practice and a more inclusive
paradigm embracing mental health and spiritual mysticism.
The spiritual is seen as an extension of the purview of
psychiatry (Gordon 1990). For example, ‘‘scientific studies
on meditation and the combination of meditative practice
with psychotherapy, and attempts to classify ordinary,
pathological, and meditative states of consciousness are
some of the first fruits of this attempt to give a spiritual
dimension to mental health theory and practice’’ (Gordon
1990, p. 362).
In fact, the explosion of research on meditative states
and practices in the past 30 years provides another instance
of how holistic thinking has affected developmental
research. After literally hundreds of scientific studies of
meditation, we can now divide this literature into two basic
categories: one in which meditative behaviors are divorced
from their religious context in the name of scientific purity,
and one in which the spiritual context is seen as necessary
to the accurate understanding and use of meditative practices (Shapiro 1994).
As an example of the studies in the first group (those that
seek to examine meditation outside of any religious context), Shapiro (1994) proposed a completely non-cultic
description of meditation based on neurophysiology. He
then experimentally compared meditation defined thusly to
other known strategies for self-control (e.g., stimulus cues,
physical posture, positive and negative reinforcement,
cognitive restructuring, attentional focus, breathing practices, etc.). This study, together with many others seeking
to operationalize non-cultic meditation have shown that
meditative practice can reduce multiple symptoms of
psychological stress and increase relaxation. Meditation
has also been shown to aid in pain management, improve
psychoneuroimmunological function, reduce healthcare
usage, and increase longevity.
The more recent trend in scholarly work on meditation
is epistemological in nature and is based on the recognition
that ‘‘an exclusive, reductionistic, context-free approach to
the study of meditation, although necessary, was insufficient’’ (Shapiro 1994, p. 109). Context-free meditation
research is now thought to be a bit of an oxymoron. When
researchers do not specify a spiritual or religious context, it
becomes easy to suspect that the technique under investigation ‘‘may become merely an amoral technology to serve
the often unexamined values and cultural assumptions of
the larger society. The culture in which the technique is
used becomes, by fiat, the context’’ (p. 109). Reattaching
meditative experience to its esoteric roots introduces the
experiential view of the universe that is common across
contemplative spiritualities. This view appreciates nondualistic, unitive, sacred experiences. In non-secular contexts, meditation is used to attain deep knowing, wisdom,
and healing.
Walsh (1983) adds to the epistemological literature on
meditation by re-examining the traditional psychiatric
understanding of states of consciousness. He notes that
psychology posits a small number of traditional states, with
the waking state being seen as optimal. The other
C. J. Haynes
traditionally recognized forms of consciousness (sleep,
dreaming, delirium, psychosis, intoxication) are seen as
less functional than being awake. But what if other states
existed which were more optimal than the waking state?
Most meditation theorists view normal wakefulness as
suboptimal because the mind is ‘‘seen as largely outside
voluntary control and as continuously creating a largely
unrecognized stream of thoughts, emotions, images, fantasies, and associations’’ (p. 22). This constant flow of
mental white noise distorts awareness, perception, and
identity, and can be seen as a form of trance. In other
words, being awake can be viewed as either normative or
as a kind of hypnosis depending on the epistemological
lens we view it through. ‘‘As in any hypnotic state, there
need not be a recognition of the trance or its attendant
constriction of awareness, or a memory of the sense of
identity prior to hypnosis’’ (p. 23). Meditation theorists
have posited several levels of consciousness in addition to
the traditional ones. These include ‘‘higher’’ states attainable through mental training, which involves the
unlearning of distorting mental habits. At the apex of these
higher states are enlightenment, nirvana, mystical union,
and the like (Walsh 1983).
The Postmodern Soul
Recall that, when it comes to the four components of mind,
body, spirit, and emotions, some of these facets have
received more attention from researchers than others. The
body and mind have historically been the favored areas of
empirical research. With the advent of modern psychology,
there has been a resurgence of interest in emotion. But
scholarly investigation of the spirit has some catching up to
do if a more holistic program of human development
research is to become viable. In that light, we now turn our
attention to the spiritual component.
The seat of the spiritual function has historically been
referred to as ‘‘the soul.’’ Benner (1998) notes that, prior
to the twentieth century, the concept of soul was used
widely by both philosophers and theologians in their
attempts to understand the inner workings of the human
subject. After 1900, speaking and writing about the soul
began to go out of vogue. The philosophical community,
in turning from the Platonism that had dominated it for the
preceding two centuries, cast aside the idea of soul in
favor of more modern positions. By the middle of the
century, spiritual phenomena were summarily dismissed as
lying outside the purview of scientifically minded individuals. Even theologians eventually began following the
lead of modern psychology in forsaking the concept of
soul so as to be more intellectually credible and culturally
Holistic Human Development
As mentioned, the postmodern era has witnessed the
deep questioning and deconstruction of science and
technology. One of the sociological results of postmodernism has been a resurgence of spirituality. This is
because the postmodern assault on ‘‘truth’’ has shown the
modern promise of a utopia based on scientific progress to
be empty and false (Bentz and Shapiro 1998). Out of
disillusionment with the failed project of the mechanistic
worldview, many began looking for some kind of moral
or spiritual compass, for an ontological foundation upon
which to reconstruct existence. The rediscovery of the
soul helped to fill that need. The revival of interest in
spiritual experience evident in the late twentieth and early
twenty-first centuries is part of a larger cultural and
intellectual movement away from strict mechanist conceptions of reality and toward more organic and
contextual veiw.
Some who study human spirituality are interested in
isolating the spiritual function, the ‘‘soulness,’’ from religious expression. One group of such researchers (Elkins
et al. 1988) reviewed available literature in search of an
objective, non-sectarian definition of spirituality, and
arrived at five major assumptions:
There is a dimension of human experience that
includes certain values, attitudes, perspectives,
beliefs, emotions, and so on, which can best be
described as ‘‘spiritual dimension’’ or ‘‘spirituality.’’
Spirituality is a human phenomenon and exists, at
least potentially, in all persons.
Spirituality is not the same as religiosity, if religiosity
is defined to mean participation in the particular
beliefs, rituals, and activities of traditional religion. It
is possible for persons to be ‘‘spiritual’’ but not
affiliated with a religion.
‘‘By means of theoretical and phenomenological
approaches, it is possible to define and describe
spirituality…’’ (Elkins et al. 1988, p. 8)
‘‘Spirituality is a way of being and experiencing that
comes about through awareness of a transcendent
dimension and that is characterized by certain identifiable values in regard to self, others, nature, life,
and whatever one considers to be the Ultimate.’’
(Elkins et al. 1988, p. 10)
Elkins and his colleagues (1988) adopted psychological
terminology in formulating nine separate but related
components of human spirituality. For example, spiritual
people possess an experientially based belief that a transcendent dimension, be it a personal God or natural
extension of the self into the unconscious, exists and is part
of an unseen world. The spiritual person has experienced
harmonious contact with this unseen world, often through
what Maslow described as ‘‘peak experiences’’ (Maslow
1994), and is able to draw personal power or serenity from
this transcendent source.
Interdisciplinary Dialogue between Psychology
and Theology
Another area of interest in the study of holistic human
development is the dialogue between psychology and theology (Sykes 2006). The subfield of psychology most
germane to this debate is the psychology of religion, which
approaches the subject from the standpoint of science and
generally employs a mechanistic worldview and a focus on
the individual. Unfortunately, an exclusively empirical
approach to the study of religion and spirituality has
‘‘produced and unwavering and unquestioning dependence
on psychological theory and what psychological research
can accomplish. Because of this, the discipline…has
overlooked many fruitful areas of interconnection between
psychology and theology’’ (Sykes 2006, p. 6).
The advent of critical psychology has helped to break
down some of the walls between psychology and theology,
especially those constructed by psychology’s insistence on
the individual as the unit of study. Emerging from socialconstructionism, postmodernism, and feminism, critical
psychology analyzes and critiques the general discipline of
psychology. This critique is broad and diverse, and invites
a multidisciplinary approach that integrates sociology,
theology, political science, religious studies, anthropology,
and other fields. One of the major charges leveled by
critical psychology is that general psychology is both
ahistorical and apolitical. Only through de-compartmentalization, acknowledgement of context, and openness to
the social, political, and economic factors affecting individuals can psychology overcome its intellectual isolation.
Clearly this would require an epistemological expansion
beyond the bounds of a mechanistic or organismic worldview (Sykes 2006).
Theologians and scholars of religion approach the task
of holism from a number of different perspectives
depending on training; but, in general, their approach is
qualitatively different from that of the psychological
community. Those who study religion are more likely to
include sociological, political, cultural, economic, and
historical factors in their assessments. An argument can
thus be made that those approaching the dialogue from the
theological side are more likely to identify with a contextual worldview than with a mechanistic one. In order to
benefit from extant empirical knowledge about religious
and spiritual behavior (e.g., see Haynes (2006)), organismic and contextual thinkers must be able to appreciate and
genuinely value research produced by mechanistically
inclined authors.
The purpose of this article has been to address the question:
‘‘What sort of perceptive stance would be necessary in
order to take mechanistic, organismic, and contextual
worldviews at face value, making maximum use of each,
without excluding areas of study because they do not align
with our predetermined expectations’’? We have considered the underlying epistemology of these three
worldviews and sought to define holism categorically, by
description, and by example. A four-component structure
including mind, body, emotions, and spirit was presented,
and we have considered both meditation research and some
of the historic and modern philosophical explanations
related to the development of holistic thought. Human
spirituality and the concept of soul have been discussed, as
was the interplay of psychology and theology related to
holistic development. In this final section, conclusions will
be drawn from the forgoing and thoughts on how a holistic
view of human development can address the difference
between spirituality and religion will be offered.
C. J. Haynes
phenomenological perspective, one that explores and
attempts to make meaning of the researcher’s own consciousness and experience, is a necessary addition to
traditional methodologies (Bentz and Shapiro 1998).
Armed with good science (mechanistic worldview) and
openness to authentic experience (organismic worldview),
the student of holistic human development is prepared to
follow the road where it leads (contextual worldview)
rather than to where she has already decided it should go.
Although most religious people are spiritual, some
spiritual people are not religious (Elkins et al. 1988). The
idea that the connection between religion and spirituality is
not absolute can introduce a certain freedom for both the
religion-friendly and the religion-averse. Many have found
that the various strictures related to organized religion have
the effect of limiting personal spiritual experience because
one’s sense of religious duty or guilt can occupy so much
interior space that authentic spirituality is squeezed out.
Although being part of a religious community can have
many benefits, such as improved social and emotional
functioning and an increased sense of meaning and purpose
in life (Haynes 2006), spiritual experience is often easier to
nurture and develop in silence and solitude that in the midst
of religious activity.
Philosophy, Consciousness, and Spirituality
Particularly salient in the postmodern era, holistic activities
hold potential solutions and cures for a fragmented and
deconstructed world. In the aftermath of positivism, as a
purely analytical approach to problem solving was questioned and rejected by inquiring minds, the intuitive
wisdom of inclusion over against exclusion, of convergence versus divergence, of integration in the face of
disintegration, struck a soothing cord. Just as Descartes
helped to sever the congenital adherence between mind and
spirit, radical deconstructionism has threatened to do away
with any intellectual or spiritual infrastructure at all.
Holistic thinkers hearken back to a way of being that was
taken for granted long before the postmodern reaction to
modernism, and before the dualistic reaction to the medieval worldview.
To the extent that we conceive of human consciousness
as that which is perceivable in our normal waking state, the
spirituality of meditative experience does not make rational
sense. Mental acquiescence to, or at least the ability to
temporarily suspend judgment about, the possibility of
altered states of consciousness emanating from spiritual
experience is therefore a prerequisite for the holistic study
of spirituality. Once having opened the mind and the self to
the potential for states other than those normally experienced, the critical researcher can attempt to integrate
personal experience of meditative phenomena into intellectual
The Sacred/Secular Dichotomy
Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of the sociology of
religion, approached its study through a primarily mechanistic lens. Because he believed that truth and meaning
were constructed socially, it could be argued that he was
contextual in his thinking; but Durkheim lived and died in
the age of positivism and that philosophy underscored his
work more than any other. Although he was an atheist, his
interest in religion was prodigious. In his study of the
aboriginal people of Australia, after taking up and then
rejecting many possible definitions of religion, he determined that the primary distinction between religion and
other social phenomena was the establishment of a
dichotomy between sacred and secular:
In all the history of human thought there exists no
other example of two categories of things so profoundly differentiated or so radically opposed to one
another. The traditional opposition of good and bad is
nothing beside this; for the good and bad are only two
opposed species of the same class, namely morals,
just as sickness and health are two different aspects of
the same order of facts, life, while the sacred and the
profane have always and everywhere been conceived
by the human mind as two distinct classes, as two
worlds between which there is nothing in common
(Durkheim 1915/1976, pp. 53–54).
Holistic Human Development
If the obstacles to holistic research include dualistic
and exclusionary thinking, it may be time for Durkheim’s
sacred/secular distinction to go. Given that organized
religion sometimes has the effect of stifling rather than
nurturing spirituality, perhaps for those who are both
spiritual and religious, the best alternative is to refrain
from the rigid dichotomization of sacred and secular.
This course of action would be in line with the definition
of non-religious spirituality offered by Elkins et al.
(1988). A seamless psychological transition from nonreligious to religious spirituality (and back again) may
help to sustain the ‘‘sacredness’’ of both ordinary and
liturgical settings. To the extent that a person’s negative
religious history keeps him from continued spiritual
development, religion can be seen as an impediment to
spiritual growth. Stated more accurately, internalized
perceptions, memories, and feelings about religion can
keep us from accessing spiritual resources that might
otherwise add significant developmental momentum to
our holistic existence and experience. Separating religion
from spirituality, if only partially, may help those stuck
at earlier levels of spiritual development find the perspective that would make both their spiritual experience
and their religious tradition more adaptive, rejuvenating,
and satisfying.
Critical Psychology sounds a call to holistic thinking by
pointing up the restrictive empiricism upon which general
psychology has traditionally been based (Sykes 2006).
Although a purely scientific approach to psychology is
appropriate for many of its subfields, the psychology of
religion, if it is to remain relevant in a society that is
increasingly holistic in its outlook, must begin to accept
the permeable boundary between data and experience,
mind and spirit, cognition and intuition. It is, in my
opinion, a good thing to be intellectually disciplined and
academically rigorous; but it is quite another to subjugate
truth, knowledge, and wisdom to a strict philosophy of
science that is more at home in the twentieth century than
the twenty-first. Similarly, for the theological community
to embrace a more holistic approach to the study of human
development, any devaluing or avoidance of the empirical
study and description of spirituality must be checked at the
The three worldviews (mechanistic, organismic, contextual) and four components (body, mind, emotions,
spirit) discussed in this article are all needed in a holistic
approach to human development. Holistic thought involves
addition and inclusion rather than isolation and boundary
marking. Holism is ‘‘both-and’’ as opposed to ‘‘either-or.’’
Holistic human development is the study of the whole
person and the integration of knowledge, fields, disciplines,
perspectives, and experiences.
Acknowledgments The author wishes to thank John Stanfield of
Fielding Graduate University and Indiana University for his encouragement, support, and review; and the blind peer reviewers for
comments that were used to refine and improve this article.
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(J. W. Swain, Trans., First Free Press paperback ed.). New York:
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Francisco: Harper & Row.
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Van Nostrand Reinhold.
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York: Penguin Arkana.
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holistic worldview. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 31(4),
Pepper, S. C. (1961). World hypotheses: A study in evidence. Los
Angeles: University of California Press.
Piaget, J. (1965). The moral judgment of the child. New York: Free
Seaward, B. L. (2000). Stress and human spirituality 2000: At the
cross roads of physics and metaphysics. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 25(4), 241–246.
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meditation: A challenge for psychology in the areas of stress
management, psychotherapy, and religion/values. Journal of
Humanistic Psychology, 34(4), 101.
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styles perspective. International Journal for the Psychology of
Religion, 11(3), 143.
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C. J. Haynes
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Unpublished Ph.D., University of Ottawa, Canada.
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Humanistic Psychology, 23(1), 18.
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The Holistic-lnteractionistic Paradigm:
Some Directions for Empirical
Developmental Research
David Magnusson
Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Sweden
This article asserts the claim for linking methods to phenomena—and not
vice versa—in research on individual development. It is argued that
proper application of theory, design, and methodological tools in studies
of specific problems requires strict consideration of four basic features of
developmental processes: (1) the holistic-interactionistic nature of such
processes, (2) individual development as a process of adaptation, (3) developmental change as transformation, and (4) synchronization and coordination of operating elements in developmental change. The research
strategy and methodological consequences of this claim are discussed.
Keywords: Development, interaction, adaptation, transformation, synchronization, statistical models, psychobiological models.
The goal of all scientific psychology is to contribute to
understanding and explaining how and why individuals as integrated organisms think, feel, act, and react in
real life. From this it follows that, for empirical research
on individual development, the purpose of any study on
a specific problem is to contribute to the synthesis and
integration of knowledge about how and why individuals function and develop as integrated organisms in
real life. An oft-repeated, necessary condition for this to
happen in developmental research is that any questions
to be answered as well as all theoretical models and
methodological tools be clearly related to the character
of the phenomena at the center of analysis. The focus of
our main concern consists of psychological and developmental problems; theories, designs, and statistics are
tools in the research process. They are tools in the same
way as scissors, knives, axes, and razors are tools. Each
one is good for a specific cutting purpose, but no one of
them is good for all purposes.
In a recent article in Science, Rom Harre (2000) summarized his view on the state of psychological research
in general in a way that is relevant for my discussion
European Psychologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2001, pp. 153-162
© 2001 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers
“It has been about 30 years since the first rumblings of
discontent with the state of academic psychology began to be heard. Then, as now, dissident voices were
more audible in Europe than in the United States. It is
a remarkable feature of mainstream academic psychology that, alone among the sciences, it should be
almost wholly immune to critical appraisal as an enterprise. Methods that have long shown to be ineffec-
David Magnusson is the Olof Eneroth Professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology, Stockholm University. Originally an elementary school teacher, he then trained as an applied psychologist and
later as a research scientist, obtaining his Ph.D. in Psychology from
Stockholm University. His early work centered around interactionism
between the situation and the individual. In 1964 he started the
well-known longitudinal research program Individual Development
and Adaptation (IDA) which he led for over 30 years. Beside a large
number of empirical contributions concerning the study of the adaptation process, he has carried out work on theoretical issues regarding the study of individual development. Magnusson is often referred
to as the father of the holistic-interactionistic paradigm and the person approach. He is also one of the initiators of the new Developmental Science and is perhaps its most forceful advocate. He has
received numerous international awards.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Professor David Magnusson, Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden (tel. +46 8 163909, fax +46 8
159342, e-mail
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David Magnusson
tive or worse are still used on a routine basis by hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. Conceptual muddles long exposed to view are evident in almost every
issue of standard psychological journals. This is a curious state of affairs. New pathways and more realistic
paradigms of research have been proposed, demonstrated, and ignored … The natural sciences have
achieved their enormous success by the adoption of
schemata through which the indeterminate world
around us can be mad e to disclose some of its features”
(p. 1303).
The relevance of Harre’s critical evaluation of the state
of the art does differ somewhat among the psychological subdisciplines, but as developmentalists, we have
strong reasons to take it seriously. Among other things,
it hits on a weak point in empirical developmental research, namely, the frequent neglect of proper linkage
of methods to phenomena. Developmental research is
all too often shackled by piecemeal theories and/or sophisticated statistical models and methods, without the
necessary reference to proper analysis of the phenomena under investigation at the appropriate level. The
starting point of my discussion here is the seemingly
self-obvious proposition that the proper application of
the tools of theory design, and statistics presupposes a
strict analysis of the character of the phenomena being
Accordingly, I pinpoint some basic characteristic
properties of individual functioning and development
that must necessarily be considered when designing,
implementing, and interpreting studies on specific developmental issues if we want to move forward from
the situation that Harre and others have described (see
also, e. g., Bergman, Eklund, & Magnusson, 1991;
Cairns, 1986; Cairns & Rodkins, 1998; Koch, Finkelman,
& Kessel, 1999; Magnusson, 1992). I then use this analysis as the basis for some comments on research strategy and methodological issues in developmental research.
The background to my discussion of research on
individual development is the following brief description of how an individual functions currently in a real
situation. For illustrative purposes I have chosen a situation that the individual interprets as threatening or demanding. The starting point for the individual’s dealing
with such a situation is her or his appraisal of the situation as threatening or demanding. The mental appraisal
taking place in the brain is an integrated cognitive process, including values and emotions attached to the cognitive content. The appraisal of the situation as threaten-
ing or demanding stimulates, via the amygdala and the
hypothalamus, the excretion of adrenaline from the adrenal medulla, which in turn triggers a complex network
of other physiological processes. The cognitive-physiological interplay is accompanied by emotional states of
fear and/or anxiety and/or arousal. As a result, this process effects the individual’s dealing with the situation in
adaptive intrapsychic processes and manifest behavior.
Two basic propositions follow from this description:
1. The manner in which an individual functions in a real
situation represents an integrated, complex, dynamic,
and adaptive process. It has the main properties of holistic processes.
2. In this integrated process a broad range of elements in
the individual and in the environment are involved
and integrated: the brain, perception and cognition
(including automatic processing), emotions and values, the physiological system, and behavior, on the
part of the individual, and the physical and social aspects of the proximal situation, particularly as it is interpreted by the individual and because it offers possibilities and constraints for adaptive responses. (For
overviews of the role of these propositions in developmental research, see, e. g., Cairns, 1979; Magnusson,
1988,1999; Magnusson & Stattin, 1996.)
Individual Development
The description of the individual’s adaptive responses
to the current situation is a snapshot of a lifelong individual developmental history that starts at conception
and proceeds until the end of life. Developmental research aims at understanding and explaining the developmental background of the way an individual functions in specific situations at any stage of his/her life
Effective and appropriate linking of methods to
phenomena in research on individual development requires close attention to four basic features of developmental processes:
1. The holistic interactionistic nature of such processes,
2. Individual development as a process of adaptation,
3. Developmental change as transformation,
4. Synchronization and coordination of operating elements in the processes.
European Psychologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2001, pp. 153-162
© 2001 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers
The Holistic-lnteractionistic
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Individual Development: A Holistic-lnteractionistic
The integrated nature of developmental processes implies that they proceed and develop as irreducible
wholes. This characteristic holds at all levels of the total
person-environment system, from the cellular level upwards. At each level, a system derives its characteristic
features and properties from the functional interaction
of the elements involved—not from the effect of each
isolated part on the whole. At the level of the individual,
each aspect of the structures and processes that are operating (in the brain and the physiological system, perceptions, plans, values, goals, motives, conduct, etc), as
well as each aspect of the proximal and distal environment, acquires meaning from its role in the integrated
functioning of the total individual. A particular element
derives its significance not from its structure, but from
its role in the system of which it forms a part.
One basic reason why integrated developmental
processes are irreducible and indivisible is the principle of functional interaction. Functional interaction is a
characteristic of processes at all levels of the individual-environment system, including the interaction
among working mental, behavioral, and biological elements at all levels of the integrated individual as well
as the individual’s reciprocal, intentional interaction
with the environment. It is also a fundamental characteristic of the way systems at different levels function
together in the holistic processes of the integrated organism. In the biological sciences, functional interaction is a central concept in models for the functioning
and development of living organisms. In the Annual
Report for 1998/99 from the Swedish Council for
Research in Natural Sciences, the cell biologist Uno
Lindberg (2000) devoted a whole chapter to the discussion of the fundamental role of functional interaction in biological processes from cellular protein to
brain level.
From the holistic, interactionistic nature of individual developmental processes it follows, among other
things, that the processes cannot be determined by a single factor. If they could, then the processes might go
astray and lead to pathological processes in other systems. Accordingly, the normal functional role of a single
variable in the developmental processes—such as aggression, hyperactivity, or a certain stress hormone—has
to be finally investigated together with other factors operating concurrently. Only the integrated individual, not
single variables, remains distinct and identifiable across
Developmental Processes and Adaptation
Besides being complex and dynamic, the processes of
individual functioning and development are adaptive.
In current situations, adequate adaptation to situational conditions, as illustrated in the description of an
individual’s response to a stressful situation, is essential
for the individual’s well-being and survival. During recent decades, research in this area has increasingly focused on the adaptation to demands emanating from the
psychosocial environment, for example, in research on
stress and mental and physical health. This trend has
been linked to a stronger recognition of the role of the
perceptual-cognitive-emotional system in individual
processes of adaptation and of individual differences in
this role.
The developmental processes of an individual are
fundamentally processes of adaptation. The adaptation
over time involves two balancing forces: maturation and
experiences, which, on the one hand, strive for change
and, on the other, resistance to change. In the face of
maturational and environmental challenges, psychological and biological systems strive to maintain a dynamic,
functional balance and integrity. In this way, systems defend themselves against inappropriate causes of change,
which might lead to malfunction or destruction of the
system. For example, in the normal functioning and development of the brain, the system buffers the organism
from events that might lead to immediate disaster or to
detrimental butterfly effects, and only those that contribute to effective current functioning and the development
of new functional structures are accepted.
Transformation in Developmental Processes
An essential feature of developmental processes is the
continuous reorganization of mental, biological, and behavioral elements within given organizational structures and the reorganization of existing organizational
structures. As a result of the balance between the two
main driving forces I just discussed, over time the individual’s total functioning is transformed into new states.
At different levels of the organism and on different time
scales, the character of an individual’s biological, mental, and behavioral processes changes over the lifespan.
Accordingly, developmental change is something more
than and qualitatively different from the mere accumulation of facts about elements.
Transformation in developmental processes involves all aspects of the integrated individual, including
mental and behavioral aspects, and it is a characteristic
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David Magnusson
of structures and processes at all levels of the organism,
from the organization and reorganization of cell systems
to the organization and reorganization of the individual’s intentional, reciprocal interaction with the environment.
A natural example is the process of transformation
when a girl develops into a woman. That process entails
a transformation and reorganization of the entire system
of mental, biological, and behavioral aspects of the girl’s
way of functioning as well as of social structures and
processes with which the girl interacts reciprocally (see,
e.g., Susman, 1997). Novel patterns of functioning arise
during ontogeny and differences in the rates of development may produce differences in the organization and
configuration of psychological functions. Empirical
studies have demonstrated how inter individual differences with respect to the character of the transformation
during puberty and its long-term implications for the
female’s transformation processes into adulthood are related to interindividual differences in pubertal timing.
Nonlinearity of Transformation Processes
A circumstance with important methodological implications for empirical developmental research is the nonlinearity of transformation processes over an individual’s
lifetime: Transformations do not occur linearly along the
time scale within an individual, and the time scale for
transformation processes differs somewhat between individuals, partly as an effect of individual differences in
biological timing of developmental change. This proposition has fundamental consequences for research designs in empirical developmental research.
As proposed above, properties of the organism’s
way of functioning at any stage of life are dependent on
a coherent developmental process from conception onward. A basic component of this process is the establishment of an effective psychobiological system during the
fetal period and early infancy. In particular, the brain is
organized as the central organ for the interpretation and
appraisal of external information, for attaching emotions and values to this information, and for activating
and interacting with biological autonomic, endocrine,
and muscular systems. The early established psychobiological system serves as a platform for developmental
processes in the future and has consequences for the
character of the individual’s further life course. For example, an adequate progression of transformation processes during the establishment phase is essential for
further positive development (Magnusson & Mahoney,
in press).
Even when the integrated individual system has
been established, it remains open for change and develops under the correlated constraints of individual biological, mental, and behavioral characteristics and the
properties of the individual’s environmental conditions
(see, e. g., Cairns, McGuire, & Gariepy, 1993). The extent
to which the integrated psychobiological system is open
for change varies with biological age. For example, recent research indicates that the brain is particularly open
to change during early adolescence (Spear, 2000).
The transformation processes during the establishment phase display two distinct features: openness and
high speed. During the fetal period and early infancy,
the total psychobiological system is very open for
change in different directions, and the processes proceed
at a very high rate. In these respects the normal transformation processes at this age differ from those during
childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and aging. The
characteristics of openness and high pace imply that understanding developmental processes during the early
establishment phase requires a type of analysis and
methodological tools that differ from those used in research on transformation processes during later stages
of development.
Aconsequence of this view is that, in order to investigate such central issues as stability and change as well
as causal mechanisms in an individual’s development,
it is necessary to observe the individual over time, that
is, to apply a longitudinal design. The need for matching
methods to phenomena requires a careful analysis of the
specific character of the transformation processes under
investigation at different stages of the lifespan in order
to apply the most effective theoretical research strategy
and methodological tools. For example, empirical studies of the transformation processes during adolescence
requires designs and methodological tools that differ
from those used to study transformation during infancy,
adulthood, and aging.
The integrated processes of adaptation and transformation involve an enormous number of interacting elements. If these processes are to proceed and change in
an effective way that maintains the organism’s psychological and biological integrity, the functioning of all the
elements needs to be appropriately synchronized. Synchronization is a basic principle in the interactive processes within subsystems, between subsystems at the
same level, and between systems at different levels.
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© 2001 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers
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The Holistic-lnteractionistic Paradigm
Synchronization of operating elements is essential
for individual functioning in current situations. For example, effective selective attention in crowded visual
scenes is dependent on synchronization of neuronal activity (Fries et al., 2001). The proper functioning of the
complex perceptual-cognitive-emotional processes is
dependent on the synchronization of operating elements in multiple brain regions. The process of waking
up in the morning involves the release of a large number
of biochemicals. Each substance has to be released in just
the right order and the correct dosage for the wakening
process to proceed appropriately.
Also fundamental in developmental processes is
the synchronization of working elements. Adequate individual developmental processes require a smooth synchronization between the mental, biological, and behavioral aspects of the individual, on the one hand, and the
opportunities, demands, rules, and regulations set by
the environment, on the other.
This can be illustrated by what happens during the
transformation from childhood to adulthood in adolescent girls and the adaptation to environmental conditions that this transformation involves (Magnusson,
Stattin, & Allen, 1986; Stattin & Magnusson, 1990). The
timing of biological maturation differs remarkably
among girls. Girls of the same chronological age but at
very different stages of biological maturation have different biologically and psychologically motivated goals,
needs and motives with respect to ways of living, not the
least social and sexual relations. Even so, they are expected to adapt to a common system of social regulations based mostly on chronological age (e. g., attending
the same class at school), and to the same expectations
and norms for appropriate and acceptable behaviors
(e. g., as regards sexual relations and social relations in
general). The way this synchronization proceeds is critical to the girl’s personal life at this time, as well as important for her future.
The role of environmental factors and the way they
function in the adaptation, transformation, and synchronization of the person-environment interaction vary
across generations, societies, and cultures. Accordingly,
the organization and integration of developmental processes, and the way the principle of synchronization
functions in these processes, also vary in these respects.
Thus, cross-generational, cross-societal, and cross-cultural research is important if we want to arrive at knowledge that can be generalized across generations, societies, and cultures.
European Psychologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2001, pp. 153-162
© 2001 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers
Developmental Synthesis—
The Need for a General Theoretical
So far I have discussed four basic characteristics of individual developmental processes from a holistic perspective: functional interaction, adaptation, transformation,
and synchronization. The circumstance that these characteristics refer to different aspects of the same individual’s integrated developmental processes emphasizes
the need to synthesize our knowledge about these aspects in order to understand how the individual functions and develops as an integrated organism.
In general terms, the role of empirical science is to
arrive at and formulate overriding scientific “laws” that
govern phenomena and processes. An interesting discussion of the scientific goal for research in life sciences
was presented by Frances Crick (1987), the Nobel laureate, who was one of the discoverers of the generic code.
His own experiences from research in physics and molecular biology led him to conclude that in the case of
biological processes, lawfulness is a matter not of precise
rules, as in physics, but of operating mechanisms and
principles (cf. Magnusson & Allen, 1983, pp. 374-375).
Recently, Ernst Mayr (1997) arrived at the same conclusion while discussing biological research from a historical perspective. He argued that only when biology had
freed itself from the paradigm of physics in the formulation of scientific laws was it able to develop into the
scientific discipline it has now become. Nowadays, most
developmentalists agree that the final goal of developmental research is to identify the principles and mechanisms underlying and guiding developmental processes
of individuals.
A necessary prerequisite for real progress in the
search for basic principles and mechanisms in the functioning and development of the total, integrated individual is that empirical studies on specific issues be designed and implemented so that they can contribute to
the amalgamation of knowledge into a synthesis. At that
level the synthesis must meet two criteria;
• First, the synthesis must include and integrate all the
individual and environmental factors involved in the
functioning and development of the coherent individual-environment system.
• Second, the synthesis must take into consideration the
basic features of functional interaction, adaptation,
transformation, and synchronization characteristic of
the integrated processes.
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David Magnusson
The remarkable progress in the natural sciences and the
synthesis of knowledge about the physical world that
these disciplines have contributed in recent centuries
owe much to the fact that studies on specific issues have
been designed, implemented, and interpreted within the
same general model of nature. This general model has
formed the basis for real cross-disciplinary collaboration
and effective communication among researchers representing different subdisciplines in the natural sciences.
For these same reasons we need a general model for the
human being—a model that can serve as a common
framework for designing, implementing, and interpreting results from studies on specific developmental issues. The call for a general framework in psychological
research is now being voiced by researchers representing very different fields (see, e. g., Saito, 2000). Such a
framework must enable us to synthesize knowledge
about the integrated individual, functioning and developing as an intentional agent in his or her world. That is,
it must be holistic.
A Holistic Perspective as a
Framework for Scientific Inquiry
When it comes to identifying operating mechanisms and
underlying principles of the developmental processes at
the level of the individual from a holistic perspective,
two characteristics of these processes are essential:
• First, developmental changes occur with respect to (a)
which factors are involved and operating, (b) the relative role of single factors in the integrated functioning
of the individual, as well as (c) the way the factors
involved operate together simultaneously and are
functionally synchronized.
• Second, subsystems operate and change interdependently on different spatial and temporal scales in the
complex, interactive, and adaptive processes of the individual and on different biological time scales for different individuals.
These basic features of individuals’ developmental processes complicate the identification of operating mechanisms and underlying principles. However, the difficulties must not deter empirical studies on specific aspects
of the processes, applying the general rules for scientific
inquiry. There is nothing mysterious about developmental processes. They are not random; they are accessible
to systematic, scientific empirical analysis at the level of
the individual. This claim rests on two basic features of
developmental processes.
• First, developmental change is regulated by specific
psychological and biological principles. Among other
things, these principles serve to maintain an individual’s integrity as a biological and psychological being at
all levels of developmental change across the lifespan.
• Second, individual developmental processes take
place within structures that are functionally organized. Mental, biological, and behavioral subsystems
are interdependently organized, horizontally and vertically, in such a way that they best serve the functioning of the integrated organism as a whole. The organism’s striving to maintain organization is a prerequisite to developmental processes that function well and
are adaptive to changing environmental conditions.
The important information about an individual is to be
found in the organization of working mental, biological,
and behavioral factors in terms of configurations or patterns at different levels of the total organism. This feature has important methodological implications that
have been dealt with elsewhere (for overviews see, e. g.,
Bergman, 1998; Bergman, Magnusson, & El Khouri, in
press; Magnusson, 1998).
Implications and Challenges
A major explanation for the present state of affairs is that
statistical models and methods are all too frequently applied to the study of developmental processes and to test
models for such processes regardless of whether or not
they match the character of the processes under investigation. A striking example is when holistic, psychobiological models emphasizing the functional interaction of
working elements in individual developmental processes are refuted with reference to results from studies applying models for statistical interaction at the group level.
The statistical interaction model for analysis of data at the
group level does not in any sense match the model for
dynamic, complex, and adaptive interaction of operating
psychobiological elements at the individual level. The
joint use of the term “interaction” is not enough to justify
the application of a statistical interaction model to investigate functional interaction at the individual level.
As summarized earlier, functional interaction is a
basic principle in the functioning of all living organisms.
Other basic principles are adaptation, transformation,
and synchronization. As such they are irrefutable and
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The Holistic-lnteractionistic
need not be validated by statistical models. Claiming
that statistical models are superior to psychobiological
models and can be used as the criterion of such models
is putting the cart before the horse. To use another metaphor, it is like using the statistical Procrustes bed to test
psychological models. If the integrated psychobiological
model does not fit the statistical model, so much the
worse for the psychobiological model; off with its head!
(N.B.: Procrustes was a robber in Greek mythology. He
had an iron bed on which he forced travelers to lie, making them fit by either stretching their limbs or cutting
bits off.)
The above analysis of the main characteristics of developmental processes has been made with reference to
the integrated individual as the organizing principle for
scientific analysis and inquiry. Strict consideration of
these characteristics in the development and application
of methodological tools is fundamental for further progress in empirical research and theorizing on developmental issues, as a remedy to the present situation. In
recent years this demand has been increasingly heard
from researchers from different subfields; the need for
appropriate methodological tools that provide a closer
link to the real nature of developmental phenomena is
explicitly recognized by more and more methodologists
(see, e. g., Bergman, in press; Magnusson et al., 1991).
Functional interaction, adaptation, transformation, and synchronization are general principles for developmental processes that hold for all individuals and
at all levels of the integrated organism. In that sense
they form the foundation for the holistic analysis of the
individual—as an integrated organism functioning and
developing over context and time as an intentional, active participant in an integrated person-environment
system. This view does not preclude studies on specific
aspects of individual development; rather, such studies
designed within the framework of the holistic perspective are required to enrich the synthesis of knowledge
about individual developmental processes.
When it comes to designing an empirical study on
a problem at a certain level, one requirement of the contribution of that study to synthesis is that the research
strategy and methodological tools be chosen with strict
consideration of the specific character of the processes at
that particular level. There is no design that is appropriate for studies at all levels. For example, the appropriate
research strategies and methodological tools are not the
same for studies on brain development during the fetal
period, for studies on the role of emotions in learning,
and for studies on the role of interpersonal relations in
aging. The biological sciences offer many illustrations of
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© 2001 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers
the need to match methods to the level of the processes
under study (see, e.g., Mayr, 1997).
The research strategy and the methodological consequences of making the individual the organizing principle for scientific inquiry and analysis are far-reaching
and serious. Of course, it is far beyond the scope of this
article even to summarize what is happening on this issue, hi earlier sections of this article, some research strategy consequences were emphasized. Let me finally just
draw attention to some issues that are particularly important for further progress.
A Cross-Disciplinary Perspective
A consequence of the holistic view is that, for a full understanding and explanation of the developmental processes of individuals, the knowledge that is traditionally
referred to as developmental psychology is not enough.
Psychology is only one of many scientific disciplines
contributing knowledge about how and why individuals think, feel, act, and react. Thus, in order to understand developmental processes at the individual level,
we also need contributions from a number of other scientific disciplines: molecular biology, developmental biology, physiology, pharmacology, genetics, neurosci-
Figure 1
Developmental science in the interface of medical sciences,
biological sciences, social sciences, behavioral sciences, and
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
David Magnusson
ences, social psychology, sociology, anthropology, and
neighboring disciplines. The total space of phenomena
involved in the process of lifelong individual development forms a clearly defined and delimited domain for
scientific discovery that has to involve all these and other disciplines. This domain constitutes a scientific discipline of its own—developmental science. In the scientific landscape, developmental science takes its place at the
interface of behavioral, biological, medical, social sciences, and the humanities (Cairns, 2000; Magnusson,
2000a,b: Magnusson & Cairns, 1996). This is illustrated
in Figure 1.
Accordingly, real progress on individual developmental processes requires close cross-disciplinary collaboration among researchers from different traditional
subdisciplines, designing, implementing and interpreting studies on specific issues within the same general
framework of a developmental science.
The term “developmental science” has now become
popular and this is reflected in the establishment of new
journals and new centers that refer to it. As long as this
development reflects a generally felt need for a common
theoretical framework for research on individual developmental phenomena, this is appropriate. However,
there is a risk that the term will become trendy and be
used inappropriately without consideration for the essential implications of the new discipline: Business goes
on as usual. Real contributions to scientific progress can
be achieved only by taking seriously the characteristic
features of the processes characterizing the domain of
phenomena that is the target of analysis.
Accordingly, it should be emphasized that developmental science means more than the sum of contributions from different subdisciplines. As T remarked
above, understanding and explaining individual developmental processes requires contributions from
many diverse scientific fields. The role of developmental science is to bring these contributions into a synthesis of knowledge—and a synthesis is more than the
sum of elements. Scientific progress within the new
field presupposes acceptance and application of a holistic perspective on individual development and careful consideration for the methodological and research
strategy implications that follows from such a framework
Methodological Tools
The holistic, interactionistic nature of an individual’s developmental processes, characterized by continuous adaptation, transformation, and synchronization is highly
idiosyncratic and must, in the final analysis, be analyzed
at the level of the individual. Given the very large number of elements at all levels of the individual’ developmental processes, this proposition poses a real challenge
for the development and application of appropriate
methodological tools.
To summarize, progress in research on principles
and mechanisms in individual developmental processes
requires further development and application of methodological tools in four complementary directions:
• Appropriate experimental and quasiexperimental designs.
These classical tools in psychological research are indispensable tools also in developmental research. A
prerequisite for their contribution to our understanding developmental processes is that they be applied in
each specific case with strict reference to the features
of developmental processes discussed in earlier sections.
• Appropriate methods for systematic observation under controlled conditions, particularly in the framework of experimental and quasiexperimental designs. At a general level,
the importance of systematic observation in empirical
research on developmental processes has been emphasized and empirically demonstrated by influential researchers since the beginning of the history of developmental psychology (see, e. g.. Stern, 1914). More
specifically, for example, recent developments of advanced techniques for brain-imaging have considerably increased the possibility for systematic observation of brain functioning and brain development.
• Appropriate methods for analyzing patterns of working factors at different levels of the integrated organism. The development of such methods are necessary for the analysis of the way integrated systems function and develop at all levels of the holistic individual-environment
system. Models and methods for this purpose are being developed at an increasing pace, and a variety of
statistical methods are already available. An overview
of this development is presented in Bergman, Magnusson, and El-Khouri (in press).
• Appropriate methods for the study of developmental processes. As proposed earlier, the scientific goal of developmental research is to understand working mechanisms and underlying principles in individual change
across time and context; that is, to understand the integrated processes involved in individual development. Accordingly, the development and application
of appropriate models and methodological tools for
the study of the complex, dynamic, and adaptive processes of individual development become a central
task for further progress (see, e. g., Bergman, 2001).
European Psychologist, Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2001, pp. 153-162
© 2001 Hogrefe & Huber Publishers
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
The Holistk-lnteractionistic Paradigm
One contribution to understanding dynamic, complex
processes comes from modern models for such processes in the natural sciences (see, e. g v Kelso, 1995). There is
also a growing interest in and application of such models in developmental research. Overviews of the application of nonlinear models in psychology have been presented by Barton (1994) and Thelen and Smith (1998),
among others. This development reflects the increasing
interest in understanding developmental change and a
promising approach to the empirical study of such processes. But as with all methodological tools, the proper
application of nonlinear dynamic models too requires
strict consideration of the nature of processes being
studied. Clearly, certain similarities exist between the
structures and processes studied in the natural sciences,
in which the nonlinear dynamic models were originally
developed, and those investigated in psychological research. However, there are also essential differences,
particularly when we focus on the functioning of the
integrated human organism. At that level, a fundamental characteristic and guiding element in an individual’s
functional interaction with the environment is consciousness and intentionaJity, which are linked to values,
goals, and emotions—and the fact that the individual
learns from experience. These circumstances must be
taken into account when methods derived from the
study of dynamic, complex processes in the physical
world are applied to the planning and implementation
of empirical research on developmental processes. In
this respect we have more to learn from biological than
from physical sciences.
Final Comment
Finally, my interpretation, taking the evaluation of the
present state of the art presented by Rom Harre and others seriously, does not, of course, mean we should abandon theories, designs, and methods we have applied
hitherto. Used properly with consideration for the assumptions about psychological phenomena they presuppose, they are important tools and have been useful
in empirical research, contributing to our understanding
of individual development during the last hundred
years. There is nothing wrong with any methodological
tool per se. Everything is exactly what it is, neither more
nor less. The obligation is to be clear about what it is and
apply it in each specific case with due consideration for
the assumptions inherent in the statistical model. The
challenge we face is to increase the value of existing as
well as future empirical contributions by bringing them
into the common overriding framework that relates to
the integrated, indivisible individual, for the reasons I
have tried to outline here.
The work presented in this article was supported by a
grant from The Swedish Council for Planning and Coordination of Research.
I want to thank Lars R. Bergman and Lynette Cofer
for valuable comments on the manuscript.
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