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Large-Scale Psychology: The Design and Transformation of Whole Societies


Cometh the hour …


Arguably the biggest news of the decade for friends of the Spiral: I am confident of introducing a new psychology division into the American Psychological Association.


Large-Scale Psychology is what I call it—a concept whose time has more than arrived.


My close colleagues and I look forward to introduce the concept of Large-Scale Psychology during a special symposium at the annual conference of APA next August in Toronto.  


The proposed symposium title is “Large-Scale Psychology: The Design and Transformation of Whole Societies” and our brief proposal says it all, really:

“The recent election of Barack Obama as US president has uncovered major cultural shifts which, like tectonic plates, are bound to realign the surface of our social and political landscapes. Likewise, the current global financial crisis is but a symptom of deeper dynamics which, like invisible fractals, we have yet to fully grasp and assimilate. 21st Century versions of City-States are emerging, as are new alliances of ethnic and religious themes now streaking the planet due to (im-)migration, globalization, and the spread of information and instant networking via the Internet.


“The resulting fragmentation has outstripped our models of governance, economic parity, and understanding of deep cultural codes.

“Our research indicates that we are poised for an unprecedented, momentous leap in our perspectives on our psychological selves and ways to deal with behavioral patterns that now coexist or conflict within new sets of defining life conditions and new limiting boundaries.


“Our global era has become rife with conflicting, rigid ideologies, polarizing dynamics, proprietary interests, technological utopias, and egalitarian needs and demands. Confounding to many is also the desire to address “global” dynamics while simultaneously retaining focus on the “local.” Many more people newly search for meaning beyond self and how to have an impact on the larger society.


“In all these areas there exists a need for in-depth understanding of psychology at the “large scale” that will be able to provide us with a new macro frame of reference to address major and complex problems from a large-scale perspective; that can combine with new research in genetics and complex adaptive intelligences, along with sophisticated scanning software, to provide a framework and process to support problem-solving, policy formulation and, ultimately, human and cultural development.


“Historically, the various fields and branches of what we know as Psychology have attempted to adapt to new developments. However, too often our social and academic textbooks still reflect the outdated products, assumptions and world views that once fit the age in which they were created and popularized, now inadequate to the task.


“This symposium will introduce “Large-Scale Psychology,” an initial attempt to conceptualize a container that can hold and legitimize all of the spectrum views of psychology – from intrapsychic to interpersonal, to group, cultural-ethnic, and national perspectives and beyond. The presentation will focus on innovative initiatives around the psychology of communities, cities, movements, ethnicities, entire countries, as well as defined population and cultural regions.”We will present this growing body of knowledge, based on the seminal work of Muzafer Sherif and Carolyn W. Sherif in the field of Social Judgment, and of Clare W. Graves and his innovative Emergent, Cyclical Double-Helix Biopsychosocial Theory of Adult Human Development, and will illustrate its practical application in projects such as the transformation out of Apartheid in South Africa; strategies to develop a new Palestinian state in the West Bank; the dissolution of major racial and ethnic stereotypes; and strategies for producing healthy and sustainable communities, cities, and cultures.”


“This new field of Large-Scale Psychology has been field-tested in some of the most dangerous and complex places on the planet, such as South Africa during Apartheid and, at present, the Middle East. Fieldwork case illustrations are included.”


While official recognition of such a new APA division will be a really big deal, I should also note that I have been lecturing audiences and teaching my Spiral Dynamics Integral students the principles and processes of large-scale psychology since 2001 under a synonymous title: Macro*Memetics.

Some of the workshops I have offered along the way in Large-Scale Psychology a.k.a. Macro*Memetics have been “Nation-Building in Afghanistan,” “The Future of Cuba after Fidel Castro”, “After the United Nations, What?” and “CultureShift – Designing the Next World System,” to name just a few.

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