- Ideation: Thought and imagination at the formal
operations level. It is an extension or emergent aspect of the
- The symbolic level: Linguistic processes; Thought
the concrete operations level; Beliefs and techniques (i.e. "memes").
- Socioemotional level: Social perception and
and social learning; Imitation, conformity, obedience; The
preoperational level; Emotions beyond simple pain and pleasure.
- Sensorimotor level: Reflexes, drives, basic
pleasure, plus conditioning. It is the first psychological
extension of our biological processes.
- Biological processes: Non-mental processes.
Please note that a single event may be dealt with as a stimulus, a
socioemotional perception, and a message to be comprehended
simultaneously; likewise, an action may be a response, a socioemotional
behavior, and a symbolic expression simultaneously. Also, keep in
mind that the layers are interconnected as well. The idea here is
that there are three layers of relationships between "input" and
"output," not that there are three separate parts to the mind!
The temptation is to view the "higher" levels as somehow
"better." But that is not necessarily true: Cognition, for
example, is only indirectly linked to the lowest levels, and is "out of
touch" with our nature. Like a body-less angel, it is not fully
human. We talk about the "angel" aspect of ourselves (our
philosophical or spiritual side) and the "beast" aspect of ourselves
(our biology), but we
should really talk even more about what holds them together -- the
socioemotional aspect. As Vonnegut suggested, maybe we need more
(and better) social instincts, not less!
Although these levels were arrived at independently, the resemblance to
the triune brain idea is obvious:
- Sensorimotor level -- Reptilian brain (roughly, the brain stem)
- Socioemotional level -- Paleomammalian brain (roughly, the
- Symbolic level -- Neomammalian brain (roughly, the cerebral
© Copyright 2004, C. George Boeree