Cognitive Development and the Social Self

Use this Prezi to explore Robert Kegan’s theory of Cognitive Development.


This research explores spiritual formation in suburban adults and asks how an increased awareness of the social Trinity might impact that process. One core concept that frames this discussion is that of the self. We must ask some key questions: How do we perceive ourselves? How do we relate to others? Is it possible for adults to continue to grow, or is our cognitive development fixed upon reaching adulthood? Our answers to these questions will impact how we approach the practical application of spiritual formation in the local congregation.

A sketch of Kegan's 5 Orders of Consciousness analogous to geometrical nodes.
A sketch of Kegan’s 5 Orders of Consciousness analogous to geometrical nodes.

Robert Kegan is among the leading theorists regarding human cognitive development.1 The essays below will elaborate on his theory and how it connects to my research. Allow me to summarize here. Kegan proposes that there are five orders of consciousness through which the neuro-typical human develops over time. The first three levels are the natural child-to-adolescent developmental process. However, the modern world, and now the postmodern world, has created a need for fourth and fifth levels of consciousness that require the individual to move from dependence, through independence, and into a multi-perspectival interdependence with the other. Kegan’s theory intertwines well with other important theoretical and theological frames for my research, namely communicative action, Trinitarian relational ontology, and Social Trinity.2

Essays on Cognitive Development and the Social Self

coming soon…

  1. Robert Kegan, In over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994). Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, Leadership for the Common Good (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2009). []
  2. Anderson connects the “grammar of Trinitarianism” to the “social-relational psychology” presented by Kegan. E. Byron Anderson, Worship and Christian Identity: Practicing Ourselves, The Virgil Michel Series (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003), 151-169. []

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