Rational Domains for Developmental Psychology

Published in Mimesis #2 (online), June 1998

by Lev Lafayette

The following is by no means a fully fledged article for the use of developmental psychology in roleplaying games however it should point to specific issues that effect psychological development that should be catered for in role playing and simulation games (most of which are not).

Actions and their symbolic references provide the data which can be located in value complexes. In doing so, both psychology and sociology can assess the level of development in rational value complexes, distinctions between transcendental and imaginary vvalues, and effects of action types. Using complex function theory, it is possible to locate structural affinities and repititions in behaviour according to an analysis of legal codes (sociology) and moral codes (psychology). In both cases however, specific levels of development need to obtained. In the society, sociology presupposes social systems of sufficient functional scope. In the individual, psychological assessments must presuppose physical and cognitive abilities.

This article examines developmental psychology according to biological status, cognitive development (Jean Piaget), moral development (Max Kohlberg), psychoanalytic development (Sigmund Freud), and a general category of expressive development.

Individual Developmental Psychology

Biological (Age) Cognitive Moral Psychoanalytic Expressive
Infancy (0-1.5) Sensorimotor - - Instinct
Early Childhood (1.5-6) Preoperational Preconventional Id Language
Late Childhood (6-13) Concrete operational Conventional Ego Industry
Adolescence and Adulthood (13+) Formal operational Post-conventional Superego Sexuality

Biological (Age): Stages in biological status is a matter of medical science. Positive age is expressed only as a general reference as not only individual variations, but social circumstances can radically alter physical status. Twenty is a nominal age for the completion of adolescence representing the average age when all physical growth has been virtually completed. However, individual characteristics often develop at a much earlier age. For example, Tanner's (J.M. Tanner. Growth of Adolescence, Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1962) comparative study including data from the United States, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Great Britian, notes that the average age of menarche declines according to general physical health. In 1850, the average was 17, 1875 (16.5), 1900 (15.5), 1925 (14.5), and in 1950 (13.5). The ages presented above probably best represent those for a medieval/traditional campaign, but are appropriate probably up to the late 19th century. From that point onwards, use Tanner's data for a comparitive reduction.

Cognitive Development: The exhaustive research of Jean Piaget correlates cognitive skills which concur with biological development. Piaget's categories (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, formal operational) refer to the scope of cognitive skills. The first represents instinctual stimulus-response, the second cognitive references without manipulation, the third cognitive manipulation of the individual environment, and in the final stage, hypothetical environments. Notably cross-cultural applications of Piaget have confirmed the general model of stages, but have noted cultural variations within specific stages. Piaget's research deals specifically with cognitive developments in children and adolescents. The inclusion of "imaginary" cognitive abilities for adults represents problematic concerns beyond cognitive resolution (e.g., metaphysics, transcendent moral reasons, atemporal aesthetics).

Moral Development: The development of cognitive skills correlates with the development of moral codes whose general stages reflect expectations of behaviour (preconventional), norms of behaviour (conventional), and principles of behaviour (post-conventional). It is useful at this stage to distinguish developments in moral procedure as a critique of the implicit evolutionary assumptions concerning the development of law. Kohlberg can be effectively differentiated as follows, according to normative attitudes and value of others. The former can be reflects committment to legal and cultural codes, the latter respect for individual autonomy.

Reformulation of Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development


Level Stage Normative Attitude Alter-Value
0 0 None
1 I Fear of authority Object
2 I Naive Hedonism Instrumental
3 II Approval Affection
4 II Civic-Legal Independence
5 III Welfare Universal
6 III Principles Sacred
7 IV? Matyr Avatar

This differentiation of procedural attitudes in morality is useful to elucidate the distinction between pathological, normal, and virtuous moral behaviour. Pathological behavior is represented by a radical fragmentation of moral principles, normal behaviour as the mean of individual codes, of moral principles, normal behaviour as the mean of individual codes, and virtuous behaviour according to rational development and synthesis of codes. For example, a pathological individual may be prepared to die for their assessment of the alter as an object (7/1), whereas a virtuous individual would be prepared to die for the rights of others (7/7).

Psychoanalytic Development: Stripped of its biological pretensions (no development at the infant stage), Freud's categories of id, ego, and superego can be reflect the psychoanalytic categories of the individual according to symbolic scope. These categories concur with moral and cognitive development. The development of the id reflects a mentality of individual eroticism, the ego of individual autonomy and sublimated eroticism, and the superego of recognition of the consciousness of the alter (morality).

Expressive Development: This category is included here to represent the combination of cognitive, moral, and psychoanalytic developments into contents of action expressions which are confirmed by psychological data. Language begins with the reference of the signifier to the signified, industry with egoistic concrete manipulations, and sexuality with the formation of moral principles. Variation in cognitive categories at the adult stage is the expression of values, which include attitudes from cognitive imagination, psychological, and sociological repression, which correlate to structures of agency, therapy, and social criticism. Ambiguity of value expressions is the resulting content of distortions and freedoms available to cognitive development.

Lev Lafayette