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Bob Dick
Juan Carlos Garelli
with the cooperation of
Tim Dalmau
As regards my question concerning Argyris' theory showing important epistemological implications, I believe this true in that it throws light on what is at the core of the issue here, namely the prevalence of rationality over authority.

What I mean is that current discussions especially among psychologists and psychiatrists very often deal with fundamentals, that is, with the very bases where knowledge is retrieved from, and whether it is testable or untestable or whether this does not matter or whether it sometimes matters and some other times it doesn't.

Questions about the scientific status of psycholological propositions, about their rationale, and more important and more germane to our conversation, questions about who decides what holds good and what is to be dismissed.

Lack of interest in Argyris’s approach

I believe that the scientific community being uninterested in Argyris' approach -which I still have to study in depth- must be by no means mere coincidence or chance, precisely because of its substantial philosophical, theoretical and practical implications.

To be more explicit, Argyris suggests that most of our social systems are Model I, (see below an abridged outline of Argyris’ Theory). Consequently, what holds true of society generally is also true of scientific communities in particular. Therefore, Argyris' statement could be rendered: "most of our scientific communities' systems are Model I". This could hardly be sustained in the realm of sciences which have reached worldwide consensus, like physics, chemistry, biology. &c. The history of science, however, is quite telling about the role of of authoritarianism, or model 1 strategies among the forerunners of today's empirical sciences.



By way of an example, take Lavoisier's discovery of oxygen in the 18th century. He never dared publish it during his lifetime, he left his theory under a sealed envelope in the French Academy of Sciences with instructions that it not be opened unless he either requested it or if he died. This latter outcome, unfortunately, prevailed, because he was deeply involved in politics and he finished his days at he hands of the French revolutionary tribunal which ordered his execution: he was guillotined on May 8, 1794.

Why did Lavoisier fear to publish his revolutionary discovery? Because current trends at the time were led by alchemists of the calibre of Joseph Priestley who was a fervent supporter of the phlogiston theory, so much so that he called oxygen "dephlogisticated air". As is now known, the phlogiston cannot be disproved (phlogiston being a mysterious entity which is displayed whenever the substance which houses it flames), nor can it be proved, hence it's as untestable as the existence of Zeus.

Lavoisier knew he couldn't challenge Priestley on a peer footing insofar as Priestley's prestige was currently domineering within the learned community. It is much the same as Argyris and yourself advance: those empowered to determine the ways something -or anything- is to be understood unilaterally define the terms whereby the variables are to be assessed: the string of governing variables thus remain unchallenged and angles which do not fall in previous pre-supposed theories are systematically banned.

Matters of seniority and renown counted more than matters of truth or degree of testability of assertions. All of which is totally in keeping with the theory you advocate as regards the model 1, single-loop learning trap. PLease allow me to go on a little further with my digressions.

Something very much along similar lines happened to Darwin, who had already concocted his theory of evolution on his return from his Beagle voyage round the world, by about 1839. Odd, don't you think? He kept his invaluable theory on the evolutionary change of species in a drawer for 20 years!

He reluctantly published his Origin of Species in 1859 -he was 50 by that time- only because his friend Alfred Wallace, who had independently come to the same conclusions regarding species' selection by natural means, convinced him to read a joint paper at the Linnean Society in July 1858.

So, again, why was Darwin so afraid of publicly advancing his discovery? Very much for the same reasons as Lavoisier's: current thinking in the evolution of species bore the brand of Lamarck, who affirmed evolution was to be seen as species changing over time due to an innate tendency towards perfection; quite different from Darwin's view that changes in the evolution of species were hazardous -not purposeful, let alone tending towards perfection- whereby organisms best fit to cope with the environment were apt to reach reproductive age, thus endowing them with a differential survival edge.

Moreover, due to Darwin's shy temper, after his first edition of The Origin of Species had met public disdain and scorn, he felt so uneasy he backtracked his own steps and subsequently modified his original theory in the successive editions to the extent of making it almost undifferentiated from Lamarck's.

Thomas Kuhn, a science historian, published an important book back in 1962 called "The structure of scientific revolutions" where he elaborates at length on a so-called sociology of knowledge. And I think that is the way the book has to be read, as one of the first important contributions to the sociology of scientific evolution, rather than a book on the philosophy of science (which is currently equated with the concept of epistemology).

What Kuhn tells us deals with the way men have managed scientific principles throughout history, and that he labels "the natural history of science".

Many scientists and epistemologists -Kuhn included- have taken it to be a normative body of epistemological guidance nobody is likely to escape.

Argyris and Bob Dick make precisely the opposite point.

Kuhn's central thesis is that in order to attain a status of a truly consensuated science, like physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, a paradigm or a set of paradigms must be set up and gain the upper hand so as to guide scientists in their search and practice.

Newtonian physics, for instance, proved a fruitful paradigm for over 300 years, as it led researchers and practitioners to explore and exploit all aspects of Newton's laws on nature to their ultimate consequences. This kind of scientific activity he calls "normal science", that is, scientific research and practice under the unchallenged aegis of Newton's governing variables.

He further purports the idea tha it is not until the paradigm begins to fail - in this particular case, for instance, Michelson & Morley's repeatedly failed experiments- that a gateway is open for a "scientific revolution": in this case Einstein's theory of relativity.

But the very notion of paradigm is wholly in keeping with your concept of model 1 worldview, since the governing variable -the paradigm- is never challenged, on the contrary, if anything goes wrong, like Michelson & Morley's experiment, it is their fault; it is their choice of action strategies that has to be examined and changed over and over until their results confirm the governing variable: the paradigm.

However much we may regret it, the way social sciences, and particularly psy- sciences currently deal with theories about human behaviour is very much in keeping with the authoritarian model advanced by Argyris as the model 1 single-loop learning snare.

Given the sombre state of human affairs, the pervading influence of psychoanalysis on psychology bodes ill for essential future developments in this badly needed area in that it discourages rather than promote prosocial behaviour.

I have trained in psychoanalysis. I qualified as a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association back in 1983. So I can assure that within the realm of this world organization there is no possibility whatsoever to challenge any of Freud's fundamental postulates, e.g., his Edipus complex.

Having understood this, I started a search through several disciplines in order to find a different approach to tackling the problem of human mental development in health and ill-health.

Fortunately, I found a discipline-in-the-making which proved fruitful for both theoretical and practical purposes and developments: post-Lorenzian ethology.

Post-Lorenzian ethology deals with the study of animal behaviour under the theoretical framework of neodarwinism, or the synthetic theory of evolution contrived by a group of geneticists -Julian Huxley was an outstanding member of that group- back in 1931.

This theoretical framework has proved fruitful for research and practice in psychiatry and psychotherapy. And as I explain below, that is why I feel so involved in doing research concerning prosocial behaviour. There are significant correlations between early parent-infant bonding and the process of socialization in childhood and adulthood.

Other researchers have studied the process of early socialization adopting the ethological approach, eg. John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, Dan Stern. I buttress their assertions insofar as they focus on observational phenomena, whereas I am not prone to view the whole of their work - which they call Attachment Theory- under the same valid light.

I have undertaken a particularly difficult research project. We are trying to study mother-newborn interactions immediately after delivery. We are currently up against a host of cumbersome troubles, mainly related to prevailing social environmental conditions that make the gathering of the sample particularly hard to obtain.

Drawing on Bowlby's and Ainsworth's assertions about the onset of attachment behaviour, we learn that the average baby shows the first signs of proximity- sensitive feelings around the age of 6 months.

Now Daniel Stern (1985) has renewdly taken up the subject in his book 'The Interpersonal World of the Infant' where he elaborates on the fist stages of the senses of self which he calls the stage of the 'Emergent Self'. We think Stern's ideas about the emergent self to be contradictory with his own proposition that humans are social as from birth, and hence already manage the ability of intersubjective communication which he addresses at a much later stage in development.

We believe -and that is what we are trying to show in our study- that the newborn actively seeks interpersonal, intersubjective contact with his mother in the immediate postpartum. Moreover, the launching of this social connection is the only activity the newborn is interested in.

We are addressing what has typically been referred to as the period of 'Alert Inactivity' of the newborn, which many Early Developmentalists have observed and reported, and which has, up to now, been said to last at most 1 hour. This period we think is the sensitive period for the establishment of an attachment relationship with the baby's mother. It is our thesis that curtailment of this period by early separation or by lack of mother-infant connection retards the onset of overly attachment behaviour for at least 6 months.

Our work methodology roughly consists in: 1) Contact would-be mother during last quarter of pregnancy in order to reach an agreement on our observation procedures; 2) Coordination with medical staff surveying delivery; 3) Videofilm immediate postpartum mother-infant interactions for at least 1 hour; 4) Follow-up during the first year of life; 5) Strange Situation test at 12 months of age.

Argyris and Schon's theories on congruence and learning

Argyris and Schon's work over the past twenty years has been concerned with examining conscious and unconscious reasoning processes (Dick & Dalmau, 1990). This has precedents in the work of Freud and Jung; in models such as the Johari Window (Luft & Ingham in Hanson, 1973 p. 114), and in Rulla, Imoda and Rideck's (1978, in Dick and Dalmau, 1990) Ideal Self and Actual Self. It is based on the belief that people are designers of action. They design action in order to achieve intended consequences and monitor to learn if their actions are effective.

In other words, Argyris and Schon (1974) assert that people hold maps in their heads about how to plan, implement and review their actions. They further assert that few people are aware that the maps they use to take action are not the theories they explicitly espouse. Also, even fewer people are aware of the maps or theories they do use (Argyris, 1980).

To clarify, this is not merely the difference between what people say and do. Argyris and Schon suggest that there is a theory consistent with what people say and a theory consistent with what they do. Therefore the distinction is not between "theory and action but between two different theories of action" (Argyris, Putnam & McLain Smith, 1985, p.82). Hence the concepts Espoused theory and Theory-in-use:

Espoused theory The world view and values people believe their behaviour is based on

Theory-in-use The world view and values implied by their behaviour, or the maps they use to take action

To reiterate they are suggesting that people are unaware that their theories-in-use are often not the same as their espoused theories, and that people are often unaware of their theories-in-use.

They assert that these theories of action determine all deliberate human behaviour. An example from Argyris' (1987, p93) research may serve to clarify this distinction. When asked about how he would deal with a disagreement with a client, a management consultant responded that he would first state his understanding of the disagreement, then negotiate what kind of data he and the client could agree would resolve it. This represents his espoused theory (or the theory behind what he says) which is of joint control of the problem. A tape recording of the consultant in such a situation however, revealed that he actually advocated his own point of view and dismissed the client's. This indicated his theory-in use (or the theory behind what he did), which more closely approximates his unilateral control of the problem and a rejection of valid information exchange.

Argyris (1987, p93) suggests that one reason for insisting that what people do is consistent with a theory, is the contention that what people do is not accidental. People design the action that they take and are therefore responsible for the design. His assertion is that although they design the action they are often unaware of the design and of its difference from their espoused design.

This raises the question, if people are unaware of the theories that drive their action (Theories-in use), then how can they effectively manage their behaviour? Argyris (1980) suggests that effectiveness results from developing congruence between Theory-in-use and Espoused theory.

The models and conceptualisations developed by Argyris and Schon are for the purpose of helping people to be able to make more informed choices about the action they design and implement. To this end they have developed models which seek to explain the processes which create and maintain people's theory-in-use.

Models of theories-in-use

The construction Argyris andSchon developed in order to explain theories-in-use is shown in figure1

Figure 1. Model explaining the process of developing theories-in use.

 Action strategies are strategies used by the person to keep their governing values within the acceptable range.

These strategies will have consequences -which are both intended-- those the actor believes will result -- and unintended.

An example may help to illustrate this process. A person may have a governing variable of suppressing conflict, and one of being competent. In any given situation she will design action strategies to keep both these governing variables within acceptable limits. For instance, in a conflict situation she might avoid the discussion of the conflict situation and say as little as possible. This avoidance may (she hopes) suppress the conflict, yet allow her to appear competent because she at least hasn't said anything wrong. This strategy will have various consequences both for her and the others involved. An intended consequence might be that the other parties will eventually give up the discussion, thereby successfully suppressing the conflict. As she has said little, she may feel she has not left herself open to being seen as incompetent. An unintended consequence might be that the she thinks the situation has been left unresolved and therefore likely to recur, and feels dissatisfied. To sum up, we can see that there are a number of elements to Argyris and Schon's model which help explain how we link our thoughts and actions. These elements are:

1. Governing Variables (or values) 2. Action Strategies 3. Intended and unintended Consequences for self 4. Intended and unintended Consequences for others 5. Action strategy effectiveness.In this respect Argyris and Schon's work parallels, to some extent, the work of Dick and Dalmau (1990). They describe an 'information chain' to make sense of relationships and the information needed to resolve difficulties. This information chain was informed to some extent by the work of Argyris and Schon, and developed to explain and inform behaviour. The information chain is discussed here because the concepts are used in conjunction with Argyris and Schon's terminology throughout the dissertation. It was also used as a basis for explaining concepts to participants. The information chain and its relation to Argyris and Schon's concepts are outlined in Figure 2. The boxed area in Figure 2 represents the part of the process which usually remains undiscussed or implicit. It is this information about our beliefs, feelings and intentions, that is often necessary to solve relationship problems effectively. Similarly, it is this information on beliefs, feelings and intentions which Argyris (1974) refers to as helpful in producing valid information on which to base decisions. Figure 2. Argyris & Schon's concepts and their relation to Dick and Dalmau's information chain.
Argyris & Schon's Terminolology Chain
Dick & Dalmau's Information
Action Strategy (of the other person) Actions (of the other group/person)
Consequences (for you) Outcomes (What you feel obliged to do or prevented from doing)
Governing Values (in use) Beliefs (What you assume the other group is trying to achieve, as well as general beliefs)
Governing Values (in use) Feelings (how you sometimes feel when this happens)
Governing Values (espoused) Intentions (What you intend to do in response)
Action Strategy (your own) Reaction (What you actually do)
Consequences Outcomes (for you and others)
These conceptual frameworks have implications for our learning processes. As mentioned previously, the consequences of an action may be intended or unintended. When the consequences of the strategy employed are as the person intends, then there is a match between intention and outcome. Therefore the theory-in-use is confirmed. However, the consequences may be unintended, and more particularly they may be counterproductive to satisfying their governing values. In this case there is a mismatch between intention and outcome. Argyris and Schon suggest that there are two possible responses to this mismatch, and these are represented in the concept of single and double-loop learning.

Single-loop and Double-loop learning

It is suggested (Argyris, Putnam & McLain Smith, 1985) that the first response to this mismatch between intention and outcome is to search for another strategy which will satisfy the governing variables.

For example a new strategy in order to suppress conflict might be to reprimand the other people involved for wasting time, and suggest they get on with the task at hand. This may suppress the conflict and allow feelings of competence as the fault has been laid at the feet of the other party for wasting time. In such a case the new action strategy is used in order to satisfy the existing governing variable. The change is in the action only, not in the governing variable itself. Such a process is called single loop learning. See Figure 3.

Another possible response would be to examine and change the governing values themselves. For example, the person might choose to critically examine the governing value of suppressing conflict. This may lead to discarding this value and substituting a new value such as open inquiry. The associated action strategy might be to discuss the issue openly. Therefore in this case both the governing variable and the action strategy have changed. This would constitute double-loop learning. See Figure 3.

Figure 3. Single and double-loop learning

describes a situation where the norms of the system themselves are challenged and changed.

Double-loop learning is seen as the more effective way of making informed decisions about the way we design and implement action (Argyris, 1974).

Consequently, Argyris and Schon's approach is to focus on double-loop learning. To this end, they developed a model that describes features of theories-in-use which either inhibit or enhance double-loop learning. Interestingly, Argyris suggests that there is a large variability in Espoused theories and Action strategies, but almost no variability in Theories-in use. He suggests people may espouse a large number and variety of theories or values which they suggest guide their action. However Argyris believes that the theories which can be deduced from peoples' action (theories-in-use) seem to fall into two categories which he labels Model I and Model II.

The governing values associated with theories-in-use can be grouped into those which inhibit double-loop learning (Model I) and those which enhance it (Model II).

Models I and II

Model I is the group which has been identified as inhibiting double-loop learning. It has been described as being predominantly competitive and defensive (Dick & Dalmau, 1990). The defining characteristics of Model I are summarised in Table 1.

Argyris claimed that virtually all individuals in his studies operated from theories-in-use or values consistent with Model I (Argyris et al. 1985, p. 89). Argyris also suggests most of our social systems are Model I. This assumption implies predictions about the kinds of strategies people will employ, and about the resulting consequences. These predictions have been tested repeatedly by Argyris and not been disconfirmed (Argyris, 1982, Chap. 3), though I am unaware of studies by anyone other than Argyris which have tested these predictions.

Table 1. Model I theory-in-use characteristic

(very important) The governing Values of Model I are:

Primary Strategies are: Usually operationalised by: Consequences include: Taken from Argyris, Putnam & McLain Smith (1985, p. 89).

The Model I world view is a theory of single loop learning according to Argyris and Schon. Therefore Model I has the effect of restricting a person to single-loop learning. Being unaware of what is driving one's behaviour may seriously inhibit the likelihood of increased effectiveness in the long term.

Argyris (1980) suggests that (as mentioned previously) the primary action strategy of Model I is: unilateral control of the environment and task, and unilateral protection of self and others. The underlying strategy is control over others. Such control inhibits communication and can produce defensiveness. Defensiveness is a mechanism used in order to protect the individual. Model I theory-in-use informs individuals how to design and use defences unilaterally, whether to protect themselves or others, eg. "I couldn't tell him the truth, it would hurt him too much".

In order to protect themselves individuals must distort reality. Such distortion is usually coupled with defences which are designed to keep themselves and others unaware of their defensive reaction (Argyris, 1980). The more people expose their thoughts and feelings the more vulnerable they become to the reactions of others. This is particularly true if these others are programmed with Model I theory-in use and are seeking to maximise winning.

The assertion that Model I is predominantly defensive has another ramification. Acting defensively can be viewed as moving away from something, usually some truth about ourselves. If our actions are driven by moving away from something then our actions are controlled and defined by whatever it is we are moving away from, not by us and what we would like to be moving towards. Therefore our potential for growth and learning is seriously impaired. If my behaviour is driven by my not wanting to be seen as incompetent, this may lead me to hide things from myself and others, in order to avoid feelings of incompetence. For example, if my behaviour is driven by wanting to be competent, honest evaluation of my behaviour by myself and others would be welcome and useful.

In summary, Model I has been identified as a grouping of characteristics which inhibit double-loop learning. Model I is seen as being predominantly defensive and competitive, and therefore unlikely to allow an honest evaluation of the actor's motives and strategies, and less likely to lead to growth. Defensiveness protects individuals from discovering embarrassing truths about their incongruent or less-than-perfect behaviour and intentions. The actor further protects herself by reinforcing conditions such as ambiguity and inconsistency which help to further mask their incongruence from themselves and others. Becoming aware of this incongruence is difficult, as is doing something about it. According to Argyris and Schon (1974) this is due to the strength of the socialisation to Model I, and the fact that the prevailing culture in most systems is Model I. An added complication is that anyone trying to inform them of the incongruence is likely to use Model I behaviour to do so, and therefore trigger a defensive reaction (Dick and Dalmau, 1990).

Therefore, Model I theories-in-use are likely to inhibit double-loop learning for the following reasons. Model I is characterised by unilateral control and protection, and maximising winning. In order to maintain these, the actor is often involved in distortion of the facts, attributions and evaluations, and face-saving. Doing such things is not something we would readily admit we involve ourselves in. Therefore, in order to live with ourselves we put in place defences which hamper our discovery of the truth about ourselves. If we are unwilling to admit to our motives and intentions we are hardly in a position to evaluate them. As evaluating our governing values (which may be equated with intentions) is what characterises double-loop learning, Model I theories-in-use may be seen as inhibiting this process.

Despite all the evidence which suggests that peoples' theory-in-use is consistent with Model I, Argyris has found that most people hold espoused theories which are inconsistent with Model I. Most people in fact, espouse Model II, according to Argyris. The defining characteristics of Model II are summarised in Table 2.

Table 2. Model II

The governing values of Model II include:

Strategies include: Operationalised by: Consequences should include: No reason is offered for why most people espouse Model II, however it seems reasonable to assume that this is because Model II values are the more palatable in ,terms of the way we like to see our (Western) society. Freedom of Information Acts, the Constitution, America's bill of Rights, all seem to be drawing heavily from Model II values. Dick and Dalmau (1990) suggest that people often show a mix of Model I and Model II espoused theories. This seems probable, as most people will readily admit to being driven to win at least in some situations. Some professions in fact, are based almost entirely around the concept ofwinning and not losing, such as Law, sport and sales.

The behaviour required to satisfy the governing values of Model II though, are not opposite to that of Model I. For instance, the opposite of being highly controlling would be to relinquish control altogether. This is not Model II behaviour because Model II suggest _bilateral_ control. Relinquishing control is still unilateral, but in the other direction. Model II combines articulateness about one's goals and advocacy of one's own position, with an invitation to others to confront one's views. It therefore produces an outcome which is based on the most complete and valid information possible. Therefore,

"Every significant Model II action is evaluated in terms of the degree to which it helps the individuals involved generate valid and useful information (including relevant feelings), solve the problem in a way that it remains solved, and do so without reducing the present level of problem solving effectiveness." (Argyris, 1976, p21-22)

If we go back to the information chain model put forward by Dick and Dalmau (Fig 2), valid information has to do with expressing our beliefs, feelings and intentions (the boxed area in Fig 2).

Given the above considerations, the consequences for learning should be an emphasis on double-loop learning, in which the basic assumptions behind views are confronted, hypotheses are tested publicly, and processes are disconfirmable, not self-sealing. The end result should be increased effectiveness.



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