WAPLT? Evolutionary Phases and Neuropsychological Stages

One important theoretical aspect of Millon’s bioevolutionary model of personality is that the survival functions develop over the course of each individual’s life as well as over the course of evolution. Thus we can see as young humans grow, they gain competence with each of the survival functions. Since these are the primary functions we develop, they structure personality. We see this in children’s progressive development of their personalities, which takes place in these stages. This table provides an overview of the correspondences.

(Millon 2011 94)

In essence, the survival functions justify the role in the Evolutionary Model, as human life survives via these eight aims. They are labeled as “evolutionary phases” because they also map to phases our pre-human ancestors went through to give birth to humanity. There’s then a holographic relation between these phases and corresponding developmental stages in each individual life.

As the infant grows and develops, the need for trust and reliance on others remains strong. The child’s growing awareness of the world and the people in it is shaped by the quality of early attachment relationships. The development of a positive and trusting attitude toward others is dependent on the consistency of nurturing and responsive behaviors exhibited by caretakers. Children who experience a lack of consistency and support may develop a deep sense of mistrust and wariness of others. This can lead to difficulties in forming positive relationships and in experiencing pleasure and fulfillment in social interactions.

Early experiences of trust and mistrust carry into later life, affecting the quality of future relationships. Positive attachment relationships in childhood lead to trusting and supportive relationships in adulthood, while negative or inconsistent ones may lead to difficulty forming positive relationships and trust issues. Trust is also essential for successful therapeutic relationships, and those who cannot trust their therapists may find it challenging to engage in therapy or benefit from it.

It is important to note that while early experiences play a crucial role in shaping an individual’s trust/mistrust tendencies, they are not set in stone. With the right interventions and support, individuals can learn to trust and form healthy relationships even if they have experienced early mistrust

During the next stage, children develop a sense of autonomy and independence as they learn to explore and interact with the world around them. However, this newfound independence can also lead to conflicts with parents and other authority figures who may try to limit their freedom. These conflicts can have a significant impact on the child’s developing personality and self-esteem.

If children are encouraged to explore and express themselves, they may develop a sense of initiative and confidence. However, if they are overly restricted or punished for their exploratory behavior, they may develop feelings of guilt and shame, leading to a sense of inadequacy and a lack of initiative.

In summary, the sensorimotor-autonomy stage is a critical period of development where children learn to assert their independence and explore their environment. The quality of their experiences during this stage can have a significant impact on their sense of self and their ability to navigate the social world in later years.

During adolescence, peers play a crucial role in shaping the individual’s self-concept and self-esteem. They serve as sources of validation, acceptance, and emotional support, providing a sense of belonging and identity. Peer groups also offer opportunities for experimentation and exploration, allowing adolescents to test out different social roles, behaviors, and attitudes. Through interactions with peers, adolescents learn social skills such as negotiation, compromise, and conflict resolution, which are essential for establishing and maintaining relationships in adulthood. However, peer influence can also lead to negative behaviors such as substance abuse, delinquency, and risky sexual behavior, especially if the peer group promotes these behaviors as normative. Therefore, it is important for parents, educators, and health professionals to monitor and guide adolescent peer relationships to promote positive social development and prevent negative outcomes.

This final developmental stage, often referred to as identity formation or ego identity, is characterized by a sense of coherence and stability in one’s self-concept. Individuals who have successfully navigated the previous developmental stages and have formed a positive sense of identity are more likely to have positive outcomes in terms of mental health, interpersonal relationships, and achievement. On the other hand, those who struggle with identity formation may experience confusion, anxiety, and difficulty in making important life decisions. (95)

I want to emphasize the connection between the neuropsychological stages and our immediate environment. While these stages correspond to developmental processes that take place throughout our entire lives, their relevance and degree of plasticity change depending on the societies we live in. In the United States around 2020, there is a prevalent sense of distrust and confusion regarding pleasure and pain aims, which can complicate these stages. Communications technologies have fundamentally changed how we relate to ourselves and others. Growing up, I noticed a divide between my childhood and adolescent years marked by the influx of social media. Even now my older friends often do not fully understand how my younger friends communicate with each other, and vice versa. This generational flux is happening faster than a biological generation, and my reading vindicates my observations. Changing trends in sexual orientation and gender identity also suggest interesting developments in the influence of culture on this stage of development. Finally, I find the most interesting cases of brains and brains-as-minds to be those that defy the expectations set by normal understandings, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and other conditions that manifest as intracortical disintegration and thus relate to the developmental goal of balancing emotion and reason. Millon unfortunately did not include the feeling and thinking polarities in his explanation of each personality disorder, but clearly imbalances and conflicts in these polarities describe a lot of further variation in personality and explanation for the traits of each personality.

3 responses to “WAPLT? Evolutionary Phases and Neuropsychological Stages”

  1. […] Evolutionary Phases and Neuropsychological Stages […]


  2. […] we proceed, it may be helpful to consider each personality as a style of ecological adaptation resulting from the interplay of biological dispositions and early learning. For individuals with disorders like schizoid personality disorder there may be a constitutional […]


  3. […] for ecological adaptations that reflect different ways of dealing with life circumstances based on both innate dispositions and early learning. When we talk about disordered personalities, we are referring to maladaptive modes of ecological […]


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