Crister Nyberg


Integrative complexity (IC) refers to a psychological construct, a measurement, and an experience. As a construct IC refers to our less than conscious thinking style in the face of difference or disagreement, how we process information, make decisions, solve problems. The cross-culturally validated empirical measurement frame of IC has predictive values. ’Low IC’ indicates a simple thinking style that is rigid and closed, a ’tunnel vision’ way of thinking that cannot respect or recognize different dimensions or perspectives on a topic, predicting destructive conflict or violence. An increasingly complex thinking style is able to ’see the big picture’, to differentiate and then integrate different dimensions and perspective on topics, linking them in some way, predicting more peaceful outcomes to conflict. As an experience, IC refers to less or more awareness of thoughts, emotion, and physical states in self and others related to IC management. The IC Thinking Research Group (University of Cambridge) pioneered the ’operationalization’ of the IC measure into an educational method, program and professional practices. The coding system i.e. empirical measurement frame, has been developed further to take elaborative aspects into account. The two components of complex thinking, differentiation and integration can each be broken down in two sub-components, elaborative and dialectical. In order to clarify the pros and cons of integrative complexity theory and its further developments in IC Thinking, it is useful to investigate its philosophical background. The theory and its applications are essentially dealing with language and the skill to use words or concepts. However it should be noted that besides the skills an essential part of the theory and its applications deals with our unconscious processes that are not explicitly controllable. An alternative for a philosophy of language behind the theory of integrative complexity is to consider an application of the use theory of meaning to explain its central components. Minimalist theory of fiction (MTF) was developed to explain the philosophical problems of fiction, but can also be applied to integrative complexity. Using words in different situations requires an ability to read contextual cues in order to follow the correct rules for the uses of words in particular contexts[1]. From these philosophical grounds, the theory of integrative complexity (IC) appears as a totality of the language games people are playing. One may be limited to one game, which means separating oneself from others, considering this game to be ultimately defining the correct uses of words. When one recognizes alternative games going on, it means reaching higher levels of IC. What is crucial is that this does not require a person to reject their core beliefs, since they may still be true. This approach challenges IC theory to improve its coding system but also offers possibilities for further developments and applications.

[1] This ability, ’sensitivity to context’, is a key part of the IC management capacity.


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