Spiral and Helical Models for Psychology: Leaving Linearity Behind


We suggest that theoretical models in the social sciences would benefit from uses of nature’s images that map the complexity of the phenomena to be investigated. Such abstractions would better maintain the open-systemic character of the psychological and social phenomena in all their complexities. Particularly central in such complexities are dynamic catalytic processes that are operating in wholistic fields of psychological systems such as self, identity, and values Theoretical models taken from the mechanical realms of computational processes fail to capture these constantly changing and often nebulous fields. In particular, we analyze the promises of two abstract forms based on nature—spiral and helix—as providing temporal structure for understanding basic higher psychological functions, using the dialogical self theory as an example. The focus of that theory on dialogicality between I-positions in their transition through ruptures of the whole system is best fitted with nonlinear field-dependent models. For all systems of complex dynamic wholes kind, theoretical field models emulating various biocynotic systems (“meadow,” “mychorrea,” etc.) would constitute a new direction in theoretical advancement in the human sciences.

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    Interestingly, the branch uniting the spiral outgrowths that was characteristic of Ancient Greek and Roman ornaments disappeared in Byzantine versions of ornamenting practices. The psychological significance of such ever-present patterns indicates the curvilinear nature of human internal affective processes (Valsiner, 2018).

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    Blühende Natur” describable as plants, animals, waters, and rocks. Which means all-natural complex that is part of the earth's surface.

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    Unbelebte Natur” definable as everything, from physical and chemical forces to biological organism, that exists or develops in organic and inorganic phenomena without human intervention.


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We want to acknowledge the second author’s laptop that made the development of the dialectical ideas in this article so solid and did not let us down.


The author received no financial support for the research and publication of this article, it stands on its own as a virginal creative act that is often the case in contemporary academia.

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Correspondence to Marc Antoine Campill.

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Campill, M.A., Valsiner, J. Spiral and Helical Models for Psychology: Leaving Linearity Behind. Hu Arenas (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42087-021-00194-2

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  • Spiral
  • Helix
  • Nonlinearity
  • Hyper generalized sign-field
  • Identity
  • I-positioning
  • Organic metaphors
  • Polysemic multivoice
  • Self-identification meadow