The neurological levels are very useful for understanding change from an individual, social or organization point of view. They were proposed by anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1972, 1979). He defined a hierarchy of abstraction including beliefs, values and identity. He perceived relationships as having a higher abstraction than identity, and therefore influencing lower levels in the hierarchy, such as beliefs and behavior.
Six Logical Levels
- Spirituality/Purpose : What is my intention or purpose for this?
- Identity/Mission : Who am I to be?
- Beliefs and Values : What are my beliefs?
- Capabilities/Strategies : What am I capable of doing?
- Behaviours : What am I able to do?
- Environment : In what context does this behavior occur?
When looking at the pyramid diagram above; think that when adjusting a certain layer, this will reflect to all the layers below, but only to one above… You may change the enviroment for someone, but this will only have an affect on his/her behaviour. Yet if you would change his/her identity, then his beliefs will be touched too. This will reflect in a change direction towards certain capabilities and so on. The following example will help you shed some light on the theory above.
To gain an appreciation of how these logical levels work, assume it is 9:00 am and I am at my place of work (environment).
If I don’t want to be there, then I must change my behaviour. Some possible choices are: I could walk out. I could do cartwheels over to and out the door. I could start yelling and screaming – with the hope someone would take me out of the building. Etc.
The behaviour I select depends on my capabilities/strategies. If I am capable of performing cartwheels, then this is certainly a possibility. On the other hand, my strategy may be to have someone help me to leave (i.e. by yelling and screaming). Or, if I really don’t want to work there and need some source of income, my strategy might be to become ill so that I have a medical excuse and can go on long-term disability – know anyone who has done this – consciously or unconsciously?
The capability/strategy I choose will depend on my beliefs and values. If I believe that I can easily get another job to support my family, then becoming ill is not a choice for me.
My beliefs and values are determined by my identity. If I see myself as a successful person, then it is very possible that I would hold the belief that I can easily get another job or even create a business of my own.
My identity is dependent on my purpose in life – the impact that I wish to have on my community, etc.