The Four Stages of Thinking

Paul Lutus classified the Levels of Human Experience - where do you stand?
PsycholoGenie Staff
When we think of "the human experience", we too often think in terms of a college curriculum - Sociology, Anthropology, Art Appreciation, Music Theory, etc. But do these subjects really define what it means to be human? Sure, they offer a tour through the human psyche, something an alien visitor may find useful, but they don't really encapsulate what it means to be one of us, in our bodies and minds, from day-to-day.

A truer picture of the human experience would offer a glimpse into the inner working of our minds, how we view the world and process information. To that end, scientist Paul Lutus devised a simple (but not really) little hierarchy that maps out the four stages of thinking processes. We all possess all of them in differing amounts - our brains are capable of beautiful things. But whether we develop our full potential is another story - many people get stuck at one stage and refuse to progress out of fear.

The stages correspond to Greek letters - if you've read Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World, you'll recognize these designations as the citizen classifications - see where you would fit in.

Feelings - Delta Stage

Feelings are our most primitive way of thinking, yet they can be the source of some of life's most beautiful moments. Everyone has feelings, but when you operate solely upon feeling, you are far from understanding the world around you. Your life is boiled down to emotional responses, and you don't actually live your life - you simply react to what happens around you.

There is no reasoning, no adaptation, no accountability for your own choices and actions. You simply exist. Obviously, much more is required for a full human life.

Beliefs - Gamma Stage

In the belief stage, you have progressed beyond mere emotion and have latched onto a prescribed mode of thought. The easiest example is religion - you do what you're told because you're told it's the right thing to do. You don't ask "why", you don't require any evidence, you just follow along.

The things you hold dear are the things you've been taught to hold dear, and you use your faith to justify any action - after all, if your beliefs say it's right, it cannot be wrong. Some people become stuck in this stage, either because they simply don't know any other way, or because their faith fills a hole - if put through the rigor of scientific validation, many of their beliefs would fall flat, and then what would they think?

People stuck in the gamma stage are terrified of having to think for themselves because they are terrified of being wrong. By foisting the responsibility of their action onto their faith and leaders, they avoid moral consequences. When there is no leader to dictate behavior, the gamma is lost.

Facts - Beta Stage

Many, many more people get stuck in the beta stage. This is where a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing - betas want to see hard numbers, verifiable facts, and tend to "believe what they see". This is a step above the gamma stage, because at least betas look for truth. Problem is, they obsessively seek out truth and cling to it. When they learn an answer, that answer is the answer forever, and it is difficult to present the possibility of a different answer.

Betas know the "what", but not the "why". They memorize facts and statistics, but never the reasoning behind them - modern schools are often run this way, resulting in a generation of people who can regurgitate lectures and outlines but cannot reason their way out of a paper bag.

Ideas - Alpha Stage

The alpha stage is what gives rise to human genius. It's what happens when betas start asking "why?". It's the source of abstract thought - scientific and artistic creativity. Society advances through the work of the alphas, because they present new options and explore possibilities. Alphas are on the forefront of modern medicine and engineering, but they are also your five-year-old who follows up every question with "why"?

We all have ideas inside of us - we are all alphas. But when we grow too lazy, frustrated, apathetic or bored to ask "why", we stop advancing as a species. Humans got to be who we are because of our intelligence - let's use it.