Searching for Empirical Evidence/Studies to Substantiate Population Percentage Claims of Stages/Tiers

Greetings folks!
Working on a doctoral dissertation. I am trying to find empirical studies to substantiate the numbers frequently put forth by Wilber concerning the percentage of the population at each Stage/Tier. For example:

Wilber says in “Integral Psychology” (2000) beginning on p. 49: Beige 0.1% of adult population, Purple 10%, Red 20%, Blue 40%, Orange 30%, Green 10%, and then Second-tier 1%.

In “Integral Spirituality” (2006) 2nd-tier is said to be 2% (p. 196), Amber 40%, Orange 50%, Green 20%, and Turquoise 2% (p. 245).

Fast-forward some years to “Integral Meditation” (2016) and he states Amber 40%, Orange 50%, Green 25% (saying they don’t add up to 100% due to overlap) (p. 63), 2nd-tier is around 5% (p. 72), and 3rd-tier 1/10 of 1% (p. 75).

Can anyone point me to some studies that have been done to designate percentages at various Stages/Tiers?

Much gratitude…


I don’t have the information you’re looking for, however, you might be interested in knowing that some of us our discussing running online surveys to collect this information ourselves. We are looking for someone that can help us to formulate a scientifically informed approach to developing the questions. If this is something you can contribute to, please let us know.

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That’s awesome, Renee…if I may ask, what is the subject of your dissertation? Also which university are you studying at? Pardon my curiosity :wink:

Also, have you tried looking at Don Beck’s books/resources? He and his team may provide the empirical data on stage percentages that you are looking for. Other researches, such as Terri O Fallon and Susane Cook Greuter may have similar data available.

Best of luck!

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I remember Ken saying in an audio conversation that he was citing Robert Kegan’s more recent work. I would love to have the statistics published/made readily available. Any time I explain the Integral model to someone, this part always gets me because it is not something I can see or intuit. We are relying on the word of the authors, all of which I trust. Working as a clinician in evidence based medicine, I value statistics. Being able to see these stats would only help solidify my belief and backing of the Integral model. At times I have wondered about Ken’s gift in the Pre/Trans Fallacy. It is something he discovered through interactions with others and it is something I see so often. Given an individual can be at a center of development and also display or even fake characteristics of another level, how do we know this wasn’t done when researching. Is it possible that more people are at ego and ethnocentric levels than we thought? Are we too far away or closer to the tipping point than we thought? A link to those studies would be awesome! Great work Renee, I am looking forward to your results and anything else the Integral community can provide!


Nice! Though I certainly would not have the expertise for such. Sounds like a task more suited for someone in academia coming from a psychology or sociology department.

Hi HawaiianRyan…it is with Portland Seminary. Their spiritual formation program is not solely Evangelical in orientation, but weighs heavily in that direction. There is also mainline and progressive (Protestant) representation there as well. My dissertation is introducing the idea of practice circles being used for moving folks along towards unitive consciousness who have an Evangelical heritage/foundation.

Indeed I have been poking around and sending emails off to some of those folks. Thank you for confirming that I am covering the proper bases!


I hear you Jcyphert! I too ran across this about Kegan, but I cannot remember where. Maybe in Religion of Tomorrow??? In any event, some of the folks I have been in contact with that directly know Wilber have said there are no actual studies that he is using. “Voodoo statistics” was the term one person put forth; a term stolen from another person who also was looking at such things that he was talking with. That does become problematic as people then take Wilber at his word and propagate it as truth until a community of people begin assuming it true. It does much to hurt the credibility.

I too have had similar thoughts around the gathering of data for something like that. If a person knows cognitively that these different developmental levels presumably exist, does that then skew the results in that they give a cognitively ego-fueled set of answers when other aspects of their being are not representative of that level?

I’m curious about this one, too. There are some Spiral Dynamics tests out there, but they suffer from the typical self-reporting nature that can allow someone to skew a test like, say, the MBTI or Enneagram.

What I think would need to be developed for an accurate longitudinal study, if it is self-reported, is control questions that can gauge the level of honesty the test-taker is exhibiting. Such entries can then be excluded as outliers to get a more accurate review of the overall population breakdown.

I certainly don’t know how those types of questions could be worded, but I suspect there are some psychologists who have an idea since this is one of the big problems with self-assessment. I think there’s a lot of value in the Integral movement pursuing this given we can’t know we’re at that “tipping point” without valid data. Anything else is just a feeling; that feeling is also valid, but perhaps not something useful in making long-term predictions. “Voodoo statistics” is not going to cut it!

Moreover, I think it’s just as necessary for us to get data on whether or not we, as a world society, are regressing.


Yes, I completely agree! I have listened to all the old audios dating back some years. I remember in the past Ken was citing spiral dynamics a lot and the study Clare Graves did with a hundred or so college students. Now it is Kegan’s work. Or perhaps, just Kegan’s intuition as a teacher and researcher. It seems Ken is citing a general consensus of these researchers as opposed to large scale empirical research. I don’t necessary think that is best approach and we do need valid statistics. The subject matter, as you pointed out is difficult to test. Haha, I don’t ever see the possibility of gaining accurate stats without actually being able to hook people up to polygraph tests and see when they are lying. Also, based on the spiral dynamics model, those stages are in all of us and dependent on life conditions, so testing one day could be different from testing the same people a few months later. So problematic. The one thing I am starting to not put so much emphasis on is the tipping point and ushering in a whole new change in the world. Getting people to integral and letting it change the world might be a little ambitious and a desirable goal to Ken’s legacy, but I don’t think this will happen anytime soon. His work, him as a person, it is all so beautiful and a gift. I find value more in his other points and just bringing Integral together, an accomplishment I don’t have the words to describe how amazing and grateful I am he did it. I see more value in using models to help people have healthier translation to their stage of development as opposed to epic transformation. That has just been my thoughts recently. In that regards, the stats don’t matter that much to me as Ken’s work resonates with what I feel is the Good, the True and the Beautiful. At the same time, I still want those numbers and do hope those with the skills find time to keep developing tests and statistics!


Great points Renee! I commented to you and Russ below. Grateful for the time you took to respond and write. I wanted to offer some more thoughts!

I’m actually interested in perhaps developing this test, but I’m not sure what materials exist to design one that has some controls to discern the level of honesty from a response. Does anyone in the community know of any resources on Amazon or the web that might help?


I’m not sure how to determine honesty, but something you might want to do is establish that the results from the test you create correlate with the results from the longer format techniques that are used in the published scientific literature for whichever lines of development the questions from the test are meant to measure. The only way I can think of to do that is to give the same individuals both the easier to take test that you design and the more arduous to administer test that is used in the scientific literature to see how they relate. You maybe could even get a grant and some university participation for doing the study.

Perhaps a single questioner could be developed that asks questions that relate to several different lines of development.

If the survey correlates well with the techniques from the scientific literature and it is available online, I think it could really raise awareness of Integral thought in the general population.

A related idea I had was to generate something like a wiki database where people could describe an injunction and the phenomenology of the observations following the injunction is meant to produce. People who follow the injunction could then indicate if it worked for them or not. This could produce a probability rating for each injunction so that people will have access to an estimate of how effective a particular injunction is at producing a particular observation.The four quadrants would be a guide here since some injunctions might include individual or group actions that need to be taken “internally” or “externally”. Perhaps some injunctions would actually be a collection of injunctions that must be performed in different quadrants for the observation to occur.


A tipping point holds as a prerequisite having some valid stats to know where things truly tip. Honestly, I wouldn’t care either way except that I was wondering whether or not the claims would hold up with a Defense Committee for a dissertation. Obviously they will not and I will need to circumnavigate the unscientific data. Somehow that makes me shed an internal tear. There are many good things about the Integral framework, but this kind of thing hurts the cause; shooting things in one’s own foot. :frowning:

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a word on honesty - I am trained in Spiral Dynamics, and actually took an undergrad course from Clare Graves back in the day. Graves and Beck both would make the point that self-reporting in their values questionnaire/surveys is exactly the point. You are reporting what makes you a happy and healthy individual.

Renee, can you say what academic department you are working in for your Ph.D.? Your advisor may have views on the “honesty” question.

also let me know if you are interested in pointers to current practitioners in the Spiral Dynamics community - i think there may be recent quantitative work in the Netherlands in particular.


Renee, FYI here’s a link to a PhD thesis from 1991, a disciple of both Graves and Beck. not on point to your work, but a PhD in the space at least. :

So sorry for the delay in responding. Somehow the email notification ended up in my spam box which I was just checking.

I am doing a Doctor in Ministry in Leadership & Spiritual Formation at Portland Seminary. In other words, honesty is a strong core value in most seminary settings.

I am aware of there being quantitative work in the Netherlands, although you may have different references than I have stumbled across. And thank you for the link to the 1991 thesis!!!

here’s one source, the closest there is to an academic journal, though not peer reviewed.

here’s a Dutch practitioner who i think has done some research on your ask, but i can’t find online

You might contact Auke at that site - there’s a contact link there.

Again, MUCH gratitude! Interesting PDF. I am continually struck by how people coming from the Graves lineage seem to be much more conservative/cautious in saying individuals and collectives are less developed than Wilber painting a picture that “appears” his personal interest is off in Third Tier while much more is starting to emerge in Second Tier than Graves and others suggest. BTW, I was not aware of ValueMatch so that lead is appreciated!

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Please note that the stats given by Wilber might add up to more than 100%. In Integral Psychology, for example, the total is 111,1%!

I have discussed this around that time with him but he defended the figures by saying that some people might be in intermediate stages.

This struck me as weird, for even if the granularity may change, the totals should always equal 100%. You can slice a cake in different ways but it remains the same cake.

As far as I can tell the Spiral Dynamics data round 1996 were educated guesses by the authors.

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HI Frank, I know you as a critic of Wilber, was on your email list for a while but haven’t seen messaging in a while? I was briefly a Graves student, and he administered tests to all his students, plus corporate clients, for about 20 years, and so had some data (I am working w Union College to make his archives available for researchers.) He said at the time that his data reflected a gradual shift even in that time period with more individuals in F-S (Green) stage relative to previous stages. I suspect Beck has a large data base from all his trainings, where he administered a Values Test, and so I’ve also been asking around if that exists. I’m not familiar with Integral Training, so don’t know if similar tests were administered.

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