Self-assertive and integrative tendencies and the connection to the BAD/SET mindsets

I’ve just started reading Capra & Luigi Luisi (2014), in large part because I think that the shift in scientific thinking they apparently describe in the book may have some useful insights for BAD/SET mindsets and trying to understand and improve digital learning.

In the first chapter they propose

two tendencies – the self-assertive and the integrative – are both essential aspects of all living systems. Neither of them is intrinsically good or bad. What is good, or healthy, is a dynamic balance; what is bad, or unhelathy, is imblance – overemphasis on one tendency and neglect of the other. When we look at our modern industrial culture, we see that we have overemphasized the self-assertive and neglected the integrative tendencies

A perspective that echoes the point @damoclarky and I made in conjunction with digital learning and the BAD/SET mindsets

Capra and Luigi Luisi (2014) then present a table that compare and contrast the two tendencies and their “thinking” and “values”. I’ve split it into two separate

“Thinking” comparison of self-assertive and integrative tendencies (adapted from Capra and Luigi Luisi (2014)
Self-assertive Integrative
rational intuitive
analysis synthesis
reductionist holistic
linear nonlinear
“Values” comparison of self-assertive and integrative tendencies (adapted from Capra and Luigi Luisi (2014)
Self-assertive Integrative
expansion conservation
competition cooperation
quantity quality
domination partnership

They go onto suggest that

  • self-assertive values are generally associated with men
  • the self-assertive tendency is most effectively implemented within hierarchy
  • the integrative tendency aims more towards empowering others
  • best achieved within a network, rather than a hierarchy


Capra, F., & Luigi Luisi, P. (2014). The Systems View of LIfe: A Unifying Vision. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

2 thoughts on “Self-assertive and integrative tendencies and the connection to the BAD/SET mindsets

  1. So I have the book and I’m confused that Koestler is not mentioned. I know he could drift towards the loony at times, but here’s a quote form 1968:

    This idea of unity-in-diversity can be followed all the way back to the Pythagorean ‘Harmony of the Spheres’,* and the Hippocratics’ ‘sympathy of all things’: ‘there is one common flow, one common breathing, all things are in sympathy’. The doctrine that everything in the universe hangs together, partly by mechanical causes, but mainly by hidden affinities (which also account for apparent coincidences), provided not only the foundation for sympathetic magic, astrology and alchemy; it also runs as a leit-motif through the teachings of Taoism and Buddhism, the neo-Platonists, and the philosophers of the early Renaissance. It was neatly summed up by (among many others) Pico della Mirandola, A.D. 1550:

    Firstly there is the unity in things whereby each thing is at one
    with itself, consists of itself, and coheres with itself. Secondly,
    there is the unity whereby one creature is united with the others
    and all parts of the world constitute one world. [35]

    In the terms of the present theory, the first half of the above quotation reflects the working of the self-assertive, the second of the self-transcending or integrative tendency, on a universal level.

    This division is mentioned over multiple books for a decade…

  2. Pingback: The ‘wickedness’ of student attrition and retention | Col's Weblog

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