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World History and Societal Evolution: Historical Periods and Psychological Stages

Georg W. Oesterdiekhoff and Gerd Vonderach


Published: 2021/06/01


This essay combines historical research with developmental psychology and Piagetian Cross-Cultural Psychology. It will be shown that the empirical data that evidence major psychological differences between premodern and modern peoples can be applied to the study of history generally. The differences in mind, language, worldview, religion, literature, and sciences between pre-civilized peoples, archaic kingdoms, ancient civilizations, and modern industrial society can be connected to distinct differences in developmental stage. Data are presented that reveal a continuous rise in the final cognitive stage of adults through the four historical periods. Ancient Egypt lies in the middle between nature peoples and post-axial civilizations, in terms of developmental stages. The post-axial civilizations again are more developed than the archaic kingdoms, but less than modern industrial civilization. Stages of cognitive development can help us understand the distinctions of cultural development that historians make when comparing these cultures. Indeed, such a developmental approach may revolutionize the study of history.

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