Progressing (vs. declining)

This primal is unusually concrete. Instead of describing a natural tendency to improve (which would be Regenerative) or how hard it is to improve (which would be Improvable), Progressing concerns whether the world is actually improving or getting worse. However, Progressing does not specify how the world is getting better or worse. That is up to the person.

By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been.

— Bill Gates, the Gates Annual Letter, 2014

The entire world is falling to ruin.

— Mad Hatter, Alice in Wonderland, 1951

Progressing is part of the big-three primal Safe.

Though all primals in our studies have been remarkably consistent over time, Progressing stood out for being very stable, even given the large and surprising political upsets in the United States over the last few years.

Progressing is also associated with voting behavior. Consider, if one thinks the world is getting worse, the natural and, indeed, ethical thing to do is to constrain change (be politically conservative). If one thinks the world is getting better, the ethical thing to do is to speed up change (be politically progressive). However, it’s worth noting that two other primals, Just and Hierarchical, have been found to be more predictive of political views and voting behavior.

While we suspect that most people are rarely aware of their own primals or debate them with others, Progressing might be an exception. For example, several academics have recently debated Progressing, including Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, who argued that the world is getting better in Better Angels published in 2015 and Enlightenment Now published in 2018. It remains entirely unclear if reading such books—or if any intellectualized approach to changing someone’s primals—actually changes them. 

Again, much more research is needed.