Threesology Research Journal
"Three" in Psychological Research
page 4

(The Study of Threes)

If criminal activity is an expression of an individual who is "stuck" or in transition with respect to what might be called a "Terrible Two's" developmental orientation, our methods of prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation must accommodate the realization that each individual passes through a 1-patterned, 2-patterned, and 3-patterned world view under normal circumstances given ideal genetic, nutritional, and environmental conditions. Educators also must realize that beyond the "3" is the 3 to 1 ratio view that some students are no doubt experiencing but have no social reference for except in eclectic approximations which present themselves in abstruse and esoteric ways as to be misinterpreted as weird, strange, alien, crazy, insane, otherworldly, inter-dimensional, bizarre, eccentric, evil, youth-created-fictions, drug induced, (or even creative genius by those who are more open-minded to alternative views, and applications thereof).

3 "Quests" are expected to be accomplished by those juveniles who are enrolled in Vision Quest. It is a private program designed to rehabilitate "hard-core juvenile delinquents through positive experiences and physical challenges in the wilderness" involving a "rite-of-passage" similar to that used by the Crow and Cheyenne Indians:

  1. Working with wild horses & stubborn mules
  2. A 6-month wagon train experience.
  3. An 8-week program of training wild mustangs.

3 basic objectives attained by the design of the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program:

  1. To measure the extent, fluctuation distribution, and nature of serious crime in the U.S.
  2. To measure the total volume of serious crime known to police.
  3. To show the activity and coverage of law enforcement agencies through arrest counts and police employee strength data.

3 social group categories: Cultural ~ Subcultural ~ Counter-cultural

3 types of juvenile gangs characterized by delinquent activities:

  1. Crime-oriented.
  2. Conflict-oriented.
  3. Retreatist-oriented. (Richard Cloward & Lloyd Ohlin, 1960)

Albert Cohen (1955) reported lower class boys who aspire to increased social status in a dominant, middle class value system correspond in one of three ways:

  1. College-boy response.
  2. Corner-boy response.
  3. Delinquent-boy response.

3 categories of juvenile delinquency (Theodore Ferdinand, 1966): Impulsive ~ Neurotic ~ Symptomatic

3 pathways

Percentage of General Sample of Delinquents Whose Development Corresponded to the Developmental Pathways, Serious and Violent Delinquents:

National Youth Survey:
x2 = 8.026, p < .05 General Delinquents Serious Delinquents Violent Delinquents
Follow pathways: 84 89 91
Don't follow pathways: 16 11 11
Total: 100 100 100
Chicago Youth Development Study:
x2 = 3.977, ns General Delinquents Serious Delinquents Violent Delinquents
Follow pathways: 91 82 87
Don't follow pathways: 9 18 13
Total: 100 100 100

The "Three Pathways" illustration and table information are from pages 79 & 81 of the book "Serious & Violent Juvenile Offenders," edited by Rolf Loeber and David P. Farrington. The Three Pathways model is said to be more than 80% effective, yet what do we as a society need to do to improve our ability towards prediction, prevention, and elimination of problem behavior and delinquency? Perhaps those who are truly sincere in their efforts at confronting juvenile (as well as adult) delinquency, should examine their efforts from a 1~ 2~ 3 maturational development perspective. It is clear that pattern-of-three ideas are being used to analyze problem behavior, but it is rarely recognized that many problem behaviors stem from a two-patterned perspective that has developed within the structural domain of a 1~ 2~ 3 sequence.

3-patterned representation of Domains and trait specification for the five Orpheus major scales:

Domain Orpheus Big-five trait
(notice patterns-of-two)
Social Fellowship Extraversion vs. Introversion
Organizational Authority Tough-mindedness vs. Agreeableness
Intellectual Conformity Conventionality vs. Openness-to-experience
Emotional Emotion Neuroticism vs. Confidence
Perceptual Detail Conscientiousness

--- A review of the book Race and IQ, edited by Ashley Montagu, 1999 ---

In 1993 the National Research Council came out with a book entitled "Understanding and Preventing Violence." On page 42 is discussed the difficulties of measuring patterns of violence in American society. In their own words, "There is no single way to define, classify, and measure the domain of violent events, because each counting system involves some evaluation of people's observations and reports of what they perceive as violent events. Any set of crime statistics, therefore, is based on events that are defined, captured, and processed by some institutional means of collecting and counting."

In the foregoing, I underlined the two examples of three-patterned 'within-a-sentence' notations to help in the acknowledgment of how patterns-of-three can be used as a recurring phenomena in written texts that are striving for clarity and objective reporting. In other words, if there is a frequent unconscious usage of three-patterned descriptives, where is the objectivity, clarity and persuasiveness of our comments if that which we are analyzing has an underlying two-patterned predominance? Are we superimposing a left hemisphere attribute (of three- patterned Logic) on occurrences of right hemispheric two-patterned preferences? Are we obscuring the existence of a two-patterned predominant orientation amongst the criminal population by the predominant usage of a three-patterned formulation?

On page 43 it is stated that there is no national profile of all the violent events with which they were concerned. However, they used three nationwide measurement systems because such systems count and classify various components. The three systems are:

  1. The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
  2. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)
  3. The National Crime Survey (NCS)

Although there are other sub-national data bases used in violence research, the point to be made is that a pattern-of-three major criteria formula has been used in an attempt to analyze a social circumstance. It is a circumstance that needs to be looked at from the perspective of a 1~ 2~ 3 maturational development sequence in order to appreciate how those with a predominant three-patterned perspective who are unaware of a 1~ 2~ 3 maturational development sequence, can redefine a preferentially occurring two-patterned formula into a three-patterned structure in an attempt to enhance comprehension.

Comparison of Violence Measurement Systems
System: National Crime Survey Uniform Crime Reports National Mortality Statistics
Source Sample of U.S. Households Incident reports of participating police agencies Death certificates
Domain Non-fatal violent victimizations of persons aged 12+ Violent crimes known to police including homicides and violence during crimes against organizations Homicides
Unit of Count Most serious victimization during event Most serious crime during event Deaths
Timing Events occurring in 6-month reference period
  • Published annually with 10- to 12-month lag
  • Collected contemporaneously
  • Published annually
  • Collected contemporaneously
  • Published annually, with 2-year time lag
Sources of Discretion/
  • Respondent recall, construction as victimization, and choice to recount
  • Interviewer judgment
  • Agency rules for counting
  • Victim/witness decision to report to police and discretionary police detection
  • Police determination that crime occurred
  • Counting rules
Medical examiner judgment

The national Research Council correctly identified the need to link diverse fields of knowledge in a manner that provides a strong theoretical base on which to build prevention, intervention, and (I would add exploration) programs. Unfortunately, they have not recognized that the "manner" to be a 1 ~ 2 ~ 3 maturational development sequence.

From the perspective that genetics, physiology, as well as mental behavior (along with an "emergent" consciousness) proceeds along a 1~ 2~ 3 maturational development sequence, there are serious limitations to the foregoing type of procedural analyses. Particularly when we encounter a recurring reference to the usage of three- patterned criteria that are not recognized as a by-product formulation of that which is being studied. Both the NCS and UCR data produce national counts of three types of non-fatal crimes:

  1. Forcible Rape
  2. Robbery
  3. Aggravated Assault

However, the National Research Council did recognize how judgments affect national profiles by mentioning the clear example of how the NCS (National Crime Survey) classifies "Series Victimizations":

"Whenever a respondent recalls "more than three" fairly similar victimizations and is unclear about the precise number or details of each one, the policy is to publish series victimization statistics, ascribing the characteristics of the most recent victimization to all events in the series. Each event in the NCS series would be counted in UCR statistics provided that the police had knowledge of the incident."

Though in this instance the wording is "more than three" , another writer might use "four or more," "three or less," "no more than two," etc.. In each of these examples the point of demarcation is the "three" whether or not this numerical value is directly stated. In another culture where an other-than predominant three-patterned based Indo-European presence or influence is used, a different numerical value may be referenced explicitly (or implicitly) depending on the context and audience.

It should be mentioned that early man's counting systems had the value "3" as a point of departure from the "one" and "two" values. In terms of cognitive development, humanity's usage of numerical values to represent quantities experienced successive stopping points that were not transcended until human mentality was transformed. This transformation may have resulted from singular or multiple events on the social, environmental, or (and) physiological domains of maturation similar to those (three-patterned) stages we find in vocal development from crying, through babbling, to word usage. Thus, it can be suggested, that our present usage of repeating the "Three" value in various fields of endeavor, may represent that present day Humanity is at a threshold that may or may not be transcended depending on how we educate our children. Are we to continue to teach them in variations of the old Three R's (Reading ~ R'iting ~ R'ithmetic) fashion, or adopt a teaching philosophy based upon a 1~ 2~ 3 maturational development sequence methodology?

In still other instances, where a "more than three" referencing formula is used, we can sometimes find a 3 to 1 ratio underlying the structural or definition dimensions that can be obscured because of the presence of patterns-of-two (dichotomies). For example, a macro/micro reference may be used by some writers as a singular category though it is in fact a representation of a pattern-of-two. Then again, other examples of dichotomies such as higher/lower, positive/negative, black/white, young/old, weak force/strong force, etc., may be emphasized as indications of polarized opposites, yet they are in fact singular accounts of three separate items being referenced at a given moment. In yet another example, a reference to a four-directions concept obscures the fact that our language describes a 3 to 1 ratio in that we say North, South, East, and West, with the "and" a point of demarcation between the first 3 items and the singular item which follows.

In other words, a writer may using examples of patterns-of-two (or two by two) in an overall three-patterned context of expository writing. And even if 10, 50, or 1000 examples are being listed, there is no actual intellectual representation of thinking beyond a pattern-of-three category in a true developmental sense. Take for example the categories commonly used to describe different sizes of clothing:

(1) Small
(2) Medium
(3) Large

There is no actual individually-labeled size that represents the notion of being more than the (3rd) last size. We do not have a separately-named label for any size beyond "Large." Instead, we repeat ourselves in a pseudo-numerical fashion by using letters, instead of numbers:

(1) X- Large
(2) XX- Large
(3) XXX- Large

And while it is taken for granted by most readers, let me state the obvious by saying that we do not reference sizes that are smaller than "Small" by using similar X, XX, XXX, symbols (or any symbols for that matter), as we do in the "Large" size category. One example that might be offered to indicate a smaller size is the usage of the word "Premolar" that indicates a tooth that is not a "full grown" molar. And yet, from another perspective, the usage of the word "premolar" gives the average person the indication that the tooth gives some semblance of a molar but is not quite one, just as an adolescent is "almost" an adult.

The use of X's to indicate a larger quantity is like primitive man's usage of making notches on a stick, or scrawling lines on a stone, or tying knots on a rope. (Present-day rulers are commonly made of wood with lines on them which are symbolic of early man's notches.) However, we don't use a separate word category. We repeat the usage of the word "Large."

This is similar to early man's attempts to develop words for higher number-related quantities. When early man reached a point in stoppage of mental development, however brief or long enduring the transitional experience, this was reflected in repeating a lower number that was frequently combined with other lower numbers/words to represent quantities higher than two, or three...etc., such as 1 + 1= 2; 1 + 2= 3; 1 + 3= 4... Such is the case with our present numerical system where the number 9 (as a representation of three 3's), is a stoppage point and that in our attempts to go beyond the 3 X 3 formula, we repeat ourselves by combining previously used numerical values. In other words, we are at a transitional point of the "3" in our cognitive development. No matter how many times we add another "3" to the initial three, a third "3" represented by an individualized symbol "9" or word "nine," is still a three in the sense of a maturational- cognitive development that grows along a 1~ 2~ 3 sequence.

The number "4" is not a higher quantity than "3," but merely represents a reference to the beginning of another set of three. The number "7," however sacred and mystical some may hold it, is not a higher value than "6," it merely represents the beginning of a third set of "3." Hence, humanity's repeated usage of the three numbers 3~ 4~ 7 in various contexts with numerous interpretations of meaning, are merely points of reference to rather poignant moments of experiencing transitional stages in cognitive development. In an extension of this, we find additional ulterior meanings/references given to numerical points of beginning another set-of-three: base 10 ~ unlucky 13 ~ sweet 16, etc... On the other hand, references to the end point of a set-of-three, such as the number "3," also provide us with ulterior associations in various cultural settings: some children start school at age "6"~ all numbers stop at "9"~ a baker's dozen is "12," etc...

While any number may have some ulterior, non-numerical reference, we should consider the ulterior meaning not only as a culturally-imposed attenuation, but as a possible symbolic reference to some former physiological experience. However, the number "4" does not represent more than three, and the number "7" does not represent more than six in terms of an overall cognitive development. There is no "4th" set-of-three as a distinct representation with a separate identity from the previous three sets of "3." Instead, we repeat the usage of the previous separate numerical identities such as by placing a "1" with a "0" to arrive at a numerical value called "ten." While we do use a different word, there is not a separately identifiable number symbol. In other words, we are repeating series of sets-of-three. This orientation towards a "three" is magnified to some degree by our usage of a comma after three numerical placements to indicate another series of three called thousands.

This "three-oriented" behavior, found in various contexts, suggests there is an underlying 1~ 2~ 3 maturational development sequence taking place with the human species. It's not that we can't count higher than "3," it's just that our usage of a reference to a larger quantity may inhibit a wide-spectrumed approach at analyzing diverse data that are otherwise lumped uselessly together under some heading that describes such examples as variables. Let us not use the number 4 (or any number, word, symbol) as an artificially created value to suggest we have achieved some measure of a desirable state of Transcendence over a three-patterned cognitive substrate in an attempt to appear more detailed in an analysis of a social/behavioral circumstance that reflects an underlying genetic-based 1~ 2~ 3 maturational development sequence. In other, more colloquial terms, "more is not always better."

It is said that Criminal Psychologists have profiled a tendency of criminals to portray a child's perception of the world with adult labels. It also has been said that criminals are like two year olds because they harbor an attitude described (in a three-patterned way) as "I want what I want when I want it," which is clearly characteristic of the criminal's typical two-patterned "All or Nothing" approach illustrated by the phrase "I want it all or I want no part of it (but neither can you if I can't have it").

The three-patterned repetition "I want what I want when I want it" that is used as an imposed description upon two-patterned oriented (criminal) individuals, serves to camouflage the differences in thinking processes between the criminal and non-criminal. By imposing three-patterned (unconsciously) preferred descriptions on individuals with a two-patterned preferred orientation, such a three-patterned preferred cognitive grouping perspective obscures confirmation of what our common-sense notions about criminals say, namely, that they think differently from non-criminals. It is a necessary distinction that we continually trip over like some branch in a forest that we step on and cause ourselves to stumble, thus distracting us from recognizing that we need to adopt a whole new spectrum of rehabilitation measures based upon a 1 ~ 2 ~ 3 maturational development sequence.

In considering the idea that Criminals do in fact harbor a preferential pattern-of-two world view and that non-criminals harbor a preferential pattern-of-three world view whether or not any of them are aware of such or that someone's particular world view may be in an intermittently expressed transitional state between the different world views, it is interesting to think that such a separation of points of view were exhibited in humanity's past in a variety of forms, such as the following illustration shows:

Roman dicers from a fresco at Pompeii, playing what is thought to be an early version of backgammon. The cartoon-like captions above their heads describe a disputed call: the man on the left cries, "i've won!" while the one on the right objects, claiming, "it's not a three, it's a two."

roman dicers

Analogously, the two characters can be viewed as the Right & Left hemispheres of the brain. The right adamantly refuses to acknowledge the left's claim to a 3 and insists that the "3" the left sees is actually a 2. If the overall purpose of the "game" (life) is to achieve a "3" and yet there is a claim from some for a preponderance of "2" (with all its various guises), do we try to change the rules of the "game" or create a teaching methodology which enables the distinctions of "2" and "3" to be made identifiable and useful from all vantage points? (Even if the purpose of the game is defined by Earth-specific environmental circumstances?) The social problems created by an underlying 2 versus 3 contention has been going on for long enough. . . since Pompeii anyway. Let's not leave a similar picture of us for future historians who find it beneath the rubble of an extinct civilization.

Your Questions, Comments or Additional Information are welcomed:
Herb O. Buckland