Stages are invariant across individuals; narratives are unique to each individual. Stages are sequential; narratives are not. Stages are presumed to be largely innate; narratives are defined as creations of personal interaction and cultural influences.
David L. Ransen
Nova Southeastern University
Stages in developmental psychology, particularly those linked to the physical development of the brain (such as the maturation of the prefrontal cortex) and body (such as the timed release of hormones), are different from the type of stages that appear to have no basis in biology that I am skeptical about, such as the stages of grief, personality and moral development. If there is a direct connection between a psychological state and a biological development, then the case can be made that there will be a chronological sequence to development that could be described in stages (although even here the labels given to the stages are subjective, and the timing can vary).
But research by those who study grief shows unequivocally that stage sequence is quite variant across individuals, and I cited two sources for such research in my column: Russell P. Friedman and John W. James's The Grief Recovery Handbook (HarperCollins, 1998) and Robert A. Neimeyer's Meaning Reconstruction and the Experience of Loss (American Psychological Association, 2001). I also recommend the introductory psychology textbook Psychology, by Carole Wade and Carol Tavris, published by Prentice Hall, which gives an excellent overview of the research.
ERRATUM A source for the proton-related images on page 94 of "The Incredible Shrinking Scanner," by Bernhard Bl mich, went uncredited. It was chapter 2 of the textbook All You Really Need to Know about MRI Physics, by Moriel NessAiver, available at www.simplyphysics.com
CLARIFICATION "Dinner and a Show," by Mark Fischetti [Working Knowledge], states that as water molecules absorb microwave energy they create friction that produces heat. Moving molecules do not create heat; they are heat.