Exploratory Psychology Program Overview
From 2012–2019, Leverage Research developed a set of tools and techniques for researching the mind and generating personal growth. This research was conducted privately by a team of more than twenty researchers who developed and tested the tools for many years, applying them to various use cases.
Leverage’s Exploratory Psychology program is now open-sourcing our tools, methods, and frameworks and inviting external researchers and explorers to see what they can use our tools to discover and invent. Our researchers were able to use the tools for research purposes—developing hypotheses, running experiments, and creating models of mental phenomena—as well as personal development. With respect to personal development, our researchers found it possible to use our tools to investigate existing therapeutic and self-improvement modalities and also develop their own.
We’re optimistic about both the research and personal growth potential of introspective psychology. While academic research has shed some light on the mind and mental phenomena, we believe that new approaches and paradigms are necessary. And while many existing personal improvement modalities are extremely valuable, we believe new ones can be developed as well.
This page introduces the Leverage psychology tools and explains how to get started. There is an entire adventure possible here for researchers and explorers alike, into the mind and back.
About this Program
→ History of Exploratory Psychology
The Leverage psychological toolset is composed of three main components:
Belief reporting—a technique for eliciting mental content
Charting—a method for organizing mental content that has been elicited
Connection theory—a framework for interpreting mental content
Together, these components allow for investigations into the mind that are more precise than is typical of introspective tools. This precision is part of what lends the tools much of their power.
For a preview of some of the technical aspects of the Leverage psychological toolset, see a description of charting in Chart Logic & Core Mechanics.
However, it is possible to get started even without a perfect grasp of the tools, much like it is possible to edit images in Adobe Photoshop without having mastered most of the functions.
The best way to learn is to go in order: belief reporting, then charting, then connection theory. Each component of the toolset, starting with belief reporting, has useful applications with respect to both research aims and personal growth.
Before jumping in, however, it is important to recognize that there are risks associated with introspection. Researchers and explorers should be apprised of these risks, both for the sake of their own safety and to encourage and ensure the safety of others.
To learn more, see our report Introspection Safety for Researchers.
After apprising oneself of the risks, and recognizing the responsibility of everyone to build their own model of risks that accompany any introspective methodologies they may employ, one may then get started with the Leverage psychological toolset by learning belief reporting.
To learn about belief reporting, see Introduction to Belief Reporting.
Facility with the Leverage introspective tools makes it possible to do a variety of things. These include:
Identifying Noteworthy Mental Content
The mind has a lot of strange things in it. Using belief reporting, it is possible to identify unusual or anomalous belief reports—which we standardly interpret as corresponding to unusual or anomalous underlying beliefs, which in turn play a role in explaining a person’s actions and emotional reactions.
Representing Mental Content
Some mental content is complex. Using charting, it is possible to represent many types of mental content, including goals, areas of self-perceived powerlessness, and beliefs that are resistant to evidence. This can be done even for mental content with a high degree of complexity:
Working with belief reporting and charting puts one into contact with a large stream of introspective data. This may be especially helpful for developing new hypotheses about the mind—including both general hypotheses about how the mind works as well as ideas about what might be happening in some specific case.
Belief reporting, as an instrument for gathering information about the mind, can be used in a wide variety of psychological experiments. The fact that belief reporting is often fast and cheap makes it possible to run a large number of experiments in a low cost way.
Many experiments take the form of interventions, where the goal is to see whether some intervention alters some part of a person’s mind. If it is possible to identify which beliefs are likely to change in response to an intervention, it is then possible to use belief reporting to see whether those beliefs in fact changed. In particular, one can have a person give belief reports on relevant topics, perform an intervention, and then have the person give the same belief reports and see whether the belief reports have changed. If the belief reports changed and there are not other relevant causes, it may be reasonable to attribute the changes in belief report to the intervention.
If one is working with particularly complex mental structures, one can use charting to represent the elicited mental content, and create charts that display the mental content before and after an intervention.
Figure 1. Chart of some mental content made in yED. From Chart Logic & Core Mechanics. Zoomable version here.
The mind is a system without an instruction booklet. We hope that our psychological toolset will help remedy that, and make the exploration of the mind and the design of experiments and therapeutic modalities much easier.
To aid with that, we are releasing information on the following topics:
Introspection Safety for Researchers, a report on risks from introspection in general and belief reporting in particular.
Leverage psychological toolset
Belief reporting—How to belief report, instructions for how to belief report
Charting—instructions for how to create charts
Chart logic—Chart Logic and Core Mechanics, an introduction to the rules and logic of charting
White chains—the primary constituent of charts; represents chains of goals, including instrumental and intrinsic goals
Gray chains—another important constituent of charts; represents areas of self-perceived powerlessness that are crucial
Common patterns in charting—patterns found during charting in 2012–2019, including modes, constraint, intellectual processes, zones, entrenchment, etc.
Connection theory—an introduction to connection theory (CT), with an explanation of how to use CT to develop hypotheses, design experiments, and cause psychological change
Self alignment—a guide to resolving introspective difficulties
Setting up yEd—an explanation for how to configure yEd for making charts
We expect to release more information as well, especially in response to demand from researchers using our tools. We thus hope to contribute to a flourishing ecosystem of psychological research.
Get In Touch
We are building a community of researchers interested in learning how to use the Leverage psychological toolset. If you’d like to be a part of this, please reach out! Let us know about your interest in the mind, how the tools are working for you, and what information we can provide to make the toolset more accessible.
Also, you can:
Follow Kerry Vaughan and Leverage Research on Twitter.
Sign up for Leverage Research’s quarterly newsletter.
Join our Discord.
History of our Exploratory Psychology Program
From 2012–2019, Leverage Research conducted a theoretically-informed, engineering-centric, introspective investigation of the mind. This research led us to develop a large number of hypotheses about the content, structure, and functioning of the mind.
This research went through three major phases:
2012 – 2014: Validating Methods
2015 – 2017: Mapping the Conscious Mind
2018 –2019: Mapping the Unconscious Mind
We describe the program's history in more detail in History of our Exploratory Psychology Program.
Tools & Research
Read our latest research.
Below you can find all of our research in exploratory psychology. Each piece has its own dedicated webpage with an overview of the topic, and a link to the full report. The pieces are presented in roughly the order that we recommend reading them.
Introspection Safety for Researchers
A discussion of the risks associated with introspection in general and belief reporting specifically. It includes a discussion of the circumstances where belief reporting is not advised, specific negative effects that we have observed from belief reporting, and a brief review of the literature on side effects from psychotherapy and meditation.
How to Belief Report
A practical introduction to belief reporting, a simple introspective tool for detecting mental content. Includes exercises that one can follow to learn belief reporting, a discussion of unexpected belief reports, and common issues in learning belief reporting and how to resolve them.
Chart Logic & Core Mechanics
A technical introduction to charting, a set of tools and techniques that allow researchers to find mental content, represent the relationship between individual pieces of mental content and guide further investigation. Chart Logic was originally written in August 2018 by researchers at Paradigm Academy (an organization affiliated with Leverage Research).
On Intention Research
An introduction to an area of psychology research Leverage explored in 2018 and 2019 which led our psychology researchers to conclude that nonverbal communication may be at least as expressive and psychologically central as verbal communication. Includes a discussion of the effects researchers observed and some historical antecedents for these effects.