Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 21, Iss. 4, October, 2017, pp. 441-474
@2017 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


Functional Constructivism: In Search of Formal Descriptors

Irina Trofimova, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Abstract: The Functional Constructivism (FC) paradigm is an alternative to behaviorism and considers behavior as being generated every time anew, based on an individual’s capacities, environmental resources and demands. Walter Freeman’s work provided us with evidence supporting the FC principles. In this paper we make parallels between gradual construction processes leading to the formation of individual behavior and habits, and evolutionary processes leading to the establishment of biological systems. Referencing evolutionary theory, several formal descriptors of such processes are proposed. These FC descriptors refer to the most universal aspects for constructing consistent structures: expansion of degrees of freedom, integration processes based on internal and external compatibility between systems and maintenance processes, all given in four different classes of systems: (a) Zone of Proximate Development (poorly defined) systems; (b) peer systems with emerging reproduction of multiple siblings; (c) systems with internalized integration of behavioral elements (“cruise controls”); and (d) systems capable of handling low-probability, not yet present events. The recursive dynamics within this set of descriptors acting on (traditional) downward, upward and horizontal directions of evolution, is conceptualized as diagonal evolution, or di-evolution. Two examples applying these FC descriptors to taxonomy are given: classification of the functionality of neuro-transmitters and temperament traits; classification of mental disorders. The paper is an early step towards finding a formal language describing universal tendencies in highly diverse, complex and multi-level transient systems known in ecology and biology as “contingency cycles.”

Keywords: functional constructivism, contingency cycles, ZPD, diagonal evolution, neurotransmitters