Development as Change of System Dynamics: Stability, Instability, and Emergence
Dynamical systems thinking can provide metaphors that help ask new questions, generate new experimental paradigms and measures, and lead to new kinds of explanations. This chapter reviews dynamical systems theory (DST) as a set of concepts that formalizes such metaphors and thus becomes a scientific theory of considerable rigor. It considers five concepts: (1) Behavioral patterns resist change; that is, they are stable. This may be mathematically characterized by considering behavioral patterns as the attractor states of a dynamical system. (2) Behavioral change is brought about by a loss of stability. (3) Representations possess stability properties, as well, and can be understood as the attractor states of dynamic fields, that is, of continuous distributions of neuronal activation. (4) Cognitive processes emerge from instabilities of dynamic fields. (5) Learning occurs as changes in behavioral or field dynamics that shift the behavioral and environmental context in which these instabilities occur.
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