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Second, they differ in regard to their main theoretical commitment, which in turn informs their main guide to discovery. Chemero's RECS places Gibsonian ecological psychology at the center of its theoretical commitments, especially Gibson's lesson that when investigating cognition, one ought to look at the organism-environment system and not the organism qua entity independent from the world. RECS also places affordances in a prominent position. These opportunities for behavior are based on properties of the environment and properties of the animal Stoffregen, The investigation of such affordances is central to the ecological psychologist's research program, and it is central to RECS as well.
Ecological psychologists tend to research affordances, and affordances tend to be analyzed at the scale of whole organisms. Although there is no in-principle reason why a theory of affordances cannot have a significant neural portion e.
For ecological psychologists, affordances are phenomena that happen at the intersection of organism-environment interactions.
Nonetheless, neither the ontological nor epistemological status of affordances is essential to RECN. Thus, RECN can be committed to the investigation of organism-environment systems without being committed to a Gibsonian theory of affordances. So, what role does the brain play in RECN? The affordance guided research of ecological psychology and RECS focus investigations of mind at the intersection of organism and environment.
Thus, an account of perception-action can be provided at more overt levels of behavior. RECN wants the best of both worlds: RECN treats organism-environment interactions as essential to explanations of various capacities and features of mind; and like the neurosciences, RECN treats the brain and nervous system as essential, both causally and constitutively, to explanations of various capacities and features of mind.
Science is a human enterprise, and humans are limited in how much they can understand at a particular moment cf. Since mind spans brain-body-environment, research must be pragmatically motivated in order to get a grip on particular aspects of the system cf.
Sporns, In some investigations of mind, an account at the scale of organism-environment will be appropriate, but for others, the account must include features at the neural scale. RECN does not emphasize researching affordances because it has a different guide to discovery, one that does not limit investigations to the organism-environment scale. Power laws arise near critical points that are found at second-order phase transitions.
Second-order phase transitions refer to continuous changes at phase-transition points, where, unlike first-order phase transitions, two phases do not simultaneously exist; there is only one phase at a point Bar-Yam, , pp. Self-organization is appealed to as an explanation of how and why systems can be near critical states in so many conditions and substrates cf. Song et al. Self-organization refers to the state of some nonequilibrium, dynamic systems to develop structures and patterns of behavior over time without the control of an external agent or central processor Jensen, A critical state occurs in a system when, on average, activity of one feature of the system leads to one additional activity, such as one neuron activating another neuron Beggs and Plenz, , p.
A subcritical state occurs when, on average, one activity leads to less than one subsequent activity. A supercritical state occurs when, on average, one activity leads to more than one subsequent activity. An early example in the SOC literature is the sand pile model Bak et al.
Imagine the creation of a pile of sand with additional grains of sand slowly added.
At first, the pile continues to grow in a cone-like shape. However, after some time, the pile will be in a critical state whereby an avalanche will occur and the grains of sand tumble down, widening the base of the structure and facilitating the ability of the structure to maintain a higher center point.
If more sand is added to the pile, then it will continue to grow again until it reaches another critical state and experiences another avalanche, again widening the base and allowing the center to be higher.
If the slope of the pile were measured before each avalanche, a scale-free, or power law distribution will be evident. An important consequence of this feature is that although the exact location or number of grains of sand that will cause an avalanche cannot be predicted a priori, the probability that a particular location and number of grains of sand will cause an avalanche will be correlated over wide ranges of spatial and temporal scales Bak et al.
Such cooperative effects can be understood as the result of a system's being self-organized. Systems are self-organized when there is a reciprocal relationship among local areas and behavior at the global state of the system Strogatz, ; Kelso, Moreover, such reciprocal relationships often display scale-free, self-similar structures.
A fractal is a spatial or temporal structure whereby the global structure is maintained at various scales of observation.
Examples of fractal spatial structures include coastlines and mountain ranges, Sierpinksi triangles, tree branching, and cauliflower. Examples of fractal temporal structures include finger tapping Kadota et al. The scale-free, self-similar structure of fractals can be quantified by power laws and captured utilizing a number of analytic techniques, such as detrended fluctuation analysis Ihlen, Although these analytic methods are still being developed and refined e. Since Bak and colleagues first proposed it in the late s, SOC has been utilized to characterize the behavior of various systems, such as rice and sand piles Bak, , earthquakes Bak et al.
Experimental results also indicate that SOC is a ubiquitous feature of more overt scales of cognition and behavior: Interpersonal coordination Coey et al. Thus far, two facts can be said about SOC. First, self-organization and criticality regularly occur together in nature. Second, there is accumulating experimental evidence for SOC in various systems, especially related to the brain, cognition, and behavior. SOC is deployed in terms of a particular set of theoretical commitments that guide research.
Popper once noted that: Observation is always selective. It needs a chosen object, a definite task, an interest, a point of view, a problem. In line with this view of scientific practice, RECN treats systems as the chosen object of investigation, with the definite task of explaining how those systems act.
Consequently, for the practitioner of RECN, the idea is to look at systems and to explain their behavior in terms of self-organization and critical phase transitions. What remains the same across various research questions is the idea that systems do not require an external force to drive their behaviors.
SOC describes the undirected occurrence of critical dynamics in complex systems ruled by internal interactions Bak et al. As Van Orden et al. SOC provides a theory for labeling a third category of states that are neither regular nor random. The sand pile is an example of a state that is neither regular nor random. As discussed above, the behavior of the sand pile is not deterministic, but it is statistically stable. Many nonequilibrium systems can be characterized as being neither regular nor random Prigogine and Nicolis, Mind is treated as falling into this third category of behavior.
When mind is categorized as a self-organized and critical system, it is said to exhibit the following qualities: It spans brain, body, and environment; it is a self-organized system that is not directed by either an external or internal controller; and it resides in nonequilibrium states that are in constant flux and exhibit self-similar properties at various spatial and temporal scales. When a system exhibits self-organization and criticality, then it is ordered enough to maintain structure, but disordered enough so as to be adaptable to spatial and temporal changes.
The mind exhibits these properties. Accordingly, the mind can be labeled under the SOC class of systems.
Unlike Gibsonian affordances, which are typically utilized in the study of organism-environment interactions, the theory of SOC can span investigations across varying scales of investigation. SOC provides a theoretical foundation from which to observe and explain phenomena that can be overlooked by other theoretical frameworks, including self-organization and behavior that is neither regular nor random.
In the following section, I present a proof of concept to demonstrate the feasibility of applying DST as a unifying methodology and SOC as a productive guide to discovery across various scales of investigations between the mind sciences. Although relatively new to the mind sciences, DST has an ever-growing track record of successful applications to the analysis of cognition and behavior. For many of us, feelings of deficiency are right around the corner. It doesn't take much—just hearing of someone else's accomplishments, being criticized, getting into an argument, making a mistake at work—to make us feel that we are not okay.
Beginning to understand how our lives have become ensnared in this trance of unworthiness is our first step toward reconnecting with who we really are and what it means to live fully. This suffering emerges in crippling self-judgments and conflicts in our relationships, in addictions and perfectionism, in loneliness and overwork—all the forces that keep our lives constricted and unfulfilled.
Radical Acceptance offers a path to freedom, including the day-to-day practical guidance developed over Dr. Brach's twenty years of work with therapy clients and Buddhist students.
Writing with great warmth and clarity, Tara Brach brings her teachings alive through personal stories and case histories, fresh interpretations of Buddhist tales, and guided meditations. Step by step, she leads us to trust our innate goodness, showing how we can develop the balance of clear-sightedness and compassion that is the essence of Radical Acceptance.
Radical Acceptance does not mean self-indulgence or passivity. Instead it empowers genuine change: When we stop being at war with ourselves, we are free to live fully every precious moment of our lives.