|Research Interests:||My interests revolve around two facts of behavior: it seeks outcomes, and it takes place in a context of constraints, embodied and environmental, dynamic and fixed. When we observe behavior, we observe the solution to a problem of how to assemble a great many degrees of freedom into the kind of thing that can affect a particular outcome, given the context of constraints.
My primary theoretical research has to do with the intentional, or outcome seeking quality of behavior. Psychologists often speak of goals in this context, but the common use of that term is too limiting, usually a product of conscious deliberation by a human mind, a desired outcome that mind has committed itself to achieve. But the outcome seeking quality of behavior is broader than what can be accounted for in human self-awareness and the ability to imagine. I seek to develop a theory of outcome seeking for all life.
I have two lines of empirical research currently. In one line, I examine the reaction times from a simple identification task with a more or less predictable sequence of identifications. The data reveal a bi-modal distribution of reaction times (slower and faster), implying two different modes. Presumably, these modes correspond to a) reacting to response cues or b) anticipating them. In many cases, participants switch from one mode to the other and sometimes back and forth, giving the impression of a changing attractor landscape. Using a cusp model of bi-stability, I have derived a set of predictions about the relationship between the stability of a mode (stay put in one or other or switch between them) and the fractal structure of reaction time variability. Results so far have been consistent with that model.
In my second line of research, I have participants coordinate hand movements in a force field using force feedback joysticks. Prior work in bi-manual coordination has illustrated that there are two stable modes, one where movements are symmetric with respect to muscle and skeletal structures, and one that is anti-symmetric, where those structures move in opposite directions—the former being more stable than the latter. With changes to the context of constraints, in this case a force field that breaks symmetry, how do participants reassemble their degrees of freedom to accomplish the coordination pattern?