DynaPsych Table of Contents


A Flow Theory of Behaviour Dynamics


Glen David Rutherford, PhD

Devonport, Tasmania, Australia


This is a conceptual paper setting out a Flow Theory of Behaviour Dynamics.

The central concept of FLOW draws on the metaphorical idea of “going with the flow” and it is a core image for regulatory and reproductive processes, on the one hand and the transformative processes of self-organization on the other.  As such, the idea of flow assists in understanding how patterns form or are carved out in media permitting ‘flow’, for example habitual behaviour and stimulus (situational cue) and response relations formed in the connective neural networks of the brain.


1.  A Unifying Model of ‘The Whole Flow of Movement’ in Human Behaviour Dynamics


The model presented here draws together a variety of theoretical threads to weave a depiction of the dynamism of human behaviour, from a psychological standpoint.  In doing so, the model suggests that ‘the whole flow of movement’ in human behaviour may take five primary and interrelated ‘flow forms’, namely:



The key concepts in the model below are CONTROL and SUPPORT, APPROACH and AVOIDANCE and MUTUAL AFFIRMATION and MUTUAL NEGATION. 


Control systems may be self or socially oriented.  They are involved in generating autonomous behaviour.  Control systems are cybernetic in nature and are created and underlain by hierarchical relations, within and without.  Externally, control systems are more likely to operate in asymmetrical social relationships.


Support systems may also be self or socially oriented.  They are involved in generating behavioural mutuality.  Support systems are network-based and are created and underlain by heterarchical relations, within and without.  Externally, support systems are more likely to operate in symmetrical (or peer-oriented) relationships.


To use a metaphor for the relations between approach-approach and avoidance-avoidance conflicts as well as for relations between mutual affirmation and mutual negation in action schemes, a person at a beach coordinates action tendencies toward swimming and action tendencies discouraging being ‘out of one’s depth’ so that the person swims a few metres in from the waters edge – and between the flags (i.e. in the zone of “personal comfort” and of “normality” or cultural expectations). 
















2.       Cyclical Flow



The many and varied regulatory and reproductive processes in human systems are prototypical of cyclical or ‘wave’ flows in human behaviour dynamics. 


Cyclical Flows in Behaviour Dynamics: Western & Eastern Cultural forms


The following figure presents a conjectured cross-cultural model of cyclical flow in behaviour dynamics.  Following Triandis (1988) it is assumed that Western cultures are predominantly individualistic (and Westerners idiographic) and Eastern cultures are predominantly collectivistic (and Easterners allocentric) in nature. 


It is proposed in this paper that Western cultures are, at the behavioural level, organised around ‘self-control’ in con-junction with ‘social support’ action tendencies and at the MEDIATE-level organised by ‘self support’ in conjunction with ‘social control’ mindsets and belief systems.


On the other hand, it is conjectured that Eastern cultural traditions are, at the behavioural level, organised around ‘self-support’ in conjunction with ‘social-control’ action tendencies and in a MEDIATE-level organised around ‘self-control’ in conjunction with ‘social support’ mindsets and belief systems. 


To clarify terminology, self-control is defined as a situation where the individual is the primary cybernetic source of self determination and reproduction and regulation of structural organization.  Social support is defined as a situation where others in the person’s environment are sources of vitality and harmony through affilio-affective networking.  Self-support is defined as a situation in which the person’s socio-emotional internal networks are sources of rejuvenation, sustenance and harmonisation.  Lastly, social control is defined as a situation in which others in the person’s environment serve as socio-cybernetic sources of determination and reproduction and regulation of structural organisation


It is important to distinguish between behavioural and cognitive or mediate levels because psychological processes function differently at each level.  For instance, autonomy at the behavioural level involves self-determination, while at the mediate level it involves progressive internal reproduction of life sustaining mental structures.


In this work culture is construed as ‘confluences of shared meaning’ and the concept of mind is similar to G. Bateson’s (1972, 1979), where mind is viewed as a multi-level (representational or) mapping mechanism that may be referred to as ‘mind-in-the-universe-in-the mind’.






















This paper now builds up from first principles to depict and discuss the interrelated, cooperative cyclical flows of [percepts-constructs-relationships-intentions-actions] and [actions-intensions -relationships-constructs-proprioceptive percepts]. 


However, one point to be made here is that the concept of relationships in the model is defined as involving three types of social relations (mediated by language):


·        Likeness (cognitive aspect)

·        Liking (social aspect)

·        Likeability (cultural aspect)



Two universal organising constructs


It is proposed that two universal organising “process-structures” are central to cyclical flows in panhuman behaviour dynamics.  These process-structures are construed as functioning in a parallel (dual) as well as serial (mutual) manner.  To clarify my terms, I adopt Margaret Wheatley’s (1999) use of process-structure as a term for the invisible processes/energies that substantively underlie all manifest structures.  Also, I extrapolate from Ilya Prigogine’s dissipative structure concept (Nicholis and Prigogine, 1977), so that ‘process’ – structures involve the invisible and momentary dissipation of tensions and forces via energy flows, which create and/or progressively consolidate and reproduce these structures.


The two process-structures may be referred to as:


Ø      “INTENTION-ALITY”: Teleological, purposive, volitional, intentional behaviour (exemplified by strategic planning and goal-oriented performance)


o       For instance, in the domain of interpersonal relationships a person may plan or aim to find a compatible partner by a certain point in time (‘in their life’)

o       In psychology to date, Expectancy-value theory (Feather, 1982) and Azjen’s (1991) Theory of Planned Behaviour are particularly relevant and pertinent theory-building exercises relating to ‘intentional process-structures’

o       Intentionality reproduces and regulates cultural value settings with regard to control, hierarchical systems and relations.  Stated more abstractly, intentionality involves the regulation and reproduction of momentary valences (including higher order ‘meanings’ and ‘signification’) and subjective probabilities associated with the universe of differing positions on a given field, cultural context or goal-situation.  A basic assumption is that these valences (e.g. related to fears and wishes) and probabilities (of event occurrence versus event non-occurrence) associated with the varying positions are cybernetically re-produced or revised.  These valences and subjective probabilities respond primarily to cyclical flow – especially in many kinds of habitual behaviour.  They also, with the intervention of reflective consciousness may respond to rotational, radial and orbital flows.




Ø      “IN-TENSION-ALITY”: Non-teleological, stochastic, indeterminately determinate or ‘self-organising’ (Janstch, 1980) behaviour, which ‘answers to’ or ‘calls out’ (see discussions of Signifier – Referent relations) a spectrum running from ‘needs’ based in evolutionary biology through to ‘values’ based in implicitly and collectively shared cultures.  It is assumed that ‘needs’ function entropically (or require cyclical re/satiation) and ‘values’ function neg-entropically (or are created from or with ‘increases in complexity’ – involving orbital or holistic flows in combination with cyclical, rotational and radial flows)


o       For instance, in the domain of interpersonal relationships a person’s needs and values will draw them toward some people and away from others, in response to, or elicited by, factors such as ‘likeness’, ‘liking’ and ‘likeability’ operating in a self-organising way.  Moreover, this paper assumes that ‘self-referentiality’ is an important way that both needs and values are used to create organisational complexity or order and structure. 

o       Expressed colloquially, many of the best friendships and partnerships ‘just happen’ or ‘happen when you least expect them/without even trying to bring them about’.

o       Intensionality transforms cultural value settings with regard to support, heterarchical systems and network relations.  Stated conceptually, intensionality relates to the totality or global sum of momentary and dissipative-structures in the holonic or orbital flow in a culture.  This flow is attendant and responding to (the occupants of) the universe of positions on the given field, cultural context or “present situation”.  David Bohm’s (1966) depiction of dialogue as ‘a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us’ to create a new participatory and ‘human-universal’ consciousness and, there through, an emergent personal and social ORDER is very relevant here.  A basic assumption herein is that semiosis is fundamental to the transformational process.

o       Ideas from the general science fields of chaos theory, dynamical systems, self-organisation and complexity are promising, in this respect

o       A useful metaphor for construing how human behaviour is self-organised is ‘a person caught in a rip at a beach’.  To survive crises such as these (c.f. a firestorm or a military conflagration) a person or group of people must not fight against the ‘wild’ forces engulfing them.  Rather, they must ‘go with them’ until they ‘work themselves out’: both the forces themselves and the person by remaining maximally sentient and ready to seize an adaptive ‘end’ or ‘other’ constructive opportunities as these emerge.


It should be noted that throughout this paper the twin concepts of consciousness (including self-consciousness) and sentience are used to denote parts of two dimensions corresponding to intentionality and intensionality, respectively.  In particular, in this work these concepts are conceived dimensionally as follows:


·        Non-conscious, unreflective, non-reasoned, unplanned yet automatic, habitual behaviour <-> conscious, reasoned, planned, reflective behaviour (this dimension relates to intentional or goal-directed behaviour)

·        Pre-verbal/figural, subliminally semiotic, sentient behaviour (c.f. Bohm’s, 1966 idea of a “deeper tacit process” and “sensitivity” for effective dialogue) <-> verbal/lexical, liminally semiotic behaviour (this dimension pertains to intensional, semiotic behaviour)


As well, these two dimensions resemble Capra’s (The Hidden Connections, 2002) stated distinction between higher-order or reflective consciousness and primary consciousness, respectively.


Therefore, this paper argues that ‘intensionality’ – as a new conceptualisation (involving human semiotic relations – as discussed below on signifier – referent relations) - is fundamentally more a pre-verbal and latent mechanism, especially involving sentient awareness.  Sentience, as used herein, entails the subliminal as well as liminal “picking up of sign-messages/shared meanings” semiotically and often osmotically in communicative contexts – between knowing systems (“minds”). 


It should be stressed that intensionality does not ensure greater order and complexity.  Rather, without sufficient self-organisation (as an open systems, ecological metaphysical concept) intensionality may create and re-create a “prison like” situation as in an unhealthy ritual habits or ‘obsessions’.


Hegelian dialectics are an important philosophical basis in this paper.  That is, the tensions among elements in a system or a network are held together by oppositions but also through the relations among differing facets in a structural whole or dynamic equilibrium.


Thus, as defined above, these two general types of process-structure indicate that people may, first (in relation to intentionality), be motivated by forming, conducting and evaluating plans, strategies, tactics and operational procedures.  As well, at a higher level, people may engage in the meta-regulation of goals, needs, and terminal and instrumental values (Rokeach, 1973).  Meta-regulation of goals and other ‘ends’ occurs where what people ‘try for’ and how they proceed or the approaches/’means’ they take are adjusted progressively to ensure:


·        goal-attainment,

·        development of the goal - for instance by taking it to a ‘higher level’ or in lateral or circular directions via quasi-imitative adaptations, or

·        by changing/re-structuring the goal ‘in totality’.


Second (in relation to intensionality), concurrently and perhaps interactively, opportunities and limitations arise, grow, decay, remain ‘temporally constant’ (“in balance” or “in stasis”) and/or change through the self-organisation (‘far-from-equilibrium’ dynamics) of the momentary and present ‘total situation’ (with the ‘total situation’ being conceived as a behavioural Gestalt that is a function of the interaction between a person’s ‘life-space’ and the multi-level, embedded social ecologies within which they are co-evolving).


Indeed, one’s plans and goals can be modified or replaced/superseded by other plans and goals in response to momentary opportunities and constraints arising serendipitously from the present ‘total situation’.  Similarly, the self-organisation of the present total situation may respond to and be modified by one’s plans and goal-seeking behaviour.


Moreover, this position paper assumes a co-evolutionary process between intentionality and intensionality.  This process entails interrelations among goal-directed behaviours and behaviours arising through self-organising tension-flows.  As such, relations are construed as co-operating between:




Two underlying organizing principles


Within each of the above generic universal process-structure (namely, intentionality and intensionality) it is postulated that two organizing principles shape and are shaped by the processes underlying dynamic or process (especially ‘dissipative’) structures.  In particular, these principles are:



These two principles, together, resemble and mirror Jean Piaget’s (1975/1985) dual, co-operative system of assimilation and accommodation, as the basis of intelligent adaptation/genetic epistemology for the development of human action or operational-schemes. 



Semiosis: Signifier – Referent relations


In this paper , semiosis is proposed to operate through signifier – referent relations and these relations are construed as central to the functioning of the process-structure of intensionality.  By way of definition:


·        A signifier (that which ‘speaks to/calls out’) as BOTH:

o       The system or sentient set (person) signifying (communicating) using ‘significant’ or meaningful gestures [signs and symbols], including vocal ‘gestures’ (speech), AND

o       The significant gesture (emblem, sign or symbol) carrying significance or shared meaning

·        A referent (that which ‘answers or responds to’) as BOTH:

o       The consentient set (“audience”/”other” or socio-cultural context) for whom the signifier frames and addresses acts of signification (communication), AND

o       The concept/s (information ‘bytes’) and/or ‘valences/value/s’ carried in or referred to in the act of signification.


Further, it is assumed that signifier – referent relations carry or transact INFORMATION and VALUE as the elemental ‘twin matter’ and ‘twin energetics’ giving form and function to intentional and intensional process-structures.



Socio-Cybernetics: Extending Norbert Weiner’s Cybernetic, control systems paradigm to incorporate support systems and networks


As noted above, intentionality relates to Weiner’s (1948) cybernetics, the science of CONTROL and COMMUNICATION.   In essence, this paradigm involves hierarchical, control systems based on the feeding-back of information to regulate and re/de-regulate ‘internal value-settings’.


This paper proposes an extension to this paradigm so that intensional processes are integrated in a new synthesis.  Therefore, this synthesis incorporates heterarchical, support-networks based on affilio-affective relations/relationships.  These relationships ‘carry’ (via signs) indications and expressions regarding valences/values constitutive of a given cultural context/ecology.  Such valences/values are conceived as being formed (and to form) in the flow of cultural exchanges.  For instance, circular or lateral social inhibition and facilitation are behavioural processes creating valence-value flows in cultures.  It is the view here that these flows are fundamentally cyclical but may be secondarily rotational and radial and, finally, orbital.


A new synthesis, here termed ‘socio-cybernetics’, is conceived as a scientific paradigm of CONTROL and COMMUNICATION operating together with, and apart from, CARE and CONCERN.  Care and concern are construed as the bases of, and as being based in, fundamental human communal sociality and ‘lived’ temporality.


Care is viewed here as an ‘indicative’ reality realized overtly in the ‘heartfelt things people do for, and with, one another’.  Concern is regarded as an ‘expressive’ reality experienced transactionally and particularly through empathy = where empathy is defined as an autonomous/non-contagious ‘sharing in/understanding of’ the affilio-affective/socio-emotional experience of another person or persons.  Empathy occurs especially with those whom we relate interpersonally but empathy can also be experienced ‘indirectly’ - e.g. when watching character portrayals in a film and ‘vicariously’ – e.g. when observing familiar or unfamiliar people in differing social-behavioural situations.


Material bases and energetics in socio-cybernetics


‘Information’ and ‘values’ are seen as the contential ‘material’ in human behavioural (especially cognitive or ‘intellectual’) organization and dynamics.  As well, information and values are construed as the ‘invisible functional’ energetics underlying cyclical, radial, rotational and orbital flows in human behavioural dynamics i.e. as the ‘energy’ exchanged in & for the conscious and sentient functioning of person-systems in their environment/s.


With respect to information we may say that it is:



In respect of valences-values we may say they are:



This paper assumes three primary cybernetic channels or conduits OF MIND (consciousness and sentience) and mechanisms of informative/intelligent transactions or exchanges among human systems and their environments (across physical, biological, psychological, social and cultural levels/domains).  These are:



Interrelations among perception (or knowing), thought as ‘action schemes’ and language as semiosis are assumed to underlie the development of information and values in human behaviour dynamics.


Eye’, ‘hand’ and ‘word’ are concepts and terms have been adopted & adapted from George Herbert Mead (e.g. Mead, 1934).  It is opined here that perception, thought and language are/have been ‘rolled-out’ in that evolutionary and developmental ‘order’ for phyla-, onto-and socio-genetic ‘order’: eye –> hand -> word.


The ‘EYE’/perception entails ‘sensing – perceiving/patterning’ or ‘knowing’ the proximal to distal environment/s.  This occurs through ‘contact’ senses (tactile – touch and taste - senses), ‘distance’ senses (vision, audition, olfaction) and ‘motoric/kinaesthetic senses’ (via human action – walking, running, throwing, catching, talking etc).  Independently and in interaction the senses provide the information and valences-values to create and sustain perception and thought/‘the intellect’.  In turn, precepts and cognitive constructs underlie the pre-verbal, sentient, non-verbal and verbal gestural relationships that are the bases of human language or semiotic signification.


The ‘HAND’/thought entails action-based ‘manipulation’ [‘manu’] made possible by the uniquely human capacity to ‘grasp/hold’.  It especially involves the ability to create and utilise ‘tools/technologies’ to permit environmental mastery, agency, efficacy, and generally ‘behavioural control’ (c.f. Azjen, 1991 and Bandura, 1982)


The ‘WORD’/semiosis entails ‘communicating’ with the environment via relationships.  This consists of semiotic or ‘sign’-based relations whereby, in particular, the system/sentient set and social environment/consentient set ‘speak to/call out’ and ‘answer to’ one another pre/non-verbally and verbally in a significant and symbolic fashion.  In so doing, ‘systems of meaning/significance’, ‘attitudes-stances/action-tendencies’ and time-space bounded realities are created and maintained.  In particular this occurs through narrative/story-telling ‘tenses’ AND ‘social perspectives’ – i.e. past, present, future tenses & 1st, 2nd and 3rd person perspectives.


This paper contends that mediate relations exist among EYE, HAND and WORD.  These may be presented as follows



Following Henri Wallon (1969), it is here assumed that language has co-evolved within neotenic (especially parent-child) relationships among homosapiens.  This enabled (self-) conscious and heart-felt ‘persons’ to express and to continuously evolve role relationships and relationship supporting and creating ‘social’ emotions.  Such affilio-affective expression conjunctively facilitates self-consciousness, morality/ethics/values and empathy or socio-emotional consideration.  At the same time, as a result of such valence/value-laden indications and expressions of ‘sentient’ as well as self-conscious care and concern (‘heart-relationships’), behavioural-vectorial flow dynamics are created.  These dynamics shape and are shaped by ‘the rivers of human culture’ (see the table/matrix below on ‘social behaviourism’ for the dimensions of these cultural vector-flow dynamics.  Again, these flows are assumed to be primarily cyclical, secondarily rotational and radial and, lastly, orbital).


Hence the ‘socio’ in socio-cybernetics relates to ‘eye’, ‘hand’ and ‘word’ as, independent and inter-related, mechanisms or channels for expressing or indicating care & concern.  This paper assumes that it is through these mechanisms or channels that intensionality is fundamentally infused into human behaviour dynamics


Specifically, the ‘EYE’ consists of contact and distance intents and ‘tenses’.  That is, in involves touch, listening and looking that radiates with or exudes care and/or concern.


The ‘HAND’ consists of sentient and self-conscious actions of care and/or concern, e.g. to hold, cradle someone or, generically, engage in affectionate/pro-social actions.


The ‘WORD’: to speak (signify) with care and/or concern, especially HOW one says what one says rather than WHAT one says to another – the ‘prosody’ of speech.


In understanding these epi-genetic and ‘socio-genetic’ phenomena it is critical to perceive/think and talk about affilio-affective relations/relationships, of care & concern, as either:



For instance, caring and being concerned about ‘good causes’ may be self-involving (e.g. self-affirming) and/or non-self-involving (e.g. self-transcendent).  These phenomena pertain both to one’s own ‘self’ and another’s or others’ self/selves.



In sum, this paper presents socio-cybernetics as a framework to understand the FLOWS and related channels & media (of EYE, HAND and WORD) in the creation and consolidation of INFORMATION and VALUE as the matter and energy constituting, and constituted by, human behaviour dynamics.



A model of information and values processing and exchange


At this point, the writer wishes to outline models of INTENTIONAL and INTENSIONAL information and values processing, exchange and transformation in human systems and networks (from which testable hypotheses, for instance in the field of cognitive science, can be generated). 


These behavioural models indicate key psychological processes (and flows) hypothesised to be involved in the emergence/creation and reproduction of information-knowledge and valence-values systems and networks. 


Importantly, the models take up the proposed model components in Cyclical Flows depicted above in relation to intentionality and intensionality in Western and Eastern cultures.


A Model of INTENTIONAL Human Information-Knowledge and Value Processing and Exchange

























A Model of INTENSIONAL Human Information-Knowledge and Value Processing and Exchange



Sensitivity AS OUTPUT























In regard to the figure for intentionality, the two-way arrows denote both bi-directional flows of information-knowledge and valences-values.  The one-way arrow for SENSORI-MOTOR INPUT shows a unidirectional flow of data into human living systems-networks, with the assumption it is modulated by needs.  The one-way flow of feedback from relationships to percepts denotes semiotic and self-conscious feedback to maintain or harmonise value and social perceptual settings, modulated by inner & outer speech.  The one-way arrow from INTENTIONS to BEHAVIOURAL OUTPUT denotes social-behavioural motivation, moderated by progressively informed and re-valuated intentional process-structures.


In relation to the figure for intensionality, two-way arrows again denote both bi-directional flows of information-knowledge and valences-values.  The one-way arrow for INTER-ACTIONAL INPUT shows a unidirectional flow of social environmental data into human living systems-networks, with the assumption it is modulated by cultural value-settings.  The one-way flow of feedback from cognitive constructs to intensions denotes socio-cybernetic feedback to harmonise or transform intensional vector-flows, modulated by internalised cultural values.  The one-way arrow between proprioceptive percepts and BEHAVIOURAL Sensitivity AS OUTPUT denotes holistic and sensitive insights into social reality, as a product of intensional process-structures moderating internalised cultural value settings.


As may be evident, the output of intentionality may be the input for intensionality and vice versa. 


Summary on Cyclical Flow


In sum, cyclical flow may be characterised as:



3.   Radial and Rotational Flows






Implicit in the above models on information and value processing and exchange from an intentional and intensional point of view are rotational, radial, orbital and random flows as well as cyclical flows.  The foregoing diagram schematises rotational and radial flows and these will be discussed now.


Rotational Flow


As the preceding diagram shows, rotational flows encompass circular concepts and relations.  In particularly, rotational flows are behind vicious and virtuous circles.


Continuing with the concepts of control and support by way of illustration, circular relations between self control and social control underlie the development of Autonomy, as a virtuous circle.  However, a vicious circle between self control and social control creates a regression toward Heteronomy.


Similarly, circular relations between self support and social support are behind the development of Mutuality, as a virtuous circle.  Alternatively, a vicious circle between self support and social support produces a regression toward Ego-centricism or Alter-centricism.


Rotational flows, therefore, are behind “closed” and “open” worldviews or “narrow-minded” and “broad-minded” ways of viewing the world.  The following describes types of regressive versus developmental:




·        Self-control – undeveloped or regressive

Ø      Immdeiate-ly so: construed as based in behavioural/externalised ‘individual heteronomy (e.g. typified by the attitude: “Look at that – he’s so popular.  They all watch him.  If it’s good for him it must be good for me. I doing that, too.”)

Ø      Mediate-ly so: construed as based in unreflective/internalised ‘individual heteronomy (e.g. typified by the attitude: “Everyone reckons [They reckon] she’s good for you – so I do, too”)


·        Self-control – developmental or progressive

Ø      Immdeiate-ly so: construed as based in behavioural/externalised ‘individual autonomy (e.g. typified by the attitude: “I’ll choose to do what’s in my own best interests, thanks!”)

Ø      Mediate-ly so: construed as based in conscious, reflective/internalised ‘individual autonomy (e.g. typified by the attitude: “Upon conscious reflection, I believe in the truth-value of that cultural position or cultural stance”)


·        Self-support - -undeveloped or regressive

Ø      Immediate-ly so: construed as based in behavioural/externalised ‘personal ego-or-alter-centricism (e.g. typified in the attitude: “I’m gonna do that for you, cos’ I feel good doing it/I feel you like me doing it, too”)

Ø      Mediate-ly so: construed as based in non-sentient yet osmotically internalised ‘personal ego-or-alter-centricism (e.g. typified in the attitude: “I’m afraid you don’t like me/I’m happy ‘cos I adore you’”)


·        Self-support – developmental or progressive

Ø      Immediately so: construed as based in behavioural/externalised ‘personal universal-mutuality’ (e.g. typified in the attitude: “My heart tells me that I’m doing the right thing all-round, here”)

Ø      Mediate-ly so: construed as based in sentiently internalised ‘personal universal-mutuality (e.g. typified in the attitude: “I deeply value/passionately believe in empathic pro-sociality – such as the appropriate sharing in the ‘milk of human kindness’”)


·        Social Support – undeveloped or regressive

Ø      Immediate-ly so: construed as based in behavioural/externalised ‘communitarian ego-or-alter-centrisim (e.g. typified in the attitude: “I protect my husband/wife from getting hurt and it helps my family stay together”)

Ø      Mediate-ly so: construed as based in non-sentiently internalised ‘communitarian ego-or-alter-centricism’ (e.g. typified in the attitude: “I really sympathise with your loss but I’m a bit committed at the moment/and you must be really very upset, even though you couldn’t stand your hubby”)


·        Social Support – developmental and progressive

Ø      Immediate-ly so: construed as based in behavioural/externalised ‘communitarian mutualities’ (e.g. typified in the attitude: “My relationship with my husband/wife helps me to stay connected with others”)

Ø      Mediate-ly so: construed as based in sentiently internalised ‘communitarian mutualities’ (e.g. typified in the attitude: “Empathetically, I can sense, understand and am concerned about the anxiety/uncertainty my nephew is going through following the loss of their mother”)


·        Social Control – undeveloped or regressive

Ø      Immediate-ly so: construed as based in the behavioural/externalised ‘collective heteronomy (especially founded in primitive/polarised social or cultural identities) (e.g. typified in normative attitudes: “It’s us versus them, mate.  So it’s the biffo” or “The easiest thing to do is to smile and be hospitable so your [overseas] guest feels welcome –but don’t go out of your way them well.  They’re aliens, remember.”

Ø      Mediate-ly so: construed as based in non-reflective though internalised ‘collective heteronomy (especially founded in primitive/polarised social or cultural identities) (typified in cultural rules or norms such as: “Most people round here are sick of whinging customers.  We believe that business people are not here to suck up to people but to run a going concern” )


·        Social Control – developmental or progressive

Ø      Immediate-ly so: construed as based in the behavioural/externalised ‘collective autonomy’ (especially founded in social/cultural re-presentations) (e.g. typified in attitudes such as: “I am fighting to defend “the American-way” and all it stands for” or “The proper/polite thing to do is to smile and be hospitable so your [overseas] guest feels welcome – especially if you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable/unhappy with them or if you’re a bit tired”

Ø      Mediate-ly so: construed as based in reflectively conscious/internalised ‘collective autonomy (especially founded in social/cultural re-presentations) (typified in cultural value-statements such as: “I sincerely believe that we, as a company, need to listen to what the customer wants and strive to thoroughly delight them in this respect”)



As noted at the outset and adapting the work of Harry Triandis, Western cultures are assumed to be primarily individualistic, being dominated by relations between self control and social support at the immediate, behavioural level and relations between self support and social control at the mediate, cognitive level.  Alternatively Eastern cultures are assumed to be primarily collectivistic, being dominated by relations between self support and social control at the immediate, behavioural level and relations between self control and social support at the mediate, cognitive level.


It is postulated herein that a trans-cultural or Worldview distinguishes and relates, immediately and mediately, collectivistic and individualistic ‘complexes’ as dynamic ‘positive and negative’ or ‘yin & yang”(c.f. perceptual illusions that ‘shift’ alternatively or with ‘shifting insight’).  Moreover, this dynamic equilibrium is assumed to occur through virtuous circles or rotational flows supported by the other flow types. 



Radial Flow


As the diagram above indicates, radial flows may emanate outwardly like the “explosive” ripples made by a stone thrown into a pond as well as flow inwardly like an “implosion” toward a ‘centre of gravity’.


In the Unifying Model at the outset of this paper, radial flows are primarily responsible for the coordination of approach/attraction action tendencies and avoidance/aversion action tendencies, on the one side and the equilibration of mutual affirmation and mutual negation, on the other.  In particular, outward radial flows from approach-approach and mutual affirmation and inward radial flows from avoidance-avoidance and mutual negation converge at an axis slightly above “economic exchange”.


To restate the metaphor, a person at a beach coordinates inward radial flows encouraging swimming and outward radial flows discouraging being ‘out of one’s depth’ so that the person swims a few metres in from the waters edge. 



Social Behaviourism


This paper contends that social-behavioural dynamics are impacted significantly by radial flows, similar to the foregoing ‘swimmer at a beach’ metaphor.

Specifically, it is conjectured here that the ‘motor’ of action and proprioception in human behaviour dynamics – at the individual and collective levels – is the dialectical tension systems and vector-flow dynamics that constitute and are constituted by approach/attraction action tendencies, on the one side, in relationship with avoidance/aversion action tendencies, on the other.  These action tendencies are construed as polar opposites, however there are assumed to be ‘shades of grey’ betwixt and between them. 


It should be kept in mind that heartfelt sentience and mind consciousness in human systems must be factored into any account of self-organisation (that is, process or dissipative structures) in these systems.  That is, the distinctive feature of ‘self-organisation’ in human living systems is that this set of ‘universal relativities’ (see discussion below under Orbital Flow) has co-evolved with human consciousness and sentience, such that human living systems and networks are capable of being ‘aware/conscious and appreciative of’ and able to represent, re-produce and recursively reflect on ‘primitive self-organisation’. 


The ‘full dynamic’ creating (and created by) the ‘inward, forward, upward’ flows of approach/attraction (positioning and movements ‘toward’) and the ‘outward, backward, downward’ flows of avoidance/aversion (positioning and movements ‘away from’) are conceptualised as consisting of:

1.      The presence and/or absence of positive and negative ‘field-based contingences’ (rewards/benefits on the one hand and punishments/harms on the other); AND

2.       Personally/cognitively derived or environmentally/socially derived ‘ends’ (that is, goal-states – ranging from those which are need-based or epi-genetic to those which are culture-based, i.e. involving significance, purpose and value, or socio-genetic); AND

3.      The time-sensitive developmental trajectories (pathways, courses, routes) or, generally, the ‘instrumental means’ of reaching the goal-state.  It is assumed that increasing ‘complexity’ and ‘variety’ in human dynamic systems is equifinal, that is, a multiplicity of behavioural trajectories emanating from different life-spaces can lead to the goals of complex and diverse organization, AND

4.      Following Kurt Lewin (Lewin etal, 1944), developmental & cultural (human time-space) behavioural trajectories shape and are shaped by reference frames & constituent reference scales, which may be personal/cognitive or environmental/social in origin and in nature.  For example, mental models such as a ‘map’ or ‘theory’ are examples of the personal/cognitive type of framework and social-scaffolds (infrastructure) and benchmarkers such as provided by a ‘road/road markings/road signs’ or a ‘professional body’ are examples of the environmental/social type.



The above matrix presents the scope of the dynamic in action.  It must be stressed that this position paper contends that this dynamic entails intensional as well as intentional process-structures.  Intentionality occurs (most) when contingencies (benefits/rewards and harms/punishments) are explicately PRESENT.  On the other hand, intensionality occurs in the ABSENCE of explicate contingencies, or in response to IMPLICATE ‘flows’ and ‘order’.


By way of clarification, to approach an end state by moving “away from” it is to take an indirect approach and to avoid an end state by moving (initially) toward it is to ‘face a potentially adverse situation’ in order to understand and prevent it or minimise its risk-value.



Internalisation and Externalisation


The developmental processes of internalisation and externalisation also involve radial flows.  Internalisation involves the development of ‘the cultural context in the person’ and externalisation involves the development of ‘the person in their cultural context’. 


With respect to the models of information and value processing and exchange shown above, it is assumed that the model of intentionality underlies externalisation.  That is, it involves sensori-motor input and action outputs.  On the other hand, it is assumed that the model of intensionality underlies internalisation, with inter-actions as inputs and proprioceptive “senses” and behavioural sensitivity as the outputs.




4.   Orbital Flows


As the Unifying model shows, orbital flow may take the shape of the double-helix – flowing in perpetuity backward toward primitive origins and forward toward greater organisational complexity.  This paper presents a new concept of “universal relativity” as the processual basis of orbital flow.


Extending  ‘relativity’ through neo-Gestaltism: ‘Universal relativity’


From a ‘universal perspective’ (c.f. Robert Selman’s, 1980 model of social perspective co-ordination, with its roots in George Herbert Mead’s, 1934 writings regarding the ‘generalised other’), it is postulated that in human behaviour dynamics a complex of relations evolves among FIELD-CONTINGENT MOMENTARY POSITION/S and TIME-SENSITIVE/DEPENDENT MOVEMENT/S.  Further, consistent with Richard Lerner’s notion of multi-level environmental embeddedness in human dynamic system development, it is proposed that these positional and movement inter-relations occur co-constructively across five (5) organisational (system – environment transaction) levels, namely:



Physicists have considered position-motion relativities, especially from an astrophysical perspective.  It is conjectured here that for human ‘living’ or developmental/dynamical webs ‘universal relativities’ co-occur and co-evolve across the five levels of organization listed above.


The concept of ‘universal relativities’ is critical, here.  Specifically, every ‘position’ on a ‘field’ (of behaviour) constitutes and is constituted by the momentary, time-sensitive and field-contingent and emergent/creative distinctions and relations among:



Let me make this more concrete.  Let’s imagine a person taking a walk through a public park.  As a physical system in a physical environment the person’s moment-by-moment position on the park will be affected by the field-contingent positions in that park (e.g. walking uphill/downhill, on or off ‘pathways’ etc), the person’s time-specific movements (mass, velocity, acceleration – at a particular time) and the time-sensitive (planetary/gravitational) movements of all other positions in ‘the given universe’ (e.g. the atomic or molecular structure of ‘activity’ in the park – i.e. whether the park is relatively unoccupied or ‘covered’ by ‘charged’ particles/energized people).


Let’s take this further and ‘follow’ our hypothetical person.  As the person walks (moves) through the park, other people may also be walking about, reading a newspaper on a bench, chatting to a friend, playing touch-football etc.  In pure terms, momentarily I may be stationary (at rest) or in motion in relation to each other stationary or moving person/entity and the general notion of relativity says that the ‘occurrence’ (in human terms, the perception/experience) of one’s own or another’s motion and momentary position/s are relative to one another.  Indeed, human perception is such that all living/developmental systems in a space-time continuum are perceptually ‘stationary’ AND ‘in motion’, relatively speaking and relative to differing levels/domains of organization, i.e. physical, biological, psychological, social and cultural organization.


The ‘illusion’ of a stationary person on a train perceiving an external observer ‘falling behind’ (relative to the ‘stationary self’) and a successive/serial, mutually-exclusive perception of oneself being propelled away from the observer through the motion of the train is a common human perceptual experience acquired with perceptual development and, it is asserted herein, is the primitive basis of ‘universal relativity’ in human-kind.


Moreover, following David Bohm (“Wholeness and implicate order”, 1980) universal relativity may be defined as ‘insight (sentient awareness and/or self-conscious appreciation) into the fecund and heterogeneous ways of looking at (and thinking and talking about) the present, total situation as the one yet de-differentiated whole’ (e.g. insight into ways of looking at ‘the world’). It should be noted that de-differentiation refers to the conjunction (i.e. the functioning at one and the same time) of processes of:


(all) within a ‘whole flow of movement’ or orbital flow (c.f. Bohm, 1980 – for the important concept of ‘a whole flow of movement’).


It is postulated here that a person’s actual/present/immediate ‘position’ and movements

 ‘exist/s’ through social and temporal ‘mediation’.  The concept of ‘human mediation’ is best understood in the context of Kurt Lewin’s (1935, 1951) ‘law’ that Behaviour = Function (Person * Environment), that is, human behaviour is a function of the interrelations between ‘the person’ and their ‘environment/s’. 


Social mediation entails the person’s psychological (including ‘self-system’) interrelations with ‘others’ in their socio-cultural environments, involving mental and social re-presentations (c.f. Serge Moscovici, 1981) and relationship-based experience of people in their lives  – captured, especially, in role-taking and social perspective co-ordination. 


Temporal mediation entails the person’s psychological interrelations among their ‘present’ and their ‘past’ and ‘future’ (the ‘sociality of time’) – captured in ‘socio-historical constructionist accounts’ (especially human narrative/‘story-telling’ – with past, present and future ‘tenses’; c.f. the writings of Mary and Kenneth Gergen, 1983) and moment-by-moment/‘lived’/emergent experience.  Of course, social and temporal mediation are co-operative and inter-dependent. 


Temporal mediation acknowledges a dialectic between temporal continuity and discontinuity: between “now”, the present and “then”, the past and the future.  Moreover, temporal mediation covers both ‘time’ as irrevocable and revocable.  First, from a ‘linear’ perspective of Past -> Present -> Future, time is irreversible or ‘the past never returns’.  However, second, from a non-linear, circular perspective time is revocable, that is, the emergent ‘Present’ situation is a function of the interrelations between ‘Past’ and ‘Future’, where past and future are developing realities.  Additionally, of course, each emergent ‘present’ creates a new linearly viewed Past and Future.  In other words, our view of ‘history’ and expectations concerning ‘the future’ are progressively ‘revised or reviewed’, in light of ‘new present developments’ (c.f. paradigm or zeitgeist-shifts, following Kuhn’s writing on theory-shifts in science).


It is assumed here that psychological organization (perception, intellect, affect and connation – see models above on information and value processing and exchange from intentional and intensional perspectives ) serves as the bridge or conduit, for humans, between and betwixt physical and biological organization, on the one side and social and cultural organization, on the other.  Expressed another way, it is:



which MEDIATE human realities, socially and temporally.


Returning to the ‘dynamic equilibrium’ of ‘universal relativity’, the assumption is that this is developed through position – movement interrelations among systemic part-whole interactions in human behaviour dynamics.  In this respect, the notion of a ‘Gestalt’ expounded by the German Gestaltist school (e.g. Lewin, 1935, Kohler, 1947, and Wertheimer, 1924) is particularly pertinent.  The ‘breakthrough’ axiom of Gestaltism is the view that ‘the dynamic Whole is more/greater than the sum of its [constituent] parts’.  Parenthetically, this axiom explains why ‘cultural organization’ is (presently) of a ‘higher order’ than other forms of human organization (c.f. David Bohm, 1966 “On Dialogue” as a cultural phenomenon).


A ‘dynamic whole’ or gestalt ‘brings out’ and ‘responds to’ systemic part-whole inter-relations.  The positioning and motion of parts in relation with one another (both as ‘parts-in-the-whole’ and as ‘wholes themselves’), the parts in relation with the whole and the whole in relation with other dynamic wholes is how position-movement interrelations ‘play out’ in persons as ‘general systems’ (c.f. Ludwig von Bertalannfy, 1950), but also as ‘nodes’ within networks. 


Put simply, social and temporal mediation or self-in-relation-to-other/s and self-in-relation-to-time are proprioceptive MIRRORS on the processes of perception, cognition and semiosis involved in creating universal relativity.  Also, social and temporal mediation develop “the person-in-cultural context” and the “cultural context-in-the-person” via the mechanisms of externalisation and internalisation.  Moreover, it is with reference to these ‘mirrors’ that universal relativities are achieved via position-motion and part-whole interrelations.  Put more concretely, percepts, constructs and relationships (POSITIONS) and cultural flows or confluences of shared values, purposes and significance (MOVEMENTS) among individuals (PARTS) within social collectives (WHOLES) create insights into differing ways of viewing the world.


In other words, the momentary and dynamic positions/equilibria of the parts (e.g. people) in relation to one another, as moving parts and dynamic wholes, progressively create and maintain ‘the psychological gestalt/s’ from which ‘life-giving’ in-formation and valences-values (percepts/’senses, feelings, schemas/ideas, meanings/’tenses, wants/intentions and intensions and ‘selves’) arise, grow, decay and change (modulate and harmonise) the person-in-context and the context-in-the person.


Only when human systems function cognitively (‘informatically’) and/or affilio-affectively (e-valu-atively & e-vocatively) as, and through, Gestalt/s can ‘universal relativities’ be realized, appreciated and co-operate to:


·        develop increases in organizational ‘complexity’/neg-entropy (heteorhesis),

·        regulate, for instance, through cyclical relations in dynamic-equilibria,

·        ensure structural redundancy, plasticity and flexibility [i.e. the propensity of developmental structures to re-organise and function contingently] and, thus,

·        achieve ‘requisite variety’ or organizational heterogeneity, upon which evolutionary and developmental ‘success’ is premised.


Basic cognitive processes enabling and/or supporting ‘universal relativity’


It is proposed in this paper that the basic processes enabling ‘universal relativity’ are:


·        Heteronomy -> Autonomy of ‘control-hierarchical systems’ (INTENTIONALITY) acquired principally through social mediation, permitting ‘de-centration’ and ‘operational reversibility’ – concepts taken from Jean Piaget.  Autonomy promotes the goal of cognitively “making up one’s own mind” – in order to both in-form and e-valuate/e-voke organizational mutualities, AND

·        Ego (or alter)-centricity -> Mutuality among ‘support-heterarchical systems’ (INTENSIONALITY) acquired principally through temporal mediation.  The axiomatic instantiation of mutuality in human living systems is found in the intensionalities (and tenses) of affilio-affective relation-ships or ‘journeys – together’, which bond and bind people personally and collectively … and that help to in-form and e-valuate organizational autonomy.


Finally, it is the theoretical assumption herein that ‘universal relativity’ functions psychologically in a fashion analogous to ‘shifting’ percepts or the emergent/‘self-organising’ solutions evident in chemical clocks and fractals.  That is, with each differing way of ‘looking at’, thinking about and talking over momentary dynamics, on a ‘time-sensitive behavioural field’, unique organized patterns, process-structures or ‘cultural identities’ emerge.  Moreover, these patterns and cultural identities arise intensionally and may be regulated and reproduced intentionally through orbital flows in partnership with the other main flow types.






·        Bateson, G.  (1972).  Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

















·        Piaget, J. (1975/1985).  Equilibration of cognitive structure.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.




·        Triandis, H. C. (1988). Collectivism v. individualism: A reconceptualization of a basic concept in cross-cultural social psychology. In G. K. Verma & C. Bagley (Eds.), Cross-cultural studies of personality, attitudes and cognition (pp. 60-95). London: Macmillan.