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Humanistic psychology developed in the s as a movement within academic psychology, in reaction to both behaviorism and psychoanalysis. It emphasized subjective meaning, rejection of determinism, and concern for positive growth rather than pathology. Later, positive psychology opened up humanistic themes to scientific modes of exploration. Humanistic psychology is primarily an orientation toward the whole of psychology rather than a distinct area or school.

It stands for respect for the worth of persons, respect for differences of approach, open-mindedness as to acceptable methods, and interest in exploration of new aspects of human behavior. As a "third force" in contemporary psychology, it is concerned with topics having little place in existing theories and systems: e. Swiss psychoanalyst Ludwig Binswanger and American psychologist George Kelly may also be said to belong to the existential school.

Austrian existential psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl drew evidence of meaning's therapeutic power from reflections garnered from his own internment. Personality psychology is concerned with enduring patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion—commonly referred to as personality —in individuals.

Theories of personality vary across different psychological schools and orientations. They carry different assumptions about such issues as the role of the unconscious and the importance of childhood experience. According to Freud, personality is based on the dynamic interactions of the id, ego, and super-ego. Although the number of proposed traits has varied widely, an early biologically-based model proposed by Hans Eysenck , the 3rd mostly highly cited psychologist of the 20th Century after Freud, and Piaget respectively , suggested that at least three major trait constructs are necessary to describe human personality structure: extraversion—introversion , neuroticism -stability, and psychoticism -normality.

Raymond Cattell , the 7th most highly cited psychologist of the 20th Century based on the scientific peer-reviewed journal literature [] empirically derived a theory of 16 personality factors at the primary-factor level, and up to 8 broader second-stratum factors at the Eysenckian level of analysis , rather than the "Big Five" dimensions. However, despite a plethora of research into the various versions of the "Big Five" personality dimensions, it appears necessary to move on from static conceptualizations of personality structure to a more dynamic orientation, whereby it is acknowledged that personality constructs are subject to learning and change across the lifespan.

The popular, although psychometrically inadequate Myers—Briggs Type Indicator [] sought to assess individuals' "personality types" according to the personality theories of Carl Jung. Behaviorist resistance to introspection led to the development of the Strong Vocational Interest Blank and Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory MMPI , in an attempt to ask empirical questions that focused less on the psychodynamics of the respondent. Study of the unconscious mind , a part of the psyche outside the awareness of the individual which nevertheless influenced thoughts and behavior was a hallmark of early psychology.

In one of the first psychology experiments conducted in the United States, C. Peirce and Joseph Jastrow found in that subjects could choose the minutely heavier of two weights even if consciously uncertain of the difference. His text The Psychopathology of Everyday Life catalogues hundreds of everyday events which Freud explains in terms of unconscious influence. Pierre Janet advanced the idea of a subconscious mind, which could contain autonomous mental elements unavailable to the scrutiny of the subject.

Culture, Mind, and Society

Behaviorism notwithstanding, the unconscious mind has maintained its importance in psychology. Cognitive psychologists have used a "filter" model of attention , according to which much information processing takes place below the threshold of consciousness, and only certain processes, limited by nature and by simultaneous quantity, make their way through the filter. Copious research has shown that subconscious priming of certain ideas can covertly influence thoughts and behavior.

For this reason, some psychologists prefer to distinguish between implicit and explicit memory. In another approach, one can also describe a subliminal stimulus as meeting an objective but not a subjective threshold. The automaticity model, which became widespread following exposition by John Bargh and others in the s, describes sophisticated processes for executing goals which can be selected and performed over an extended duration without conscious awareness.

John Bargh, Daniel Wegner , and Ellen Langer are some prominent contemporary psychologists who describe free will as an illusion. Psychologists such as William James initially used the term motivation to refer to intention, in a sense similar to the concept of will in European philosophy. With the steady rise of Darwinian and Freudian thinking, instinct also came to be seen as a primary source of motivation.

Psychoanalysis, like biology, regarded these forces as physical demands made by the organism on the nervous system. However, they believed that these forces, especially the sexual instincts, could become entangled and transmuted within the psyche. Classical psychoanalysis conceives of a struggle between the pleasure principle and the reality principle , roughly corresponding to id and ego.

Later, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle , Freud introduced the concept of the death drive , a compulsion towards aggression, destruction, and psychic repetition of traumatic events. Hunger, thirst, fear, sexual desire, and thermoregulation all seem to constitute fundamental motivations for animals. Motivation can be modulated or manipulated in many different ways.

What is Social Psychology?

Researchers have found that eating , for example, depends not only on the organism's fundamental need for homeostasis —an important factor causing the experience of hunger —but also on circadian rhythms, food availability, food palatability, and cost. They suggest that this principle can even apply to food, drink, sex, and sleep. Mainly focusing on the development of the human mind through the life span, developmental psychology seeks to understand how people come to perceive, understand, and act within the world and how these processes change as they age.

This may focus on cognitive, affective, moral , social, or neural development. Researchers who study children use a number of unique research methods to make observations in natural settings or to engage them in experimental tasks. Such tasks often resemble specially designed games and activities that are both enjoyable for the child and scientifically useful, and researchers have even devised clever methods to study the mental processes of infants.

In addition to studying children, developmental psychologists also study aging and processes throughout the life span, especially at other times of rapid change such as adolescence and old age. Developmental psychologists draw on the full range of psychological theories to inform their research. All researched psychological traits are influenced by both genes and environment, to varying degrees.

An example is the transmission of depression from a depressed mother to her offspring. Theory may hold that the offspring, by virtue of having a depressed mother in his or her the offspring's environment, is at risk for developing depression. However, risk for depression is also influenced to some extent by genes. The mother may both carry genes that contribute to her depression but will also have passed those genes on to her offspring thus increasing the offspring's risk for depression.

Genes and environment in this simple transmission model are completely confounded. Experimental and quasi-experimental behavioral genetic research uses genetic methodologies to disentangle this confound and understand the nature and origins of individual differences in behavior. More recently, the availability of microarray molecular genetic or genome sequencing technologies allows researchers to measure participant DNA variation directly, and test whether individual genetic variants within genes are associated with psychological traits and psychopathology through methods including genome-wide association studies.

One goal of such research is similar to that in positional cloning and its success in Huntington's : once a causal gene is discovered biological research can be conducted to understand how that gene influences the phenotype. One major result of genetic association studies is the general finding that psychological traits and psychopathology, as well as complex medical diseases, are highly polygenic , [] [] [] [] [] where a large number on the order of hundreds to thousands of genetic variants, each of small effect, contribute to individual differences in the behavioral trait or propensity to the disorder.

Active research continues to understand the genetic and environmental bases of behavior and their interaction. Psychology encompasses many subfields and includes different approaches to the study of mental processes and behavior:. Psychological testing has ancient origins, such as examinations for the Chinese civil service dating back to BC.

By , the Chinese system required a stratified series of tests, involving essay writing and knowledge of diverse topics. The system was ended in Physiognomy remained current through the Enlightenment, and added the doctrine of phrenology : a study of mind and intelligence based on simple assessment of neuroanatomy. When experimental psychology came to Britain, Francis Galton was a leading practitioner, and, with his procedures for measuring reaction time and sensation, is considered an inventor of modern mental testing also known as psychometrics.

Binet and Simon introduced the concept of mental age and referred to the lowest scorers on their test as idiots. Henry H. Goddard put the Binet-Simon scale to work and introduced classifications of mental level such as imbecile and feebleminded. In after Binet's death , Stanford professor Lewis M. Terman modified the Binet-Simon scale renamed the Stanford—Binet scale and introduced the intelligence quotient as a score report. Their dullness seems to be racial.

The federally created National Intelligence Test was administered to 7 million children in the s, and in the College Entrance Examination Board created the Scholastic Aptitude Test to standardize college admissions. Setting a precedent which has never been overturned, the U. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of this practice in the case Buck v. Today mental testing is a routine phenomenon for people of all ages in Western societies.

The provision of psychological health services is generally called clinical psychology in the U. The definitions of this term are various and may include school psychology and counseling psychology. Practitioners typically includes people who have graduated from doctoral programs in clinical psychology but may also include others. In Canada, the above groups usually fall within the larger category of professional psychology. In Canada and the US, practitioners get bachelor's degrees and doctorates, then spend one year in an internship and one year in postdoctoral education.


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In Mexico and most other Latin American and European countries, psychologists do not get bachelor's and doctorate degrees; instead, they take a three-year professional course following high school. Central to its practice are psychological assessment and psychotherapy although clinical psychologists may also engage in research, teaching, consultation, forensic testimony, and program development and administration.

Credit for the first psychology clinic in the United States typically goes to Lightner Witmer , who established his practice in Philadelphia in Another modern psychotherapist was Morton Prince. Psychology entered the field with its refinements of mental testing, which promised to improve diagnosis of mental problems. For their part, some psychiatrists became interested in using psychoanalysis and other forms of psychodynamic psychotherapy to understand and treat the mentally ill.

The therapist seeks to uncover repressed material and to understand why the patient creates defenses against certain thoughts and feelings. An important aspect of the therapeutic relationship is transference , in which deep unconscious feelings in a patient reorient themselves and become manifest in relation to the therapist.

Psychiatric psychotherapy blurred the distinction between psychiatry and psychology, and this trend continued with the rise of community mental health facilities and behavioral therapy , a thoroughly non-psychodynamic model which used behaviorist learning theory to change the actions of patients. A key aspect of behavior therapy is empirical evaluation of the treatment's effectiveness. In the s, cognitive-behavior therapy arose, using similar methods and now including the cognitive constructs which had gained popularity in theoretical psychology.

A key practice in behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapy is exposing patients to things they fear, based on the premise that their responses fear, panic, anxiety can be deconditioned. Mental health care today involves psychologists and social workers in increasing numbers. In , National Institute of Mental Health director Bertram Brown described this shift as a source of "intense competition and role confusion". This degree is intended to train practitioners who might conduct scientific research.

Some clinical psychologists may focus on the clinical management of patients with brain injury —this area is known as clinical neuropsychology. In many countries, clinical psychology is a regulated mental health profession. The emerging field of disaster psychology see crisis intervention involves professionals who respond to large-scale traumatic events.

The work performed by clinical psychologists tends to be influenced by various therapeutic approaches, all of which involve a formal relationship between professional and client usually an individual, couple, family, or small group. Typically, these approaches encourage new ways of thinking, feeling, or behaving. Four major theoretical perspectives are psychodynamic , cognitive behavioral , existential—humanistic , and systems or family therapy. There has been a growing movement to integrate the various therapeutic approaches, especially with an increased understanding of issues regarding culture, gender, spirituality, and sexual orientation.

With the advent of more robust research findings regarding psychotherapy, there is evidence that most of the major therapies have equal effectiveness, with the key common element being a strong therapeutic alliance. New editions over time have increased in size and focused more on medical language. Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. The work of child psychologists such as Lev Vygotsky , Jean Piaget , and Jerome Bruner has been influential in creating teaching methods and educational practices.

Educational psychology is often included in teacher education programs in places such as North America, Australia, and New Zealand. School psychology combines principles from educational psychology and clinical psychology to understand and treat students with learning disabilities; to foster the intellectual growth of gifted students; to facilitate prosocial behaviors in adolescents; and otherwise to promote safe, supportive, and effective learning environments. School psychologists are trained in educational and behavioral assessment, intervention, prevention, and consultation, and many have extensive training in research.

Industrialists soon brought the nascent field of psychology to bear on the study of scientific management techniques for improving workplace efficiency. This field was at first called economic psychology or business psychology ; later, industrial psychology , employment psychology , or psychotechnology. With funding from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fund and guidance from Australian psychologist Elton Mayo , Western Electric experimented on thousands of factory workers to assess their responses to illumination, breaks, food, and wages. The researchers came to focus on workers' responses to observation itself, and the term Hawthorne effect is now used to describe the fact that people work harder when they think they're being watched.

The name industrial and organizational psychology I—O arose in the s and became enshrined as the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology , Division 14 of the American Psychological Association, in Personnel psychology, a subfield of I—O psychology, applies the methods and principles of psychology in selecting and evaluating workers. I—O psychology's other subfield, organizational psychology , examines the effects of work environments and management styles on worker motivation, job satisfaction , and productivity.

One role for psychologists in the military is to evaluate and counsel soldiers and other personnel. In the U. S Army psychology includes psychological screening, clinical psychotherapy, suicide prevention , and treatment for post-traumatic stress, as well as other aspects of health and workplace psychology such as smoking cessation. Psychologists may also work on a diverse set of campaigns known broadly as psychological warfare. Psychologically warfare chiefly involves the use of propaganda to influence enemy soldiers and civilians. In the case of so-called black propaganda the propaganda is designed to seem like it originates from a different source.

Medical facilities increasingly employ psychologists to perform various roles. A prominent aspect of health psychology is the psychoeducation of patients: instructing them in how to follow a medical regimen. Health psychologists can also educate doctors and conduct research on patient compliance. Psychologists in the field of public health use a wide variety of interventions to influence human behavior.

These range from public relations campaigns and outreach to governmental laws and policies. Psychologists study the composite influence of all these different tools in an effort to influence whole populations of people. Black American psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark studied the psychological impact of segregation and testified with their findings in the desegregation case Brown v.

Board of Education Positive psychology is the study of factors which contribute to human happiness and well-being, focusing more on people who are currently healthy. In , Clinical Psychological Review published a special issue devoted to positive psychological interventions, such as gratitude journaling and the physical expression of gratitude. Positive psychological interventions have been limited in scope, but their effects are thought to be superior to that of placebos , especially with regard to helping people with body image problems.

Quantitative psychological research lends itself to the statistical testing of hypotheses. Although the field makes abundant use of randomized and controlled experiments in laboratory settings, such research can only assess a limited range of short-term phenomena. Thus, psychologists also rely on creative statistical methods to glean knowledge from clinical trials and population data. The measurement and operationalization of important constructs is an essential part of these research designs.

A true experiment with random allocation of subjects to conditions allows researchers to make strong inferences about causal relationships. In an experiment, the researcher alters parameters of influence, called independent variables , and measures resulting changes of interest, called dependent variables. Prototypical experimental research is conducted in a laboratory with a carefully controlled environment. Repeated-measures experiments are those which take place through intervention on multiple occasions.

In research on the effectiveness of psychotherapy , experimenters often compare a given treatment with placebo treatments, or compare different treatments against each other. Treatment type is the independent variable. The dependent variables are outcomes, ideally assessed in several ways by different professionals.

Quasi-experimental design refers especially to situations precluding random assignment to different conditions. Researchers can use common sense to consider how much the nonrandom assignment threatens the study's validity.

Functional Synchronization: The Emergence of Coordinated Activity in Human Systems

Psychologists will compare the achievement of children attending phonics and whole language classes. Experimental researchers typically use a statistical hypothesis testing model which involves making predictions before conducting the experiment, then assessing how well the data supports the predictions.

These predictions may originate from a more abstract scientific hypothesis about how the phenomenon under study actually works. Analysis of variance ANOVA statistical techniques are used to distinguish unique results of the experiment from the null hypothesis that variations result from random fluctuations in data. Statistical surveys are used in psychology for measuring attitudes and traits, monitoring changes in mood, checking the validity of experimental manipulations, and for other psychological topics.

Most commonly, psychologists use paper-and-pencil surveys. However, surveys are also conducted over the phone or through e-mail. Web-based surveys are increasingly used to conveniently reach many subjects. Neuropsychological tests , such as the Wechsler scales and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test , are mostly questionnaires or simple tasks used which assess a specific type of mental function in the respondent. These can be used in experiments, as in the case of lesion experiments evaluating the results of damage to a specific part of the brain. Observational studies analyze uncontrolled data in search of correlations; multivariate statistics are typically used to interpret the more complex situation.

Cross-sectional observational studies use data from a single point in time, whereas longitudinal studies are used to study trends across the life span. Longitudinal studies track the same people, and therefore detect more individual, rather than cultural, differences. However, they suffer from lack of controls and from confounding factors such as selective attrition the bias introduced when a certain type of subject disproportionately leaves a study.

Exploratory data analysis refers to a variety of practices which researchers can use to visualize and analyze existing sets of data. In Peirce's three modes of inference , exploratory data analysis corresponds to abduction , or hypothesis formation. A classic and popular tool used to relate mental and neural activity is the electroencephalogram EEG , a technique using amplified electrodes on a person's scalp to measure voltage changes in different parts of the brain. Hans Berger , the first researcher to use EEG on an unopened skull, quickly found that brains exhibit signature " brain waves ": electric oscillations which correspond to different states of consciousness.

Researchers subsequently refined statistical methods for synthesizing the electrode data, and identified unique brain wave patterns such as the delta wave observed during non-REM sleep. Newer functional neuroimaging techniques include functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography , both of which track the flow of blood through the brain. These technologies provide more localized information about activity in the brain and create representations of the brain with widespread appeal. They also provide insight which avoids the classic problems of subjective self-reporting.

It remains challenging to draw hard conclusions about where in the brain specific thoughts originate—or even how usefully such localization corresponds with reality. However, neuroimaging has delivered unmistakable results showing the existence of correlations between mind and brain. Some of these draw on a systemic neural network model rather than a localized function model. Psychiatric interventions such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and drugs also provide information about brain—mind interactions.

Psychopharmacology is the study of drug-induced mental effects. Computational modeling is a tool used in mathematical psychology and cognitive psychology to simulate behavior. Since modern computers process information quickly, simulations can be run in a short time, allowing for high statistical power. Modeling also allows psychologists to visualize hypotheses about the functional organization of mental events that couldn't be directly observed in a human.

Computational neuroscience uses mathematical models to simulate the brain. Another method is symbolic modeling, which represents many mental objects using variables and rules. Other types of modeling include dynamic systems and stochastic modeling. Animal experiments aid in investigating many aspects of human psychology, including perception, emotion, learning, memory, and thought, to name a few. In the s, Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov famously used dogs to demonstrate classical conditioning.

Non-human primates , cats, dogs, pigeons, rats , and other rodents are often used in psychological experiments. Ideally, controlled experiments introduce only one independent variable at a time, in order to ascertain its unique effects upon dependent variables. These conditions are approximated best in laboratory settings. In contrast, human environments and genetic backgrounds vary so widely, and depend upon so many factors, that it is difficult to control important variables for human subjects. There are pitfalls in generalizing findings from animal studies to humans through animal models.

Comparative psychology refers to the scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of non-human animals, especially as these relate to the phylogenetic history, adaptive significance, and development of behavior. Research in this area explores the behavior of many species, from insects to primates. It is closely related to other disciplines that study animal behavior such as ethology. Research designed to answer questions about the current state of affairs such as the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals is known as descriptive research.

Descriptive research can be qualitative or quantitative in orientation. Qualitative research is descriptive research that is focused on observing and describing events as they occur, with the goal of capturing all of the richness of everyday behavior and with the hope of discovering and understanding phenomena that might have been missed if only more cursory examinations have been made.

Qualitative psychological research methods include interviews , first-hand observation, and participant observation. Creswell identifies five main possibilities for qualitative research, including narrative, phenomenology , ethnography , case study , and grounded theory.

Qualitative researchers [] sometimes aim to enrich interpretations or critiques of symbols , subjective experiences, or social structures. Sometimes hermeneutic and critical aims can give rise to quantitative research, as in Erich Fromm 's study of Nazi voting [ citation needed ] or Stanley Milgram 's studies of obedience to authority. Just as Jane Goodall studied chimpanzee social and family life by careful observation of chimpanzee behavior in the field, psychologists conduct naturalistic observation of ongoing human social, professional, and family life. Sometimes the participants are aware they are being observed, and other times the participants do not know they are being observed.

Strict ethical guidelines must be followed when covert observation is being carried out. In both the public and private sectors, stakeholders often want to know whether the programs they are funding, implementing, voting for, receiving or objecting to are producing the intended effect. While program evaluation first focuses around this definition, important considerations often include how much the program costs per participant, how the program could be improved, whether the program is worthwhile, whether there are better alternatives, if there are unintended outcomes, and whether the program goals are appropriate and useful.

The field of metascience has revealed significant problems with the methodology of psychological research. Psychological research suffers from high bias, [] low reproducibility , [] and widespread misuse use of statistics. Fanelli argues that this is because researchers in "softer" sciences have fewer constraints to their conscious and unconscious biases. Over the subsequent few years, a replication crisis in psychology was identified, where it was publicly noted that many notable findings in the field had not been replicated and with some researchers being accused of outright fraud in their results.

Focus on the replication crisis has led to other renewed efforts in the discipline to re-test important findings, [] [] and in response to concerns about publication bias and p -hacking , more than psychology journals have adopted result-blind peer review where studies are accepted not on the basis of their findings and after the studies are completed, but before the studies are conducted and upon the basis of the methodological rigor of their experimental designs and the theoretical justifications for their statistical analysis techniques before data collection or analysis is done.

Some critics view statistical hypothesis testing as misplaced. Psychologist and statistician Jacob Cohen wrote in that psychologists routinely confuse statistical significance with practical importance, enthusiastically reporting great certainty in unimportant facts. He complained that psychologists had no basis for assuming psychological processes to be universal and generalizing research findings to the rest of the global population.

In , Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan reported a systemic bias in conducting psychology studies with participants from "WEIRD" western , educated, industrialized, rich and democratic societies. Arnett , Altmaier and Hall , and Morgan-Consoli et al. These elements then may become integrated into different functional units. Whether the system will organize the same elements into the same functional units depends on the degree to which the emergence of the functional unit is dictated by the structural properties i.

If the elements influence one another primarily by structural linkages, the relative stability of the connections will result in the re-emergence of similar, if not identical ensembles of elements. A highly automatic or overlearned response, for example, may be temporarily disrupted but is easily re-established in the same form.


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In like manner, synchronizing neural groups form different spatial patterns in different tasks, reassembling their coordination whenever the function performed requires it e. If, however, the elements are coupled primarily by fast-changing bindings of dynamics, momentary changes in the functional relations between elements can make the re-emergence of the original configuration unlikely, promoting instead a vastly different functional unit.

In performing a relatively novel act, for instance, even a slight disruption can promote a wholesale change in the action Vallacher and Wegner, Function imposes constraints on synchronization. Even the same act might involve different configurations of lower-level elements in order to perform a particular function. When hitting a chisel with a hammer, for example, professional blacksmiths unconsciously coordinate arm muscles to maintain precision from strike to strike.

However, such precision is not present on the level of a single muscle. The functional role of synchronization can be seen at all levels of psychological reality: brain function, perception, motor behavior, higher-order action, mental processes, dyadic behavior, and collective action in social groups. Synchronization plays a crucial role in how the brain performs its functions. Brain function requires both the segregation and integration of information, whether sensory or retrieved from memory.

With the development of techniques for visualizing brain activity, we know relatively well how the brain segregates such information by specifying distinct regions for processing specific types of information. Our knowledge about how the brain integrates information, however, is much more limited. The leading hypothesis relates information integration to synchronization between regions processing different types of information e.

Synchronized activity of neural assemblies in the brain is theorized to be important to the performance of sensory and perceptual functions von der Malsburg, Synchronized oscillations between brain regions have been observed in motor and cognitive functions, specifically in conscious processing von der Malsburg, ; Tononi et al.

Sensation of the simplest object requires the synchronized activity of neural ensembles cf. Moreover, long-range synchrony between distant brain regions is observed in multiple forms of behavior Harris and Gordon, Correlation code is also thought to underlie selective attention Niebur et al. To understand how synchronization of neural activity could fulfill the role of information integration, we need to realize what a daunting task it is to combine inputs from so many dispersed and functionally distinct sources.

The binding problem represents the prototypical challenge for integration of information in the brain. If a person is perceiving a blue circle and a red square for example, how does the brain bind the shape and color features to form a representation of the object? In other words, how does the brain know that the circle is blue and the square is red?

Singer and Gray proposed that temporal characteristics of the neural activity are responsible for the binding, such that all the neuronal groups coding different features of the same object will synchronize their activity to within the range of milliseconds. This process enables integration of multiple features and the concurrent performance of multiple perceptual functions, such as the integration of features into several distinct objects. This can be achieved by using distinct temporal patterns e. The same mechanism may explain hierarchical organization, where one group of neurons belongs to more than one integrative unit at the same time e.

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The temporal correlation hypothesis also explains how integrated wholes may interact at higher levels of information processing, as synchronized neural assemblies form a functional unit at a higher level, which is distinguishable from other neural assemblies because of its particular temporal pattern.

Synchronized neural assemblies are more visible than are unsynchronized assemblies, even if the former are smaller, because a neuron is much more likely to produce an action potential if the incoming signals from its input neurons are synchronized. Such binding must occur across virtually all modalities: auditory binding may be needed to discriminate the sound of a single voice in the crowd, and binding across time is required to perceive the motion of the object. A cross-modal binding is required to associate the sound of a ball striking a bat with the visual percept of it, so both can be perceived as different aspects of the same event.

Cognitive binding, for example, must link visual perception of an object with its semantic knowledge, memory reconstruction, and cross modal identification see Neuron, 24 , , for a review. Synchronized activity is mostly visible and recorded as synchronous oscillations in the electrical activity between various brain regions.

At each level of information processing, synchronized groups form functional units that integrate into increasingly complex structures. These neuronal groups from different brain regions may correspond, for example, to personal memories, affective reactions, and so forth, with respect to the object. Each assembly at a lower level may be responsible for detecting specific features of the stimulus, but it is the synchronized representation of the various assemblies that gives rise to conscious awareness of the object.

Such a synchronized neural group is similar to the notion of cell assembly , as proposed by Hebb , in which intragroup connections facilitate activation of the entire group when a single neuron is activated. The temporal correlation hypothesis does not require the formation of stable structural connections, but rather proposes that temporal strengthening of synapses LTP—long-term potentiation may also be responsible for the creation of a synchronized functional unit. Functional units are therefore dynamical formations appearing for a short time and disassembling shortly thereafter, allowing for the creation of new functional units Rychwalska, To a certain extent, the interaction among elements may also change on an even more intermittent basis due to changes in focus of attention e.

Attention, in other words, brings together diverse groups of neurons that then have the opportunity to synchronize with one another. Such high integration requires long-range correlations and complex temporal patterns of coordination. In other words, functional binding between distinct neural assembles has to be highly flexible, enabling the functional cluster to move through a sequence of distinct states without losing its synchronization Koch et al.

Nakatani et al. At the same time, loss of consciousness itself e. Once conscious representations are formed in accordance with the scenario outlined above , they become elements subject to further integration processes that result in higher order mental structures such as action representations, judgments, and self-concepts. As with the brain, synchronization plays a crucial role in this process.

If the process of progressive integration can maintain synchronization among a subset of elements, it proceeds until a cognitive function is performed e. Considerable research has established that coherence is indeed a basic principle in cognitive function and structure cf. Abelson et al. Within this framework, a variety of mechanisms have been identified whose function is to maintain coherence in the face of incongruent information or social influence e.

Tesser et al. The nature of the cognitive function dictates the specific metric by which coherence is assessed. In forming a judgment of someone, the function is the establishment of an unequivocal behavior orientation toward the person cf. Jones and Gerard, In self-understanding, the function is self-assessment cf.

Tesser and Campbell, In action representation, the function is effective performance cf. Vallacher and Wegner, In each case, the issue of coherence is how well the elements support each other i.

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Thus, a coherent social judgment is one in which all the activated cognitive elements are consistent in their implications for evaluation of the target. In self-understanding, meanwhile, a coherent self-concept is one in which activated self-relevant information paints the same evaluative portrait. And in action, a representation is effective to the extent that the lower-level action features synchronize to produce a fluid performance cf.

Vallacher et al. When coherence among elements cannot be achieved in the process of progressive integration, control mechanisms disassemble the emerging structure and attempt to coordinate the elements or a new set of elements. This process may be repeated until the function is achieved i. A new function, in other words, may emerge from the disassembly and subsequent reconfiguration of cognitive elements Vallacher et al. The functioning of mind may thus be described as the continual assembly and disassembly of cognitive elements in the search for coherence.

The stream of consciousness may ultimately be a tumbling ground for whimsies James, , but this very feature of thought enables the emergence of structure and effective function. The progressive assembly and disassembly of system elements is reflected in the temporal trajectory of emergent thought.

In social judgment, for example, univalent evaluatively congruent information is organized into progressively higher level structures reflecting increased coherence, a scenario that is reflected in thought-induced attitude polarization Tesser, Mixed valence information, however, tends to result in the repeated assembly and disassembly of differently valenced elements in a process of dynamic integration cf. The process of progressive integration has also been observed with respect to self-reflection, with individuals who are instructed to focus on the details of their action displaying increasing oscillations in their self-evaluations during self-reflective thought, indicative of the assembly of progressively higher-order evaluatively coherent structures Vallacher and Nowak, ; Vallacher et al.

From the perspective of synchronization, coherence of cognitive representations is fundamental. Coherent representations will be integrated into higher-order representations, while incoherent ones will either be disintegrated or will have their incoherent parts eliminated in the process of integration. From this standpoint, the signals of coherence are global cross-modal signals.

Coherence in one sensory modality favors progressive information integration in other modalities; incoherence in one modality disrupts signal integration taking place in different modality. Research has shown that watching incoherent figures evokes a sensation that a musical selection does not follow familiar principles, while watching coherent figures facilitates the feeling that such music is familiar Ziembowicz et al. Despite the deep roots of this perspective in classic treatments of mind e. Connectionism has emerged in recent years as the tool of choice in investigating how systems resolve conflict and maximize coherence cf.

Read and Miller, Thus, the function of cognitive networks is assumed to be the satisfaction of multiple constraints represented by connections , such that the network achieves a configuration in which the states of nodes are least conflictful. Although connectionist models can solve the coherence problem, they have an important limitation with respect to modeling the scenario we have described.

In particular, most models are limited to a single step, in that once a coherent solution has been achieved, the system is trapped in this state and does not evolve further. The mental content and structures that emerge in line with the synchronization scenario outlined above provide the basis for overt behavior in the context of environmental constraints, challenges, concerns, and personal goals. This scenario of repeated assembly and disassembly of mental representations in service of effective action is central to action identification theory Vallacher and Wegner, The theory holds that effective performance of an action is associated with progressive integration of the lower-level structural elements of the action.

A novice tennis player, for example, is likely to identify his or her behavior in terms of the basic acts involved—adjusting body position, swinging the racket, and so forth. By the same token, if the action becomes ineffective when identified at a particular level of identification, the person is likely to shift to a lower-level identification that reflects the basic structural elements of the action.

The tennis player who fails to play tennis effectively, for example, may regain mental control of the action by refocusing his or her conscious attention on shifting his or her body position and swinging the racket. The emphasis on the cognitive representation of action in this scenario may seem at odds with a large body of research on behavioral coordination e.

Researchers in this area have emphasized that reactions to changing environmental circumstances and skill acquisition do not require conscious mental representations. Instead, there is a direct coupling of perception and action, such that environmental affordances are registered at a perceptual level without the need for higher-level cognitive interpretation. Environmental affordances also shape motor reactions through coupling of behavior and perception, such that refined and skillful enactment of behavior leads to finer distinctions in the perception of the context in which the action unfolds.

This perspective holds that in developing a motor skill, the specific movements become coupled, so that the system as a whole loses degrees of freedom e. So although hundreds of muscles are involved in even such an act as shaking hands, for example, it is unlikely that the central nervous system could cognitively cope with the control of each muscle. These patterns of mutual constraint are flexible, changing in accordance with the requirements of the function.

The patterns of coordination among hand muscles, for example, is different when hitting than when grasping. The patterns of coordination are also context-specific. So even when performing the same task, the pattern of coordination may be quite different. Operating a wrench may require different muscle configurations when it occurs in a confined space e.

From the perspective of action identification theory, skills acquired at the motor level e. As the action becomes progressively mastered or habitual, patterns of motor coordination become non-conscious elements in higher-order units that are increasingly accessible to conscious representation. Although walking remains largely automatic once it is learned, such that its elements e. So although the mutual constraints promoting patterns of movement coordination may develop without conscious control, they may subsequently become subject to conscious control and modification. In dyads, any interaction e.

The development of interpersonal synchronization is well documented. In conversations, for example, individuals spontaneously synchronize their facial expressions e. This effect is so prevalent that people will even mimic the facial expressions of an inanimate object—for example, a robot Hofree et al. Synchronization of facial expressions, in turn, tends to promote the corresponding emotional state in each member of the dyad, in line with the facial feedback hypothesis e.

Computer simulations of dyadic interaction have shown the relationship between synchronization patterns and the inner properties of the two coupled units individuals takes diverse, and often quite unexpected, forms Nowak et al. Although small changes in the dynamical properties of either unit may promote correspondingly small differences in synchronization, sometimes even very minor changes in these properties will produce qualitative changes that can be interpreted as phase transitions in the form of coordination.

When we take into account the complex dynamics associated with each individual, the higher-order system created by two individuals can become capable of especially rich dynamic properties, generating rich and complex patterns of coordination. The observed forms of coordination go beyond simple in-phase synchronization and anti-phase synchronization to include considerably more complex forms Nowak et al.

The complexity of two coupled systems may greatly exceed the complexity of each of the component systems i. Conversation is an especially important form of dyadic interaction. Fusaroli et al. Beyond simple in-phase synchronization, the individuals in a dialog display complementary dynamics, with one person compensating for the other with respect to mistakes and perturbations. The two individuals become integrated into a higher-order unit that, in turn, influences their respective cognitive, linguistic, and motor processes aimed at achieving a common goal.

Synchronization, in other words, occurs at multiple levels, both within and between the individuals. The pattern of synchronization is modulated by the function of the interaction and by the interaction context. Thus, the mode of synchronization that is functional in one context might be dysfunctional in another context. For example, repeating simple utterances of a partner might be functional in a highly structured situation e. The dyad, then, becomes a higher-order unit capable of achieving more than what can be achieved by the individuals behaving alone.

The function is defined at the level of the emergent dyadic whole rather than at the level of each individual. The interaction patterns are characterized by stability and clear ordering of the dynamics of both individuals e. The functionality of dyadic dialog is clearly visible in dimensional compression Bernstein, A social group is not only a set of people, the relations between them, and the social structure, but also the continuous process of synchronization of gestures, looks, acts, and communication cf.

Arrow et al. The achievement of a group task depends upon such synchronization cf. Forsyth, ; Schmidt and Richardson, ; Marsh et al. Decision-making requires the coordination of information and opinions, for example, while the performance of a group action requires the synchronization of the actions of the group members.

Synchronization also establishes group structure. Social relations, in fact, may be defined in terms of categories of synchronization Baron et al. Synchronization with group other members leads to the formation of social ties and promotes a feeling of connectedness e. In the pursuit of coordination, individually conditioned behaviors merge into regular patterns of joint action Guastello and Guastello, ; Marsh et al.

The emergence of coordinated behaviors may be operationalized as a correlation in time between the internal states and the behaviors of individual members of a group. A group is more predictable i. This means that the behavior of group members both limits and is limited by the behavior of other members. Although participants of a group discussion take the floor independently, for example, they do so in the context of what has already been said. Different challenges and tasks may require different patterns of coordination.

A task may require negative feedback reciprocal dampening of reactions , enacted by criticism, for example, or by reducing the number of possible decision variants. Alternatively, the task may require positive feedback intended to generate many ideas, motivate one another to work, or otherwise contribute to the group effort. When a group focuses on making a final decision between two options, for example, a discussion may involve a sequence of statements alternately expressing arguments for each of the options.

Momentary coordination of group members engaged in a discussion or a collaborative activity is a sinusoidal process—it rises and falls from moment to moment along with the work of the group. The members of the group commence collaboration in order to carry out a task or to convince others to agree with a particular opinion. Temporary increases of coordination may be described as an emergence of functional units serving the purpose of carrying out micro-tasks.

A given pattern of coordination between the participants breaks down immediately after a given objective is reached or a thread of the discussion runs out. It is not necessary for the entire group to be synchronized; rather, different subsets of individuals will synchronize to accomplish a task and then de-synchronize once the task is completed e. Over time, then, a group can be characterized by the emergence and disassembly of different interaction patterns reflecting the synchronization of various subsets of group members.

Ziembowicz , for example, demonstrated that in task-oriented groups, the momentary emergence of dyadic interaction structures tended to characterize the appearance and resolution of interpersonal conflict. Interactions involving more than two individuals, however, tended to be associated with more positive affect, weaker opinions, and greater inquiry. Different emergent social structures, then, carry out different functions in social groups. But coordination can also occur on a deeper level with respect to emotions, judgments, beliefs, and action plans cf.

Nowak et al. Group-level synchronization is sometimes manifest as emotional contagion, for example, whether in face-to-face contact e. Research Nowak et al. Visual synchronization is especially important for the emergence of mutual positive emotions and empathy. Several mechanisms promoting positive synchronization in interpersonal relations and groups have been identified.

Similarity in attitudes, for example, is a basic principle of interpersonal attraction e. Computer simulations of social influence Nowak et al. Computer simulations of social interdependence have also demonstrated the emergence of locally coherent structures, where coherence is defined as similarity in strategies of interpersonal relations e. Mechanisms have also been identified that preserve and enhance interpersonal and group coherence, such as the rejection of deviates and the emergence of group norms e.

The social ties that result from deeper levels of synchronization provide for increased influence among group members, analogous to synaptic connections in the brain and to associations in the mental system. A variety of factors apart from social ties, however, affect coordination in a group. For example, physical proximity momentarily magnifies the effective influence among individuals. The momentary salience of particular individuals e. Momentary coherence e. Such coherence might be induced, for example, by some external signal such as music or highly salient events.

In work groups, meanwhile, different structures of communication among group members tend to be associated with the emergence of correspondingly distinct modes of task solution and problem-solving Leavitt, ; Shaw, ; Guetzkow and Simon, Even in the context of existing social relations, not all interpersonal or communication links are activated at the same time. A person clearly has stable links to his family, for example, but these are not active when he or she is in some other social setting e.

In combination with the factors that operate independently of social ties proximity, etc. Coordination among group members is typically associated with effective collective action. Beyond promoting strong and enduring bonds i. At the same time, though, research has traced certain forms of dysfunctional group dynamics to global synchronization among interacting individuals. Although existing relationships among the individuals in a group can promote the emergence of a collective functional unit, group-level synchronization can emerge in the absence of social ties.

This phenomenal state tends to produce heightened coordination of moods, thoughts, and actions among all the individuals in the group, which can promote irrational and sometimes violent behavior.

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