Arthur S. Iberall Distinguished Lecture

December 2, 2005    z    University of Connecticut    z    4:00 p.m.

Room 160 Bousfield Psychology Building


"Understanding the Mind"


J. A. Scott Kelso

The Human Brain and Behavior Laboratory

Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences2

Florida Atlantic University

Boca Raton, Fl 33431



      Several conjectures by A.S. Iberall on life and mind are used as a backdrop to sketch a theory of mental activity that respects both the contents of thought and the dynamics of thinking. The dynamics, in this case, refers fundamentally to animated, meaningfully coupled self-organizing processes (coordination dynamics) and exhibit multistability, switching and, because of symmetry breaking, metastability. The interplay of two simultaneously acting forces underlies the metastable mind: the tendency for the coordinating elements to couple together (integration) and the tendency for the elements to express their individual autonomy (segregation). Metrics for metastability are introduced that enable these cooperative and competitive tendencies to be quantified. Whereas bistability is the basis for polarized, either/or thinking, the metastable régime—which contains neither stable nor unstable states, no states at all in fact--gives rise to a far more fluid, complementary mode of operation in which it is possible for apparent contraries to coexist in the mind at the same time.


Arthur S. Iberall Distinguished Lecture Series

Dedicated to the exploration of connections between physical processes and their manifestations in nature, life, humankind, mind, and society. The series honors the physicist, Arthur S. Iberall (1918-2002), whose intellectual legacy includes homeokinetics, a method of applying the laws of thermodynamics to all self-organizing systems. His applied research contributed significantly to the development of the first space suit, the high-speed dental drill, stove surface burners, the fancy-stitch sewing machine, and the electric knife.

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