Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #335

Matter, Movement, and Mind: The Order Is Important

Sunday, May 27, 2018
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Grand Ballroom 7-9
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Marcus Jackson Marr, Ph.D.
Chair: Marcus Jackson Marr (Georgia Tech)
J. A. SCOTT KELSO (Florida Atlantic University; Ulster University)
For most of his scientific career Scott Kelso has been trying to understand how human beings (and human brains)—individually and together—coordinate their behavior on multiple levels, from cells to cognition to (most recently) social settings (see Since the late 1970's his approach has been grounded in the concepts, methods and tools of self-organizing dynamical systems tailored to the activities of animate, living things (moving, perceiving, learning, remembering, developing, etc.), a theoretical and empirical framework that has come to be called Coordination Dynamics. From 1978 to 1985 Kelso was Senior Research Scientist at Yale University’s Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut. Since then, Kelso has held the Glenwood and Martha Creech Eminent Scholar Chair in Science at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Boca Raton, Florida where he founded The Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences. Kelso is also Emeritus Professor of Computational Neuroscience at Ulster University in his home town of Derry, in the north of Ireland. Kelso and colleagues' research has been published in Science and Nature as well as other prominent journals in the fields of neuroscience, physics, biology and psychology. His books include Dynamic Patterns: The Self-Organization of Brain and Behavior (MIT Press, 1995), Coordination Dynamics (Springer, 2004) and The Complementary Nature (with D.A. Engstrøm) published by MIT Press in 2006. Kelso is a Fellow of APA, APS, SEP and AAAS and has received a number of honors and awards for his work, including the MERIT, Senior Scientist and Director’s Innovations Awards from the U.S. National Institute of Health. In 2007 he was named Pierre de Fermat Laureate and in 2011 he was the recipient of the Bernstein Prize. He was inducted as an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2016. Trained in a specifically interdisciplinary setting, Kelso’s PhD students and Postdocs have gone on to careers in some of the top academic and research institutions in the world, a fact that he is especially proud of.

This lecture will explain, by means of a theory of coordination, the relationship between matter, movement and mind. There will be a little physics (self-organization), a little biology (synergy selection), a little math (mostly nonlinear), a little theory (coordination dynamics) and a little experimentation (from fingers and babies and brains to ballet dancing and beyond)—all presented at the level of the proverbial educated layperson. The story is one of emergence, how spontaneous processes give rise to properties not usually ascribed to ordinary matter, but rather to living things, such as agency and goal-directedness. Paradoxical though it may seem, the self–the “I”– emerges from self-organization which, by definition, means the system organizes itself. In these open, complex systems, there is no organizer doing the organizing. The path, made by walking--as Machado would have it--is from nonequilibrium phase transitions in matter and movement (including motor development and learning) to the “eureka effect” of experiencing oneself as an agent for the first time. Who cares? Well, if you have ever wondered how mind gets into matter or how matter produces mind, please join me: like a choreographed script, the order of matter, movement and mind might be important. Phase transitions offer a transcendental mechanism, “the way in” to their relationship. Via symmetry breaking, “the way out” is the modern, metastable mind.

Target Audience:

Everyone who is interested in a novel, or different approach to the age-old mind-matter relation and the possibilities it creates.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) understand the concepts, methods, and tools of the science of coordination (informationally coupled dynamical systems, aka coordination dynamics) and how it closes the loop (‘reciprocal causality’) between spontaneous, self-organizing processes and mental constructs such as intentionality, purpose and will.



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