Dynamics and Indeterminism in Developmental and Social Processes

Dynamics and Indeterminism in Developmental and Social Processes

Dynamics and Indeterminism in Developmental and Social Processes

Dynamics and Indeterminism in Developmental and Social Processes


One of the most profound insights of the dynamic systems perspective is that new structures resulting from the developmental process do not need to be planned in advance, nor is it necessary to have these structures represented in genetic or neurological templates prior to their emergence. Rather, new structures can emerge as components of the individual and the environment self-organize; that is, as they mutually constrain each other's actions, new patterns and structures may arise. This theoretical possibility brings into developmental theory the important concept of indeterminism--the possibility that developmental outcomes may not be predictable in any simple linear causal way from their antecedents. This is the first book to take a critical and serious look at the role of indeterminism in psychological and behavioral development.
• What is the source of this indeterminism?
• What is its role in developmental change?
• Is it merely the result of incomplete observational data or error in measurement? It reviews the concepts of indeterminism and determinism in their historical, philosophical, and theoretical perspectives--particularly in relation to dynamic systems thinking--and applies these general ideas to systems of nonverbal communication. Stressing the indeterminacy inherent to symbols and meaning making in social systems, several chapters address the issue of indeterminism from metaphorical, modeling, and narrative perspectives. Others discuss those indeterministic processes within the individual related to emotional, social, and cognitive development.


All scientists are determinists. It is difficult to imagine what not being a determinist could mean...There is no magical force (no vitalist spirit or melded interaction) that shapes development, apart from genetic/biological systems that propel and guide development and environments that are necessary and provide opportunities for its expression.

-- Scarr, 1993, pp. 1342-1343

We have not sufficiently taken into account that we need the laboratory with its incisive restrictions in order to demonstrate the invariable validity of natural law. If we leave things to nature, we see a very different picture: every process is partially or totally interfered with by chance, so much so that under natural circumstances a course of events absolutely conforming to specific laws is almost an exception.

-- Jung, 1950, p. xxii

Webs and chains of historical events are so intricate, so imbued with random and chaotic elements, so unrepeatable in encompassing such a multitude of unique (and uniquely interacting) objects, that standard models of simple prediction and replication do not apply.

-- Gould, 1994, p. 85 . . .

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