Individualism and Collectivism:
A Dynamic Systems Interpretation
of Piaget's Interactionism
University of Utrecht
Because of the role it gives to interactions, Piaget's constructivist theory of developmental process can be seen as an embryonic dynamic systems theory. The significance of nonlinear dynamic systems theories in this context is that they are capable of explaining emergent properties; objections to the idea that more powerful structures can arise from less powerful structures in development (known as the novelty problem or learning paradox) are no longer valid. This is important because such arguments have been used to deny the possibility of any novel or epigenetic process of development at all.
Construction, emergence, novelty, and epigenesis: All these terms relate to an aspect of Piagetian developmental theory that is recognized as central but at the same time can appear vague and elusive. This elusiveness has been seized on by both nativists and sociointeractionists who have tried to abolish the problem of emergence by shifting it to evolutionary biology and social interaction, respectively. However, against nativists it can be argued that dynamic systems theory has shown that emergence through interactions is possible, and against socio-interactionists it should be pointed out that social interaction is addressed and acknowledged to be essential by Piaget.
Although no less than three different kinds of interaction were discussed by Piaget at length, these deliberations have not proved convincing in explaining the dynamics of the developmental process. First, the interaction between subject and object in relation to development is thor-