Self-Regulation Theory: How Optimal Adjustment Maximizes Gain

By Dennis E. Mithaug | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
The Theory of Self-Regulation

All living organisms self-regulate, even the smallest. Consider the E. coli bacterium swimming in search of food. It too solves problems to meet goals, as molecular biologist Max Perutz explained:

Organisms are problem-solvers seeking better conditions--even the lowest organism performs trial and error measurements with a distinct aim. This image brought to mind Howard Berg's striking film of chemotaxic bacteria. He showed how a bacterium's flagellar motor makes it run and tumble randomly until the bacterium senses a gradient of nutrient. The bacterium then reduces the frequency of tumbling and lengthens the runs towards a greater concentration of nutrient. 1

Cell movement, from random tumbling to homing in, reveals the same purposeful, self-regulating behavior found in other species, including humans. In The Cerebral Symphony, neurobiologist William Calvin described routes taken by single-cell organisms moving successively closer to food. Their approaches appear as purposeful as any we might follow, given similar information about food proximity. According to Calvin, "most philosophers looking through a magnifying glass at that food-finding path would have ascribed intelligence to that purposeful performance of the little bacterium. At such a marginal magnification, it would seem to 'home in' on the morsel. But the bacterium has no brain: it's just a single cell with some inherited simple abilities such as swimming, tumbling, and sensing increasing yield."2

Indeed, intelligence may not be necessary for self-regulation. But self- regulation is necessary for intelligence. In fact, the more complex the organism's central nervous system, the more adaptive is its self-regulatory capacity.

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Self-Regulation Theory: How Optimal Adjustment Maximizes Gain
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Notes xv
  • Chapter 1 - The Problem of Adaptation 1
  • Notes 16
  • Chapter 2 the Nature of Problem Solving 19
  • Notes 40
  • Chapter 3 - The Theory of Self-Regulation 43
  • Notes 61
  • Chapter 4 - Self-Regulated Thinking 63
  • Notes 81
  • Chapter 5 - Self-Regulated Doing 85
  • Notes 116
  • Chapter 6 - Maximum Gain 119
  • Notes 146
  • Chapter 7 - Self-Determined Gain 149
  • Notes 178
  • Chapter 8 - Innovative Gain 183
  • Conclusion 205
  • Appendix 209
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 223
  • About the Author 235
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