Tuesday, February 24, 2009


In 1943 Arturo Rosenblueth set the basis of cybernetics, proposing that behavior controlled by negative feedback, whether in animal, human or machine, was a determinative, directive principle in nature. Cybernetics focuses on how anything (digital, mechanical or biological) processes information, reacts to information, and changes to better accomplish the first two tasks. It is "the art of ensuring the efficacy of action" according to Louis Couffignal. A premise one might find implied here is that the stimulus behind behavior is the achievment of a goal.

Sound familiar? This has a lot to do with procrastination. In the field of psychology, the importance of monitoring and regulating one's attention to a task prompted George Miller to coin the acronym T.O.T.E.: test-operate-test-exit. In the same breath we could also talk about optimal foraging theory and control theory (a close sister to cybernetics). Each employs a specific example of the classic feedback model. In general terms, feedback is the process in which part of the output of a system is returned to its input in order to regulate its further output. Dare I say it, this is the most important principle for self-regulation in the battle against procrastination. Of course, it cannot address all the fundamental reasons for irrational delay, but it is a very big piece. (Sources: Don't Delay and as usual Wikipedia.)

Postscript 01 March 2009:
In 1973 William Powers built upon ideas like those of Rosenblueth's. He proposed the Perceptual Control Theory model of behavioral organization, which states that living organisms are closed-loop systems that act to keep perceptual variables in pre-specified states, protected from disturbances caused by variations in environmental circumstances. Which makes sense when considering a quote from Claude Bernard (1813-1878): "The constancy of the internal environment is the condition for a free and independent life."

1 comment:

aratina said...

There goes free will!