Coordination dynamics in a socially situated nervous system

Charles A. Coey, Manuel Varlet, Michael J. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Traditional theories of cognitive science have typically accounted for the organization of human behavior by detailing requisite computational/representational functions and identifying neurological mechanisms that might perform these functions. Put simply, such approaches hold that neural activity causes behavior. This same general framework has been extended to accounts of human social behavior via concepts such as “common-coding” and “co-representation” and much recent neurological research has been devoted to brain structures that might execute these social-cognitive functions. Although these neural processes are unquestionably involved in the organization and control of human social interactions, there is good reason to question whether they should be accorded explanatory primacy. Alternatively, we propose that a full appreciation of the role of neural processes in social interactions requires appropriately situating them in their context of embodied-embedded constraints. To this end, we introduce concepts from dynamical systems theory and review research demonstrating that the organization of human behavior, including social behavior, can be accounted for in terms of self-organizing processes and lawful dynamics of animal-environment systems. Ultimately, we hope that these alternative concepts can complement the recent advances in cognitive neuroscience and thereby provide opportunities to develop a complete and coherent account of human social interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number164
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2012. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • neuroscience
  • joint action
  • dynamics
  • embodiment
  • rhythmic coordination


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