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Continuing Commentary
Abstract Whereas Rudolphs (2006a) article provides a discussion of mathematical models of time, Yamado and Kato (2006a) present a particular image of timecircular timeas a key feature of an entirely different model of temporality, namely people life-span narratives. In the present article, I attempt to apply some aspects of Rudolphs models to actual developmental research, namely math learning by children in special education, social development, attachment and the timing of puberty. The dynamics of these processes require not only an understanding of how they unfold in timeand which model of time to choose in order to adequately describe thembut also an understanding of the participants narratives, in an attempt to understand their actions as intentional, with concerns or goals that determine their sequencing and timing. I conclude by saying that, metaphorical or not, the models and narratives presented in the key articles by Rudolph and Yamada and Kato have contributed to at least my own understanding of developmental dynamics by providing particular challenges for reformulating existing issues. Key Words attachment, dynamic systems, narrative, nonlinearity, relationships, time

Paul van Geert

University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Every now and then an image pops up that has the power to change the perspective on many other images. Lee Rudolphs (2006a) the fullness of time is such an image (for me, at least). It is exactly the sort of image you would expect to have that property: made by a different sort of artist (a mathematician), partly understandable, partly not, and partly because of this ambiguity also very intriguing. The second article in the Thematic Issue on time (Yamada & Kato, 2006a) had, I must confess, initially a less James-Bondian effect on me. I was only mildly shaken and only a little stirred. A salient point in this article was the mixture of the familiar use of university students as representatives of the human species with the observation that such students are
Culture & Psychology Copyright 2006 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) http://cap.sagepub.com Vol. 12(4): 511531 [DOI: 10.1177/1354067X06069952]

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We Simply Have No Time . . .

It is remarkable that the science of psychology, which from a rather nave but therefore also very fundamental standpoint should be seen as the science of individuals changing and evolving across time, has transformed itself into a science where basically a-temporal relationships between variables distributed across groups now abound. However, the dangers of this hybrid breed lurk around every corner. Since the majority of professionals in psychologylet us take my own eld, developmental or educational psychology, as an exampleare confronted with what happens in individuals, they automatically tend to translate the a-temporal group-based statements into statements about events. Heres an example that just occurred to me the other day. A student had done an analysis of videotaped math lessons in a class for children from a school for special education and had looked at the succession of on-task and off-task happeningswaiting for help and getting help for individual children. According to the literature she had collected, there exists an inverse association between off-task behavior and mathematical competence. That is, if one measurement is made of the off-task behavior and math skill over a large group of students, higher scores on math skill tend to associate more clearly with lower off-task scores for examples of such analyses, see (Flood,

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deeply embedded in their own culturemodern Japanand bring along with them a number of narrative elements that t in less well with the secular view on the structure of time and the world that we often think should be the standard in scientic inquiry. The difcult challenge is: how to identify the mathematical approachwhich really sounds like a disturbing call from far away with the narrative approach, the study of which is framed in the familiar format of psychological research but nevertheless refers to a world of complex and interesting meanings. My predecessors-in-commentary have pointed to various problematic issues in the Rudolph and Yamado and Kato articles, which I hope to address and maybe also to bring closer to some sort of solution. An important point regards the metaphorical aspect of the models presented in the keynote articles (in the Thorngate, Dzhafarov and Mller and Giesbrecht commentaries in particularall 2006). Both Thorngate (2006) and Dzhafarov (2006) explicitly ask how developmental psychologists will actually use these notions of time in their daily research business.

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Wilder, Flood, & Masuda, 2002; Gest & Gest, 2005). However, as simple visual inspection of the off-task versus math skill graph readily shows, it is not difcult to nd pupils with quite good math skills and relatively much off-task behavior. That is what is usually found if a statistically signicant correlation is mentioned. The studentand many settled professionals in psychology, for that matterwould, under normal circumstances, tend to interpret this negative-association claim in terms of a temporal event statement of the kind this pupil shows much off-task behavior; his math skills are not going to develop as wanted. This is the sort of tacit, automatic interpretation that we usually make. If explicitly asked, anyone who had reasonable degrees on his or her statistics and methodology course will say a correlation is not a cause and will say there are exceptions to the rule. But that neither solves the problem nor reduces the automaticity of the interpretation. The point remains that there is no automatic or obvious transformation from the association-type of claim specied over a group to an event-type of statement we need if we are confronted with real individuals in real contexts. (See Molenaar, 2004, for an explicit statistical discussion of the distinction between group-based and individual-based relationships between variables or properties.) However, the student in question had observed ve children in the class several times in a row, had analyzed their math workbooks, and had background information from the teachers about each of the students. For the student, the off-task behavior (or whatever else) and math skills are now put in an entirely different relationship, namely the relationship of co-occurring events on different time scalesthe time scale of a single math class and the time scale of the school year. Of even bigger importance is the fact that the relationships now hold for individual pupils as they interact with their teachers and with each other over the course of the half hour of the math lesson, or the course of the school year. It became apparent that the relationships of co-occurring time scales constitute meaningful individual temporal patterns. One pupil, for instance, who is very good at math in that he can solve the workbook assignments much more rapidly and effortlessly than his fellow pupils, shows a considerable amount of off-task time, simply because he does not have to ask for so much help from the teacher as do the other pupils, which leaves him enough time to make his math assignments and meanwhile reasonably amuse himself during his self-paced off-task time. What we see here is a dynamic pattern that governs the current pupils math learning in the socially situated context of his

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math classes and school. (For a more extensive discussion of this example, see Van Geert & Steenbeek, 2006.) The dynamic pattern seems to result from a basically dialectical process, a process of opposing intentions, namely the intention to do ones school assignments and the intention to engage in other sorts of pleasurable activities, such as chatting with ones friends or just dozing off in a way that is not too conspicuous. (These pupils spend quite some time in the school bus and thus have to get up early in the morning. For a model of opposite intentions in learning contexts, see Boekaerts & Corno, 2005; Boekaerts, de Koning, & Vedder, 2006). The importance of dialectic tendencies, that is, tensions between opposing forces such as intentions, is a major feature in Hoods commentary. Hood (2006) explicitly refers to approachwithdrawal dynamics, which is exactly what happens in the tension between the pupils on- and off-task tendencies. This on- and off-task tendency produces a sort of fractal pattern in time, as Hood calls it. If I understand Hoods notion of the term fractal right, it should refer to a certain nested property of the pupils on- and off-task dynamics. That is, a particular pupil shows episodes of mainly on-task alternated by mainly off-task activity, but each of these main episodes is cut up by smaller episodes of the opposite activity (e.g. the on-task episode shows various small episodes of offtask action, which, if we could look into the pupils consciousness, are themselves cut up into smaller, alternating units). These alternations are related to the issue of uctuation, which is a major aspect of real action and development, and which is also strongly emphasized in Hoods commentary. It is likely that the individual action patterns of the pupils show their own variability pattern, that is, their own characteristic fractal dimension. (See, for a discussion on the importance of variability in developmental data, Van Dijk & Van Geert, 2006; Van Geert & Van Dijk, 2002.) Time is a central feature of the dynamic pattern; more precisely, it is a pattern in time. A formal description of such a pattern would, in all likelihood, be more similar to some sort of formalized narrative or script than to the sort of mathematical equation that is commonly identied with the notion of a model. It is also interesting to see how this pattern ts in with the narratives of some of the important protagonists, namely the pupil himself and his teacher. In standard psychological research, the pupil himself is seldom asked about his narrative, his view on the dynamic pattern that is so characteristic of his doing and leaning math in the school context, or any other aspect of his life, for that matter; though there are exceptions, for instance when students are explicitly asked for their motivations, or why they act as they do

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(see, e.g., Boekaerts & Corno, 2005; Boekaerts et al., 2005; Singer, 2005). In this particular case, the information available to the student also contained an informal check of the teachers narrative, that is, the coherent story the teacher has about the pupil in question, the way he does his math and the way he can be taught to do so. This narrative is undoubtedly of great importance for any attempt to try to understand the dynamic pattern of the current students math learning and the current teachers teaching. The teachers narrative is not nave. These are highly competent, well-trained teachers whose narratives incorporate a good deal of psychological theory and who themselves are scaffolded by an extensive framework of professionals and experts, including the researchers who come to their classes to study learning and teaching processes. From a point of view of cultural or social change, these narratives, which form the expression of educational professionalism and skill, are changing all the time, incorporating in different ways the narrative of scientic research and its reception in the broader framework of society. Let us recapitulate. In the example we saw a student leaving the domain of statistical associations between properties in a sample or group of individuals and entering a new realm, that of dynamic patterns applying to individuals. First, the dynamic patterns imply time as a space, which is Rudolphs central argument (Rudolph, 2006a). That is, in order to specify the dynamic logic of a pattern involving social interactions between a pupil, other pupils and a teacher and explaining the relationships between the chosen variablesoff-task, on-task, asking and receiving helpyou need some sort of descriptive space in which time is a crucial property. (I will avoid saying that it is a variable of such a space, because its relationship to constituting that space is considerably more complicated than being just an orthogonal dimension.) That is, you need a space in which those elements can be ordered in such a way that they constitute the pattern. I will address the issue of order in time in the next section. Second, the dynamic patterns are special and typically human in that they contain selfimages, that is, reections on their structure and properties by the participants of the dynamics. These self-images are dynamic selfimages. That is, they are embodied in the form of the narratives of the main protagonists. Those narratives are changing across various time scalesfrom the short to the long termand are essential functional aspects of the dynamic pattern in question. I will discuss this aspect in the third section.

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Ordnung Muss Sein . . .


Order and Sequence in Time and Narratives A central component of Rudolphs approach to time is the notion of sequence or order of elements or members of a set. One may follow Dzhafarovs (2006) critique and question to what extent Rudolphs model is indeed a model of time and not of peoples concepts of time. Maybe the question can be resolved by pointing out that Rudolph aims at describing psychological time, which I understand as a persons experience of order and duration of events that are meaningful from that particular persons point of view. The basic types of ordering are total or linear order, partial order and cyclical order (see the section on Time as a Kind of Space, Rudolph, 2006a, pp. 169171). The Generative Life Cycle Model referred to in Yamada and Kato (2006) is an example of how narratives have incorporated a combination of linear with cyclical ordering. From the above, it is clear that the elements that are ordered in time are elements dened by a particular persons acts of attention. I would tend to identify the content of these acts of attention with events, that is, meaningful unities from the point of view of the person, which have a fuzzy status in that their boundaries are not crisply dened (hence the states of ambivalence that alternate with the states of attention). Events form nested structures (i.e. consist of main events and component events, up to the acts of attention) and thus require a more complex time structure than that of a single non-hierarchical sequence. If both linear and cyclical ordering are possibilities in psychological time, we need a psychological systema particular personwho can both make distinctions and see similarities. However trivial this requirement may seem, it is highly relevant for a psychology spanning the distance from the psychophysical and biological to the meaningbearing and cultural aspects. In this regard, it is interesting to see that one of the commentators, Dzhafarov (2006), has made a major contribution to the mathematical modeling of the psychophysics of distinctions, and thus to specifying how making perceptual distinctions denes psychological time as a sequence of (distinguished) events. As Diriwchter (2006) makes clear in his commentary, the distinctions that deveopmental scientists make on an entirelty different level of aggregation, namely in their observations of developmental trajectories, are also based on their situatedness. A person cannot experience a cyclical pattern if that person is unable to see the similarities among the corresponding points in the cycle, and neither can a person experience a sequence of events if the person

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Personal Relationships and Attachment: An Example of Complex Nested Cycles Let us take the issue of personal relationships as an example of the complexity of psychological time, related to the fact that cyclical processes intertwine or become superposed, thus making the cyclical character of the constituent processes less obvious or less easy to recognize. The example I will focus on is that of attachment, a popular theme in developmental and clinical psychology and which can be dened as the tendency to seek closeness to another person and feel secure when that person is present (as the Wikipedia tells us). Thus dened, the 517

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cannot see differences. Basically, if any day is psychologically speaking like any other day, there is no time in the linear, progressive sense of the word. There is, at most, a short-term cycle, namely the day cycle. Clinical problems consisting of a persons inability to make sense of and give meaning to life might be closely related to an aberration in the persons perceiving and experiencing time. The way people see differences and similarities is deeply affected by the culture they live in and by their developmental history and future. Culture and biology cooperate in the cyclical organization of processes and events. Cycles occur within and across individuals. From the physical-biological standpoint, the life cycle, which forms the topic of Yamada and Katos article, is a cycle that repeats across individuals. However, for religious beliefs that postulate reincarnation, the cyclical nature of life is also a biological fact for the individual (although the form of reincarnation postulated need not reduce to a nave biologism: see, e.g., the way reincarnation is dened in various forms of Buddhism). The fact that reincarnation is not a scientic truth (whatever that may be) does not in any way reduce its causal or conditional effect on the life cycles of many people, namely those people for whom the narrative of reincarnation or life after death is an existential fact and whose lives are, to various extents, determined by this narrative. Cycles abound in the cultural organization of our lives. I teach and will thus be confronted by the cycle of the classes I teach, I have workdays and workweeks and years that contain cycles of work and holidays. These are examples of relatively formalized cycles that are incorporated in cultural and societal practices, artifacts, habits, and so forth. Some cycles are more accidental and informal. Examples are friendships or romantic relationships with other persons. They might have a cyclical character, with different frequencies and intensities for different people.

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notion of attachment must by necessity also entail separation, forming a cycle of seeking proximity, then separation (e.g. because one seeks proximity to an other person), then proximity, and so forth (Field, 1996; see also the approachwithdrawal theme discussed in Hoods [2006] commentary). In fact, the whole notion of the strange situation, which is the default experimental set-up to study attachment in young children, is based on this implicit cyclical nature of attachment. The fact that attachment develops at a particular age in babies is related to the development of their ability to make distinctions (among people who are their caregivers or not) and see similarities (recognize the returning caregiver as the person to whom they are attached). Attachment is a process that extends across the whole life cycle (see, e.g., Klohnen, Weller, Luo, & Choe, 2005; Paterson, Field, & Pryor, 1994). The question is of course how this extension throughout life should be understood from the point of view of time, and psychological time in particular as discussed by Rudolph (2006a). The more or less accepted approach is to conceive of some identical kernel or entity such as an attachment model or an attachment representationthat emerges in early childhood and is conserved over a lengthy period of time, or eventually transformed as a consequence of experiences (Shaver, Belsky, & Brennan, 2000; Treboux, Crowell, & Waters, 2004; Waters, Merrick, Treboux, Crowell, & Albersheim, 2000, 2003). From a dynamic point of view, and in the perspective of Rudolphs model of time, what actually occurs is a nested sequence of cyclical patterns, that is, short-term patterns of proximity-seeking and separation and of the associated emotional appraisals embedded in patterns of continuously extending cycle length. Examples of the latter are patterns of encounters with relevant persons (caregivers, peers, friends, romantic partners, etc.) and life-cycle related patterns of growth (increasing independence during childhood, sexual maturation during puberty, growth into adulthood, the family cycle, etc.). The whole structure looks a bit like Rudolphs Balinese calendar with the structure of nested cycles of unequal length. The question is: what in this nested set of cycles is actually conserved? What is the similarity? This is the analog of the standard question about the stability of the attachment model or attachment representation, asked in terms of the dynamic patterns that occur across time. My assumption is that what is similar in these cyclical patterns of proximity-seeking and separation is different all the time. That is, between one such cycle and the next (or some later one) there is likely to be much similarity, but what is similar for cycle (a) and (b) is not the same thing as what is similar for cycle (a) and (c), so to speak. The

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similarities and the differences are determined by the dynamics of the pattern we call attachment. That is, from a mathematical or modeling point of view, the similarities in attachment patterns across an individuals life trajectory are both a consequence and a cause of the dynamics governing the attachment process over the lifetime. The reason why the same thing can be both a consequence and a cause of itself lies in the presence of time. Because of the way attachment patterns dynamically unfold, certain similarities with previous such situations emerge that become part of the persons history and narrative and thus codetermine the dynamic unfolding of future attachment patterns. An ordered sequence of attachment events exists where each event has both similarity with and difference from other events, and that are characterized by an iterative structure (the outcome of the previous event plays a role in the unfolding of the next one). Research on the life-span development of attachment often refers to entities such as attachment models or attachment representations and captures these models or representations by means of questionnaires, interviews or observation scoring systems. Questionnaires and interviews are (relatively) formalized ways for obtaining an image of a persons personal narrative. However, in the questionnaire context, the persons narrative is taken out of its genuine temporal frame and transformed into some a-temporal reection (eventually with distortions known as measurement errors) of the other a-temporal entity, the attachment model or representation. That is, there are basically two different views. In one, the questionnaire is a formalized narrative that is treated as an image or recording of a particular entity, the attachment representation or model. In the other, there is a narrative dynamics and a dynamics of attachment events (of proximity and separation) and these dynamics are coupled. Thus, the narrative itself is an event, or better a series of eventsfor instance dialogs among friends or partners, personal stories or complaintswhere one event, that is, one particular story, begets another event, that is, a later or successive personal story that reects on the persons own feelings and opinions regarding his or her attachments to other people. The coupled nature of the narrative and of the attachment dynamics follows, in one way, from the fact that these narratives themselves play an important role in the dynamics of attachment across life, depending on their form, frequency, emotional intensity and the way these narratives are received by others and thus take part in dialogs. However, those narratives have their own rules and conditions, and their dynamics are not necessarily similar to the dynamics of the events to which they refer and relate. For instance, for some persons or for some periods of a

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persons life, the narrative may be far behind or be far ahead of the actual attachment patterns it refers to. This phenomenon might relate to the phenomena of partial ordering or complex ordering that Rudolph refers to in his article. Another phenomenon, which is crucial for the issue of attachment as well as development, and which illustrates the developmental effects of partial orderings of time, is that of social encounters, that is, all forms of social interaction that require particular adaptations from the participants and that can have long-lasting effects. (By encounters I do not refer to anything that is primarily hostile: encounters can be positive, neutral or negative.) Social Encounters, Partially Ordered Time and Trees Attachments require encounters. The most basic and far-reaching encounter is that between a newborn and his or her parents. It is an expected, literally self-made encounter with somebodythe neonate who is, on the one hand, entirely new, that is, a new person, and, on the other hand, also familiar, that is, the product of the parents genes, and thus to a considerable extent familiar and recognizable. (For a particularly illuminating account of the tensions between various time scales in social development, see Cairns, Garipy, & Hood, 1990.) The birth of a childmore precisely but less culturally relevant, the conception of a childis a literal branching event in time, the production of a new life that begins, by a mature life that can procreate. It is also, like any other major life event, a good example of a partially ordered acyclic graph (see Figure 4 in Rudolph, 2006a, p. 194, right-hand image). More concretely, an event such as the birth of a child (or other major life event) does not only branch towards the future, but also branches back into the past. It can almost literally change the past, in that it brings certain past events to the fore that make sense with respect to the current major life event, or give sense to that event. A less happy example is that of an adolescent or young adult going astray, thereby almost literally redening his and his parents past, in the sense of bringing events to the fore that foreshadowed the problem or educational actions of the parents that caused it. From a viewpoint of ordered events in time, the birth and growth of a child and its being raised by its parents require the coordination, and thus temporal ordering, of two fundamentally different sequences, namely that of beginning life and that of nurturing life. Attachment, in the classical sense, provides a good example of the almost paradoxical ordering of events. Under normal circumstances, birth will be accompanied by the sudden emergence of a strong parental bond or

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attachment (the suddenness will be different for the mother than for the father, who has not known the physical intimacy with the newborn child during the months of gestation). However, the childs attachment, in the true sense of the word, will emerge only later, approximately around the age of 6 months. In cultural and economic circumstances where a high level of good-quality care is the norm, we tend to see the process of growth and education as a relatively seamless and smooth process, that is, as a single sequence of events that after about two decades leads to a happy and competent young adult who will then separate from his or her parents to start the cycle anew. Problematic events and problematic relationship between parents and children are seen as exceptional, in that they are not expected as the normal case (a particularly interesting case in this regard is the discussion on the potential aversive effects of total time spent in day care: see Belsky, 2002; NICHD, 2006). Instead, they are seen deviant and serious and a considerable amount of social effort is invested in treating them. But in reality, the problematic nature of the relationship may be more natural than the unproblematic onenatural in the sense that it is more likely to occur, given the problematic dynamics of two (or more) very different time lines or event sequences: namely, on the one hand, the time line of the growing child, and, on the other, the time line of the adult parent. The problematic nature becomes more apparent when the resources are scarce, when there is poverty or lack of education. These conditions put additional pressures on the timing problem, that is, the parent and childs problem of reconciling the tempo and timing of crucial events. Child labor is a characteristic example: the pressures of survival compel the parent to force the young child into a role it is not yet ready for and that will seriously hamper the further sequence of its growth and development, for instance by denying the child the right to schooling and education. The choice for child laborwhich is hardly a choice for the parents or the childrenis again an example of a bifurcation, that is, the creation of a particular node on the tree structure of time, as Rudolph (2006a) describes it. An event such as the incorporation of children in the labor force is not a complete bifurcation from the formal point of view. The potential event sequence it creates is more like the a-cyclical graphs, where certain branches might fall back on others. That is, children who, in general, encounter adverse circumstances early in life, such as being put to work, but also being abused or otherwise maltreated, can eventually at a later time be given the chances for education and growth they had missed at an earlier age. However, the branching back is less likely and hard, and sometimes impossible.

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Another example of the complexity of timing and temporally ordered events that is also of considerable importance to the issue of attachment beyond childhood is the timing of puberty, especially in girls. Sexual maturation is an extremely important event. From an evolutionary point of view, it must occur at the right time, which means that it must run parallel with the timing of additional events required for successful reproduction. There is a large body of evidence showing that the timing itself is a result of events that preceded it, and that it is in itself a cause of later events, for better or for worse. For instance, pubertal timing is responsive to ecological conditions earlier in life, which might be beneciary as well as adverse. Such conditions may lead to either an inhibition or an acceleration of the onset of puberty. The effects of earlier or later puberty, on the other hand, are non-linear, being most notable in the extremes (both positive and negative; for an overview, see Boyce & Ellis, 2005; Ellis, 2004; Ellis, Essex, & Boyce, 2005). The problematic or beneciary effects of early or late timing of onset or puberty are not a matter of a linear ordering of events, as if early menarche itself would lead to adverse effects on other variables, such as psychosocial adaptation or birth-weight of the rst offspring. What matters is that such timing issues cause a problematic (or beneciary) coordination, that is, mutual ordering, of different time lines or event sequences. Examples of such event sequences are timing of romantic dating and rst sexual intercourse, the nature of the partners and potential providers, who may or may not be able to support the offspring, and so forth. From the point of view of the participants, that is, the people who are actually involved in these issues, timing relates to the subjective order of meaningful life-events in their own life and in the life of other persons with whom they are intimately connected (educators, parents, peers, romantic partners, etc.). The complexity resulting from this conuence of many events with many different, eventually contradictory and emotionally-laden interpretations is a good example of the Ryoko concept discussed in Yamada and Katos reply to the commentators (Yamada & Kato, 2006b).

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Time is crucially related to dynamic systems, that is, systems where one earlier event generates some later event (for a denition, see Weisstein, 1999). As Rudolph (2006a) also emphasizes, a dynamic can refer to change as a ow, that is, continuous change, or as a mapping of events onto one another, that is, as a discrete event pattern. The simplest possible expression of a dynamic system is x/t = f(x), in the case of

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a ow or xt + 1; = f (xt) in the case of a map (f(x) means is a function of x, and f is the so-called evolution law or evolution function). The notion of a dynamic pattern that I introduced in the discussion of learning math is closely related to a central notion of dynamic systems theory, the attractor. As Rudolph rightly remarks, the notion of attractor requires a form of (approximative) similarity. Thus, if applied to psychological time, it requires a cultural and psychological system of perception and categorization that can see differences and similarities. This system is a product of cultural and historical change and evolution, but also of individual development in a cultural context. The question that I shall briey discuss in this section deals with the relationships between temporal and life-span narratives, as illustrated in Yamada and Katos article, and dynamic systems. If applied to the event sequence model used in the preceding sections, a dynamic systems model would take the form et + 1; = f(et), meaning that a later event at time t + 1 is some function of an earlier event at time t. (For a discussion in the eld of developmental psychology, see Van Geert & Steenbeek, 2005.) Rudolphs claim that such events are in fact acts of attention alternated by states of ambivalence refers to a particular property of events as they are interpreted by human minds. If we take the mind to follow a stream of consciousness, it is obvious to conceive the mind as operating in some form of continuous time. Events, or the acts of attention that mentally specify them, are discrete. However, there is no intrinsic incompatibility between the two, because the mind seems to work that way in general. For instance, the color circle is clearly a continuous (and cyclical) phenomenon. Yet the way human beings perceive and speak of colors is discrete, but it is discrete in a special way (Franklin, Pilling, & Davies, 2005; Goldstone, 1995; Saunders & van Brakel, 1997; see Rudolphs reply to the commentators, Rudolph, 2006b). What human beings do is to divide the continuous dimension into overlapping ranges of discrete colors. The overlap is crucial: this is where the color categories are seen as ambiguous (of course, new color terms can be invented to categorize the ambiguous reasons, but they will in their turn consist of smaller overlapping ranges, again with ambiguous overlaps). The perception of phonemes works the same way, namely by discrete categories with intermediate ambiguous regions. Acts of attention, according to Rudolph, seem to work in the same way, in the form of clearly discernible acts of attention with intermediary states of ambivalence or ambiguity. However, Mller and Giesbrecht (2006) nd this notion of acts of attention as discerning the primary events of psychological time too abstract and too intellectualistic (p. 226). They

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suggest an approach to such elementary events based on MerleauPonty, which puts the intentionality of consciousness to the fore. Intentionality or goal-directedness implies a reference not only to the present, but also to the past and future. This approach ts in with the example that I gave at the beginning of this article, which referred to children in special education doing math. In order to understand the dynamics of their actions, we need to know their interests and concerns, which are in a fundamental sense dialectic in nature and lead to a characteristic fragmentation or sequencing of their actions (see the example of the fragmentation of on- and off-task actions during the course of a math lesson). The question is: will we ever have a mathematical theory that expresses the evolution law of events, or acts of attention, for that matter, that is, will we ever have a dynamic systems theory of the mental and of the development of the mind? The events that constitute our world are of incredible complexity, and it seems very unlikely that such a theory will ever be achieved. However, to a certain extent, we already have such a theory. It is a symbolic theory, it is highly algorithmic (its principles are learnable in nite time) and it is used to predict and rule the stream of eventshuman actions and experiences in generalthat it pretends to explain. This theory is nothing else than what is called, in somewhat disparaging terms, folk psychology, nave psychology, theory-of-mind, and so forth. (There is a lot of debate about the status and function of folk psychology as a theory of the mind: see, e.g., Stich & Ravenscroft, 1994.) It summarizes the meaningful events in a (relatively) short list of fundamental descriptive terms (names of emotions, of psychological states such as desires, etc.), it contains a few powerful evolution terms, such as the notions related to intentions and desires, actions to fulll those intentions, and so forth. It accounts for subtle and less subtle variations among cultures in the way psychological events are interpreted and has a number of universal features that reect the universal features one would expect, given the fact of biological universality under cultural variations. From a dynamic point o view, this theory takes the form of an ongoing sequence of self-related narratives and self-related dialogs. These narratives and dialogs take the form either of inner speech or of overt dialog and communication with others. They specify the persons intentions, views of the past and the future, the persons evaluations, positions with respect to others, and so forth. More precisely, they form an ordered sequence in time that expresses a specic dynamics, that is, person-specic way of iterating the narratives and dialogs (in the sense that any next dialog is to some extent a function of the previous ones).

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It is important to note that these narratives and dialogs follow their own dynamics. (See Miller, Cho, & Bracey, 2005, for an example in the context of working-class children.) They are representations of what happens to the person, but they are very special representations in the sense that they specify what is important for the person (or even more specically, in the sense that they specify what is important for the person to specify). They are embedded in the dynamics of the persons action and attention in general and thus interact with other dynamic components or aspects determining the persons life-cycle events. There will be many situations in which the dynamics of action and the dynamics of narratives in the person are incoherent or even collide (think, for instance, about analyses of behavior showing how behavior is determined by simple imitation of others, whereas the person himself ascribes the behavior to his own free will; Chartrand & Bargh, 1999; Ferguson & Bargh, 2004). However, these collisions, or whatever it is that marks the relationship between the dynamics of the narrative and the dynamics of anything else that inuences human action, sustain the process of action as a whole and explain the unique nature of the dynamics of human beings. A generalization of this viewpoint can be found in an article by Michail Zak (2000). Zak is a physicist working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. His approach is entirely from the viewpoint of building adequate mathematical models of dynamics of living beings. His main point is that in order to model the dynamics of living beings, that is, the patterns of their behavior over time, one cannot conne oneself to what he calls Newtonian properties. Living beings possess a crucial non-Newtonian (his words) property, which is a self-image, however primitive that self-image may be. This self-image is in fact a probability space, that is, a space dening the relevant probability dimensions for the organism at issue, for instance the probability of obtaining food in a particular environment following a particular action. The probability space fundamentally relates to the notion of time, since it denes the organisms future (in the sense of probabilities). Zak argues for a difference between the motor dynamics and the mental dynamics of the organism, and builds an explanation of intelligent behavior in general on the basis of the coupling of these dynamics. The dynamics of narratives and dialogs is, in my view, an example of the mental dynamics (or maybe it is the mental dynamics). As stated before, narratives and dialogs need not be true images or reections of the motor dynamics. If that were so, they would not have the function they have now and which is crucial for understanding the

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dynamics of the entire system, which is the function of exploring the probability space that is of concern to the organism in question.

Cutting up the Developmental Pie


A major theme addressed in Rudolphs and Yamada and Katos replies to the commentators concerns the distinction of states or events in developmental time. That is, what is the set of possible, developmentally meaningful differences between individuals? When a person increases in ageconsider any time scale at which this increase is counted, from milliseconds to decadesthe person changes in all different sorts of ways. His lips move when he speaks, he eats a sandwich, reads a book, goes to college, raises a family . . . But which of these changes are developmental changes? That is, which of the possible distinctions one can make among possible states across time are developmentally relevant distinctions? In a series of articles that I published some twenty years ago (Van Geert, 1987a, 19877b, 1987c, 1988), I argued that this is exactly what classical theories of developmental do: they give you a recipe to cut up the developmental pie (basically by telling you how the pie is baked, but the metaphor is clearly carrying us away . . .). On the supercial side, those theories often provide a model of stages, such as the sensori-motor, the pre-operational and the concrete and formal operational stages of Piaget. On the more subtle side, these stage distinctions are based on descriptive dimensions that enable one to make developmentally relevant distinctions, for instance the dimensions of externalinternal, actionaloperational and concreteformal which, in my view, underlie the relevant distinctions made in Piagets theory. I myself used simple graph theory to formalize the major properties of the ways in which developmental theories (at least a subset of theories that drew my attention at that time) cut up developmental time, that is, describe developmentally relevant distinctions. If I understand it right, simplicial complexes, which Rudolph amply discusses in his commentary, are generalizations of graphs, and thus may be applied directly to the sort of analyses of developmental sequences that I presented in these eighties papers. It is interesting to note that, once we have a formal way of dimensionalizing the space of developmental time, we can not only distinguish among the states of a system that we think are developmentally relevant, but also get the dynamics for free. That is, by cutting up the developmental pie into pieces, we implicitly dene potential developmental pathways.

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By Way of a Short Recapitulation

When I was a young student at the University of Ghent in Belgium I had a professor of logic, Leo Apostel, who had once cooperated with Jean Piaget and who had a (modest) cult status because of the originality of his use of logic for a better understanding of human cultures and behavior. I joined an informal work group around Apostel. (I remember one of the other members was a priest who practiced exorcism according to the Roman Catholic rites as part of psychiatric treatment.) The aim of the work group was to see if formal logic could be used to understand the notion of sacrice as it appears in many religions all over the world. What these meetings of long ago have taught me is that mathematics, in this case logic, is a very rich tool that can be applied in many diverse ways to whatever subject or topic you are interested in. Just like any tool (e.g. a standard DeWalt percussion drill), you need to learn how to use it, but you dont really need to understand its mechanism (what is under the yellow-and-black housing). Mathematicsfor instance the mathematical model of time presented by Rudolph (2006a)helps one to better understand and represent psychological change and development. The application of a mathematical framework is neither a nal step nor a step that should only be made if the available data are hard and thoroughly quantitative. It is not a nal step in the sense that a mathematical view on a particular phenomenonbe it a simple dynamic model, a formalization or the

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In their reply to the commentators, Yamado and Kato (2006b) explicitly say that they dont think the sort of graph analysis that I presented in 1988 is a good idea: it is too formalistic and does not sufciently account for the essential properties of the living developing subject. I must say that, after about twenty years, I have come to sympathize with their viewpoint. Oppositions, ambiguity, fuzziness, paradoxes, they are all essential features of the complex system of development. (See Van Dijk & Van Geert, 2005, and Van Geert & Van Dijk, 2003, for discussions of how fuzziness and ambiguity can be used as methodological and statistical principles in empirical developmental research.) However, I see it as a fundamental feature of the complexity of human development that it can be represented both by formal mathematical structures that emphasize the underlying, eventually rigid logic and by narrative structures that emphasize the ambiguity and multiplicity of the developmental process. They are both sides of the same phenomenon.

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application of mathematically founded conceptscan also be the starting point for further inquiry, or an intermediary point in the sense of a rst attempt at putting ones thoughts and ndings in a particular formal framework, or indeed a nal step, after the data have been collected and processed. The use of a mathematical framework or model to understand the utterly complex phenomenon of the human life span and the function of something personal and relatively fuzzy as a narrative or dialog provides a good example of the fact that mathematics is a tool for understanding reality and is thus applicable to virtually anything that can be conceptualized, observed or presumed, at any stage of psychological inquiry. The ultimate criterion of such application of mathematics is not whether it contains some nal truth (or some modest version of that) but whether it constitutes a step in a long series of steps that lead to better and deeper understanding of the phenomena that form the content of the pheomenena that we are interested in. Some commentators (Dzhafarov and Thorngate) are concerned about the metaphorical nature of the models provided in the keynote articles. However, a metaphor can be a tool like any other. It depends on whether it helps progress our understanding or functions as a rst step towards more elaborate and more functional tools. If metaphors can act as frames that help us order and structure the experiences that feature in our research questions and as challenges that stimulate and shape further thinking, they will have served important goals. References

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Biography
PAUL VAN GEERT studied Psychology and Educational Sciences at the University of Ghent, Belgium, and was appointed Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Groningen in 1985. His main eld of investigation concerns the application of dynamic systems theory to various aspects of development, including language, cognition and social development. He has a strong interest in the theory of developmental psychology and in the methodological consequences of applying dynamic systems thinking to studying development. He is a former fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California, has held visiting professorships at the universities of Paris and Turin, and is an active member of the Mind-Brain-and-Education group founded at Harvard University. ADDRESS: Paul van Geert, Professor of Developmental Psychology, The Heymans Institute, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands. [email: p.l.c.van.geert@rug.nl; vangeert@inn.nl]

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