The Dynamics of Self-Regulation: Robin R. Vallacher and Andrzej Nowak
Throughout their careers, Carver and Scheier have demonstrated a remarkable and enviable knack for theoretical synthesis, and the present target chapter is no exception. When one considers the enormous range of topics and issues they explore, their ambition in attempting to achieve conceptual integration is truly impressive. Yet, they have managed to lay out a broad framework within which a century's worth of theories and empirical phenomena can at least be discussed in similar language and related to a common set of issues. This framework represents a mix of two rather different orientations, each of which has been forwarded as an integrative vehicle for otherwise disparate ideas and data but that differ in fundamental respects. On the one hand, they offer a broadly cybernetic interpretation (cf. Powers, 1973) of such diverse phenomena as emotion, self-awareness, motivation, consciousness, mental representation, adaptation, personal consistency, artd autonomy. Since the early 1980s, this framework has proven remarkably effective for dealing with issues in control and self-regulation, especially those centering on goals, as evident in the work of the authors themselves (cf. Carver & Scheier, 1981). On the other hand, they invoke certain ideas associated with dynamical systems
theory (cf. Schuster, 1984) and related developments such as catastrophe theory (Thom, 1975). Only in recent years has the dynamical perspective emerged as a potential integrative vehicle for many of these same issues (cf. Vallacher & Nowak, 1994), so Carver and Scheier are understandably tentative in using it to reframe self-regulatory phenomena. Our aim in this comment is to sketch how the issues raised by Carver and Scheier might be addressed somewhat more comprehensively from a purely dynamical systems perspective. In so doing, we consider how cybernetic assumptions can be integrated into an explicit dynamical framework.