Structure, Identity and Anticipations

An organism’s structuresdetermine how it looks at the environment. They are therefore anticipatory. Structures construct anticipations of what to expect, and thus enable the organism to actually perceive the expected information.

Most anticipations work as acquired habits either through evolution (as in biological anticipation) or learning (as in most cases of psychological and social anticipation). Evolution-based anticipations are difficult to change, for obvious reasons. However, as difficult as they are to change, they may evolve, and this raises the question as to whether we can eventually bend evolution in some or other direction.

According to the theory of anticipation, behavior is almost always goal-oriented rather than being stimulus-driven. Anticipation runs contrary to the claim that psychic processes in general are determined by stimuli (i.e. it is at odds with both Behaviorism and most of current Cognitive Psychology).

If behavior is indeed goal-oriented, this implies that changes in behavior are filtered by the system’s identity (seen as the second entry in the system’s autopoietic cycles). The reason for this is straightforward. Anticipation is based on feedforward controllers, i.e. on controllers that detect and control the system itself. Changes in the system’s working (i.e. in its identity) are therefore projected by feedforward controllers into new anticipations. From this basic dynamic of the system it follows that the most productive strategy to change the anticipations that a system may have is to modify the system’s dynamic identity.