Self-organization of cognitive performance

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2003 Sep;132(3):331-50. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.132.3.331.


Background noise is the irregular variation across repeated measurements of human performance. Background noise remains after task and treatment effects are minimized. Background noise refers to intrinsic sources of variability, the intrinsic dynamics of mind and body, and the internal workings of a living being. Two experiments demonstrate 1/f scaling (pink noise) in simple reaction times and speeded word naming times, which round out a catalog of laboratory task demonstrations that background noise is pink noise. Ubiquitous pink noise suggests processes of mind and body that change each other's dynamics. Such interaction-dominant dynamics are found in systems that self-organize their behavior. Self-organization provides an unconventional perspective on cognition, but this perspective closely parallels a contemporary interdisciplinary view of living systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Fractals
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Verbal Behavior