Interaction-dominant dynamics in human cognition: beyond 1/f(alpha) fluctuation

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2010 Aug;139(3):436-63. doi: 10.1037/a0019098.


It has been suggested that human behavior in general and cognitive performance in particular emerge from coordination between multiple temporal scales. In this article, we provide quantitative support for such a theory of interaction-dominant dynamics in human cognition by using wavelet-based multifractal analysis and accompanying multiplicative cascading process on the response series of 4 different cognitive tasks: simple response, word naming, choice decision, and interval estimation. Results indicated that the major portion of these response series had multiplicative interactions between temporal scales, visible as intermittent periods of large and irregular fluctuations (i.e., a multifractal structure). Comparing 2 component-dominant models of 1/f(alpha) fluctuations in cognitive performance with the multiplicative cascading process indicated that the multifractal structure could not be replicated by these component-dominant models. Furthermore, a similar multifractal structure was shown to be present in a model of self-organized criticality in the human nervous system, similar to a spatial extension of the multiplicative cascading process. These results illustrate that a wavelet-based multifractal analysis and the multiplicative cascading process form an appropriate framework to characterize interaction-dominant dynamics in human cognition. This new framework goes beyond the identification of 1/f(alpha) power laws and non-gaussian distributions in response series as used in previous studies. The present article provides quantitative support for a paradigm shift toward interaction-dominant dynamics in human cognition.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Fractals
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Normal Distribution
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Task Performance and Analysis