Functional Synchronization: The Emergence of Coordinated Activity in Human Systems

Andrzej Nowak , Robin R. Vallacher , Michal Zochowski , Agnieszka Rychwalska


The topical landscape of psychology is highly compartmentalized, with distinct phenomena explained and investigated with recourse to theories and methods that have little in common. Our aim in this article is to identify a basic set of principles that underlie otherwise diverse aspects of human experience at all levels of psychological reality, from neural processes to group dynamics. The core idea is that neural, behavioral, mental, and social structures emerge through the synchronization of lower-level elements (e.g., neurons, muscle movements, thoughts and feelings, individuals) into a functional unit—a coherent structure that functions to accomplish tasks. The coherence provided by the formation of functional units may be transient, persisting only as long as necessary to perform the task at hand. This creates the potential for the repeated assembly and disassembly of functional units in accordance with changing task demands. This perspective is rooted in principles of complexity science and nonlinear dynamical systems and is supported by recent discoveries in neuroscience and recent models in cognitive and social psychology. We offer guidelines for investigating the emergence of functional units in different domains, thereby honoring the topical differentiation of psychology while providing an integrative foundation for the field.
Author Andrzej Nowak (Wydział Psychologii)
Andrzej Nowak,,
- Wydział Psychologii
, Robin R. Vallacher
Robin R. Vallacher,,
, Michal Zochowski
Michal Zochowski,,
, Agnieszka Rychwalska
Agnieszka Rychwalska,,
Journal seriesFrontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, (A 35 pkt)
Issue year2017
Publication size in sheets0.7
ASJC Classification3200 General Psychology
Languageen angielski
fpsyg-08-00945.pdf 349.84 KB
Additional file
2017-10-30-11-33-19-363.pdf 22.63 KB
Score (nominal)35
ScoreMinisterial score = 35.0, 15-10-2019, ArticleFromJournal
Publication indicators Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2016 = 1.006; WoS Impact Factor: 2017 = 2.089 (2) - 2017=2.749 (5)
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