Towards a Field Theory of Behavior

“Classical ethology, with its emphasis on separability of parts, has largely failed to do justice to the wholeness of the individual animal, to the integrity of group behaviour and to the continuity between observable behaviour and consciousness. Field theory has potentialities to do better (…).

In summary: Frequency domain, Relationality and Exchangeability are criteria for field phenomena. The Social process, Play-like behaviour and Locomotion rhythm transforms define a domain for the application of behavioural field theory. A few words may be allowed on the nature of the behavioural field. In order to avoid misunderstandings, it is important in the first place to say what the field is not. The field does not energise behaviour in the sense that the performance of the behaviour would consume the field energy. As such, behavioural field theory differs fundamentally from Lorenz’ rejected psychohydraulic model. Lorenz’ model was on fuel in limited quantities, from which various types of behaviour were assumed to be fed, each from its own little ‘jar’. Behavioural field theory is about patterns of energy and concurrent patterns of behaviour. The field governs the form in which behaviour is expressed (Kortmulder, 1986a, 1994). The field is also not a ‘mysterious fluid’ or a phlogiston. It does not bring behaviour to the animal or influence its form from any extraneous source (in the sense that a magnet does with iron filings). This does not mean that it is strictly local. Probably, it is non-local to a certain extent (Kortmulder & Sprey, 1990). It connects individuals, which are separate in space, on a cognitive level. Thus, its space is implicate rather than Euclidean (Bohm, 1980).

The field is also not the activity of the brain cells, which together would cause the behaviour. That view is too simply mechanistic. Rather, it is the whole of the dynamics of the organism, the form of that dynamics being field-like. Both brain activity and behaviour are partial expressions of the whole field, and there is no reason to grant primacy to one or the other.

K. Kortmulder