A Performative-Extended Mind and a Law of Optimal Emergence


  • Peter Robertson


Cybernetics, Consciousness, Mind, Feedforward, Feedback, Performative Extended Mind, Emergence, Attractors, Values, Brain, Ecosystem


This paper introduces a performative-extended model of the mind; adds time as a new element to previous accounts; proposes a law of optimum emergence then uses the present financial crisis as an example to show that this new model of the brain has profound practical implications, since psychologically reified concepts (like values) can be understood better using this new model of the mind.

This model based on “deep simplicity creating surface complexity” underpins a model of a “performative extended emergent mind” that is not “under the skull”.

Psychology’s set of so-called “intangibles”, like human values can be redefined as “emergent properties”. Values are attractors created by messy patterns of behavior over time without logical cause-effect relationships, stabilized by memory.

The performative-extended mind where movement (time), diversity and tangibles (feedback loops) create emergence can be linked to a law of optimal emergence in order to explain fundamental psycho-social processes, like values. The mind becomes an eco-system within a larger eco-system.

Growth can be seen as an S-curve shaped shift from feed-forward-steering to feedback-control. In this process, conditions for stable emergence shift from conditions that are “non-favorable” (no-tangibles) to “favorable” (a dynamic balance between tangibles and no-tangibles) to “non-favorable” (too many tangibles). Growth creates, then destroys emergent properties in a time-dependent process. Stable emergent characteristics can only exist for a while in the middle part of an S-curve.

A real life example might be that leaders who focus on financial growth and administrative rules often create corrupt organizations. This might be a falsifiable general systems law with implications for organizational and leadership practice. This is an example of how the “performative-extended mind/ law of optimal emergence” combination can lead to relevant implications for the future of sustainable society, governance and business.

Author Biography

Peter Robertson

Partner at Human Insight Ltd - London-Singapore-Amsterdam

International consultant. Focus on organisational-ecology.

Adjunct Professor Monterey Institute of International Studies (just recently), CA

Education: Medical Specialist Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, University of Amsterdam

Book (2005) "Always change a winning team"

Book (2012) "The ecological leader" (already available in dutch, english soon to follow)

Book (2013) "the ecological mind" (in preparation with the publisher)

See further LinkedIn



How to Cite

Robertson, P. (2013). A Performative-Extended Mind and a Law of Optimal Emergence. Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2012, San Jose, CA, USA. Retrieved from https://journals.isss.org/index.php/proceedings56th/article/view/1848



Organisational Transformation and Social Change