Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A Pattern of Behavior: Being a new concept in the Resource-Patterns Model of Life


For a few years now I have been struggling to draft the next chapter in my book outline. That chapter, dealing with public psychology, weaves together a handful of mutually supporting ideas. I cannot go far in developing one of these ideas without feeling that my reader probably needs to be caught up on the interweaving, supporting ideas. So I write aside after aside, and I the writer am always loosing sight of the path.

While thus stumbling around a new concept arose in my thinking, that being a pattern of behavior. Of course I have known subconsciously about patterns of behavior since I first formulated the model of tabletop critters, because that model (which I will explain in the next section) shows a population which thrives because its members regulate their choices, conforming their actions with a particular pattern of behavior.

While I was using patterns of behavior in my thoughts, I had not singled out and focused upon this concept to the point of giving it a name. Now I do so. I will use the name Behavior Pattern (BP), and I adopt that order of words, “behavior pattern” in preference to “pattern of behavior”, to highlight the close relationship of a Behavior Pattern with a Resource Pattern (RP) — a term already well established in my writing about the Resource-Patterns Model of Life (RPM).

Example 1: Tabletop Critters

To clarify the meanings of these terms, RP and BP, we will show their meanings in the context of the model of Tabletop Critters, which is a thought experiment. (This was introduced earlier in Section 2.2).

We start by conjuring the image of a poor population, some tiny, perhaps one-celled critters, barely surviving on a flat surface which we call a tabletop. These critters need both water and sugar to live, and this tabletop upon which they live is basically a desert. Figure 1 shows how we will picture the three types of objects on the tabletop.

Figure1: How we picture critter, water, and sugar

In order to make a model in which it is just possible for the population to survive, we say that occasionally the wind blows and deposits a few molecules of water or sugar at random, unpredictable locations on the tabletop. So some members of the population can manage to survive — provided of course they keep moving about so they chance to find the small deposits of water and sugar.

We call the set of circumstances just described the Initial Condition on the Tabletop. This is depicted in Figure 2, in which we see the same three types of objects to which we were introduced in Figure 1, but we have zoomed out. On this smaller scale we see a larger area of the tabletop with considerable distances between the critters and the resources they need to survive, so it is easier to imagine the near-starvation struggle of the critters to discover resources.

Figure 2: The Initial Condition on the tabletop

Opportunity for the Critters
Now we modelers reach into that Initial Condition making a few changes which create a problem in social science. We place huge deposits of water and sugar on the tabletop, huge that is when compared with the fare in the initial condition: We place a drop of water at some spot and a crumb of sugar at another spot. See Figure 3. Once again we have zoomed out when compared with the previous drawing (Figure 2). Now the critters have been reduced to looking like small spots; the original wind-dropped spots of water and sugar are too small to be visible in this view; but the new drop of water on the left and crumb of sugar on the right are huge compared to the critters.

Figure 3: We add a large new resource pattern. Water on left, sugar on right.

In addition to adding the large deposits of water and sugar, which taken together we call a Resource Pattern, we specify a few attributes of the critters, what they cannot do and what they can do.

First we say that no critter can travel that distance between the large deposits of water and sugar. It is farther than any critter can travel in its entire lifetime. Consequently no critter can feed itself from both of the large deposits of water and sugar.

Second we give critters ability to pick up resources (sugar or water), carry these resources for small distances, and then drop them again onto the tabletop. Consequently a group of many critters arranged in a line between water and sugar can possibly accomplish what no single critter can do. That is the group can feed itself from the large deposits of water and sugar if the individuals in the group behave as required in this thought experiment.

Probably the critters in the Initial Condition (which are specified more completely in Chapter 3) will not form that group which we humans can imagine, the group in a line between water and sugar, because it is incredibly unlikely that the critters’ individual choices about how to behave moment-by-moment would fall into such alignment.

But the possibility of that line calls to our imaginations as modelers. So just to prove the possibility we modify the thought experiment again: We give the population of critters some additional rules to guide their moment-by-moment choices.
  • If you sense water on the left, carry it to the right and set it down.
  • If you sense sugar on the right, carry it to the left and set it down.
  • If you get thirsty or hungry, help yourself to what you need from the materials that pass through your possession.
Following these rules, those critters who were lucky enough to start out somewhere between the water and sugar should thrive after passage of some time. These lucky critters will no longer die because of starvation, and they will reproduce more. A dense population of critters will come to live in a line of mutually cooperative exchange between the water and sugar. See Figure 4.

Figure 4: A population of critters prospering by cooperation between water and sugar

The significance which I hope you see in Figure 4 derives from the dense population between water and sugar. You know that a dense population like that is not possible in the Initial Condition on the tabletop, and you know that in spite of the large Resource Pattern (introduced in Figure 3) that pattern cannot be exploited by individual critters who require both water and sugar to live but who can reach at most one of the two large deposits. So the dense population needs another explanation.

And of course you know the explanation, since you followed along in our development of this thought experiment. Each critter is using its individual capabilities in a particular way which makes essential resources available to other critters. The whole population, acting in a coordinated way, presents a Behavior Pattern which enables their success.

To further explain the idea of a Resource Pattern, notice in Figures 3 and 4 of this thought experiment that each of the large resources is in a particular place, not everyplace. The large resources are placed not randomly, not diffusely, but particularly — in a pattern. The particularity of placement of a resource means that only some particular movements over the tabletop, particular behaviors that is, on the parts of some particular critters who happen to be well situated, will succeed in reaching these resources. So a RP can be exploited in a regular way only through a BP.

This may seem painfully obvious. But remember that the remarkable density and prosperity which you have learned to recognize in the population between the water and sugar came about only because we modelers reached in and gave (or mandated) the rules of behavior above. In Figure 3 the critters, still living in hunter-gatherer poverty, lived in a world with possibility, if only they could adjust their behaviors to exploit what was there for the taking. We proved the possibility with our modelers’ fiat; we stepped in and took charge, giving the rules. But could the critters have discovered and exploited that possibility themselves, without us modelers acting like a deity to bestow their good fortune? This opens into a large set of questions which I am calling “public psychology” and will pursue further in Chapter 7.

Example 2: A squirrel at a bird feeder

Now I will present another brief example to further clarify the meanings of RP and BP. Suppose you put up a bird feeder in your backyard and a particular squirrel from the neighborhood comes again and again to feed in your bird feeder. The bird feeder is a RP. The regular return of that squirrel to your bird feeder is a BP. In this example notice:
  • this RP has a single component, in one place in contrast with the previous example in which there were two components (water and sugar) in the RP. A RP could have any number of components.
  • the life which exhibits a BP in response to the RP is what we see as a single Living Thing (LT) (the one squirrel). So a BP may be exhibited by a single LT as well as by many LTs in coordination.
In these examples we see that a BP commonly correlates with and takes advantage of a RP. But the correlation of behavior with a RP is not certain. Resource-exploiting behavior must be discovered by LTs if those LTs are to survive. This discovery of resource-exploiting behavior is, as we think within RPM, the reason why a LT must have a “mind” or at least some good information processing.

A “pattern” has two aspects: Outside and Inside

This seems like a good time to back up and analyze what we mean by the word "pattern”. We will split the meaning into two components, outside and inside:
outside that is of the pattern-perceiving mind, and
inside of the pattern-perceiving mind.
If my perception of a pattern is correct, outside in the world around me there must be some regularity. But also inside my mind there must be some representation (in neurons or whatever) which gives me the idea of that pattern which is outside of me. These two components of a “pattern”, outside and inside, correlate with each other while remaining composed of entirely different elements.

It may help us to study a definition of “order” offered by Friedrich Hayek, since what he means by “order” seems to be the same as what I mean by “pattern”.
By 'order' we shall throughout describe a state of affairs in which a multiplicity of elements of various kinds are so related to each other that we may learn from our acquaintance with some spatial or temporal part of the whole to form correct expectations concerning the rest, or at least expectations which have a good chance of proving correct.
(Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 1, Rules and Order, U. of Chicago Press, 1973, p. 36. Italics in original.)

Notice that Hayek’s definition of “order” also has an outside and inside. The “…multiplicity of elements of various kinds…” are probably outside of the perceiving mind. Whereas the “…our acquaintance with some…”  and “…form correct expectations concerning the rest…” must be inside of a perceiving mind. Hayek didn’t separate these outside and inside elements in his definition because, as I understand him, that separation would not have contributed to his line of development. But this separation is central to our purposes with RPM.

Of course there are many cases in which it is possible for us humans (LTs) to ignore the separation between the outside and inside aspects of “pattern”: that would be whenever our inside aspect is good enough to enable us to behave successfully in interaction with the outside aspect. But, for the cases in which such beneficial interaction has not been attained, how can it be improved? This question opens before us under new light when we model in RPM.

BP relation to Rules

To continue clarifying what I mean by this new term, BP, it should be helpful to compare it with another term “rules” which I have used repeatedly in my early chapters.

A rule acts inside the mind (or the decision-making process) of a LT. When a LT is deciding what to do in the circumstances of a given moment one or more rules may affect that decision. For example recall the rule we used above: If you sense water on the left, carry it to the right and set it down.

A rule, you see, affects behavior at the level of decisions, one decision at a time. But of course if a rule stays in place in the decision-making process of a LT it will probably give rise after the passage of some time to a BP. (Or at least to the outside aspect of a BP. We should not consider this to be a BP in the full sense which includes an inside aspect until some LT has attained such an inside aspect.)

So there is an important relationship between rules and BPs, and in my earlier writing about RPM I have referred often to rules when this new term BP could have served as well or perhaps better. The draft of Chapter 5, for example, which is titled “The Learning of Rules” could with some editing be titled “The Learning of Behavior Patterns”.

There will be times, however, when we should be aware of the difference between these two terms. For instance, a rule could be affecting a decision process of a LT without anyone including that LT having perceived such effect, and this absence of perception seems to rule out the possibility that anyone could have formulated an inside aspect of a pattern. Without this inside aspect no one would ever speak of the outside aspect, of the effect of the rule.

An exercise using these terms

Now we will go through an exercise in which we practice using our three terms, being: rules, BP-inside-aspect, and BP-outside-aspect.

Recall that we have used the image of Figure 4 to suggest to our human eyes that the critters have a BP. We see this by using our knowledge of the lives and circumstances of critters; we know that such a dense population is not possible unless critters in the line are moving water right and sugar left. The critters must be behaving in that pattern, so our thinking includes this inside-aspect of a BP.

But what is the outside aspect? Recall that we have considered two different sets of rules which could give rise to that BP.

First, in Chapter 2 and again in the example above, we simply asserted that the critters were given rules to carry water right and sugar left. These rules were coded into the decision-making process which guides all the critters because we modelers used our power to make it so.

Second, in Chapter 5 we seeded the critters with a different set of rules, rules which gave critters ability to conduct individually-profitable critter-to-critter trading. Given these rules the critters, given sufficient time, created the densely populated trade route which our human eyes perceive.

Either one of these two quite different sets of rules could give rise to the outside-aspect of the BP in Figure 4. So, when we see that BP our inside-aspect may err in its conception of the outside-aspect. We may think the BP indicates one set of rules underlying the outside-aspect when in fact the other set explains what we see.

Further, since there are many and not just two sets of rules which could give rise to the dense population, there are many ways our inside-aspect may misrepresent the outside-aspect.

Still further, I just wrote about “our inside-aspect” but in fact each of us individual humans probably has a unique interior representation of the outside-aspect, a unique inside-aspect that is. We might discover and employ a word to represent what we think is our inside-aspect of that outside-aspect. We might think we understand each other perfectly when we employ that word. But situations may arise in which the difference in inside-aspects held by different people causes those people to fail in communication. (See the language-learning experiment in Section 6.3.4.)

So how is it that life manages to survive at all?

Life works in spite of these shortcomings in the “minds” of LTs. How is it possible? It must be, as I have reasoned in formulating the postulates of RPM, that:
  • life-essential resources in the universe which hosts LTs are distributed in patterns (here I mean the outside-aspects of patterns) and that
  • LTs have ability formulate inside-aspects of patterns which represent the outside-aspects well enough so that
  • some LTs select patterns of behavior which have positive benefit-cost ratios (averaged across whole sets of behaviors) in acquisition and consumption of resources.
Within this framework we can develop detailed models of how LTs might form of good-enough inside-aspects. These models become social science when, as with the Tabletop Critters, an established population may expand considerably if its members can somehow establish new BPs.

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