The 8 main ideas of coordination dynamics

Coordination dynamics is the name given to the study of coordination.

In the book “Coordination Dynamics: Issues and Trends”, Scott Kelso listed the 8 main ideas of coordination dynamics. These are listed below.

1. “Basic patterns of coordination can – under certain conditions – arise spontaneously in a self-organised fashion”

Traditionally coordination has been thought to be controlled by a centralised agent (i.e., information sent from the brain). Coordination Dynamics suggests that systems, such as the coordination of two limbs, can organise itself on its own.

2. “Patterns that arise spontaneously due to self-organizing processes can be captured by coordination or collective variables that evolve in time”

Collective variables refers to the coupling of individual parts of a system. For example, when walking, a collective variable is the coupling between the two legs (i.e., when one leg moves forwards, the other moves backwards. The legs are therefore coordinated with each other. This represent a collective variable).

3. “Coordination Dynamics deals with informational quantities that transcend the medium through which the parts communicate”

Think of information as any kind of material (e.g., a ball) or a structural quantity (e.g., a body part). This information can cause changes in the dynamics of coordinative parts.

4. “Coordination Dynamics offers an explanation for the origin of meaningful information

The coordination between individual parts leads to the stabilization of new information. In fact, according to Coordination Dynamics, coordination gives rise to consciousness.

5. “Information once created and ‘stored’ can direct, guide and modify the Coordination Dynamics”

According to Coordination Dynamics, new information arises from the coupling between two individual parts (hence, coordination). This information can then be used to guide on-going coordinative activity.

6. “Information can stabilize coordination states under conditions in which they are unstable, or can destabilize coordination states in order to fit the needs of the organism or the current demands of the situation”

A stabilized coordinative state is also referred to as an attractor state. An attractor state is a coordination pattern that occurs spontaneously when the movement is challenged. For example, when walking, moving each leg in the opposite direction is an attractor state.

Attractor states can temporarily destabilise. This occurs when new attractor states emerge (e.g., due to practice).

7. “Coordination Dynamics offers a way to connect levels of organisation

Coordination between individual parts occurs at different levels of organisation. For instance, at the micro level, cells coordinate with each other, whilst at the macro level, limbs coordinate with each. Of course, in these examples, the coordination pattern only emerges under specific conditions.

According to Coordination Dynamics, coordination at all levels of organisation can be defined by non-linear laws.

8. “Coordination Dynamics offers a vocabulary and a language for understanding coordination especially in the world of living things

Coordination Dynamics is based on non-linear dynamical systems. The mathematics of non-linear dynamics provides a means to understand the way things coordinative and evolve in time.


Jirsa, V. K., & Kelso, S. (Eds.). (2004). Coordination dynamics: Issues and trends. Berlin, Germany: Springer.

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