Adaptive equilibrium regulation: A balancing act in two timescales

  • Steven M. Boker The University of Virginia


An equilibrium involves a balancing of forces. Just as one maintains upright posture in standing or walking, many self-regulatory and interpersonal behaviors can be framed as a balancing act between an ever changing environment and within-person processes. The emerging balance between person and environment, the equilibria, are dynamic and adaptive in response to development and learning. A distinction is made between equilibrium achieved solely due to balancing of forces and preferred equilibrium which we define as a state towards which the slowly system adapts. This framework conceives regulation as having two time scales: a fast regulation that automatically balances forces and a slower timescale adaptation process that reconfigures the fast regulation so as to move the system towards preferred equilibrium when an environmental force persists over longer time scales. This way of thinking leads to methods for modeling the interplay between multiple timescales of behavior, learning, and development.