Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 66, Issue 2, pp 79–112 | Cite as

Culture and the Trajectories of Developmental Pathology: Insights from Control and Information Theories

  • Rodrick Wallace
Regular Article


Cognition in living entities—and their social groupings or institutional artifacts—is necessarily as complicated as their embedding environments, which, for humans, includes a particularly rich cultural milieu. The asymptotic limit theorems of information and control theories permit construction of a new class of empirical ‘regression-like’ statistical models for cognitive developmental processes, their dynamics, and modes of dysfunction. Such models may, as have their simpler analogs, prove useful in the study and re-mediation of cognitive failure at and across the scales and levels of organization that constitute and drive the phenomena of life. These new models particularly focus on the roles of sociocultural environment and stress, in a large sense, as both trigger for the failure of the regulation of bio-cognition and as ‘riverbanks’ determining the channels of pathology, with implications across life-course developmental trajectories. We examine the effects of an embedding cultural milieu and its socioeconomic implementations using the ‘lenses’ of metabolic optimization, control system theory, and an extension of symmetry-breaking appropriate to information systems. A central implication is that most, if not all, human developmental disorders are fundamentally culture-bound syndromes. This has deep implications for both individual treatment and public health policy.


Cognition Culture Developmental trajectory Global broadcast Living state Statistical models 



The author thanks Prof. R. Lewis-Fernandez for useful suggestions, and is particularly grateful to the editor and reviewers for their careful and helpful attention.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of EpidemiologyThe New York State Psychiatric InstituteNew YorkUSA

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