1. Any behavior that safeguards or enhances the survival ability of a living system.
2. "A form of behavior which maintains the essential variables within physiological limits" .(W.R. ASHBY, 1960, p.58)
ASHBY starts with a sharp critique of the behavioristic concept of adaptive behavior: "The suggestion that an animal's behaviour is "adaptive" if the animal "responds correctly to a stimulus" may be rejected at once. First, it presupposes an action by an experimenter and therefore cannot be applied when the free-living organism and its environment affect each other reciprocally. Secondly, the definition provides no meaning for "correctly" unless it means "conforming to what the experimenter thinks the animal ought to do. Such a definition is useless".
Thereafter, he introduces the quoted definitions.
ASHBY's concept derives directly from Walter CANNON's homeostasis and indirectly from Claude BERNARD's "constancy of the inner medium".
Further along, ASHBY states "Adaptive behavior is equivalent to the behavior of a stable system (i.e. a system endowed with dynamic stability), the region of stability being the region of the phase-space in which all the essential variables lie within their normal limits". (p.64). ASHBY proceeds by citing authors as diverse as STARLING, CANNON, PAVLOV and McDOUGALL, who expressed much the same idea.
The individual adaptive behavior should be distinguished from the collective adaptability of a species, which is quite wider and in some cases at the expense of many individuals.
The concept should be extended to psychological and sociological behavior, even if these are very difficult to define in terms of measurable variables.
In more evolved living systems, adaptive behavior is obtained through learning or training. However, as stated by ASHBY: "The direct intervention of consciousness is evidently not necessary for adaptive learning" (1960, p.11)
One could argue that this is true only for training, if one considers training as non-conscious learning.
- 1) General information
- 2) Methodology or model
- 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
- 4) Human sciences
- 5) Discipline oriented
To cite this page, please use the following information:
Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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