Intentional Contents and Self-Control

Conventional research programs adopt efficient cause as a metaphor for how mental events affect behavior. Such theory-constitutive metaphors usefully restrict the purview of research programs, to define the space of possibilities. However, conventional research programs have not yet offered a plausible account of how intentional contents control action, and such an account may be beyond the range of its theoretical possibilities. Circular causality supplies a more inclusive metaphor for how mental events might control behavior. Circular causality perpetuates dynamic structures in time. Mental contents are seen as emergent dynamic constraints perpetuated in time and vertically coupled across their multiple timescales. Intentional contents are accommodated as extraordinary boundary conditions (constraints) that evolve on timescales longer than those of motor coordination (Kugler & Turvey, 1987). Intentional contents, on their longer timescales, are thus available to control embodied processes on shorter timescales. One key assumption-that constraints are vertically coupled in time-is motivated empirically by correlated noise, long-range correlations in the background variability of measured laboratory performances.