The cognitive roles of behavioral variability: Idiosyncratic acts as the foundation of identity and as transitional, preparatory, and confirmatory phases

David Eilam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Behavior in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), in habitual daily tasks, and in sport and cultural rituals is deconstructed into elemental acts and categorized into common acts, performed by all individuals completing a similar task, and idiosyncratic acts, not performed by all individuals. Never skipped, common acts establish the pragmatic part of motor tasks. Repetitive performance of a few common acts renders rituals a rigid form, whereby common acts may serve as memes for cultural transmission. While idiosyncratic acts are not pragmatically necessary for task completion, they fulfill important cognitive roles. They form a long preparatory phase in tasks that involve high stakes, and a long confirmatory phase in OCD rituals. Idiosyncratic acts also form transitional phases between motor tasks, and are involved in establishing identity and preserving the flexibility necessary for adapting to varying circumstances. Behavioral variability, as manifested in idiosyncrasy, thus does not seem to be a noise or by-product of motor activity, but an essential cognitive component that has been preserved in the evolution of behavioral patterns, similar to the genetic variability in biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-70
Number of pages16
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Volume49
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2015

Funding

FundersFunder number
Air Force Office of Scientific Research
U.S. Air ForceFA8655-11-1-3050
Israel Science Foundation230/13, 177/09, 471/04

    Keywords

    • Fixed action pattern
    • Instinct
    • Meme
    • Memetics
    • Motor behavior
    • OCD rituals
    • Sport rituals
    • Stereotypy

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