A multi-source behavioural model
The behavioural model presented here is inspired by a number of theories, coming mainly from social psychology, cognitive psychology and more general behavioural theories
But the model’s backbone is mainly built around the cognitive dissonance and balance concepts, which provide foundations for two main dimensions: cognition and motivation.
Two important additional concepts added to these foundations are states and perception, which somewhat link the dissonance to everyday reality.
This gives us a model with the following building blocks:
The first element is:
- World (outside the mind): Everything outside the cognitive model
The next four elements constitute de core of the cognitive model, which is statefull, which means that it is different (to varying extents) at every moment, therefore it’s configuration depends on parameters such as emotions, priming, recent events, personal history, etc.:
- Statefull cognitive model (inside the mind): Entire knowledge (about the world, from imagination, …) which is always in a given state (how the cognitions are configured and considered at a given moment)
- Cognition: Building blocks of the cognitive model, elements of knowledge, of experience, of imagination, ...
- Perception: A special kind of cognition which represents aspects of the outside world at a given moment and vanishe once the outside world doesn't provide them anymore (not to be confused with cognition which results from memory of the world)
- Motivation: A specific kind of cognition which generate behaviour (action or change (behaviour)
The last three elements are process oriented and are more like events, and should be read like:
- Action: The World is modified by Motivation through Action
- Change: Cognition is modified by Motivation through Change
- Unbalance: Motivation is changed by Cognition through Unbalance
How it works
The balance and dissonance theories suggest (in somewhat different ways) that behaviour occurs in order to maintain or restore balance in the cognitive model.
The cognitive model can be unbalanced for a number of reasons, one is that new cognition is produced which contradicts existing cognition and a second is that a new unbalance is identified between already existing cognitions.
A special (and frequent) occurrence of the first case is that the new cognition is produced through perception, in other words, something is perceived which produces unbalance.
The unbalanced state which results from any of these processes is going to generate motivation, which is a kind of cognition, and motivation leads to behaviour in order to restore balance. Behaviour can be of two main kinds, action and change.
Action is behaviour which aims at changing the world. Action occurs when unbalance is assumed to be caused by cognition which results from perception of the world, and changing the world can change these cognitions and resolve the unbalance. In other words, the world is assumed to be the cause of the problem.
Change on the other hand is behaviour which aims at changing internal cognition (not perception related, like beliefs or values for example). Change is relevant when unbalance is assumed to be caused by internal cognition, thus changing cognition can restore balance (the cognitions are the cause of the problem).
Concerning behaviour, whether action or change, many unbalanced situations require some new behaviour to be generated in order to restore balance. This can include cognitive activities such as reasoning, problem solving or making decisions. Of course this can take time, so the unbalanced state can be long lasting.
This generation process is obviously very complex in itself and isn’t the subject of this model.
What this model can explain
This model is compatible with a number of facts:
- Behaviour isn't constant, ie at different times the same situations can trigger different behavioural replies. This is because the model is statefull and contextual
- Full rational thinking is at best difficult, because it would require constance and decontextualisation which the model doesn't exhibit. Irrationality tends to have predominance in time and importance over rationality, especially over time (concentration and effort can be maintained typically for a few minutes or hours at very best).
- Influence and manipulation can occur due to effects such as priming, inducing states (like confusion, happiness, sadness, ...).