Why Dogs Play

I have been expecting that “How Dogs Work” would spur a great debate throughout Dogdom. Yet the only discussion I’ve found is a review posted by Dr. Bekoff on his Psychology Today blog.


Beckoff challenges Coppinger and Feinstein’s thesis that play, specifically the play bow, represents a state of conflict, i.e. an emergent behavior resulting form two opposing motor patterns. I agree with Bekoff that the play bow is not a state of fundamental conflict with one part of the body wanting to go one way, while the other end of the body wants to go the other. In my view both ends of the body are performing a unitary function—albeit in complementary fashion that might strike one as contradictory—- in solving a problem in locomotion, i.e. having to cope with an Object-of-Resistance (O-R). But I don’t agree with the cognitive school that dog play demonstrates a comprehension of fairness, an egalitarian capacity to self-inhibit in deference to weaker partners, a theory of mind and the ability to restrain predatory reflexes out of a rudimentary moral ethic. This cognitive interpretation could likewise be applied to a cat retracting its claws and inhibiting its bite in order to toy with a mouse. But rather than finding a compassionate undertone to that kind of behavior, we think it rather cruel. In my view the play bow reflects something simpler, deeper and far more significant than the cognitive school accords it credit. What I mean is that the nature of play is indeed the underpinning of a social and a moral nature, but it isn’t cognitive. It involves the very architecture of the animal mind, the nature of the animal mind as a networked-intelligence.

Bekoff also posits that play involves an individual putting themselves into challenging positions as practice for the unexpected. It’s a means of cultivating emotional resilience. Perhaps he would categorize the cat and mouse routine under that category. I know the mainstream interpretation is that the cat is setting up situations for its young to practice and this carries over into other contexts. However in “Work” Coppinger offers the example of a sheep killing dog performing a play bow before a sheep that won’t run from the dog. My question to Bekoff in the comment section to his blog was therefore, what, according to the cognitive school, is going on there? Is the dog intending to play with the sheep? Were the sheep to run would the dog go on to make play—- or to make prey? Or is the dog self-handicapping out of a sense of fairness or perhaps to increase the level of difficulty so as to develop its emotional resilience?

Despite all the lofty research conducted by the most august institutions two questions are left hanging, what is going on inside the mind of a dog—can it really be human-like thoughts? And secondly, if the cognitive school is correct, what makes dogs so singular in their capacity to perform these skills and thus adapt to humanity, are dogs more cognitively or morally developed than other species? (And if dogs are capable of moral behavior, are they therefore capable of immoral behavior? In the cognitive approach it always seems to be a one way street, only good thoughts are being thought.)

In his blog post Dr. Bekoff referenced a book: “Canine Play Behavior: The Science Of Dogs At Play” by Mechtild Käufer, as a definitive resource on the nature of play. So in the interest of making the NDT model more vivid by comparing it to the cognitive treatment of canine play, I’m going to go almost point by point through this book as opposed to offering a brief review limited to only the most salient points of distinction.

In his blog Dr. Bekoff subtitles his review —-> “Who’s Confused?” —— as a subtle dig to the clarity of Coppinger’s argument and to indicate that any confusion about play isn’t to be found in the cognitive camp. However Chapter One of “Science” begins:

“Let’s start with the bad news. There is no one definition of what play is. Although there has practically been an explosion in the number of research studies on play over recent years, no one can yet explain what the actual biological function of play is. No one has yet presented conclusive evidence of what advantages in terms of survival and reproduction play gives animals.”


This is precisely the point of “Work:” if there isn’t a definition, then there is confusion and this is why Coppinger and Feinstein finds more coherence with the notion of emergence. For example until science had a functional definition of electromagnetism, it was in a profound state of confusion about the nature of electromagnetism. From my vantage point of having studied behavior as a function of the immediate-moment, predicated on emotion as a “force” of attraction, dogs are able to adapt to human civilization not due to cognitive or moral capacity, but due to emotional capacity, the ability to project one’s Self into the widest range of stimuli, both animate and inanimate. This means that we will have to become quite specific about how the animal mind arrives at a sense of its Self; does it do so cognitively, or emotionally? What’s the difference between emotion and cognition?

Because behaviorism and ethology thinks of adaptiveness solely in terms of survival and reproductive success, it is thereby unable to come up with a functional definition of play, aggression, sexuality, or emotion and consciousness for that matter. The cognitive approach relies on neurology and requires the animal to have a cognitive comprehension of its Self. There is ME and then there is OTHER than ME concept of cognition. The ethological approach relies on neurology and requires emergence but that of course still leaves the question open and in fact unexamined as to what is going on inside the body and mind of the dog. Thus the cognitive school can’t interface with the ethological kind of analysis as articulated by Coppinger.

Whereas in an immediate-moment method of analysis, a given action is adaptive not because it results from some random variability in a trait that increases survival or reproductive success. Rather survival and reproductive success follow on the heels of the true metric of adaptiveness that I will be emphasizing in this post: the Drive-to-Move and the Joy of Moving Well. (The cognitive school’s interpretation of animal behavior would be akin to saying a business survives by generating some random degree of variability in its product line from which consumers can choose until the company hits on the right mix in their offerings to the public. This isn’t true in the evolution of a business any more than it could be true for the evolution of an organism. A business moves as fast as possible to give consumers what they want. It’s not a random process. The survival of the business and its brand value (replication) follow from moving well in regards to consumer demands. And the best way to move well? Networking that has an immediate-moment feedback component tuned to the consumer’s desires.

In evolution an action is adaptive if it is an efficient discharge of energy, i.e. force. The animal is able to move well. It’s the disposition of force that renders a behavior adaptive. If an animal moves as efficiently as possible toward what it wants, or as efficiently as possible away from what it fears, in other words if it can move well in any given circumstance, (specifically, executing its species’ locomotive rhythm as defined by the Constructal Law——“Design In Nature” by Adrian Bejan) then it is doing the best that can be done in any given situation.  This is the essence of adaptiveness. Furthermore, all sub-movements are but modifications of this prime, master motor pattern because they immutably lead back to it, and are subsystems to the main system of moving well, and so seemingly unrelated movements lead back to the main channel like tributaries to a watershed’s central river. The disposition of FORCE—the degree to which it approximates the locomotive rhythm, is the gauge of an actions’ rein-FORCE-ment value, be it learning in the short term on the individual level, or in the selection of any given trait over the long term on a species’ level.

Physically, moving well results from flexing of the body in a wavelike manner. Moving well means making a wave with the body. Moving well, behaving adaptively, is wave making (as is prey-making, play-making and sex-making.) And again all sub-movements are derivative of the master wave since the body evolved in deference to the locomotive rhythm as per the Constructal Law. The animal mind always wants to return to this rhythm of movement just as a song returns to the melody that drives it refrain after refrain because this brings it to the highest form of adaptiveness, wave-coupling in order to render Free Energy.

Wave making emerges from laws of nature, i.e. the specifics as to how a body in motion responds to resistances in order to sustain forward motion. Moving well, which again did not evolve through a winnowing of a randomly generated variability in traits of movement by natural selection, increases an organisms chances of survival and reproduction. Wave-making (moving well) means coupling the wave-making muscles of the hind end with the wave-making muscles of the front end.

Meanwhile the cognitive approach is predicated on a set of related and completely untested assumptions. These are assumed as a self-evident given and then experiments are interpreted through this untested and unexamined bias. (1) The ASSUMPTION that an animal is a self-contained agency of intelligence. (2) The ASSUMPTION that intelligent and creative animal behavior is driven and guided by intention rather than attraction. (3) The ASSUMPTION that a dog sees its Self as separate from its surroundings. (It follows from these assumptions that genes are the basic unit of information, a view that Coppinger successfully challenges.) If one investigates dog behavior from this set of assumptions, not to mention the matrix of other assumptions that come along for the ride, then one will necessarily interpret play behavior through the cognitive lens. A clue that this interpretation is blinded by bias is that it does not lead to a functional definition.

On the other hand one could experiment with another set of assumptions and see where these lead. These related assumptions are: (1) The animal mind is network-enabled. (2) Behavior is a function of attraction. (3) A Sense-of-Self is a function of its surroundings. This will lead us to the animal mind as an auto-tuning/feedback dynamic, a notion that is completely consistent (and then some) not only with the growing understanding of intrinsic rules, accommodative processes and emergence, but additionally with the Constructal Law. This analysis reveals that a principle of conductivity, the basic current around which the entire network configures, is the most basic unit of information. No other analysis of behavior is capable of this which is why Constructal law is not discussed in behaviorism and Coppinger’s argument against high cognitive intelligence in play isn’t being discussed much either. We should also note that the easiest way for altruism, cooperation, loving relationships and morality to have evolved is through a definition of the Self as a network-enabling function of its surroundings. This model follows seamlessly from the laws of nature to the emergence of complex social structures and behavior. This model allows us to draw a line between emotion/feelings and rational thought, i.e. the capacity to compare one moment in time to another, one point-of-view to another.

In the absence of a distinction between emotion and instinct, feelings and thoughts, context analysis according to human rationales become paramount, as opposed to the explicative power of a principle of conductivity.

“For this reason, most definitions limit themselves to describing as precisely as possible what happens during play. In the absence of a functional definition, such a structural definition provides a useful rule of thumb for separating canine play from other activities such as stereotyped behaviors or ritualized aggression that, at first glance, appear to be similar.”


The above reflects the error of the bias for intentionality as explanation for purposive behavior. For example, if behaviorism were applied to a river way, it would divine different dynamics for the rapids, the pools, the shallows, the delta, even though all these features from the river’s headwaters to where it meets the sea are of course operating according to the same principle of conductivity. The principle of conductivity varies the river’s behavior, not the context of the surroundings. In fact geologically speaking, eventually the surroundings succumb and are shaped by this same principle of conductivity.

On the Nature of Emotion

As a basis for critiquing step-by-step the argument in “Science” I would first like to review the immediate-moment fundamentals of emotion (interestingly the nature of emotion also escapes a functional definition in the cognitive and ethological approach) so that we can have a functional definition of play already in hand as we proceed through the material.

The immediate-moment manner of analysis begins with an understanding of emotion as a monolithic (just as there aren’t many drives, or many gravities, there aren’t many emotions either), virtual force of attraction, universal to all animals because it derives from the laws of nature (which all animals are subject to and evolved in response to) and thus enables the evolution of a network since all animals at their core (beneath species-specific instincts) operate according to a common code.


Emotion = Motion

When stimulated an animal feels compelled to move. It MUST move. This is the most basic fact of emotion which is not been given its due influence due to the above set of assumptions. The cognitive approach immediately leaps to a cognitive interpretation to accord informational value to emotional states and so doesn’t approach emotion from this basic fact. So if an animal is restrained or constrained from movement, it experiences stress. (There’s one seeming exception when not physically moving feels like moving, as in collecting in order to accommodate objects of resistance into the locomotive rhythm, as for example the play bow.) And in order to move an animal must shift its weight. To shift its weight it subliminally references its body’s center-of-gravity relative to the force of acceleration it is experiencing, (the combined momenta of all moving objects in the frame of reference—-as an aside, something new, a sudden change in the perceptual field, even though it may be motionless, is nevertheless perceived as a moving object with its force of acceleration equivalent to the degree of mood displacement.)

Emotional momentum is the amount of physical momentum in the system in toto i.e. the movement of the subject plus the movement of the object of attraction, in other words, the amount of physical momentum that must run to terminus to return the frame of reference to a state of neutrality. For example, if one plays baseball and goes to field a ball to throw out the batter, one must automatically compute the total momenta in the frame of reference, the speed and direction of the ball, relative to their own speed and direction, with both held relative to the speed and direction of the base runner. The total momenta in the system is autonomically computed so the ball is caught and then thrown to the base ahead of the runner. This total value is emotional momentum, i.e. holding a feeling for all the elements in motion at the same time. This computation is predicated on the fielder’s subliminal reference on his own physical center-of-gravity as opposed to being derived from a mental capacity for abstraction and deduction, i.e. holding a theory-of-mind for the base runner.)

Because the Subjects’ sense of its center-of-gravity (p-cog) is constantly under the influence of the stimulus (until it is neutralized then it is constantly displacing the subject’s sense of its physical/emotional equilibrium) this means that the stimulus, the object of attraction, is being emotionally imported into the Subject’s very being, i.e. its sense of Self, via the Subject’s subliminal beam of reference on its c-o-g. The subliminal focus on the C-O-G puts the COGnitive into consciousness as a physical being cannot be aware of its own center mass unless acted upon by an external force (either by moving within a gravitational field or by being the object of a force) and all conscious awareness is predicated on the body’s position relative to its center of gravity which is also subsequently subject to the influence of emotional momentum. In other words, once accelerated, where the p-cog is GOING TO BE, a Forward Point, is far more important to the animal’s well-being than the point its body is actually occupying at that moment of acceleration. That forward point—- a potential point, an “absential”— is more essential to emotional equilibrium than an actual point. This Forward Point is the basis of Emotional Projection. And connecting the actual point with the potential point by way of a smooth wave function is how a stimulated Subject returns to a state of emotional neutrality.

Due to the equivalence between emotional and physical equilibrium, therefore an animal perceives an object-of-attraction as an extension of its Self, rather than as a separate entity relative to its Self. Any object of attraction contains a Forward Point that the Mind must occupy with the body. This is what I mean by a feedback loop with an auto-tuning component.

The goal now becomes to tune the O-R to the locomotive rhythm. In other words, to accelerate it and get it to conform to a pure wave form. This is performed through Newton’s 3rd Law of motion, i.e. projecting some degree of energy (muzzling, pawing, humping, grabbing, etc.), and then absorbing the energy projected by the Object when it responds. If Output can be equalized to Input, i.e. Projecting equalized by Collecting, then the O-R is perceived of as being of the Self. This is why play is a mirroring process, it’s a constant manifestation of the 3rd law of motion so as to compute a wave. If the Subject can get the Object to fully convert the force of acceleration into a smooth wave function (the locomotive rhythm as the tuning component of the emotional dynamic) through syncopating its actions with the Subjects’ actions, then we enter a new domain of apprehension. The Subject  feels as if it can WILL the Object to move, just as it can WILL its own limbs to move in order to run. This is why dogs play. They FEEL their partner is a physical extension of their own body.  It has absolutely nothing to do with Theory of Mind. In fact that idea completely obliterates the magic of what is really transpiring. Each self-limits in order to conform the input to the wave form and hence maintain the feeling of flow. (This is what is so limiting about the cognitive approach, it’s trying to reduce the melting of personal boundaries back to a unitary Self as a function of neurons and neurotransmitters.) The dog feels its Self as an extension of what it’s attracted to, one mirrors the other. The question of this merger revolving on doing to share a common emotional center-of-gravity, revolving around a midpoint.

It’s not that there is a selective advantage to play, that this or that skill set or neurological state is enhanced, rather, it is the expression of the most basic unit of information, the network, that makes it adaptive. Play is the expression of an already adaptive nature. It’s like walking into Starbucks and ones’ smartphone automatically accesses and syncs up with the shop’s WiFi network. It’s just what a smartphone does as a reflection of its networked nature.

PLAY IS THE MANIFESTATION OF THE ANIMAL MIND AS AN AUTO-TUNING/FEEDBACK DYNAMIC. THE OBJECT BEING PERCEIVED AS AN EXTENSION OF THE SUBJECTS’ VERY BODY. This is especially pleasurable because it takes an external trigger to access physical memory and so play is an interaction wherein the interactants don’t have to hold back and can express stress through a pure wave motion, in other words, to return stress to an expression of flow. This is a much cleaner explanation for the phenomenon of play than either the cognitive or the ethological approach and furthermore it specifically addresses what’s singular about dogs, i.e. dogs can map their locomotive rhythm onto complex objects of resistance and in contexts of a high rate of change (accelerants) that overwhelm other species of animals who revert to instinctive reflexes to cope with an overwhelming rate of change, BECAUSE DOGS CAN PROJECT A FEELING FOR THEIR P-COG ONTO OBJECTS-OF-RESISTANCE under the broadest range of circumstances,this also accounts for why dogs are so sensual, social and AGGRESSIVE. These are not separate systems as in detached from the main system even though they may be serviced by different neurological structures. That would be like saying the Wabash river isn’t related to the Mississippi River because it doesn’t drain directly into the Mississippi and occupies a different space on a map.

Once the play mood is established, the goal now becomes to DRIVE the system, to increase the intensity of the wave form, to collectively amplify the expression of force into that wave form that subject and object compose so that this heightening of the wave can conduct the full measure of energy available to the individual, i.e. to release and resolve each individual’s stores of unresolved emotion (stored forces of acceleration ever experienced) held in the body/mind which also serves as an emotional battery. If at any given point, the intensity of this escalation proves too much for any given individual’s emotional capacity, then it must reacquire a feeling of emotional equilibrium by timing out, smelling the other interactant, shaking it off, or deflecting its attention onto another path of resistance (pick up a stick, look off to the horizon). Often we see a dog eschewing syncopated action and begin to zoom-zoom when it approaches its break down threshold (also fights can erupt at this point) and then it becomes the Chasee. This often leads it to find a safe spot as manifestation of a Forward Point, and now this then can serve as an emotional midpoint around which the group begins to reorganize and re-integrate this individual into syncopated wave making.

Being able to integrate the highest levels of intensity into the playful mind, means that a dog can remain soft and we would observe an enhancement of certain neurological systems and hormone dynamics, but again the point of play isn’t to enhance these structures per se, otherwise many more species of animals would be as adept at play as dogs. The enhancement of these systems is a manifestation of an underlying emotional dynamic, not the other way around, just as a river is constantly improving its bed by complying with a principle of conductivity.

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Published January 23, 2016 by Kevin Behan
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19 responses to “Why Dogs Play”

  1. Sheri says:

    Fascinating. Although humans have a problem with cognitive interpretation of behavior, I believe this also explains the human mind.

    We always get more of what we think (our dominant thoughts). When we constantly relive/revisit old mistakes, we get more of those mistakes, not fewer. When we fear the future, what we feared generally happens. But also, when we clearly visualize a successful future and stop sabotaging it with fear and negativity, the success eventually happens. And the more viscerally we envision it, the quicker it typically happens.

    We are projecting ourselves into the future (or past) and our mind is working the get our body to that point. “Any object of attraction contains a Forward Point that the Mind must occupy with the body.”

  2. b. says:

    In physics there is a mathematical basis for retrocausality, along the lines of what Sheri has pointed out – “the energy, momentum, mass equation of Special Relativity…

    “The mathematical properties of the law of syntropy are energy concentration, an increase in differentiation and complexity, a reduction of entropy, the formation of structures, and an increase in order. These are also the main properties that biologists observe in life and which cannot be explained in the classical (time forward) way.”

    “While physical energy follows the law of entropy and of cause and effect, converging energy is goal oriented and follows a backward-in-time causality in which effects precede their causes. Physical energy is determined by the past, converging energy is determined by the future”

    “Fantappiè showed that the forward-in-time solution is governed by the law of entropy, whereas the backward-in-time solution (i.e. advanced waves) is governed by a symmetric law that Fantappiè named syntropy (from the Greek syn = converging, tropos = tendency).”

    from: http://www.scienceandnonduality.com/the-balancing-role-of-entropysyntropy-in-living-and-self-organizing-systems-quantum-paradigm/

  3. b. says:

    I think the crux of the issue, and the reason that an objective analysis of behavior is not available to behaviorists of all stripes is that even in our human selves very few have come into the understanding of the delineation between our feelings and thoughts. We confuse and entangle the two and don’t take advantage of our capacity to separate them. The physics of it is pretty plain, but to ask someone who has both feeling and thought themselves yet doesn’t have an experience of separating them to apply such a process to the outside world may just be a incomprehensible leap.

  4. Kevin Behan says:

    Thanks for this link. I’ve had the hunch that learning is time running backwards so to speak, a macro expression of quantum weirdness. My expression is that it’s not that one learns, it’s that they remember. So we have a feeling of resonance for something and then ultimately the sense of what that is arrives in the articulation of cogent thoughts and fully formed ideas. So evolution and learning is end directed, purposive yet not intentional, like a river’s swirls and eddies that ultimately compute for a droplets’ journey to the sea.

  5. Kevin Behan says:

    I agree that this is exactly the crux. And parsing apart emotion and instinct, feelings and thoughts is available to us all. We don’t need an expert to tell us the distinction because we experience these for ourselves, it’s just a matter of being as precise as possible with our language so that the hidden assumptions come into view and we can then challenge these and consciously decide as to their merits.

  6. Kevin Behan says:

    Exactly, what we project out there, our essential self (feeling for p-cog) is infallibly returned us. Our challenge is to see what we need to see, or want to see. Studying dogs as creatures of the immediate-moment is a wonderful exercise for clarifying one’s capacity to see by feel.

  7. b. says:

    If physics and the laws of the universe aren’t limited to that which we have so far developed the capacity to observe with our senses, then it seems logical that if entropy occurs over forward movement in time, then if you have an overview of the timeline, and if you trace that dissipated energy back to its previous concentrated state (syntropy), then you are necessarily moving backward in time. You’re simply switching the equation from left to right, as you can do with any mathematical equation.

    So then a related theoretical question comes up… Not sure if I’m conceptualizing this accurately… If a dog experiences a high rate of change, a sudden influx of new energy (e.g., furniture rearranged in its absence), a sort of reverse entropy (syntropy), given that the dog does not have a concept of the uni-directionality of time, does this feel to the dog like traveling backward in time (into the past)?

  8. b. says:

    I can relate to that depiction of learning. It feels like you get an inspired notion of something new, and then try to figure out how to cognitively explain that visceral understanding.

  9. b. says:

    I should qualify that this description feels right for inductive learning, whereas deductive learning feels like it runs in the other direction.

  10. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes, a strong rate of change that is more intense than the dog’s current capacity triggers physical memory and so this is imposed on the moment in the dog’s perception of things. This then gives it a template for trying to bring disorder into order. In fact, this is the morphology of all problem behavior.
    The strongest argument I can make for learning being a process of time running backward, i.e. a process of remembering rather than creative eureka epiphanies, as if it’s brand new information, revolves around the problem of entropy. Things run down and yet to an information theorist a disordered state contains more information. It seems to me that since entropy, a state of disorder, contains more information, more possible states of reconfiguration, the proverbial keeping all one’s options open. Therefore in order for consciousness to have evolved it would have had to evolved a way to capture this information in the form of energy, and then this energy decompresses into an ordered state that allows for that captured energy to be harnessed. This is what I believe the E–>UE–>RE thermodynamic nature of emotion is about, with the final state of Resolved Emotion being a new configuration given the environmental circumstances the configuration now finds itself in, although now it has more energy at its disposal. So emotional beings experience stress because the loss of heat from the pure emotional state, stress, is the means of recapturing that energy of disorder as UE and which thus prompts and compels an individual to align and sync with obstacles of resistance that cause UE in the first place until through a new configuration stress becomes RE. An example of this is the litter of wolf cubs in sync and alignment with their mother and as one contiguous thermal mass as infants, are a perfect expression of emotional conductivity in a complex configuration that is yet to be made manifest. Then they mature and become fragmented by stress, only to recapitulate the first ten days of life when realigned and re-synchronized around a common Object of Resistance, i.e. a large dangerous prey.

  11. b. says:

    I think I’m understanding what you’re saying but need a little help. So in your model the knowledge, the object of the learning, is UE?
    So the learning experience might be triggered by a stimulus/resistance of similar intensity or frequency to dislodge it from the ‘battery’?
    And the process of learning/remembering it converts it to RE, a configuration of the information that suits the current environment?
    If so, when did that knowledge (E) get stored as UE? Did the being come preloaded with it in the form of consciousness?

  12. Kevin Behan says:

    The problem for consciousness in evolution is how to deal with entropy, which ironically contains more information. So the organism comes preloaded with a simple principle of conductivity, the brain-to-gut connection. In the nest, this causes the cubs to configure themselves in a complex social arrangement that later upon maturity will be able to import incorporate external objects of resistance—-things that cause the system to lose heat— into that configuration (though we will see the precursors of this in the way pups play) so that the dissipated heat is recaptured and adds new energy to the system. That initial neonate nest state is the answer, a feeling of resonance. Then when the puppy meets with resistance in turning pure emotion into action, he acquires unresolved emotion, stress, a physical memory of the experience. This charge makes him feel incomplete, disconnected from his own body because he can’t feel resonance in its presence, and so he is intrinsically driven to neutralize that disturbance and bring the O-R back into a state of resonance. This is the E—>UE—>RE progression by which a simple principle of conductivity elaborates into a new complex expression of the original configuration only now it “suits the current environment.” So it’s a learning process that is in effect time running backwards since learning something new is the individual being regressed to that simple state. Furthermore, consciousness has married the information of entropy, to the release of stress that the individual doesn’t have autonomous access to as it needs to be triggered, so in effect a disordered state of O-R not yet in configuration in effect begets new energy, returning stress to a feeling of resonance (RE). So the original simple principle of conductivity (Brain-to-gut connection that makes the individual feels whole) is recapitulated by the individual feeling whole in the presence of the triggering O-R only now in sync and aligned with it. Meanwhile, the human narrative manner of interpretation of “action-at-a-distance” (i.e. learning over time), focuses on the novelty of the behavior as if the dog has learned something new as in a eureka understanding of its self relative to its surroundings. This interpretation depends on a mental ether just as early conceptions of light and gravity depended on an aether to transmit force over distance. So consciousness is the experience of resistance to flow, but this capturing of heat then allows the system to revitalize itself by releasing stress when O-R can be aligned/synced up with and this offsets the loss of energy to entropy while tapping same for its informational potential. Let me know if this doesn’t clearly address your question.

  13. Sheri says:

    There are some videos of horses, that I’ll link to in minute, where I think you can actually see this happening, if that’s even possible. Prior to finding Kevin online, I had developed a theory I call “Stress and the YES”. It explains how truly masterful teachers of animals and humans (especially in sports and the arts) get such extraordinary results as compared to average teachers.

    Basically, the masterful teacher actually SEEKS the stress in the student. Then, to put it in Kevin’s words, becomes a high O-R by either holding the student in that stress (not letting them back away from it) or, better yet, increasing the stress (the amount of energy available) until there is enough to resolve into a YES (go from UE to RE). Comparatively, a typical teacher tries to dissipate the stress because it’s uncomfortable. But, in my opinion, learning is actually prevented in that case.

    When this is done masterfully, learning occurs extremely rapidly – faster than we typically believe possible. Interestingly, to a point, the more out of harmony the person/animal is when the teacher fist works with them, the faster, bigger, and more complete the learning is. I think the speed of it is possible because of exactly what Kevin is saying – that it is a return to a previous state, not a new epiphany. It’s a return to a previous state of order and flow, but now having incorporated the O-R

    The fact the we universally perceive these masterful teacher’s work as profoundly beautiful, I think speaks volumes.

    Klaus Hempfling and the horses he works with exhibit a most pure and beautiful form of this. The videos really do not do it full justice, but they are still amazing to watch. Here are two videos of him working with problem stallions where you can clearly see Klaus holding or increasing the stress until the horse is able to arrive at a very full and complete YES (this is the opposite of wearing the horse down until he gives up):

    It’s important to note that the actual learning seems to occur at the point at which the horse is able to achieve a smooth locomotive rhythm. Like Kevin, Klaus bases his work in movement.

    The locomotive rhythm is definitely a critical component of the learning. In humans, even if we are sitting still, there is “simulated” movement – where there is some level of neurons-of-movement that are firing. I believe this has to happen for the learning to occur – for the O-R to be recapitulated. This is how the energy of stress is released and put into the energy of syntropy.

    Does this make sense?

  14. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes this makes perfect sense. You have expressed it very well.

  15. b... says:

    Thanks, Kevin. That makes a lot of sense. I’m putting the pieces together and am caught on this – why is entropy, and its information-dense property a “problem” for consciousness?

    You’re saying that consciousness evolved as a system for capturing the potential energy of the disordered state and then “releasing” it back into circulation through the recapitulation of a new stable configuration? Do you mean that the problem was the need for a system to keep that energy flowing back and forth between the ordered and disordered state?

    Also, would you say that learning for humans is also a regression to an earlier simple state? Can you describe how that would apply in the case of conceptual or intellectual learning?

  16. Kevin Behan says:

    Right, as organisms move they lose heat and increase the entropy around them, and incongruently as it seems to me as a layman, this actually contains more information. However, the purpose of an emotional battery is to capture stress as a result of resistance to movement, and then this battery which is organized around a template, and this template is imposed on the disordered state in order to turn it back into an ordered state that is now of value to the organism. This is why learning runs in reverse, disintegration goes into a battery that orders it and then it is imposed on the future conditions until coherence results. And now, greater obstacles of resistance have been identified and then incorporated into this new ordered state, hence, information is also equivalent to energy. Thus it seems to me that the E–>UE–>RE principle of conductivity is how consciousness solved the problem of entropy.
    I think in the case of intellectual learning, what happens is that eventually two concepts are arrived at that are in fundamental opposition to each other. This induces a state of conflict which regresses the individual down to the subconscious reaches of their emotional battery, and then this primordial template is applied to the data and a new state of resolution arises through these two concepts which to the intellect seem to be in opposition to each other, but in reality are like the cutting edges of a scissor through which a fine line of distinction emerges. So the battery allows the intellectual mind to make sense of disordered state by finding concepts that don’t quite articulate what’s going on, but immutably finer and finer distinctions emerge until a holistic model comes into view.

  17. b... says:

    Thanks. That’s the most eloquent description of human learning I’ve ever heard. The scissor analogy feels exactly right.

  18. b... says:

    Scissor metaphor, I mean.

  19. Catharine says:

    Thanks, Kevin. I have a husky dog, i love he so much but some times he made me tired because he wanted to destroy every thing.

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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