SYLLABUS: Complex Systems Methods

PSY 607, CRN 25532, Winter 2002, Wed 1-3 Straub 156


Professor: Dr. Holly Arrow Phone: 346-1996

Office: 357 Straub Office Hours: Tues 3-4, Fri 11-12, & by appt. MWF


Credits: 3-4

Description: This course is a graduate level exploration of ways to think about and analyze data based on complex systems theory and related fields (nonlinear dynamics, chaos theory, catastrophe theory). Complexity theory is an interdisciplinary approach to studying dynamic processes in multi-level systems. It considers how interactions among and between units at different levels of a nested hierarchy shape the behavior of a whole system as it evolves over time. The smaller units might be neurons, limbs, psychological systems, or human beings; the whole might be a cognitive system, coordinated motor activity, complex human or animal behavior patterns, or the behavior of groups or organizations.

The first part of the course will introduce you to some methodological issues that studying temporal processes entails and give you a grounding in the building blocks and jargon of dynamical system analysis. In the second part of the course, students will select articles that illustrate a method they would like to apply or adapt for their own research, share their plans for studying dynamical processes in their own area, and, if applicable, report on their efforts to use complexity / dynamical systems methods with their own data. We will discuss strategies and issues in combining DS approaches with more standard statistical analyses used in behavioral and social sciences.

Reading: We will read three books: On Time and Method by Kelly & McGrath (1988), Fractals and Chaos by Liebovitch (1998) and Small Groups as Complex Systems, by Arrow, McGrath, & Berdahl (2000). First two books are available at the UO bookstore; the third you can buy from me. We will also read articles and chapters that either provide an overview of the field or illustrate specific methods. In the second five weeks we will read articles selected by students. Articles will either be copied in advance or be made available for copying on the third floor of Straub, room 337.

Requirements: The format of the course will be a mix of presentation and discussion. Students will be responsible for finding two articles/chapters of interest, reporting on these selections to the class, and writing a brief description of their selections for the annotated bibliography started by the previous incarnation of this seminar (see ). We will select additional readings for the class from the set of possibilities people find. Ideally, these readings will use a method that you feel might be appropriate to the kind of data you would like to analyze in your own work. Everyone (including Holly) is expected to write a short (1-page) response each week based on the readings for that week, participate actively in class discussion, and lead or co-lead a class session. Leaders of each session should bring copies of their responses for that week for all; otherwise bring two copies for Holly. Students who sign up for 4 credits will write a 5-7 page paper, which may be either a review paper, a research proposal for a study that applies complexity / DS methods, or a report of your application of one of these methods to some data.

Course grade will be based (4-credit option) 30 % on paper; 20% on discussion; 40% on weekly written responses, and 10% on leading the class session. For the 3-credit option, grade will be based 30% on discussion, 50% on weekly responses, and 20% on leading the class session. Final paper will be due Monday March 18 by 5 PM.

Assigned readings:

Arrow, H., McGrath, J. E.,& Berdahl, J. L. (2000). Small groups as complex systems: Formation, coordination, development, and adaptation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Eidelson, R. J. (1997). Complex adaptive systems in the behavioral and social sciences. Review of General Psychology, 1, 42-71.

Granic, I., Hollenstein, T., Dishion, T. J., & Patterson, G. R. (2001). Longitudinal analysis of flexibility and reorganization at the early adolescent transition: A dynamic system analysis. MS under review.

Guastello, S. J. (1995). Stress and human performance. In Chaos, catastrophe, and human affairs: Applications of nonlinear dynamics to work, organizations, and social evolution (Ch. 6, pp. 175-204). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Holland, J. H. (1995). Basic elements. In Hidden order: How adaptation builds complexity (Ch. 1, pp. 1-40). Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

Kelly, J. R., & McGrath, J. E. (1988). On time and method. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Langton, C. G. (1991). Life at the edge of chaos. In C. G. Langton, C. Taylor, J. D. Farmer, & S. Rasmussen (Eds.), Artificial Life II, (SFI Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Vol X.). Addison Wesley.

Liebovitch, L. S. (1998). Fractals and chaos simplified for the life sciences. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Reidbord, S. P. & Redington, D. J. (1995). The dynamics of mind and body during clinical interviews: Research trends, potential, and future directions. In R.F. Porter & T. van Gelder (Eds.), Mind as motion: Explorations in the dynamics of cognition (pp. 527-547). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Tentative Schedule of Readings & Assignments:

Week 1: January 9

Introductions and overview

Week 2: January 16

Eidelson (1997); Langton (1991); Holland (1995), Chapter 1.

Week 3: January 23

Kelly & McGrath (1988), Chs. 1 & 2; Granic et al. (2001); Liebovitch, 1.1-1.4

Week 4: January 30

Kelly & McGrath (1988), Chs. 3-5; Liebovitch, Part II, 2.1-2-3; Reidbord & Redington, 1995

Week 5: February 6

Arrow, McGrath & Berdahl (2000), Part I; Liebovitch, 2.4-2.6; Guastello (1995), Ch. 6.

**Bring candidate articles/chapters for show & tell.

Week 6: February 13

AMB, Part II;

Week 7: February 20

AMB, Part III; Liebovitch, Section1.5

Friday, Feb 22: Last day to change number of credits

Week 8: February 27

For those doing final paper: Bring a paragraph describing your planned paper.

Week 9: March 6

Week 10: March 13

Final Paper due Monday March 18 by 5 PM (hard copy in Holly's mail box), for those taking the course for 4 credits.

Some books/articles of possible readings (in whole or part) that are not included in the annotated biblio-in-progress:

Note: I have these if you want to take a look.

Axelrod, R. (1997). The complexity of cooperation: Agent-based models of competition and collaboration. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Brown, C. (1995). Chaos and catastrophe theories. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eve, R. A., Horsfall, S., & Lee, M. E. (Eds.) (1997). Chaos, complexity, and sociology: Myths, models, and theories. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Granic, I. & Lamey, A. V. (in press). Combining dynamic-systems and multivariate analyses to compare the mother-child interactions of externalizing subtypes.

Kellert, S. H. (1993). In the wake of chaos. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Kelso, J. A. S. (1995). Dynamic patterns: The self-organization of brain and behavior. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Resnick, M. (1994). Turtles, termites, and traffic jams: Explorations in massively parallel microworlds. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

I also get the journal Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, published by the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences. Their web site has links to some tutorials. They also have a list of books by society members, at

The Society's 2002 conference will be in Portland, Oregon from August 2-4, with workshops on the 1st.