Table of Contents
Journal of Nonlinear Dynamics
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 962043, 17 pages
Review Article

A Review of Theoretical Perspectives in Cognitive Science on the Presence of Scaling in Coordinated Physiological and Cognitive Processes

Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Received 31 August 2013; Revised 10 December 2013; Accepted 12 December 2013; Published 10 February 2014

Academic Editor: Plamen Ivanov

Copyright © 2014 Maarten L. Wijnants. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Time series of human performances present fluctuations around a mean value. These fluctuations are typically considered as insignificant, and attributable to random noise. Over recent decades, it became clear that temporal fluctuations possess interesting properties, however, one of which the property of fractal 1/f scaling. 1/f scaling indicates that a measured process extends over a wide range of timescales, suggesting an assembly over multiple scales simultaneously. This paper reviews neurological, physiological, and cognitive studies that corroborate the claim that 1/f scaling is most clearly present in healthy, well-coordinated activities. Prominent hypotheses about the origins of 1/f scaling are confronted with these reviewed studies. It is concluded that 1/f scaling in living systems appears to reflect their genuine complex nature, rather than constituting a coincidental side-effect. The consequences of fractal dynamics extending from the small spatial and temporal scales (e.g., neurons) to the larger scales of human behavior and cognition, are vast, and impact the way in which relevant research questions may be approached. Rather than focusing on specialized isolable subsystems, using additive linear methodologies, nonlinear dynamics, more elegantly so, imply a complex systems methodology, thereby exploiting, rather than rejecting, mathematical concepts that enable describing large sets of natural phenomena.