Variability can be Adaptive


"If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed."
-Chinese Proverb


  • Animal Behavior

          Krechevsky (1936)- Path choice of rats through mazes.

          Carpenter (1995)- Human reaction time studies.

          van Der Meer et al. (1995)- Neonatal arm movements.

          Siegler (1995)- Childhood learning.

  • Theoretical/Computational Neuroscience

          Neural Networks (ex.- Boltzmann Machines)

          Tononi and Edelman- "Degeneracy" in neuronal networks.

  • Immune System

  • Evolution (of course!)


    "Variability, selection, and inheritance seem necessary to allow organisms to meet the twin goals of learning and performing. If an organism always acts in the same way, it has no opportunity to learn whether some other behavior would yield better outcomes. Always acting in the same way in a given situation can be effective if the environment is stable, and the behavior well adapted to it. However, if circumstances change, the lack of variability will be a serious drawback. Thus, variability is important for promoting change because it provides opportunities to learn which activities are most effective in achieving goals.

    -R. S. Siegler, Emerging Minds: The Process of Change in Children's Thinking (p. 17)