Multiscalar Temporality in Human Behaviour: A Case Study of Constraint Interdependence in Psychotherapy

Juan M. Loaiza*, Sarah B. Trasmundi, Sune V. Steffensen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    53 Downloads (Pure)


    Ecological psychology (EP) and the enactive approach (EA) may benefit from a more focused view of lived temporality and the underlying temporal multiscalar nature of human living. We propose multiscalar temporality (MT) as a framework that complements EP and EA, and moves beyond their current conceptualisation of timescales and inter-scale relationships in organism-environment dynamical systems. MT brings into focus the wide ranging and meshwork-like interdependencies at play in human living and the questions concerning how agents are intimately entangled in such meshworks, utilising them as resources for skilful living. We develop a conceptual toolkit that highlights temporality: Firstly, we address lived temporality. We use a case study from psychotherapy to show how a person’s skilful engagement with the world is best described as adaptive harnessing of interdependencies of constraints residing across a wide range of timescales. We call this skill time-ranging. Secondly, the case study provides a proof of concept of the integration of an idiographic approach to human conversing and a more general theory of emergent organisation rooted in theoretical biology. We introduce the existing concept of constraint closure from theoretical biology and scale it up to human interactivity. The detailed conceptualisation of constraint interdependencies constitutes the backbone of the proposal. Thirdly, we present a heuristic mapping of what we call organising frames. The mapping guides the conceptualisation of the emergence of inter-scale relationships and serves as an epistemic tool that brings together nomothetic and idiographic approaches. Finally, we combine new ideas with re-interpretations of existing EP and EA concepts and elaborate on the need of a fresh new look at the implicit and sometimes missing conceptualisations of temporality in the EP and EA literature.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1685
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Number of pages21
    Publication statusPublished - 20. Aug 2020


    • cognitive ethnography
    • constraint closure
    • distributed language
    • ecological psychology
    • enactive approach
    • psychotherapy
    • temporality
    • time scale


    Dive into the research topics of 'Multiscalar Temporality in Human Behaviour: A Case Study of Constraint Interdependence in Psychotherapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this