Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It's 100% free, no registration required.

A current trend in cognitive science is to view the mind as a dynamical system (e.g., Continuity of Mind by Spivey, in which cognition is understood as a "continuous and often recurrent trajectory through a state space"). Although I'd like to critically evaluate this trend, I'm embarresed to admit that I've never taken even a basic calculus course.

Yet since I don't intend to build dynamical systems models myself, what is the bare minimum of maths learning that I need to accomplish in order to understand dynamical systems in the context of psychology? Remember, I'm a total novice!

share|improve this question
Tyler, you have posted this question on seven different Stack Exchange sites: Cog Sci, Linguistics, Computational Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, CS Theory, and Philosophy. Cross posting once is frowned upon, let alone six times! Which site do you want this question on? –  Josh Nov 3 '12 at 13:19
This has been closed on all but Cog Sci, Linguistics, and Math. You should decide on which one of these you want to ask the question, and close, or ask mods to close, the question on the other two. If you don't get a good response on one site, you can always ask that the question be migrated to another. –  robjohn Nov 5 '12 at 0:58
It's now been closed on Cog Sci also because I didn't get an answer to which site he wanted it on... which is too bad because it seems relevant to cognitive science. –  Josh Nov 9 '12 at 15:12

2 Answers 2

See http://www.amazon.com/Nonlinear-Dynamics-And-Chaos-Applications/dp/0738204536/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1351819848&sr=8-2&keywords=Strogatz.

Unfortunately, that is about as simple as it gets for a full exposition on dynamical systems. If your precalculus is strong, you may be able to get through the first four chapters which covers one-dimensional autonomous dynamical systems, skipping a few parts here and there. Beyond that, you will need the usual lower division background that every student in the hard sciences/engineering (and even life sciences more and more now) has gone through: elementary calculus/linear algebra/differential equations.

share|improve this answer

That's hard to say. You should try to learn basic calculus (it's the foundation), basic linear algebra (otherwise it's impossible to understand linear systems, the simplest of dynamical systems) and the principles of differential equations (dynamical systems are expressed through differential equations).

You probably don't need to go through all derivations and exercises, but you should learn at least the essential concepts from these. Maybe you could try khanacademy?

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.