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FRAME Dynamics and Narrative FRAME Dynamics

FRAME Dynamics and Narrative FRAME Dynamics

FRAME Dynamics, an idea in philosophy of science and systems science, and Narrative FRAME Dynamics, an idea in evolutionary psychology and neurocognition, were jointly proposed by British author Miles Furnell in “FRAME Dynamics: a theory of general evolution” published in the Springer Nature journal Foundations of Science in June 2022[i].

FRAME Dynamics

FRAME Dynamics is predicated on the idea that the physical world comprises not objects but manifestations of systemic selection processes arising from interaction, and that all such selection processes conform to the same, five-component dynamic framework.

The theoretical model extends the basic concept of natural selection to all systems and describes a two-tendency universe, where Dynamic Kinetic Stability[ii], arising from the tensions that exist between syntropy and entropy, provides the context for functional synergies from which all matter and material systems emerge, supporting a theory of general, biotic and cognitive evolution.

Furnell observed that each conditioning force or factor influencing a system, whether nuclear, electromagnetic, gravitational, kinetic, thermodynamic, metabolic, genetic, trophic, ecological, physiological, psychological, socio-political or otherwise forms part of a dynamic hierarchy of structural coupling[iii] between the system and the conditioning forces acting upon it, with ‘higher level’ strata being generally less deterministic than lower-level ones, but with each strata conforming to the same transactional selection dynamics that can be broken down into five hierarchical phases. This gives rise to the acronym F.R.A.M.E., which represents; Fluctuation – a change to a system’s homeostatic pressures, arising from internal or external interaction; Resonance – the resultant oscillatory action of the system’s spatiotemporal co-operational framework of interacting components; Apotheosis – resultant syntropic / entropic production and culmination of the interaction; Metamorphosis – the post-apotheotic product expression and distribution that gives rise to systemic evolution; and Emergence – the resolution, synthesis and catalysis of subsequent interactions emerging from the process.


The ‘FRAME’ acronym also serves as a heuristic device in relation to the scalar and modal frame of reference of the particular interaction or selection process under analysis, enabling the identification and application of theoretical system boundaries that don’t physically exist.

Component Phases


When any system interacts with its environment, disturbances occur to the homeostatic pressure or pressures acting upon or within a system, which result in both a stress (potential), where energy waves, signals, or materials cannot flow freely and are met with resistance, and a stimulus (kinesis), where they are facilitated and can penetrate and thus interact and flow within the system. Systemic continuity requires that the fluctuation's duration (wavelength), regularity (frequency), intensity (amplitude), distribution structure (phasing) and resolution (cycle) remain within a requisite homeostatic range within the system’s flow network. This necessitates systemic stability arising from the requisite balance of resistance to potentially damaging interactions and penetrability or receptivity to potentially beneficial ones as a first principle of general evolution by natural section.

The dynamics of the proportional relationship between pressure, resistance and receptivity are present in all forms of interaction, across all networks and at all scalar and modal frames of reference, such as in the relationship between physical pressure, inertia and motion; electrical charge, isolation and conduction; heat, insulation and conduction; moisture, resistance and permeation; chemical stimulation, inertia and reaction; cellular stimulation, quiescence and proliferation; molecular signals, inhibition and activation; neural stimulation, inertia and induction and, in the context of super-organisms, populations and ecosystems, in examples such as viral transmission, immunity and infection; military force, resistance and capitulation, or environmental change, resistance and adaptation. 


When the spatiotemporal operation of system mechanics (displacement) arising from a pressure fluctuation is such that compatibilities generate flow momentum where there is receptivity, balanced with a proportional amount of strain or friction where there is incompatibility, tension occurs. Resonance can be said to be the homeostatic ‘sweet spot’ where interval and frequency of pressure fluctuation and system displacement correspond sufficiently enough to facilitate, contain and maintain a flow pattern for a sustained period. In complex systems, the shorter the fluctuation interval and the longer the delay between fluctuations, the greater the likelihood of contingencies giving rise to structural changes in the co-operational framework that disturb the flow pattern. This is particularly evident in self-reinforcing signal pathways like neural networks, where short, infrequent signal patterns are less likely to form or reinforce pathways than longer lasting or repetitive ones, which are reinforced through a process called myelination[iv]. Resonance necessitates that the spatiotemporal relationships between interval and frequency of pressure fluctuation and the resultant displacement and regression of components maintain tension within a homeostatic or resonant range, giving rise to a resilient co-operational framework, based upon oscillatory action and reaction (vibration).  Systemic resilience, arising from a requisite tension between flow incompatibility and compatibility, provides a second principle of general evolution by natural selection, and is evident in the orbit of moons, planets, stars and galaxies, where velocity and gravitational effects are balanced (resonant); giving rise to the tension that maintains the orbital motion.

Where there is resonance, i.e. requisite tension between continuing or repetitive pressure fluctuations, momentum and constraint within a flow network, positive feedback loops cause flow intensity to amplify, whereas negative feedback loops cause it to diminish, naturally establishing the maximal and minimal frequencies of pressure fluctuation and system displacement allowable for the flow to sustain the co-operational framework and for the co-operational framework to sustain the flow. This is evidenced in the way that the mating habits and mortality regulate predator and prey populations, as described by Lotka-Volterra equations.


Resilient systems, irrespective of whether they are naturally forming or human made, are those that maintain homeostasis even in the context of erratic flow intervals, frequencies, amplitudes, distribution phases and cycles.  This necessitates a tolerant disposition, or fitness as it is more commonly referred to in relation to biotic systems. During interaction, fundamental forces, physical, chemical, biological, ecological, psychological or sociological pressures give rise to syntropic and entropic production processes, during which inflows of energy, information, materials and other resources are transformed into useable and unusable resources. That which is compatible and useable is incorporated into the system in some way (syntropy) and that which is incompatible or unusable tends to be isolated and dispersed into the environment (entropy).  Over the course of its life cycle, the syntropic / entropic ‘bank account’ of any system cycle must always balance with the energy inflow and outflow, as per Tellegen’s theorem[v]

Beyond the requisite proportional triadic balances described, tolerance also necessitates a proportional triadic balance between flow intensity (amplitude), system plasticity and system rigidity, a state that enables energy, information, substances or resources to be processed and / or stored in the most appropriate manner possible when necessary and/or available. The constraint of flows tends towards the compression or contraction of interstitial channels to their most efficient bandwidth (centripetality), and, as a consequence, the attenuation of non-essential excesses. Conversely, where there is flow momentum and channel compatibility, plasticity aids the expansion of channels, facilitating the amplification of flows (centrifugality).

Regardless of whether it is a regenerative flow cycle or a single life cycle, all syntropic and entropic production processes relating to a particular flow must eventually reach an apotheosis or climax, the point at which flow cycle’s intensity peaks due to system or flow limitation factors, which is followed by a regression, reduction or cessation of the flow. At the point of apotheosis, syntropic and entropic production flows are expressed and distributed within the system or discharged as outflow. Logically, where entropy is greater than syntropy, flows necessarily degenerate and the system decays, but where syntropy is greater than entropy, the system tends towards accumulation and continued growth.  Where production is dependent upon finite resources, insufficient outflow can lead to the cessation of natural cycles and the eventual exhaustion of supply; the eutrophication of what is now known as the Gulf Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico being one such example.[vi]

In general evolutionary terms, the third principle of general evolution by natural selection is systemic tolerance, arising from a requisite balance between the plasticity to maximise compatible, beneficial flows, and the rigidity to conserve resources and minimise harmful or incompatible flows.


Subsequent to the production process, syntropic production flows are expressed within the system while entropic flows are discharged. While systemic efficiency promotes the concentration and modulation of production flows, leading to denser, more unified flows and systemic homogeneity, plasticity promotes diffusion and more varied distribution, fostering heterogeneity. This might lead one to conclude that plasticity is necessarily more wasteful, but where the diffusion of flows gives rise to the initiation of autocatalytic subsystem processes (degeneracy) or influences environmental conditions for external systems, these entropic flows can be further broken down and utilised, as we observe in digestive processes that gradually reduce food materials, subsystem by subsystem, all the way down to compatible and incompatible water-soluble molecules that are then either integrated into or eliminated from the system accordingly. This suggests that successful systems are not necessarily the most efficient and unified, but rather those that benefit from a cohesive distribution network, balancing complexity with unity, exploiting available resources in a variety of ways and at different levels to maximise syntropic production that, in ecosystems, promotes biodiversity and mutualism

Successful biotic system tend to be those that benefit from a proportional balance of phased flow distribution, system complexity and system unity, providing the context for the hierarchical, symmetrical and branching flow networks and circulatory systems we observe in nature. Indeed, symmetry and even distribution are generally associated with system health and are believed to be key influencers of the perception of attractiveness in mate selection[vii]. But while symmetry is a symptom of health, it is asymmetry that drives emergence and evolution in the form of variation, mutation, degeneracy and contingency.  These dynamics give rise to a fourth principle of general evolution by natural selection, which is systemic cohesion, produced by a requisite balance of adaptability and consistency.


Successful systems or flow networks are those whose overall constitution, operational framework, syntropic and entropic production process and network structure remain intact despite changes to the environment. But this is only possible where flows remain within a requisite homeostatic range, contingent upon the proportional balance of the flow’s interval, frequency, amplitude and phasing in relation to the network’s stability, resilience, fitness and cohesion, all of which are net products of the trade off between resistance to some fluctuations and receptivity to others; between durability under strain and flexibility enabling flow momentum; between efficiency for optimisation and plasticity for adaptation; and between unity for consistency and complexity for diverse functionality. A requisite proportional balance of these ultimately gives rise to the emergence of a self-regulating, regenerative system. Dynamic kinetic stability, the sustainability of the relationship between the overall flow cycle, syntropic integration and entropic disintegration, is contingent upon a requisite proportional balance between system integrity and dynamicity, which constitutes the fifth principle of general evolution by natural selection.

Systemic growth occurs where there is more integration of material and retention of flows than there is disintegration, and this is the general tendency of systems until they reach the apotheosis of their life cycle, which is followed by metamorphosis (degeneracy) and emergence (catalysis), but where systemic changes disrupt natural processes of distribution and disintegration, systemic growth continues, often amplifying the effects of phenomena such as eutrophication, disease or exhaustion of supply. Imperialism, oligarchy and monopolies are examples of human systems where this occurs.


The need to obtain resources necessary for survival and reproduction means that biotic systems are goal-driven in their behaviour, enforcing interaction and, thus, initiating the FRAME dynamics that underpin the processes of interaction, co-operation, production, organisation and integration, and these dynamics apply equally to the functioning of constituent parts of the system as they do to the whole system and its functioning as a constituent part of a higher-level system. The functional synergies we observe at each dynamic phase of interaction not only drive the system’s development towards the next ‘level’ but also reinforce those of ‘lower-level’ phases, with the requisites for a stable constitution necessitating and being reinforced by a resilient co-operational framework, which necessitates and is reinforced by a tolerant disposition, balancing efficiency and plasticity proportionally for optimised production, which necessitates and is reinforced by consistency and complexity in terms of cohesive distribution across the network of system components, which in turn necessitates and is reinforced by the self-regulation of the proportional balance between system integrity and dynamicity, so as to facilitate regeneration.

Narrative FRAME Dynamics

Narrative FRAME Dynamics extends FRAME Dynamics into the evolution of cognitive systems and provides the framework for the conceptual models of the self and the environment that provide living organisms with the agency to respond appropriately to changes to the environment or to the organism’s own state by detecting signals of fluctuations, interpreting signal sequences from resonance, discriminating sets of signal sequences from apotheoses, organising schemes of sets from metamorphoses, and instantiating systems from emergent effects of processes arising from interactions. These respectively give rise to the evolution of senses for signal detection, sensitivity for sequence interpretation, sensations for set discrimination, sentiments for scheme organisation, and sensibility for system instantiation.

Component phases

Fluctuation signal detection

The dynamics of the relationship between a system’s resistance and acquiescence to different types of interaction in differing contexts, give rise to the evolutionary concept of signals and receptors, whereby specific actions give rise to specific reactions at a molecular level. The effective self-regulation of biotic systems necessitates that the system perceives the need to act in some way based on information relating to both the organism and its environment, without which there would be no way for the organism to act other than by random movement and chance interaction. The greater the complexity of the organism and its environment the greater the need for senses to detect a wider range of sensory data so as to inform basic actions such as avoid or approach, not just in the immediate term but also as an experiential reference for more efficient prediction and decision making. Bacteria, for example, employ quorum sensing, whereby they excrete autoinducers that enable them to perceive information relating to cell density and to produce and release chemical signal molecules that alter gene expression, regulating a wide range of important physiological activities, including virulence and biofilm defence.[viii]

Resonant sequence interpretation

Where fluctuations give rise to signals, resonance gives rise to sequences of signals, in the sense that differing flow intervals and frequencies and the consequential, differing displacements and regressions within the co-operational framework necessarily imply different types of interaction to those systems capable of interpreting patterns from spatiotemporal configurations. The carnivorous plant Venus flytrap, (Dionaea muscipula), for example, requires two successive mechanical stimuli to sensory hairs on the leaf blade, the second occurring within approximately 30 seconds of the first, prior to triggering rapid closure of the leaves and thus capturing insect prey[ix], improving energy efficiency by avoiding closing upon a single stimulus that might be caused by wind, dust or rain.  Regardless of whether an organism has a brain or not, the necessity to react appropriately in different circumstances requires a sensitivity that necessarily implies a form of short-term memory and predictive capability. In complex organisms, whose interactions are numerous and varied, survival and reproduction is aided by the evolution by natural selection of the various types of sensory, nervous, memory and motor systems we observe in nature.


Apotheotic set discrimination

Where resonance gives rise to the interpretation of sequences of signals, a sequence necessarily implies correspondence to a set of related signals in the context of a broader system, process or action. Syntropic and entropic production in biotic systems necessitates discrimination between differing sets of signal sequences that might represent compatible / relevant flows or incompatible / irrelevant flows of energy, information or resources. In the case of the Venus Flytrap, each stimulus upon the hairs triggers the release of calcium into the leaf’s cells, which is transduced into electrical signals that ripple across the cellular network. The occurrence of the second stimulus raises calcium levels beyond a particular threshold, increasing the voltage of the electrical signal and triggering the motor reaction that causes the leaves to close. In more complex organisms, differing types of interaction give rise to differing chemical reactions and thus differing electrical signals, providing the context for the evolution by natural selection of more sophisticated systems for detecting, interpreting and discriminating between differing sets of signal sequences.

In humans and other complex organisms this process manifests in the form of interoceptive sensations such as hunger, thirst, arousal, pleasure, pain, fear and discomfort; self-generated internal states that serve as motivators and de-motivators of particular types of behaviour)[x], and in the ability to differentiate utilising various sensory mechanisms, and to categorise distinct sets in terms of their appearance, feel, sound, smell and taste, and so on. Sensations such as pain and pleasure, fear and relief, anger and joy enable the association of remembered events with particular sensations so as to better evaluate available options. Indeed, the apotheotic phases of sex, eating and other beneficial activities cause the release of dopamine, which stimulates the brain’s reward system and memory access, creating an association between pleasure and reward.[xi] while the perception of pain, induced by nociception and modulated by glutamate and neuropeptides, provokes a withdrawal response[xii].

Metamorphic scheme organisation

The sensory experience of a world in which different sets exist provides the context for selection and thus necessitates mechanisms capable of prioritising or favouring one course of action over another.  The rapid closure of the Venus Flytrap’s leaves takes part in two stages, whereby the first action, semi-closure, leaves enough time and space for the smallest insects to escape, thus ensuring that the second stage, closure and initiation of the digestive process, is not wasted on prey of low nutritional value.[xiii] But such selective value structures are not particular to biotic systems, since the effects of natural forces such as electromagnetic attraction and repulsion, gravitational effects separating lighter and heavier components, chemical selection of compatible molecules, RNA and DNA sequences are all examples of how FRAME dynamics influence natural selection processes in the pre-biotic world.

Biotic systems tend to inhabit competitive environments and, as a consequence, are faced with multiple options in terms of their available courses of action, such as avoid or approach, attack or defend, or simply choosing a direction of travel. Without any functional means of selecting between the available options the organism must leave decision-making entirely to kinesis and natural selection, which is unlikely to prove successful as a long-term survival strategy. Successful organisms would tend to be those able to ascribe different values to different data sets and to take selective action accordingly, but this is only possible if there is an awareness of the hedonic / agonic value of each option.[xiv] This necessity for behavioural selection mechanisms also provides the context for serotonergic systems that have enabled organisms as far back in the evolutionary landscape as crustaceans to regulate aggression and to identify and track their own and other organisms’ status within their particular dominance and social hierarchies[xv] as well as neurochemical systems that generate complex sentiments such as guilt, pride, shame, and disgust in humans and higher order mammals helping to regulate social behaviour and the ability to develop mutualistic, collaborative relationships.

Emergent system instantiation

The effective self-regulation of biotic systems requires that the system not only perceives the need to act in some way but is also able to integrate information into an internal model of the self in relation to the environment, and the greater the complexity of the organism and its energy needs the greater the need to perceive and record interactions as sensory experiences for future reference in relation to behavioural motivation. Information integration theory[xvi] postulates that a system’s level of consciousness corresponds to its capacity to integrate information. Attention schema theory[xvii] concurs, in that it recognises the brain as an information processing device with the capacity to focus its processing resources more on some signals than on others, which may be on select, incoming sensory signals or on specific, recalled memories.

The synthesis of detection, interpretation, discrimination, organisation and integration of data into consolidated informational systems better enables the organism to navigate and act in the world as effectively as possible, and instantiates ‘if-then’ strategic sensibility that creates automatic or instinctive responses to particular stimuli, such as the stress hormone response induced by the olfactory cortex of mice in immediate response to the detection of predator odour[xviii], or anxiety, which occurs as a premonitory response and motivates organisms to prepare and adapt in advance of a potentially harmful occurrence[xix]. For the majority of humans living in the relative comfort of 21st century civilisation, some of these mechanisms have become rather inconvenient, for example when thinking about the potential for failure in situations that are not life-threatening, such as public speaking or initiating contact with a potential mate, interoceptive response to signals is such that it can be misinterpreted by the amygdala as a potential danger, thus triggering the sympathetic nervous system’s ‘fight or flight’ response[xx] and potentially incapacitating the subject. However, the overall benefit of shortcut narrative systems has enabled the vast majority of human behaviours to become reflexive, allowing cortical areas to focus on higher level, strategic thought and the formation of more complex narratives.

Despite having no brain, unicellular organisms have the capacity to detect, interpret, discriminate, organise and integrate data and act upon it, often exhibiting highly sophisticated adaptive behaviours based on interpretation of both internal state and environmental conditions, to the extent that they are capable of working in collaboration and collectively controlling specific brain functions of a host. Toxoplasma Gondii, for example, is a common parasite that can only breed inside the stomach of a cat. The larvae are excreted out in the cat’s faeces but seek to return to the cat’s stomach upon reaching sexual maturity, employing a highly complex strategy of invading, infecting and specifically manipulating the function of the amygdala in rats’ brains[xxi]. On detection of the signal stimulated by the odour of cat urine, an occurrence that would ordinarily trigger the sympathetic nervous system’s ‘fight or flight’ response, toxoplasma’s intervention instead causes the triggering of the parasympathetic nervous system’s ‘feed and breed’ response, causing the rat to become aroused by the odour and proactively seek out the cat.

This suggests that a brain is not necessarily a prerequisite for the detection, interpretation, discrimination, organisation and integration of information, and that its emergence and evolution, in symbiosis with other physiological systems, occurs so as to enhance the resolution of experience and aid the construction of more detailed internal models of the self and the environment, as well as to manage processes and control behaviours more efficiently and effectively. It can be said, therefore, that consciousness is not so much an emergent product of brain activity as it a process enhanced by it.


As a writer specialising in motivational and behavioural learning and development for multinational corporations and UK governmental organisations for more than 25 years, Miles Furnell’s research has covered a diverse range of industry sectors and scientific disciplines, across which he observed a common theme among the leading ideas put forward by notable specialists in their respective fields; the use of a progressive, five-phase theoretical framework. These included but were not limited to:

Furnell set out to establish whether this phenomenon might simply be a coincidence or that instead there might be some underlying scientific principles at work. In late 2016, he recognised that each of these five-phase models described a transformational selection process, triggering a period of extensive research with the aim of finding evidence that would either support or falsify the hypothesis that all transformational selection processes conform to the same fundamental selection process dynamics.

With the help and guidance of systems science specialist Dr Sally J. Goerner and renowned theoretical ecologist Prof. Robert E. Ulanowicz, Furnell formulated FRAME Dynamics: a theory of general evolution, which was peer-reviewed and published in the Springer Nature Journal Foundations of Science in June 2022.


[i] Furnell, M.W. FRAME Dynamics: A Theory of General Evolution. Found Sci 27, 351–370 (2022).

[ii] Pross, A. (2011). Toward a general theory of evolution: Extending Darwinian theory to inanimate matter. Journal of Systems Chemistry, 2, 1.

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[vii] Rhodes, G., Yoshikawa, S., Palermo, R., Simmons, L. W., Peters, M., Lee, K., & Crawford, J. R. (2007). Perceived health contributes to the attractiveness of facial symmetry, averageness, and sexual dimorphism. Perception, 36(8), 1244–1252.

[viii] Whitehead, N.A., Barnard, A.M.L., Slater, H., Simpson, N.J.L. and Salmond, G.P.C. (2001). Quorum-sensing in Gram-negative bacteria. FEMS Microbiology             Reviews, Volume 25, Issue 4, 1 August 2001, Pages 365–404.

[ix] Suda, H., Mano, H., Toyota, M. et al. (2020). Calcium dynamics during trap closure visualized in transgenic Venus flytrap. Nat. Plants 6, 1219–1224

[x] Nesse, R.M. (1990) Evolutionary Explanations of Emotions. Human Nature Vol 1 p 261.

[xi] Malenka, R.C., Nestler, E.J., Hyman, S.E. (2009). Neural mechanisms of addiction: the role of reward-related learning and memory. Annual Review of             Neuroscience, 2006. 29: 565-598

[xii] Wittenburg, N., and Baumeister, R. (1999). Thermal avoidance in Caenorhabditis elegans: an approach to the study of nociception. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 96(18), 10477-82.

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[xvii] Graziano, M. S. A., & Webb, T. W. (2015). The attention schema theory: A mechanistic account of subjective awareness. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, p500.

[xviii] Kondoh, K., Lu, Z., Ye, X., et al. (2016). A specific area of olfactory cortex involved in stress hormone responses to predator odours. Nature, 532, 103–106.

[xix] Mowrer, O. H. (1939). A stimulus-response analysis of anxiety and its role as a reinforcing agent. Psychological Review, 46(6), 553–565.

[xx] McCorry, L. K. (2007). Physiology of the autonomic nervous system. American journal of pharmaceutical education., 71(4), 78.

[xxi] Vyas, A., Kim, S.-K., Giacomini, N., Boothroyd, J. C., & Sapolsky, R. M. (2007). Behavioral changes induced by Toxoplasma infection of rodents are highly specific to aversion of cat odors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(15), 6442–6447.

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