The General Theory of Behaviour I: First Principles

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This site is for discussion of new ideas to advance and unify Psychology as a natural science. Both are only possible by taking risks.  To borrow a quotation from Chuang Tzu: “Leap into the boundless and make it your home! * 

This is the first in a series about the General Theory of Behaviour (GTB).  The aim is to reintroduce Psychology to Natural Science.  I am proposing here that an established principle in Physiology – Homeostasis –  can be applied equally well to unify and integrate Psychology – Psychological Homeostasis. Everything here is a work in progress and subject to revision.

Psychological homeostasis

A universal drive for equilibrium, security and stability in living organisms in their interactions with the ever-changing external environment.

To be clear, this is not the same fuzzy concept of homeostasis applied in Family Therapy in the 1970s and 80s.  That has long since been demolished by critics  James C Coyne, Barbara J Anderson, and Paul F Dell.   The latter described the family therapy version as follows: “homeostasis is an epistemologically flawed concept that has repetitively been used in the service of dualistic, animistic, and vitalistic interpretations of systems.”  The current use of the construct is none of these things. 

The construct described here has totally different origins in the laboratories of scientists like Curt P Richter (1954), the Eisensteins (2006), and Woods and Ramsay (2007).  We start with something fundamental and return to basics.  We end with some astonishing new brain research indicating that the General Theory is fully consistent with contemporary Neuroscience. 

The General Theory of Behaviour

In a unique new approach to Psychological Science, there are 20 principles and 80 empirical propositions.


Twenty Principles

Here are twenty foundation stones of the General Theory of Psychology.

Principle I) Agency: The voluntary behaviour of conscious organisms is guided by universal striving for equilibrium with purpose, desire and intentionality.

Principle II) Needs and Wants Hierarchy: In the hierarchy of needs and wants, Physiological Homeostasis (Type I Homeostasis) is active at level I (Immediate Physiological Needs) and Psychological Homeostasis (Type II Homeostasis) is active at all higher levels. Please note that the hierarchy transitions from definite needs such as Self-Protection to optional wants such as Mate Acquisition at level V and to Parenting at level VII .

Principle III) Communality: Homeostasis of both Types I and II is controlled by a single executive controller in the forebrain.

Principle IV) Steady Stable State: Homeostasis Type II serves the same function for Behaviour as Homeostasis Type I serves for Physiology: the production of a stable and steady state.

Principle V) Entrainment: The internal CLOCK controls physiological and behavioural processes in synchrony with regular changes in the environment.

Principle VI) Coalescence: Synchronicity in shared activity creates cooperation, cohesion and social bonding.

Principle VII) Law of Effect: (A) All voluntary action is determined, at least in part, by the degree of pleasure or displeasure that the action provokes. (B) Any behaviour that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated. (C) Any behaviour that is followed by unpleasant consequences is unlikely to be repeated.

Principle VIII) Behavioural Inhibition: The Behavioural Inhibition System is activated when there is conflict between competing responses to approach or avoid stimuli.

Principle IX) Consciousness: Consciousness is the central process of the brain that builds images, sets goals, predicts the future and executes voluntary actions.

Principle X) Mental Imagery: A mental image is a quasi-perceptual simulacrum that includes a goal, schemata, affect and action.

Principle XI) Niche Construction: Any conscious organism strives to enhance the safety, stability and occupation of the socio-physical environment for itself and other organisms under its protection.

Principle XII) Symbiosis: In a symbiotic relationship, each participant experiences an ‘extended self’, a shared set of perspectives, resources and identities in a common pool.

Principle XIII) Emoting: Emoting is rooted in feelings, cognitive appraisal and perceptions. Emoting is artfully constructed to maximise the likelihood of attaining one or more sought-after goal(s).

Principle XIV) Self-Control: Acting as an agent of Type II homeostasis, self-control is one measure of a person’s ability to attain safety and stability, and is predictive of later achievement.

Principle XV) Comfort vs Discontent: In every conscious being exists a tension between comfort and discontent. When the discontent is assuaged, there is comfort. When comfort is resisted, there is discontent. Resolving this conflict is a primary function of Type II homeostasis.

Principle XVI) Addiction: Addiction consists of cyclical alternation between two contradictory goals: an immediate goal to use a substance or activity to reduce negative affect (‘pain’) or enhance positive affect (pleasure) versus a longer-term goal to reduce the use of the substance or activity.

Principle XVII) Sleeping and Waking: (A) Sleeping and waking are controlled by Type I homeostatic sleep pressure, and the circadian CLOCK in coordination with the Behaviour Control System (BCS)* and Type II homeostasis.  Any of these three processes can override any other but increased sleep pressure, in combination with the CLOCK, ultimately will always produce sleeping. (B) The BCS coordinates the REF, CLOCK, AAI and action schemata systems to produce action in association with affect.

Principal XVIII) Law of Conservation of Energy: In any 24-hour circadian cycle there is a fixed quantity of energy to expend across life goals and domains as behaviour, affect and cognitions.

Principal XIX) Programming: The set ranges of all homeostasis systems are programmed by genetics, epigenetics and early life experience.

Principal XX) Stability of Subjective Well-Being: Subjective Well-Being (SWB) is homeostatically protected and stable. Changes in SWB are normally reset to a fixed set range within a few months or years.


  1. Psychology is a natural science based on a set of cohesive behavioral principles, which have their foundation in Physiology.
  2. Psychological or behavioral homeostasis is concerned with a universal drive for equilibrium among living organisms in their interactions with one another and the ever-changing external environment.
  3. Psychological or behavioral homeostasis occurs in neural organisms throughout phylogeny with remarkably similar characteristics suggesting that it is important in survival.  

Book cover small

Marks, D. F. (2018). A General Theory of Behaviour. SAGE Publications.

 The 80 empirically falsifiable hypotheses are discussed in other posts in this series on the General Theory of Behaviour. Please drop in again soon.




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4 thoughts on “The General Theory of Behaviour I: First Principles

  1. It’s nice to read the statement that psychology is based in physiology. Your desire to “reintroduce psychology to natural science” is a sound one. I think we all need to get out of our heads and into our bodies a little more – and I think getting outdoors can be an avenue for that. Thanks for the mention. Obviously, you could have gone and found that quote elsewhere and referenced it differently.

    1. Thank you for comment. A photographer who loves nature and seeing the detail of living things is on the same wavelength as a natural scientist, I feel. We love the beauty and the mystery and want to study more to try and understand how ‘it’ all works. Of course, we never will, but leaps of imagination to the boundless keeps us going. Thank you for your photographic inspiration.

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