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TOTEs and trauma: a cybernetic, extended recursion schematic for hyper vigilance

Kip Errett Patterson (Independent Researcher, Cary, North Carolina, USA)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 27 December 2022




This conceptual article presents a schematic for use with extended cybernetic recursion in living systems and applies it to the issue of hyper vigilance as a demonstration of its utility.


The test-operate-test-exit (TOTE) schematic of Miller et al. (1960) is critically evaluated along with other schematics, including those of ordered cybernetics, and a new schematic is proposed, a recursive test-operate-test (rTOT), which emphasizes teleological purpose and hierarchical structure. The background psychophysiology of trauma is reviewed and then rTOT is applied to hyper vigilance, a cardinal component of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Once the schematic was developed, it was applied to the behavior of hyper vigilance. Other applications are suggested.

Research limitations/implications

As demonstrated, the rTOT schematic has potentially wide application because of its pragmatic and detailed structure.

Practical implications

The rTOT requires careful consideration of teleological purposes for its application and is simple enough, but also complex enough, for relevant utilization. Its compact nature and adjustable hierarchy scope are good mini-max complexity solutions for cybernetic, information modeling schematics.

Social implications

The revealed teleological purpose of the trauma adaptation of hyper vigilance presents significant alternative formulation options for prevention and intervention.


While the rTOT schematic is derived from previous schematics, it is original in its emphasis on information processing, the teleological aspects of extended recursion and on the provision of a hierarchical structure for those recursions. It is considerably more compact than other schematics associated with the ordered cybernetics literature. The explication of the adaptation model for post-trauma consequences is significantly enhanced by the rTOT application.



Patterson, K.E. (2022), "TOTEs and trauma: a cybernetic, extended recursion schematic for hyper vigilance", Kybernetes, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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