Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Dissipative Structures, Thermodynamics, Football, Ecological Psychology, Ecological Physics, Self-organization, Team Sports

Major Advisor

James Dixon

Associate Advisor

Steven Harrison

Associate Advisor

Claudia Carello

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Collective behavior and large-scale group dynamics have become especially hot topics of research in the physical, biological, and cognitive sciences — from microscopic interactions involving the signaling and collective response of bacteria, to the types of coordination dynamics that are present in team sports. Recent findings argue for a fundamental principle for the self-organization of activity that is indifferent to scale; and that the behavior manifest in both living and non-living collectives serves to satisfy the dissipation of energy and strives toward the maximization of entropy production. While undoubtedly provocative, this hypothesis opens up new avenues of inquiry for the study of living and cognizing collective systems. Nonetheless, a physical-thermodynamic approach to cognitive sciences is still in its early development and lacks theoretical and mathematical insights to realize the promise of its potential. To address these limitations, we propose an experimental paradigm to study football from the theory of dissipative structures. Inspired by the experimental paradigms of one of the simplest collectives (benzoquinone particles - BQ), a series of rondo experiments were conducted. Rondos are a common drill in football with a set of exterior players forming a circle and passing the ball to keep it away from two interior players who try recover it. These conditions, analogous to those encountered in the model system, allowed us to study the behavior of interior players based on traits shared among most of the Non-Equilibrium Self-Organizing Systems such as BQ. In Experiment 1 manipulation of the number of ball touches (1- vs 2-touches) outside players could take with their feet resulted in the identification of two collective modes. An increase of task space in Experiment 2 (~ 3 m. radius vs 6 m.) revealed the effects of the manipulation of our control parameters (i.e., space and touches) on the two collective modes. Finally, Experiment 3 measured the VO2 consumption to obtain a measure of energy dissipation and entropy production of each of the collective modes. This dissertation, thus, shed light on methodological issues to be addressed to bridge a sound theoretical and methodological framework for experimental testing across scales (from BQ to Football).