The Attenuating Function of Myth in Human Understanding

N. V. Jackson*, P. Carter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety demands the insertion of a variety attenuator in any homeostatic system to regulate the relationship between the high variety environment and the low variety monitor. We argue that, in the system which is constituted by man and his environment, this function is performed by myth, i.e., that myth is a variety attenuator. The nature of the concept of myth is explored, and a relationship traced between the functions of classical myth and contemporary modes of understanding. Some implications follow, in particular, that serious dysfunctions inevitably occur as a result of overattenuation where the environmental variety increases at a greater rate than man's ability to understand it, as in the present technological age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-533
Number of pages19
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1984


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