What is chaos theory and what does it tell us?

Imagine placing an egg on the top of a pyramid. Now we are thinking of putting a plug at the source of a river.

We will be able to know in which direction the egg will fall or at what point in the river the plug will end once we observe the result. however, Can we predict? While many models can be developed with the end result regarding how the experiment ended in one way or another, there are a large number of variables that may or may not influence the end result.

There is a theory that nature and the universe in general do not follow a predictable pattern, called chaos theory.

General approach to chaos theory

Chaos theory is, more than a theory, a paradigm that was once a scientific revolution., By reflecting that many systems hitherto considered deterministic and predictable have severe limits to this predictability. In other words, they were not as useful as it was believed in predicting future events. This is important, because one of the foundations of science is the ability to remove uncertainty about what will happen.

Initiated by Henri Poincaré as a precursor and popularized thanks to the work of the mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz, chaos theory has been used in fields such as mathematics and meteorology to explain the inaccuracy and difficulty of obtaining predictable results from reality.

Butterfly Effect

This theory is widely known for the so-called butterfly effect, according to which “the slight blow of the wings of a butterfly can cause a hurricane thousands of miles away”. This indicates that the existence of a specific variable can cause or alter others, gradually influencing the achievement of a result beyond expectations.

In short, one can consider that the theory of chaos establishes that small changes in the initial conditions create large differences compared to the final resultThus, a large majority of events and systems are not fully predictable.

It is important to note that despite appearances, the chaos to which this theory refers does not imply disorder, but rather that facts and reality do not conform to a linear pattern. However, the chaotic cannot go beyond certain limits. The egg that we mentioned in the introduction simply cannot fall or fall in any direction. In other words, the possibilities are many but the results are limited, and there are predispositions to phenomena occurring in a certain way, predispositions called attractions.

Chaos theory in psychology

Chaos theory was originally designed to explain the existence of discrepancies in the results of applying mathematical, meteorological or astrological models. However, this theory it applies to a large number of disciplines, including those related to health sciences and social sciences. One of the scientific disciplines in which this theory has some applicability is psychology.

Chaos theory, as a paradigm that concludes that small changes in initial conditions can generate a great diversity of results, can be used to explain the enormous diversity that we can find in terms of attitudes, points of view, of thoughts, beliefs or emotions. While as a rule, most people seek to survive and fulfill themselves in different ways, there is a very wide variety of circumstances which transform our behavior and our thinking and shape our way of life.. For example, living a relatively happy and calm life does not guarantee that a person does not develop a mental disorder, just as suffering from severe trauma may not lead to later disorders.

Differences between people

It can be helpful to try to explain why some people may develop mental strengths or problems that others may not. It may also explain why some treatments are not effective in some people while in most people they are effective. Or why two people with the same genes and the same life experiences do not react in the same way to a specific stimulus or event.

Behind this, there may be differences in personality, cognitive abilities, a focus of attention on specific aspects, an emotional and motivational situation at the same time, or several other factors.

Likewise, some psychological processes such as anxiety could be linked to chaos theory. For many people with anxiety and related disorders, not knowing what can happen to their performance in the environment leads to a deep sense of discomfort, and with it a possible active avoidance of what was feared.

In other words, The uncertainty caused by the difficulty of establishing reliable predictions, due to the multiple possibilities of chaotic reality arouses the feeling of worry. The same is true for disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which the uncertainty that something feared may arise due to intrusive thoughts induces anxiety and may lead to the use of compulsions as a temporary protective measure. .

Small details that change our destiny

Within psychology and this theory, genetics and culture could be seen as attractive because they produce a certain tendency to behave in a certain way. But that doesn’t mean we all behave the same or have the same ways of thinking. Behavioral patterns and habits are also attractive, which may explain why in some cases of mental disorders there are recurrences.

However, there are also complete remissions of symptoms, due to the introduction of new elements and alternative reconstructions of dysfunctional internal processes. Merely crossing paths with someone on the street or not can have unexpected effects. that make us behave differently.

Human groups and the effect of chaotic theory

The same thing happens in organizations, systems in which several elements are linked in different ways and with different purposes. In the case of business, it is well known that today it is imperative that it can adapt to changes. so he can stay. However, this adaptability must be constant, because it is not possible to predict all of the situations that may arise. They have to be able to handle the chaos.

And is that there can be many variables that can affect its operation and maintenance. An employee’s performance level can be affected by their personal circumstances. Customers and / or suppliers of this company may be late in their payments and shipments. Another company may try to acquire the company or to attract its workers. There may be a fire that destroys all or part of the work performed. This may increase or decrease the popularity of the business due to factors such as novelty or the emergence of better alternatives..

But in any case, as we indicated above, the fact that reality is multiple and chaotic does not imply that it is disorderly. Chaos theory teaches that science in general should be adaptable and not deterministic, always keeping in mind that an accurate and absolute prediction of all events is not achievable.

Bibliographical references:

  • Lorenz, EN (1996). The essence of chaos. University of Washington Press.

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