Psychology Definitions: General Systems Theory
General Systems Theory:
General Systems Theory is the interdisciplinary study of systems and how they relate and adapt to each other within a more complex system. The key concept of (general) systems theory is that the whole is greater than the sum if its parts.
General system theory can be traced back to the 1940s in the work of the biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy. Von Bertalanffy theorized that general system theory was a way to address the complexity of the world's problems.
General system theory is an alternative to reductionism which attempts to explain the world through a unified limited theory. General systems theory examines wholes, interdependence, and complexity.
General systems theory examines how smaller systems come together to affect the greater complex system. Singularly, smaller systems are unpredictable when reduced to any single part of its systems—its parts.
Systems theory seeks to explain and develop hypotheses around characteristics that arise within complex systems that seemingly could not arise in any single system within the whole. This is referred to as emergent behavior. If a complex system expresses emergent behavior, that means it has characteristics its properties do not display on their own.
Some primary concepts of general systems theory applied to psychology:
System: An entity that’s made up of interrelated and interdependent parts.
Complex system: The greater, whole system made up of individual, smaller systems.
Ecological systems: The various systems in a person's environment that influences behavior.
Homeostasis: A steady state of balance within a system. A system is always moving toward homeostasis by adapting to other influencing systems.
Adaptation: A system’s tendency to make changes that protect homeostasis when impacted by new environmental factors.
Feedback loop: A systems internal intelligence measuring impacts of self adjusting changes, causing a circularly system of micro adjustments until homeostatic balance is reached.
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