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Chaos, Complexity, & Pyschology

Nov 11, 1994 09:17 AM
by Jerry Schueler

John <Am quite interested your use of complexity theory (or, I
guess, "chaos" theory, tho chaos is really a subset of complexity
theory).  I know few Jungians capable of (or rather, interested
in) handling the mathematics required to understand nonlinear
dynamical systems.>

Actually, complexity theory is a subset of chaos theory.  The
Santa Fe Institute which looks at complexity theory began in 1984
and many of those who participated were formerely associated with
chaos theory, which began in the early 60s.  Technically,
complexity theory looks at the borderline area between order and
chaos: what has been called, the edge of chaos.  This area is
where life is created (i.e., physically manifested) and
maintained.  It is where all living systems are located (or so
goes the theory).  I have found what appears to be a direct
correspondence between this area and Jung's personal unconscious
(the area that Jung describes lying between the conscious and
unconscious.  Anyway, heres an idea of where I am currently:

There is a very interesting article (Iberall, A.  S.  & Soodak,
H.  "A physics for complex systems." in Yates, F.  E.  (Ed.)
(1987).  Self-organizing systems: The emergence of order.  New
York: Plenum Press.) which explores the concept of Reynolds
number (Re, a measure of turbulence in flowing liquids).  Re is
extended by the authors by showing that the numerator represents
a convective velocity, those forces that sweep matter into and
through the field, while the denominator is a diffusional
velocity such as the rate of transport of momentum.  The
classical equation is extended as:

    Re = V(convection) / V(diffusion)

This form of the equation addresses whether or not the energy
associated with the global convection velocity can be absorbed
into the internal energy at the atomic level by some diffusive
process.  If not, the field becomes unstable and a new structured
form or pattern emerges.  The authors point out that convective
field processes and local diffusion transports compete.
Furthermore, a diffusive process may be momentum diffusivity or
some other dominant mode of diffusion such as electrical,
thermal, or chemical.  In this way, the idea of Re can be
transferred into other areas besides fluid flow, such as chemical
patterns and even social patterns.  They write, "The generalized
Reynolds number criterion for emergence can even be applied to
the nucleation of people into urban settlements in the
post-Neolithic period" (p 508).

In psycholgy, this equation can be reworded as:

          Re = sensory data / data assimilation

Unfortuneately, psychological data is usually qualitative rather
than quanititative, and thus number generation is difficult or
impossible.  However, the equation can be used to address a
qualitative analysis because it suggests that Re will be greater
than 1 whenever sensory data overloads the ability for
assimilation.  This is to say, whenever data are presented to us
that cannot be assimilated into our world view.  A psychological
name for this occurrence (i.e., for Re > 1) is a significant
emotional event.  Such events will either result in a breakdown
of the psyche (e.g., cognitive dissonance) or to a change in the
psyche's world view.  They usually cannot be ignored with

True, this is only one area in which chaos theory can be carried
over, but I think it is rather significant.  The problem, of
course, is the mathematics.  Scientists have neat equations
(often in the form of differential equations) for relatively
simple complex systems.  Human beings are way too complex for
such equations to be transported meaningfully.  In fact, Jung
laments the fact that mathematics simply won't work with psychic
phenomena.  So, I am really just transporting the principles or
relationships behind the math (mathematics, is after all, just a
language that describes relationships).

Other interesting research is going on too.  For example,
scientists now know that there is no such thing as empty space -
i.e., the vacuum of space is in fact filled, not only with
'virtual particles' but also with charge.  The charge in the
vacuum that exists between the electron and nucleus of the
hydrogen atom, for example, has actually been measured.  It
causes the electron's orbit to skew.  A few courageous complexity
scientists are trying to show that this charge is instrumental in
psychic phenomena and maybe life itself (through its effects on
quarks up to molecules).  Of course, scientists are trying to
find the material cause of consciousness.  I rather think that
anything they find will be effects rather than causes, but I find
the new research data to be stimulating.

                   Jerry S.

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