Diagram: Feedback


Feedback loops occur in system where an environmental input guides system behavior, but the system behavior (the output), in turn alters the environmental context.

This coupling between input affecting output affecting input creates unique dynamics and interdependencies between the two.

There are two kinds of feedback that are important in our study of complex systems: positive feedback and Negative Feedback. Despite the value-laden character of these names, there is no value judgement regarding 'positive' (good) versus 'negative' (bad) feedback. Instead, the terms can more accurately be described as referring to reinforcing (positive) versus dampening (feedback). Reinforcing feedback can amplify slight tendencies in a system's behavior, whereas dampening feedback works to restrain any changes to system behavior.

We can think of a thermostat as a classic example of dampening (negative) feedback mechanisms at work.


Photo Credit and Caption: Underwater image of fish in Moofushi Kandu, Maldives, by Bruno de Giusti (via Wikimedia Commons)

Cite this page:

Wohl, S. (2019, 13 November). Feedback. Retrieved from https://kapalicarsi.wittmeyer.io/definition/feedback-loops

Feedback was updated November 13th, 2019.

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