Behavioral Characteristics of the Complex Systems

I have already made an introductory definition of the complex systems.

Here I’m going to list some of the common behavioral characteristics of the complex systems:

Unpredictability or limited predictability

Although it’s popular to consider complex systems as unpredictable entities, it would be more precise if we say complex systems have limited predictability

It goes without saying that predictability is not an absolute property of an entity and it can only be measured and evaluated after choosing another entity as the observer (The measurement reference).

Leverage and Dampening

Sometimes a minor change in part of the system leads to a very large scale dynamics in the other parts of the system. Also, other times, a major change in the system disappears over time, and the system goes back to the equilibrium or preferred state. The former property of the complex systems is referred to as leverage, and the latter is called as the dampening behavior.


A complex system can transcend itself through evolution and adaptation. It means that the current entity is emerged from an old version of itself, however, it can be distinct from its previous identity.

Complex systems reproduce and regenerate themselves but these regeneration and reproduction are absolutely different from replication.


I have already written an article about the definition of the emergence. So we don’t need to discuss it here again.

The whole story can be summarized in the following description:

 A complex system exhibits higher orders behaviors that cannot be derived from the aggregation of the behavior of the individual agents and the principal elements. 

This so-called spontaneous behavior is absolutely different from behavior of the components and is not intended – or understood – by the components.

It would be helpful if you could take a look at the resulting features and behaviors related to the emergence phenomenon.

Policy Resistance

A higher-order complex system intends to preserve itself and its structure. This is a well-known behavior which we call it as the need for survival in humans and other living entities.

It’s very important to consider this behavior as an emerging property of a complex system. Many of the superstitious ideas about the humans, dualistic models of the world and human-centered understanding of the universe are nurtured by the people who were not able to understand this feature as an emerged property and considered it as a deliberately and externally infused feature in the system.

Policy resistance is just one the manifestations of the autonomy: This bias toward status-quo is the reason behind failures of the obvious and simple approaches to the systems. It’s a popular statement between systems analysts that many obvious solutions to problems fail to improve the situation or even worsen it.

This characteristic is sometimes referred to as the counterintuitiveness of the complex systems.