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The Butterfly Effect

Beginnings and impact of the butterfly effect

However minimal an action may be, it will have consequences in your life. The butterfly effect starts from the principle that any discrepancy between two situations with a small variation in the initial data ends up giving rise to situations where both situations will evolve completely differently.

This concept, better known as the theory of chaos, was proposed by Edward Norton Lorenz, since according to Lorenz generates an amplification process according to the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect stipulates that if butterflies did not exist in this world it would be very different. In a world with butterflies and one without butterflies, it could cause a tornado to occur while in the other there would be nothing at all.

All events are correlated with each other. At a conference in 1972, meteorologist Lorenz posed the question of whether the fluttering of a butterfly in Brazil makes a tornado appear in Texas and pointing out that he was not suggesting that the answer was necessarily affirmative. He made the decision not to state it categorically because Lorenz warned himself that he did not have meteorological models that could support this theory.

Lorenz worked in 1960 in the prediction of meteorological weather through computers, repeating some calculations and obtained that there were drastic changes in the results of weather. He could understand that the numbers that were already keyboard were not the exact originals but the rounded values that had given the printer at first. Therefore, the initial rounded errors were the culprits, since they were constantly amplified until a solution was mastered. In other words, in today’s terminology it is known as chaos.

In this way, it is proved that many disciplines can not generate a stable model that allows accurate predictions in the long term so that they are reliable because any variation however small can achieve a great change in the results.

In 1987 the term “butterfly effect” was popularized due to the bestseller: “Chaos, the creation of a science” by James Gleick.

As such, the Chinese proverb that the slight fluttering of the wings of a butterfly can be felt on the other side of the planet, suggests that apparently simple or innocuous alterations of a variable or action can generate massive effects, being the first trigger of a process that when propagating will generate more strength or amplification.

This same effect when linked to another field such as psychology can be established an analogy in what happens in the psyche and human behavior. In other words, the butterfly effect can be applied in the decisions we make and, therefore, have results diametrically different to the course of the action that could have taken.

It is therefore applicable within the psychopathology in small simple and repetitive changes can generate that someone can leave a depression.

Thus, a small gesture such as a look, a compliment, a criticism or seemingly inconsequential things have the potential to change things for us as well as for others.

Cases in the world that prove the existence of the butterfly effect

In the world there are several cases that help explain the butterfly effect. One of these is the case of Rosa Parks, a black woman, who was arrested for refusing to give the seat to a white woman on a bus from Memphis. This situation is the one that generates an anti-racial revolt and the one that Martin Luther King begins his fight and achieves the abolition of the racist laws.

Another case was the British soldier who forgives the life of a German soldier, who turns out to be Adolf Hitler, resulting in the subsequent occurrence of all those atrocities and deaths during his term in Germany.

There is another case that is that of a boy who had his bicycle stolen and when he went to the police station he expressed his discomfort and said that he was going to beat up the thief, immediately the reaction of a police officer was to recommend that he should learn to fight. This child was Cassius Clay and now better known as Muhammad Ali.

Another interesting case is that of this second officer of an important vessel, David Blair, who was dismissed before his departure due to his attitude. Blair forgets to deliver a set of keys he had in his pocket that corresponded to the drawer that contained all the binoculars of the Titanic ship. For this reason they could not see the horizon clearly and we all know the tragic history.

Exhibition of the butterfly effect as a theme in the cinematographic field

There are several films that expose the theme of the butterfly effect. One of these films is the sequel to “Back to the Future” where someone must travel to the past because their present has been changed by someone who travels to the past and changes it. In it, the situation of attempting to remedy it without affecting other circumstances is presented, but it is impossible to make events happen exactly the same as they were. So although he partially achieves his goal, on his return to the time when he began his journey into the past, he realizes that things are not as they were in his present.

Another movie is “Two lives in an instant” which tells the story of a young woman who is fired from her job and how to take the Metro two different aspects are presented only by the fact that the subway door closes a few seconds before . In one she arrives on time at home to notice the infidelity of her boyfriend and decides to leave and restart a new life with another person he met that day in the Metro. The other is that she does not arrive on time so all the other events did not happen, but on the contrary she suffers blows and the theft of her wallet and does not arrive in time to her home to notice the “affair” of her boyfriend.

Another movie is “Butterfly Effect” that tells the story of a young man who travels to the past to change the facts that negatively affected the life of his friend, but far from solving this situation, on the contrary not only fails to change the destination of her friend, but also affects the lives of other loved ones. Try again, but every time it does, the situation worsens so your action will play a trick on you.



Although we can not fully know the results of our actions and how they can be different based on the participation of different variables, nevertheless we must be curious and motivate us to know more about it even if for some it generates anguish and suffering. We must do this because many of the disorders in the psyche and behavior may be consistent with this. To the extent that we face it and know the causes, we will be better prepared for the healing process of these disorders and have a better quality of life.

We must add that the butterfly effect would explain the reasons why there are different reactions  from the same situation and it is on that way because they are conditioned to biological level (genetic inheritance) and psychosocial as are our learning, experiences and lifestyles.


Ley del Efecto Mariposa: el poder de la influencia sutil

Ley del Efecto Mariposa: el poder de la influencia sutil

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