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The Science Behind: Positive Feedback Loops

When I found out about positive feedback loops I was intrigued right away. The idea that two variables infinitely increase each other without any other external factors was such an interesting concept to me, I just had to research it more. So I did.

To start off, let's define what a positive feedback loop is. A positive feedback loop consists of two variables that directly affect each other. The increase of variable 1 causes an increase in variable 2, and the result of variable 2 increasing is the further increase of variable 1. For example, consider apples on a tree. Let’s say one apple on the tree starts to ripen. When apples ripen, they release a gas that causes the apples to ripen. When the initial apple releases said gas, it comes in contact with other unripe apples. These unripe apples then start to ripen, increasing the production of the gas. The ripened apples are variable 1, and the amount of gas is variable 2. Another example is cattle stampedes. Something triggers the stampede, and the cattle start running around. All this running causes the cattle to panic, which in turn causes more cattle to start stampeding. One variable increases each other, and it turns into a positive feedback loop.

Why are positive feedback loops seen as a bad thing? The reason is that they increase a response that can cause the system to act completely differently. Ever heard the phrase, “too much of a good thing”? That’s what is happening here. A large amount of both variables is being formed, which isn’t what we want. The good thing is that positive feedback loops do eventually end.

Finally, do positive feedback loops last forever? As mentioned earlier, no they do not. Eventually, the loop will continue on long enough that it reaches a breaking point, and by this point, it will reverse itself. At this point in time, new feedback loops can start—either positive or negative. A negative feedback loop is almost the opposite of a positive one, where the two variables start to erase each other instead of creating more.


12 Best Positive Feedback Loop Examples - Icy Tales

Positive Feedback Loop Examples | Science Trends

Positive feedback loops: Creating more of what’s already there! – Eco-intelligent™

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