Chaos, Catastrophe, and Human Affairs: Applications of Nonlinear Dynamics To Work, Organizations, and Social Evolution, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Chaos, Catastrophe, and Human Affairs

Applications of Nonlinear Dynamics To Work, Organizations, and Social Evolution, 1st Edition

By Stephen J. Guastello

Psychology Press

452 pages

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Whether talking about steering a wheelbarrow over rugged terrain or plotting the course of international relations, human performance systems involve change. Sometimes changes are subtle or evolutionary, sometimes they are catastrophic or revolutionary, and sometimes the changes are from periods of relative calm to periods of vibrant oscillations to periods of chaos. As a general rule, more complex systems are likely to produce more complex forms of change.

Although social scientists have long acknowledged that change occurs and have considered ways to effect desirable change, the dynamical processes of change have been poorly understood in the past. This volume combines recent advances in mathematics and experimental design with the best available social science theories to produce a new, integrated, and compact theory of work, organizations, and social evolution. The domains of application extend from human decision-making processes to personnel selection and work motivation, work performance under conditions of stress, accident and health risk analysis, the development of social institutions and economic systems, creativity and innovation, organizational development and group dynamics, and political revolutions and war.

Relative to other literature on nonlinear dynamical systems theory (NDS), this book is unique in that it integrates new developments in NDS with substantive psychological theory. It builds on many recent developments in organizational theory to show that nonlinear dynamics were often implicit in those works all along. The result is an entirely new way of viewing social events, understanding change processes, and asking questions about social systems. This book also contains much new empirical work and explains the newly developed methods for testing these new hypotheses.


"…it is a good book and one which deserves to be read by anyone in the social sciences interested in statistical modeling and in improving the depth and accuracy of their models. Certainly it should be read by anyone who is still not yet convinced that nonlinear dynamics is of practical use and believes that he or she can remain blissfully ignorant of its substance without materially affecting the quality of their work."

Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

"Stephen J. Guastello has written a very different book. He does present the mathematics rather than just pretty pictures of fractals, and he uses data to test these models. This is in short, the first book of the contributing to successful cooperatives (e.g., clarity of the cooperative value system)."

Personnel Psychology

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. An Invitation to Chaos. Nonlinear Dynamical Systems Theory. Metaphors, Easter Bunnies, Modeling, and Verification. NDS, Human Decision Making, and Cognitive Processes. Dynamics of Motivation and Conflict. Stress and Human Performance. Accidents and Risk Analysis. Stress-Related Illness. The Evolution of Human Systems. Innovation, Creativity, and Complexity. The Dynamical Nature of Organizational Development. Chaos, Revolution and War. Epilogue.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Industrial & Organizational Psychology