Principia Cybernetica Web


Knowledge consists of distinctions. A distinction is useful only insofar that it can be used to predict some deviation or variation from equilibrium. This entails that some change must follow or precede the appearance of the distinguished phenomenon; phenomena that do not make any difference, are not informative, and, hence, are not considered to be real in any practical sense. In other words, we need a "difference that makes a difference". For example, a sudden perturbation of the image on your retina because of dust in your eye will not be perceived as a distinct phenomenon. This requirement corresponds to Kelley's (1967) distinctiveness criterion for distinguishing "real" from "illusory" perceptions.

A related criterion for the reality of perceptions in Gestalt psychology is richness in contrast and detail: imagined or dream perceptions typically are fuzzy and contain little detail.

Copyright© 1995 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Sep 5, 1995


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