Skip main navigation

Hurry, only 1 day left to get one year of Unlimited learning for £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

The theory of cause and effect

Read this article about the Theory of Cause and Effect.
© University of Southern Queensland

The theory of cause and effect (also known as feedback loops) was originally proposed by Braun and Le Chatelier in the 18th century in ground-breaking studies about how systems constantly establish a new equilibrium in response to stimuli (1).

Feedback loops can be described as cause-and-effect processes within individuals or systems that can be either negative and maintain equilibrium or positive and promote change within an individual or system. According to this theory, feedback loops enable an individual and systems to maintain control or change important processes by signalling back whether an input should be intensified or stopped. In its simplest form, a feedback loop might include an action which stimulates a reaction, which in turn leads to change, which then promotes a new action (2).

Understanding patterns of behaviour and thinking provide a basis for understanding the role, as well as the impact that feedback plays in the giving and receiving of feedback (3).

Theory of cause and effect

Note: there is a description of this image in the downloads section.

1. Norwich KH. Le Chatelier’s principle in sensation and perception: Fractal-like enfolding at different scales. Frontiers in Physiology [internet]. 2010 June 28 [cited 2022 Sept 8];1(17). Available from: https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2010.00017
2. Watson S. Closing the feedback loop: Ensuring effective action from student feedback. Tertiary Education and Management [internet]. 2003 June [cited 2022 Sept 8];9(2):145-157. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/13583883.2003.9967099
3. Bangert-Drowns R L, Kulik CC, Kulik JA, Morgan M. The instructional effect of feedback in test-like events. Review of Educational Research [internet]. 1991 June 1 [cited 2022 Sept 8]; 61(2):213-238. Available from: https://doi.org/10.3102%2F00346543061002213
© University of Southern Queensland
This article is from the free online

A Beginner’s Guide to Giving and Receiving Feedback

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now