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# field theory

a detailed mathematical description of the distribution and movement of matter under the influence of one or more fields.
[1900-05]

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In mathematics, the study of the structure of a set of objects (e.g., numbers) with two combining operations (e.g., addition and multiplication).

Such a system, known as a field, must satisfy certain properties: associative law, commutative law, distributive law, an additive identity ("zero"), a muliplicative identity ("one"), additive inverses (see inverse function), and multiplicative inverses for nonzero elements. The sets of rational numbers, real numbers, and complex numbers are fields under ordinary addition and multiplication. The investigation of polynomial equations and their solutions led to the development of field theory.

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in psychology, conceptual model of human behaviour developed by German American psychologist Kurt Lewin (Lewin, Kurt), who was closely allied with the Gestalt (Gestalt psychology) psychologists. Lewin's work went far beyond the orthodox Gestalt concerns of perception and learning; his theory emphasized an individual's needs, personality, and motivating forces. Although the former concentrated on the physiological aspects of human behaviour, Lewin treated psychology as a social science.

Lewin drew from physics and mathematics to construct his theory. From physics he (like the Gestaltists) borrowed the concept of the field, positing a psychological field, or “life space,” as the locus of a person's experiences and needs. The life space becomes increasingly differentiated as experiences accrue. Lewin adapted a branch of geometry known as topology to map the spatial relationships of goals and solutions contained in regions within a life space. His mathematical representation of life space also accounted for directions of pathways toward a goal and amount of attraction or repulsion toward a given object in the space. He also postulated that persons strive to maintain equilibrium with their environment; a tension (need) will stimulate locomotion (activity) to reinstate the equilibrium. Lewin adapted his field theory to the area of social psychology through his theory of group dynamics.

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Universalium. 2010.

### Look at other dictionaries:

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• field theory — field′ the ory n. phs a detailed mathematical description of the distribution and movement of matter under the influence of one or more fields: quantum field theory[/ex] • Etymology: 1900–05 …   From formal English to slang

• field theory — n. Physics a theory in which the basic quantities are physical fields …   English World dictionary

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• field theory — noun (physics) a theory that explains a physical phenomenon in terms of a field and the manner in which it interacts with matter or with other fields • Topics: ↑physics, ↑natural philosophy • Hypernyms: ↑theory …   Useful english dictionary

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• field theory — noun Date: 1901 any theory in physics consisting of a detailed mathematical description of the assumed physical properties of a region under some influence (as gravitation) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

• field theory — noun The branch of mathematics dealing with the algebraic structure of fields …   Wiktionary

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