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Jeanette Bennett

Introduction to Complexity Science

I’ve always been in love with human behavior. The intrigue of the natural systems has been an innate approach to life and how I understand what I see in my daily experience. My graduate program, which was Biobehavioral Health at Penn State, used biological and psychological concepts to make sense of health issues.

The first book that introduced me to complexity science and systems ideas was “Humans as Self-constructing Living Systems by Don Ford. Reading that book helped me identify how my innate approach to life fell with the realm of Complexity Science and Systems and why I was attracted to an interdisciplinary research approach. The beauty of this field is how it synthesizes so many areas of study and goes one step further to practically apply it to health and human interaction.

I doubt I’ll ever ask questions in my research that captures every level, but Complexity Science is the larger theoretical framework that has become a natural place for my thinking.

Does Complexity Science influence your day to day experience?

Absolutely. I use the principles to evaluate workplace and career opportunities as well as reflecting upon where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to be; creating a plan for how might I get there. As far as my personal life, having a kid has been a great lesson in complexity. My son has shed light on that fine between chaos and complexity; sort of like, the perception of control as a parent equals complexity; however, the child reminds you that complexity may just be perceived order within a chaotic and unpredictable system.

If you had to create a Complexity Science public service announcement, what would you say?

Your current health may not be 100% your fault, but it is 100% of your responsibility.

Many of today’s diseases are stress-related. How one handles living (e.g., balance of demands vs resources) is the culmination not only of one’s personal past, but one’s parents, their parents, and their parents, and how society and others treat you now and your ancestors in the past. These factors influence one mentally but also physically.

Personal health and absolute control over it is more multifaceted than one’s personal choices and understanding this gives you control but also liberation from self-blame. All leading to a more empowered individual to take responsibility and improve their health.

What would you ask a group of Complexity Scientists if you had them around a table?

What is your favorite food? Why?

In asking this you would find out the obvious but in the answer about why you would learn other things about their preferences, how they make behavioral choices, what they enjoy. It would be fun way to know them on a more relational level.