Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 13, Iss. 3, July, 2009, pp. 279-288
@2009 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


The Butterfly Effect of the "Butterfly Effect"

Kevin J. Dooley, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Abstract: The "Butterfly Effect" metaphor states with variance that the flap of a butterfly”s wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas. This metaphor has become part of the common vernacular of Western culture. In this paper I discuss the origins of the metaphor, examine its current usage within popular culture, and present an argument as to why it is popular. I propose that the metaphor is a type of semantic attractor, a narrative device with invariant meaning but audience-specific contextualization. Finally I address whether the Butterfly Effect metaphor is a good example of itself.

Keywords: Edward Lorenz, chaos theory, sensitive dependence, metaphor, Western culture