Cite as: Harald Atmanspacher, Complementarity and Bistable Perception, lecture, ICI Berlin, 27 February 2012, part 1, video recording, mp4, 20:16 <>
27 Feb 2012

Complementarity and Bistable Perception

By Harald Atmanspacher

A key notion of pivotal significance, introduced into quantum physics by Niels Bohr, is the notion of complementarity. Broadly speaking, descriptions are complementary if they are incompatible with one another and yet all together needed for a complete picture of the situation described. In quantum physics, this can be precisely formalized by the non-commutativity of system properties. But Bohr always insisted that the actual meaning of complementarity far exceeds the limits of physics. Recent work by several research groups worldwide shows that this idea is indeed viable. Examples in psychology include decision making, learning, associative memory, and order effects in questionnaires. A further interesting example is the perception of ambiguous stimuli which is addressed in particular.

Harald Atmanspacher is Head of the Department of Theory and Data Analysis of the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Faculty Member of the C. G. Jung Institute, Zurich, Associate Fellow at the Collegium Helveticum, Zurich, at the ETH, as well as at the University of Zurich. Since 2003 he is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Mind and Matter. His main fields of work are nonlinear dynamics, complex systems, psychophysical problem, and other selected topics in history and philosophy of science. Recent publications include “Quantum Approaches to Consciousness” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Recasting Reality: Wolfgang Pauli’s Philosophical Ideas and Contemporary Science, edited together with H. Primas (Berlin, 2009), and “Contextual Emergence” in Scholarpedia 4(3): 7997 (2009).


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Part 1

Format: mp4
Length: 00:20:16
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Rights: © ICI Berlin