Standard Article

Hierarchy Theory, Ecological

Ecological Statistics

  1. Timothy F.H. Allen

Published Online: 15 JAN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9780470057339.vah012.pub2

Encyclopedia of Environmetrics

Encyclopedia of Environmetrics

How to Cite

Allen, T. F. 2013. Hierarchy Theory, Ecological . Encyclopedia of Environmetrics. 3.

Author Information

  1. University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, WI, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JAN 2013


Hierarchy theory looks at and announces the decisions of the observer of complex systems. It deals with the first compression down to the universe in which is the second compression that translates experience into models. It does not predict, but rather organizes the arena in which normal science does predict. Bio-social hierarchies are richer than physical hierarchies because coding stabilizes more levels. Hierarchies put part/whole dual structures, holons, at particular levels that are ordered on five principles, in three basic hierarchical types. Hierarchies describe emergence. Hierarchy theory is robust to realism which looks for ontologically real hierarchies, or constuctivist philosophies that are agnostic as to a real material external world. It can also tolerate anti-realist philosophies that assert that hierarchies are only human constructions.


  • complexity;
  • constraint;
  • emergence;
  • evolution;
  • holon;
  • levels;
  • order;
  • organization;
  • scale