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DSRP is a theory and method of thinking, developed by systems theorist and cognitive scientist Derek Cabrera. It is an acronym that stands for Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives. Cabrera posits that these four patterns underlie all cognition, that they are universal to the process of structuring information, and that people can improve their thinking skills by learning to use the four elements explicitly.[1]

Cabrera distinguishes between the DSRP theory and the DSRP method. The theory is the mathematical formalism and philosophical underpinnings, while the method is the set of tools and techniques people use in real life settings (notably in education).


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Gerald Midgley

8:52am May 13

My take on this is that DSRP is not a replacement for all that other systems theory, but a useful 'simple story' that people coming to systems thinking for the first time can understand. Indeed, they can understand the basics in two minutes, which is absolutely essential if we are to mainstream what we do. Then there is a deeper complexity that it can take you to, in two senses. First, in the sense that exploring the relationships between the four systems thinking skills yields a suprising amount of complexity and subtlety of thought. Second, in the sense that DSRP can be a doorway through which people initially pass in order to view the wider range of systems thinking furniture (theories and methodologies) in the room.



Chad Thomas Green Dmitry, yes, DSRP has more in common with enactivism than cognitivism per se. Hierarchical PCT a la Bill Powers describes the perceptual levels quite well in that sense: http://users.ipfw.edu/abbott/pct/pct.html . {LIM Link: Perceptual Control Theory }

February 16 at 1:06pm



Derek Cabrera true Chad re: enactivism.



Systems Thinking: Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, Perspectives (DSRP) by Derek Cabrera

"Our mind structures [information] in four ways. The mind makes distinctions between things or ideas, organizes things or ideas into systems (part-whole groups), relates ideas and things, and looks at ideas or things from different perspectives.

Even though the four patterns are very simple, the brain is very complex so it can do these four things simultaneously and mix and match them to create amazing patterns of thought.

☯ Distinctions (identity-other) Making distinctions between and among ideas. How we draw or define the boundaries of an idea or a system of ideas is an essential aspect of understanding them. Whenever we draw a boundary to define a thing, that same boundary defines what is not the thing (the “other”)..

Distinction-making simplifies our thinking, yet it also introduces biases that may go unchecked when the thinker is unaware. It is distinction-making that allows us to retrieve a coffee mug when asked, but it is also distinction-making that creates "us/them" concepts that lead to closed-mindedness, alienation, and even violence.

☯ Systems (part-whole) Organizing ideas into systems of parts and wholes. Every system can become a part of some larger system. The process of thinking means that we must draw a distinction where we stop zooming in or zooming out.

Nothing exists in isolation, but in systems of context. We can study the parts separated from the whole or the whole generalized from the parts, but in order to gain understanding of any system, we must do both in the end.

☯ Relationships (action-reaction) We cannot understand much about any thing or idea, or system of things or ideas, without understanding the relationships between or among the ideas or systems.

At the most fundamental level though, all types of relationships require that we consider two underlying elements: action and reaction, or the mutual effects of two or more things.

Gaining an awareness of the numerous interrelationships around us forms an ecological ethos that connects us in an infinite network of interactions.

Action-reaction relationships are not merely important to understanding physical systems, but are an essential metacognitive trait for understanding human social dynamics and the essential interplay between our thoughts (cognition), feelings (emotion), and motivations (conation).

☯ Perspectives (point-view) Looking at ideas from different perspectives. When we draw the boundaries of a system, or distinguish one relationship from another, we are always doing so from a particular perspective.

Sometimes these perspectives are so basic and so unconscious we are unaware of them, but they are always there.

If we think about perspectives in a fundamental way, we can see that they are made up of two related elements: a point from which we are viewing and the thing or things that are in view."

By Derek Cabrera

Excerpts from the book "Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems" http://www.amazon.com/Derek-Cabrera/e/B001K8S10W

Online Source & Related Ideas: "19 Specific Things Systems Thinkers Do" http://stdaily.ghost.io/19-specific-things-systems-thinker…/


Image design: Christopher Chase



DSRP is a theory and method of thinking, developed by educational theorist and cognitive scientist, Derek Cabrera based on his research at Cornell University. It is an acronym, standing for Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives. Cabrera's research posits that these four patterns underlie all cognition, that they are universal to the process of structuring information, and that people can improve their thinking skills by learning to use the four elements explicitly.




Derek Cabrera 4:27am Dec 16

Chad Hmmm. Well, I'll try to answer the first question which is about what DSRP *is*? I would say that

DSRP are the simple rules that lead to complex and adaptive cognition. So, if I said that there are four rules that govern an ant colony behavior around food (say rules PDQX) and you asked me "what is PDQX?" I would say they are the rules that lead to the systemic properties of that system. So, I would say the same thing about DSRP. Where is get's slightly more complex is that DSRP is not merely a cognitive theory, it is a physical-cognitive theory, which has to do with the idea that our brains did not evolve in isolation from the physical/real world, but within this context. So, in that sense, our cognition is not entirely divorced from reality any more than the DNA of a son is divorced from that of his father.








Derek Cabrera

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