The method proposed by systems theory is to model complex entities created by the multiple interaction of components by abstracting from certain details of structure and component, and concentrating on the dynamics that define the characteristic functions, properties, and relationships that are internal or external to the system.
The history of systems theories includes contributions from such seminal thinkers as Alfred North Whitehead, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Anatol Rapoport, Kenneth Boulding, Paul A. Weiss, Ralph Gerard, Kurt Lewin, Roy R. Grinker, William Gray, Nicolas Rizzo, Karl Menninger, Silvano Arieti, and, in more recent years, the dynamical systems theorists, the family systems theorists, and those who deal with dissipative structures and holistic paradigms. This chapter traces the history of systems theories, their permutations, and their developments. Evolutionary systems design is introduced as one of the most recent advances in systems praxis. Cognitive maps are explored as an example of the conceptual tools stemming from systems theory that are positioned to contribute to the study of perception, the focus of this volume.