Essentially, equilibrium is the state of being balanced, where opposing forces cancel each other out, and no changes occur.

It is a broad definition, as equilibrium applies to loads of different topics – it’s commonly used in chemistry, economics, psychology, physics, and many other disciplines.

For example, if you’re running on a treadmill, you are in constant motion. However, you’re not moving forward or backward. As fast as you run forwards, the treadmill is moving you backward. It means you and the treadmill are in equilibrium.

Or, if hot air enters a room at the same rate as cold air, and the room temperature stays the same, then the room’s temperature is in a state of equilibrium.

The economy is in equilibrium if supply and demand are equal economics.

Here, we’ll run through a few different common examples of equilibrium.

Chemical Equilibrium:

In chemistry, equilibrium is used to describe the state where there is no observable change in the properties of a reaction, and it won’t change with time on its own. Instead, it happens when a process and its reverse occur at equal rates, so overall, no change occurs.

When a reaction reaches equilibrium, the forward and reverse reactions happen at the same rate, so the concentrations and products of the reaction don’t change – everything stays balanced.

Chemical equilibrium can be affected by a few different factors. For example, pressure, temperature, or concentration changes can force a reaction out of equilibrium. Adding a catalyst, though, doesn’t affect equilibrium, as all catalysts do is speed the response up. So, a catalyst speeds up the forward and reverse reactions equally, so the state of equilibrium should be maintained.

Chemical equilibrium is really important for life as we know it. For example, some reactions in our bodies rely on equilibrium to stabilize everything. For example, hemoglobin must be able to take up oxygen and release it. It does this through changes in the equilibrium of this reaction throughout our bodies.

Equilibrium in Economics:

Economists have looked to the sciences and borrowed the equilibrium construct to apply it to their field. In economics, equilibrium occurs when market supply and demand are equal, balance each other out, and as a result, prices become stable. Like chemistry, no further change occurs when a system’s physical forces are balanced.

Because the actual conditions of real-life economics are so uncertain and changing, equilibrium, in this sense, is very much based on theory – it might never truly occur. Moreover, the concept of supply and

It is similar to when external factors disrupt the equilibrium of chemical reactions. For example, when the pressure and temperature change, the balance is lost, and the reaction ends up in disequilibrium.

It can happen in economic equilibrium when prices become too low, or the demand changes to higher than the available supply. When these aren’t in balance (like the conditions in a chemical reaction), you end up with market disequilibrium. This term of economic equilibrium can also be applied to a range of different economic variables, too (e.g., interest rates).

Social Equilibrium:

Equilibrium has also been discussed in sociology and philosophy.

Here, it describes a state of balance in social systems, where each interdependent part of a system adjusts to changes in other parts, and the system as a whole stays balanced. Philosophers have discussed social equilibrium since the 18th century when they sought ideals of a communal society living in equilibrium and harmony.

In this sense, social systems are thought about in the same way as physical, scientific systems, where there are actions and reactions, opposing forces, and states of balance and imbalance – order and chaos.

It is typically discussed as a theoretical aim rather than any existing system.

Equilibrium in Psychology

Within psychology, equilibrium is discussed regarding people’s emotions, passions, aims, and desires. Different fields of psychology use the term equilibrium differently because of its diverse meanings. However, they all relate to the same fundamental concept – balance.

Regarding emotions, people constantly work to balance their desires and instincts. Physiologically, they’re also balancing their physical drives of hunger and thirst. The existence of competing drives and conflicts can cause an imbalance, so people need to work to restore equilibrium.

Sigmund Freud’s psychodynamic theory suggests that all our unconscious desires (the id, ego, and superego) exist in a constant state of tension, where there is a continued attempt to achieve equilibrium between them. He felt that, fundamentally, this drives most of our actions.

Clark Hull felt that when an organism is resting, it’s in a state of equilibrium. However, it is brought out of rest by drives like thirst or hunger, and one has to deal with this by eating, drinking, or relieving whatever drive is causing the imbalance. He describes this as ‘drive-satisfying behavior’ and posits that organisms constantly satisfy various drives and urges to maintain equilibrium.

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