#1 FREE Online Causal Loop Diagram app

Causal Loop Diagrams to understand the world better.

If more birds come, more eggs will be laid. If more eggs are laid, more birds will come. As a result, even more eggs, etc. etc.

Try what hapens if there are more birds. Put your mouse on arrow upsite on Birds

Why making a Causal Loop Diagram ?

There are plenty of cause-effect relationships in our world.
An example: reckless driving leads to accidents. 
This is an example of linear thinking. A causes B. 
reckless driving ———-> number of accidents

Linear thinking leads to linear action. In this example, consider installing speed bumps to limit reckless driving.
reckless driving ———-> number of accidents ———-> set speed bumps.

But the world is more complex. There is often a ‘circulating’ relationship between variables of elements of the system. In this example: speed bumps lead to hard brakes just before the bump. This leads to more collisions from behind, so even more accidents.

From lineair to circular thinking

The circle is round. We call this cyclical thinking. By visualizing this way of thinking, we can better understand situations. We visualize this with a causal loops diagram.

Create your own causal loop diagram

Own language

Causal loop diagrams are an important part of the language of systems thinking. To understand that language, some basic rules must be known. By consistently applying those rules, a new world opens up. These rules are explained below. 


We always work with variables for causal loops. 
These are elements that can become less and less. 

For example, ‘the number of birds’ is a variable.
In the app, it would look like this:

This variable in this Causal Loop Diagram means the amount of birds

Examples of good variables: 

– number of accidents
– quality
– revenue
– number of sick people
– temperature

Relationship arrows

A relationship between variables is indicated by an arrow. 
The number of birds influences the number of eggs. As more birds come, more eggs will be laid. When fewer birds come, fewer eggs are laid. As one variable increases, so does the other. When one decreases, the other decreases. So they both do the same.

We indicate this with an S (Same).
We put the S at the arrowhead.

Arrow Same Variable in Causal Loop Diagram
Variables with S relation

We can draw another arrow.
As the number of eggs increases, more birds will come and there will be more eggs.
This is also an S (same) relationship.

Example Causal Loop Diagram reinforcing
Example of reinforcing balancing loop

The variables therefore influence each other. They even reinforce each other. More birds are coming, so more eggs, and more birds, more eggs, and so on. 

We indicate this profit with an R (Reinforcing). The R is put in the middle of the loop.

But also: the fewer birds, the fewer eggs, even fewer birds, even fewer eggs, and so on. Even then, it’s reinforcing.

A relationship is not always the same (S). For example, if we look at the causal loop below, we see that the number of eggs affects the number of foxes that eat those eggs. Many eggs attract foxes. That relationship is Same (S). But the more foxes there are, the fewer eggs. They are being eaten en masse by those foxes. This is a reverse relationship. We indicate this with an O (Opposite).

If the number of eggs decreases, the number of foxes will also decrease. (Top right arrow, Same). And with fewer foxes, the number of eggs can increase again. (Bottom right arrow, Opposite) In this way, these variables balance each other. We indicate this with a B. (Balance)

When we simulate this with Play in the app, we sometimes see that both variables decrease and then increase again. 

We can also combine with the variable ‘Number of birds’. 

Try it out for yourself with the causal loop above.
(Click the picture and after that on Play and the up or down arrow in a variable.) 

Do you want to see more examples, klik HERE

How to use a causal loop diagram with children?

Author: Jan Jutten from Natuurlijk Leren

Causal loops are not only suitable for looking at reality in a different way with the adults , they can also be used with (young) children. The
experiences that we and others have gained with systems thinking show that children learn this faster than adults. After all, children are naturally systems thinkers.

Cat and dog

A teacher told me a while ago a good example. She had tried out some things with her five-year-old daughter about systems thinking. The child appeared to recognize the relationship between her own brazen behavior and Grandma’s anger without any problems. She quickly realized that both were cause and effect and with some help was able to read the causal loop!

Some practical tips for working with causal loop diagrams with children

  • Talk to the children about coherence, how one thing can affect another. Many situations and stories lend themselves to this. Make connections clear in all kinds of ways , including word spiders, mind maps and organizers.
  • If the class has previously worked with behavioral pattern graphs, it is useful to join them. Do you see relationships between different graphs? To what extent does the decrease in one variable have anything to do with the decrease or increase in the other?
  • Check with the children whether the relationship is one-sided or two-sided. Some examples:
    • The fear of Little Red Riding Hood and the anger of the wolf. When the wolf gets more angry, Little Red Riding Hood gets more frightened. Is that the other way around?
    • In an argument, how does hitting me affect hitting the other? In young children you can visualize this with photos or drawings.
      Children fight
  • Explore cause and effect together. First from existing situations, stories, articles and real events. Then have your own situations come up.
    You can make good use of “organizers”. They are pre-printed forms
    that the children only have to fill in. You also come across them in various methods.  Again, the use of photos, icons and drawings is very useful for young children.