Contextuality and noncontextuality measures and generalized Bell inequalities for cyclic systems

Ehtibar N. Dzhafarov, Janne V. Kujala, Víctor H. Cervantes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cyclic systems of dichotomous random variables have played a prominent role in contextuality research, describing such experimental paradigms as the Klyachko-Can-Binicioǧlu-Shumovsky, Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen-Bell, and Leggett-Garg ones in physics, as well as conjoint binary choices in human decision making. Here, we understand contextuality within the framework of the Contextuality-by-Default (CbD) theory, based on the notion of probabilistic couplings satisfying certain constraints. CbD allows us to drop the commonly made assumption that systems of random variables are consistently connected (i.e., it allows for all possible forms of "disturbance" or "signaling" in them). Consistently connected systems constitute a special case in which CbD essentially reduces to the conventional understanding of contextuality. We present a theoretical analysis of the degree of contextuality in cyclic systems (if they are contextual) and the degree of noncontextuality in them (if they are not). By contrast, all previously proposed measures of contextuality are confined to consistently connected systems, and most of them cannot be extended to measures of noncontextuality. Our measures of (non)contextuality are defined by the L1-distance between a point representing a cyclic system and the surface of the polytope representing all possible noncontextual cyclic systems with the same single-variable marginals. We completely characterize this polytope, as well as the polytope of all possible probabilistic couplings for cyclic systems with given single-variable marginals. We establish that, in relation to the maximally tight Bell-type CbD inequality for (generally, inconsistently connected) cyclic systems, the measure of contextuality is proportional to the absolute value of the difference between its two sides. For noncontextual cyclic systems, the measure of noncontextuality is shown to be proportional to the smaller of the same difference and the L1-distance to the surface of the box circumscribing the noncontextuality polytope. These simple relations, however, do not generally hold beyond the class of cyclic systems, and noncontextuality of a system does not follow from noncontextuality of its cyclic subsystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number042119
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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