What is the meaning of positive in the following text, please?

The causes for the decrease in the quality of life [in mega-cities] are paradoxically the prosperity endowed on such metropolitan centers. Their growth is largely due to the increase of opportunities on offer which in turn increases their attractiveness; essentially they are trapped in a positive self-reinforcing cycle.

I looked it up in dictionaries:

  • composed of or possessing actual or specific qualities; real ⇒ a positive benefit (Collins American Dictionary)

  • arbitrarily or formally laid down or imposed : prescribed by express enactment ⇒ (MW Unabridged Dictionary) ; [In this sense it seems to me that the writer means metropolises are forced into such cycles [?]]

, but am not sure of either.

1 Answer 1


Here positive means self-reinforcing; and hence is redundant in the sentence you quote. The sentence would be clearer with positive deleted.

Where does this particular meaning of positive come from? It alludes to the idea of 'positive feedback'. This phenomenon has a wide range of concrete and figurative usages in English, as evidenced in its Wikipedia entry.

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