Complexity characterises the behaviour of a system or model whose components interact in multiple ways and follow local rules, leading to nonlinearity, randomness, collective dynamics, hierarchy, and emergence.
The term is generally used to characterize something with many parts where those parts interact with each other in multiple ways, culminating in a higher order of emergence greater than the sum of its parts. The study of these complex linkages at various scales is the main goal of complex systems theory.
The intuitive criterion of complexity can be formulated as follows: a system would be more complex if more parts could be distinguished, and if more connections between them existed.
Science as of 2010 takes a number of approaches to characterizing complexity; Zayed et al. reflect many of these. Neil Johnson states that "even among scientists, there is no unique definition of complexity – and the scientific notion has traditionally been conveyed using particular examples..." Ultimately Johnson adopts the definition of "complexity science" as "the study of the phenomena which emerge from a collection of interacting objects".