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Fidelity is the quality of being faithful or loyal. Its original meaning regarded duty to a lord or a king, in a broader sense than the related concept of fealty. Both derive from the Latin word fidēlis, meaning "faithful or loyal".
In modern human relationships, the term can refer to sexual monogamy. In western culture this often means adherence to marriage vows, or of promises of exclusivity or monogamy, and an absence of adultery. However, some people do not equate fidelity in personal relationships with sexual or emotional monogamy. (For example, see polyamory and Open marriage.) Often, however, women in the works of Shakespeare are associated with it in a negative sense, such as "She is with little fidelity". For example, Bertram accuses Helena of having "little fidelity" in All's Well That Ends Well.
Fidelity also denotes how accurate a copy is to its source. For example, a worn gramophone record will have a lower fidelity than one in good condition, and a recording made by a low budget record company in the early 20th century is likely to have significantly less audio fidelity than a good modern recording. In the 1950s, the terms "high fidelity" or "hi-fi" were popularized for equipment and recordings which exhibited more accurate sound reproduction. The converse term "lo-fi", doesn't necessarily mean "low fidelity", rather that the production ethic aims for "gritty authenticity" over perfect production. Similarly in electronics, fidelity refers to the correspondence of the output signal to the input signal, rather than sound quality.
In the fields of scientific modelling and simulation, fidelity refers to the degree to which a model or simulation reproduces the state and behaviour of a real world object, feature or condition. Fidelity is therefore a measure of the realism of a model or simulation. Simulation fidelity has also been described in the past as "degree of similarity".
The computer age has spawned the term Wi-Fi in reference to certain groups of wireless electronic devices. While the term "Wi-Fi" has erroneously been taken to be an abbreviation of "wireless fidelity", Wi-Fi is in fact a commercial brand owned by the Wi-Fi Alliance, and has nothing to do with fidelity as a concept.
In the field of program evaluation, the term fidelity denotes how closely a set of procedures were implemented as they were supposed to have been. For example, it's difficult to draw conclusions from a study about formative assessment in school classrooms if the teachers are not able or willing to follow the procedures they received in training.
- "SISO-REF-002-1999: Fidelity Implementation Study Group Report".
- Hays, R.; Singer, M. (1989). Simulation fidelity in training system design: Bridging the gap between reality and training. Springer-Verlag.
- O’Donnell, Carol (2008). "Defining, Conceptualizing, and Measuring Fidelity of Implementation and Its Relationship to Outcomes in K–12 Curriculum Intervention Research". Review of Educational Research 78 (1): 33–84. doi:10.3102/0034654307313793. Retrieved March 6, 2010.
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