In the mathematical field of representation theory a real representation is usually a representation on a real vector space U, but it can also mean a representation on a complex vector space V with an invariant real structure, i.e., an antilinear equivariant map
The two viewpoints are equivalent because if U is a real vector space acted on by a group G (say), then V = U⊗C is a representation on a complex vector space with an antilinear equivariant map given by complex conjugation. Conversely, if V is such a complex representation, then U can be recovered as the fixed point set of j (the eigenspace with eigenvalue 1).
In physics, where representations are often viewed concretely in terms of matrices, a real representation is one in which the entries of the matrices representing the group elements are real numbers. These matrices can act either on real or complex column vectors.
A real representation on a complex vector space is isomorphic to its complex conjugate representation, but the converse is not true: a representation which is isomorphic to its complex conjugate but which is not real is called a pseudoreal representation. An irreducible pseudoreal representation V is necessarily a quaternionic representation: it admits an invariant quaternionic structure, i.e., an antilinear equivariant map
A direct sum of real and quaternionic representations is neither real nor quaternionic in general.
A representation on a complex vector space can also be isomorphic to the dual representation of its complex conjugate. This happens precisely when the representation admits a nondegenerate invariant sesquilinear form, e.g. a hermitian form. Such representations are sometimes said to be complex or (pseudo-)hermitian.
where χ is the character of the representation and μ is the Haar measure with μ(G) = 1. For a finite group, this is given by
The indicator may take the values 1, 0 or −1. If the indicator is 1, then the representation is real. If the indicator is zero, the representation is complex (hermitian), and if the indicator is −1, the representation is quaternionic.
Further examples of real representations are the spinor representations of the spin groups in 8k−1, 8k, and 1 + 8k dimensions for k = 1, 2, 3 ... . This periodicity modulo 8 is known in mathematics not only in the theory of Clifford algebras, but also in algebraic topology, in KO-theory; see spin representation.
- Any complex representation V of a compact group has an invariant hermitian form, so the significance of zero indicator is that there is no invariant nondegenerate complex bilinear form on V.
- Fulton, William; Harris, Joe (1991), Representation theory. A first course, Graduate Texts in Mathematics, Readings in Mathematics 129, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-0-387-97495-8, MR 1153249, ISBN 978-0-387-97527-6.
- Serre, Jean-Pierre (1977), Linear Representations of Finite Groups, Springer-Verlag, ISBN 0-387-90190-6.