An example of a reflexive relation is the relation "is equal to" on the set of real numbers, since every real number is equal to itself. A reflexive relation is said to have the reflexive property or is said to possess reflexivity. Along with symmetry and transitivity, reflexivity is one of three properties defining equivalence relations.
A binary relation is called irreflexive, or anti-reflexive, if it doesn't relate any element to itself. An example is the "greater than" relation (x > y) on the real numbers. Not every relation which is not reflexive is irreflexive; it is possible to define relations where some elements are related to themselves but others are not (i.e., neither all nor none are). For example, the binary relation "the product of x and y is even" is reflexive on the set of even numbers, irreflexive on the set of odd numbers, and neither reflexive nor irreflexive on the set of natural numbers.
A relation ~ on a set X is called quasi-reflexive if every element that is related to some element is also related to itself, formally: ∀ x, y ∈ X : x ~ y ⇒ (x ~ x ∧ y ~ y). An example is the relation "has the same limit as" on the set of sequences of real numbers: not every sequence has a limit, and thus the relation is not reflexive, but if a sequence has the same limit as some sequence, then it has the same limit as itself. It does make sense to distinguish left and right quasi-reflexivity, defined by ∀ x, y ∈ X : x ~ y ⇒ x ~ x and ∀ x, y ∈ X : x ~ y ⇒ y ~ y, respectively. For example, a left Euclidean relation is always left, but not necessarily right, quasi-reflexive.
A relation ~ on a set X is called coreflexive if for all x and y in X it holds that if x ~ y then x = y. An example of a coreflexive relation is the relation on integers in which each odd number is related to itself and there are no other relations. The equality relation is the only example of a both reflexive and coreflexive relation, and any coreflexive relation is a subset of the identity relation. The union of a coreflexive and a transitive relation is always transitive.
The reflexive closure ≃ of a binary relation ~ on a set X is the smallest reflexive relation on X that is a superset of ~. Equivalently, it is the union of ~ and the identity relation on X, formally: (≃) = (~) ∪ (=). For example, the reflexive closure of (<) is (≤).
The reflexive reduction, or irreflexive kernel, of a binary relation ~ on a set X is the smallest relation ≆ such that ≆ shares the same reflexive closure as ~. It can be seen in a way as the opposite of the reflexive closure. It is equivalent to the complement of the identity relation on X with regard to ~, formally: (≆) = (~) \ (=). That is, it is equivalent to ~ except for where x~x is true. For example, the reflexive reduction of (≤) is (<).
Examples of reflexive relations include:
- "is equal to" (equality)
- "is a subset of" (set inclusion)
- "divides" (divisibility)
- "is greater than or equal to"
- "is less than or equal to"
Examples of irreflexive relations include:
- "is not equal to"
- "is coprime to" (for the integers>1, since 1 is coprime to itself)
- "is a proper subset of"
- "is greater than"
- "is less than"
Number of reflexive relations
The number of reflexive relations on an n-element set is 2n2−n.
|Elements||Any||Transitive||Reflexive||Preorder||Partial order||Total preorder||Total order||Equivalence relation|
k=0 k! S(n, k)
k=0 S(n, k)
Authors in philosophical logic often use different terminology. Reflexive relations in the mathematical sense are called totally reflexive in philosophical logic, and quasi-reflexive relations are called reflexive.
- Coreflexive relation — a relation that satisfies ∀x,y: xRy ⇒ x=y
- Antisymmetric relation — a relation that satisfies ∀x,y: xRy ∧ yRx ⇒ x=y
- Levy 1979:74
- Relational Mathematics, 2010
- The Encyclopedia Britannica calls this property quasi-reflexivity.
- Fonseca de Oliveira, J. N., & Pereira Cunha Rodrigues, C. D. J. (2004). Transposing Relations: From Maybe Functions to Hash Tables. In Mathematics of Program Construction (p. 337).
- On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences A053763
- Alan Hausman; Howard Kahane; Paul Tidman (2013). Logic and Philosophy — A Modern Introduction. Wadsworth. ISBN 1-133-05000-X. Here: p.327-328
- D.S. Clarke; Richard Behling (1998). Deductive Logic — An Introduction to Evaluation Techniques and Logical Theory. University Press of America. ISBN 0-7618-0922-8. Here: p.187
- Levy, A. (1979) Basic Set Theory, Perspectives in Mathematical Logic, Springer-Verlag. Reprinted 2002, Dover. ISBN 0-486-42079-5
- Lidl, R. and Pilz, G. (1998). Applied abstract algebra, Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics, Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-98290-6
- Quine, W. V. (1951). Mathematical Logic, Revised Edition. Reprinted 2003, Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-55451-5
- Gunther Schmidt, 2010. Relational Mathematics. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-76268-7.