An attractor is a set towards which a variable, moving according to the dictates of a dynamical system, evolves over time. That is, points that get close enough to the attractor remain close even if slightly disturbed. The evolving variable may be represented algebraically as an n-dimensional vector. The attractor is a region in n-dimensional space. In physical systems, the n dimensions may be, for example, two or three positional coordinates for each of one or more physical entities; in economic systems, they may be separate variables such as the inflation rate and the unemployment rate.
If the evolving variable is two- or three-dimensional, the attractor of the dynamic process can be represented geometrically in two or three dimensions, (as for example in the three-dimensional case depicted to the right). An attractor can be a point, a finite set of points, a curve, a manifold, or even a complicated set with a fractal structure known as a strange attractor. If the variable is a scalar, the attractor is a subset of the real number line. Describing the attractors of chaotic dynamical systems has been one of the achievements of chaos theory.
A trajectory of the dynamical system in the attractor does not have to satisfy any special constraints except for remaining on the attractor. The trajectory may be periodic or chaotic. If a set of points is periodic or chaotic, but the flow in the neighbourhood is away from the set, the set is not an attractor, but instead is called a repeller (or repellor).