Understanding Social Dynamics: The Cellular Automata Approach

  • Rainer Hegselmann
Conference paper


Social dynamics are one of the most interesting and at the same time least understood subjects. When we try to understand social dynamics a lot of difficulties come together. I will focus on those dynamics where we make a distinction between a micro level of individual behavior and a macro level with macro effects. A first problem is that there is no well accepted theoretical micro foundation of human behavior. Sometimes individuals are looking sideways and imitate more successful others. Sometimes individuals compare their past success with that of a reference group or person and depending on that comparison they change their behavior this way or that way. Sometimes individuals make decisions in a more anticipating way, considering own and others feasible strategies, the utilities assigned to the possible outcomes, and then trying to make the best out of a situation of strategic interdependence. A second problem is that even if we decide for a certain type of micro foundation, we do not know what the consequences under those assumptions will be since usually too many actors with too many interactions are involved. And even if we could overcome the lag in our deductive capacities, we are facing a third problem, namely how to get all the empirical data necessary to understand that dynamics we want to understand.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rainer Hegselmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Lehrstuhl für PhilosophieUniversität BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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