Conference proceedings article

A Comparison of Three Approaches to Model Human Behavior


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Publication Details

Author list: Palmius, Joel;Persson Slumpi, Thomas

Publisher: CHAOS

Place: Liège

Publication year: 2010

Start page: 354

End page: 362

Number of pages: 9

ISBN: 978-0-7354-0858-6


View additional information: View in Web of Science


One way of studying social processes is through the use of simulations. The use of simulations for this purpose has been established as its own field, social simulations, and has been used for studying a variety of phenomena. A simulation of a social setting can serve as an aid for thinking about that social setting, and for experimenting with different parameters and studying the outcomes caused by them. When using the simulation as an aid for thinking and experimenting, the chosen simulation approach will implicitly steer the simulationist towards thinking in a certain fashion in order to fit the model. To study the implications of model choice on the understanding of a setting where human anticipation comes into play, a simulation scenario of a coffee room was constructed using three different simulation approaches: Cellular Automata, Systems Dynamics and Agent-based modeling. The practical implementations of the models were done in three different simulation packages: Stella for Systems Dynamic, CaFun for Cellular Automata and SesAM for Agent-based modeling. The models were evaluated both using Randers criteria for model evaluation, and through introspection where the authors reflected upon how their understanding of the scenario was steered through the model choice. Further the software used for implementing the simulation models was evaluated, and practical considerations for the choice of software package are listed. It is concluded that the models have very different strengths. The Agent-based modeling approach offers the most intuitive support for thinking about and modeling a social setting where the behavior of the individual is in focus. The Systems Dynamics model would be preferable in situations where populations and large groups would be studied as wholes, but where individual behavior is of less concern. The Cellular Automata models would be preferable where processes need to be studied from the basis of a small set of very simple rules. It is further concluded that in most social simulation settings the Agent-based modeling approach would be the probable choice. This since the other models does not offer much in the way of supporting the modeling of the anticipatory behavior of humans acting in an organization.


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