Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling
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Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling

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Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling Presentation Transcript

  • Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling Bruce Edmonds Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 1
  • Part 1: the ProblemContext-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 2
  • “A large amount of research is pertinent to public policy. But a seemingly tiny amount ofthat knowledge makes it through to the policy world. This is a frustration not only for the research community but also for the policy community…” (Chris Tyler 2010) Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 3
  • The “gap” between the worlds ofresearch and that of policy• There is often a mismatch between the wishes of policy advisors/makers and academic researchers in terms of the kind of conclusion desired.• Those in the policy world seem to wish for a relatively simple “best guess” as to which of a limited number of options might be most desirable (possibly accompanied by a supporting narrative).• Those in the research community might be all-too aware of the difficulties of the issues under consideration and so wish to be much more cautious in their conclusions, and wish to include special cases, caveats and complexities. Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 4
  • Some Bad Solutions• The policy world can try to „force‟ researchers to produce simplistic answers as to which of a limited number of options is the best (to gain credibility for a policy or even defray future blame).• Researchers essentially „con‟ the commissioners of research, claiming that they will answer all the questions that are specified, but re-defining the goals/terms as they go along or „discovering‟ obstacles to satisfying the policy makers/advisors• The researcher and/or the policy advisor convince themselves that the research does in fact give a definitive, simple and possibly general answer and rush to implement the policy indicated Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 5
  • The “gap” between the worlds ofresearch and that of policy• There are many reasons behind these very different views…• …including different: kinds of goal, motivations, training, strategies, language, habits and constraints• This talk will focus on a particular difficulty, that caused by the context-dependency of human socio-political behaviour Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 6
  • Part 2:An Analysis of a Part of the Problem: Context-Dependency Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 7
  • A (simplistic) illustration of context from thepoint of view of an actor Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 8
  • Situational Context• The situation in which an event takes place• This is indefinitely extensive, it could include anything relevant or coincident• The time and place specify it, but relevant details might not be retrievable from this• It is almost universal to abstract to what is relevant about these to a recognised type when communicating about this• Thus the question “What was the context?” often effectively means “What about the situation do I need to know to understand? Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 9
  • Cognitive Context (CC)• Many aspects of human cognition are context- dependent, including: memory, visual perception, choice making, reasoning, emotion, and language• The brain somehow deals with situational context effectively, abstracting kinds of situations so relevant information can be easily and preferentially accessed• The relevant correlate of the situational context will be called the cognitive context• It is not known how the brain does this, and probably does this in a rich and complex way that might prevent easy labeling/reification of contexts Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 10
  • Context-dependency of Cognition• “The” context is the situation of an event, but this is indefinitely extensive• The brain somehow categorises and recognises different kinds of situation and preferentially gives access to knowledge on this basis, it is context-dependent• Many aspects of human cognition seem to be context-dependent, including: memory, visual perception, choice making, reasoning, emotion, and language Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 11
  • The Context Heuristic• The kind of situation is recognised in a rich, fuzzy, complex and unconscious manner• Knowledge, habits, norms etc. are learnt for that kind of situation and are retrieved for it• Reasoning, learning, interaction happens with respect to the recognised kind of situation• Context allows for the world to be dealt with by type of situation, and hence makes reasoning/learning etc. feasible• It is a fallible heuristic…• …so why do we have this kind of cognition? Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 12
  • Social Embedding• Granovetter (1985)• Contrasts with the under- and over-socialised models of behaviour• That the particular patterns of social interactions between individuals matter• In other words, only looking at individual behaviour or aggregate behaviour misses crucial aspects• That the causes of behaviour might be spread throughout a society – “causal spread”• Shown clearly in some simulation models Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 13
  • Illustration of Causal Complexity Lines indicate causal link in behaviour, each box an agent (Edmonds 1999) Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 14
  • Implications of Social Embedding• In many circumstances agents can learn to exploit the computation and knowledge in their society, rather than use or reason with their own knowledge• That is perceiving and acting through their network of social relationships• Social embedding means that human behaviour can not be understood well separate from the surrounding social context• This is not a problem for normal human action as human cognition automatically (and unconsciously) adapts to context Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 15
  • Researchers’ Responses to ContextA number of responses:• Only do research within a single context, resisting any generalisation• Only use discursive, natural language approaches where context is implicitly dealt with (but also mostly hidden)• Try to see what (inevitably weaker knowledge) is general across the various contexts in what is being studied Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 16
  • Policy responses to Context• Wishing to know what is the “best guess” as to which policy is best for most stakeholders• Using their detailed and informed intuition as to what the best policy is and looking for a more “scientific” justification for it• Wanting a general narrative that “explains” (in comprehensible terms) why a certain policy direction is desirable or which can be used to build a consensus around Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 17
  • The “Simple is more General” Fallacy• If one has a general model one can make it more specific (less general) by adding more processes/aspects…• …in which case it can become more complex• However, the reverse is no true…• If one simplifies/abstracts then you don‟t get a more general model (well almost never)! – there may be no simpler model that is good enough for your purpose – But, even if there is, you don‟t know which aspects can be safely omitted – if you remove an essential aspect if will be wrong everywhere (no generality) Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 18
  • Context-Dependency andRandomness Lots of information lost if randomness used to “model” contextual variation Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 19
  • Context-Dependencyand “Being Scientific”• If the relevant context can be reliably indentified then…• …context-dependency is not the same as subjectivity (even if there are a some hard cases that escape definition)• Generality is nice if you can get it, but its no good pretending to have it if you can‟t• Science should adapt to what it wishes to understand, not the other way around• It does mean (often) an acceptance that general/generic approaches are not useful Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 20
  • Some ways forward• Keeping the data and simply NOT summarising it (at least not prematurely)• Data mining local patterns to detect commonality of multiple models/measurements across similar contexts• More complex simulation models with context-dependent cognitive models• Context-sensitive microsimulation models• Context-oriented visualisation techniques• Use of “mundane”, context-specific models of human behavior rather than ambitious generic ones• Integrating personal/anecdotal accounts of behaviour – making use of qualitative evidence• Not leaving the context(s) – acting within the normal sphere of shared and relevant situations• Staging abstraction more gradually• Clusters of related models Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 21
  • A Dilemma• KISS: Models that are simple enough to understand and check (rigour) are difficult to directly relate to both macro data and micro evidence (lack of relevance)• KIDS: Models that capture the critical aspects of social interaction (relevance) will be too complex and slow to understand and thoroughly check (lack of rigour)• But we need both rigour and relevance• Mature science connects empirical fit and explanation from micro-level (explanatory and phenomenological models) Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 22
  • What does not work…• Inventing a model which only relates macro- level variables, not taking into account the social structures, using randomness to “cover” the variation across contexts (might as well use a straight line projection or random number generator!)• Presenting a policy maker/advisor with a “warts and all” model/account that is so complicated it is hard to work out a coherent policy response Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 23
  • Part 3: Some SuggestionsContext-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 24
  • Some Possible Responses• Its too difficult, I‟ll ignore it• I am looking at the wider/more general picture, what is common across contexts• I treat intra-context variation as random noise• I have included context, it is the variables a, b, c etc. which vary with the context• I am acting within context only• I am only modelling a single context• It is not scientific• I need an analytic expression for my model• Use natural language/analogical models only• I don‟t have enough data Context-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 25
  • The End Bruce Edmonds http://bruce.edmonds.name Centre for Policy Modelling http://cfpm.org Manchester Metropolitan University http://www.business.mmu.ac.ukContext-dependency, risk analysis and policy modelling, Bruce Edmonds, CRW@ECCS ’2012, Brussels, September 2012, slide 26