The Scandal ofGeneric Models in the Social Science              Bruce Edmonds         Centre for Policy Modelling,     Man...
Outline of Talk    1.   The Main Point    2.   A Bit About Context    3.   Social Roots of Cognitive Context    4.   Defen...
Part 1:The Main Point (in four slides)The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , Apr...
The Elephant in the Room• Many aspects of human cognition are known  to be highly context-sensitive, including:  memory, p...
However despite this…• Almost all formal models of human  behaviour (mathematical, logical or  computational) are generic ...
Qualitative research…• Does take context seriously in a way, but has  (largely) retreated to description within specific (...
ContextTo summarise:• We have one set of researchers who are ignoring  context, optimistically hoping to find general  pat...
The Point of the Talk is… 1. To look at the role context (again!) 2. To look at (and argue against) some of    the argumen...
Part 2:A Bit About Context  The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, s...
The Difficulty of Talking aboutContext• The word “context” is used in many different  senses across different fields• Some...
A (simplistic) illustration of context from thepoint of view of an actor                 The Scandal of Generic Models in ...
Situational Context• The situation in which an event takes place• This is indefinitely extensive, it could include  anythi...
Cognitive Context (CC)• Many aspects of human cognition are context-  dependent, including: memory, visual perception,  ch...
The Context Heuristic• The kind of situation is recognised in a rich,  fuzzy, complex and unconscious manner• Knowledge, h...
Implications of the Context Heuristic• One would expect whole clusters of norms,  habits, expectations, knowledge, languag...
Part 3:Social Roots of Cognitive Context         The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gron...
Social Intelligence Hypothesis• Kummer, H., Daston, L., Gigerenzer, G. and Silk, J. (1997)• The crucial evolutionary advan...
An Evolutionary PerspectiveSocial intelligence implies that:• Groups of humans can develop their own  (sub)cultures of tec...
Implications of SIH• That different complex “cultures” of knowledge  are significant• An important part of those cultures ...
Social Embedding• Granovetter (1985)• Contrasts with the under- and over-socialised  models of behaviour• That the particu...
Implications of Social Embedding• In many circumstances agents can learn to  exploit the computation and knowledge in thei...
The Social Co-Development of SharedRecognised Context• Over time, due to their similarities, certain kinds of  situation b...
Implications of the Social Roots ofContext-Dependency• Behaviour of observed actors might change sharply  across different...
Part 3:Some Defensive Responses     The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April...
Some Possible Responses• Its too difficult, I’ll continue to ignore it• I am only looking at the wider/more general pictur...
Background – wishful thinking andthe resistance to change• Everyone (me included) has developed certain  core habits/skill...
Ignoring Context• Much modelling happens with a single  context in mind, in which case it can be  ignored but only if  – e...
The “Simple is more General” Fallacy• If one has a general model one can make it  more specific (less general) by adding m...
Context-Dependency andRandomness                                                                            What          ...
Using Randomness as a Proxy forContextual Variation• It is completely unsurprising that many factors  will be significantl...
Scaling by Size  •   Look at variance as system size increases…  •   Does variance as a proportion of size disappear?  •  ...
Context-Dependencyand “Being Scientific”• If the relevant context can be reliably identified  then…• …context-dependency i...
Analogical Thinking• Humans are good at using analogies, relating an idea or  example from one context to another in a ric...
Part 4:Some Ways Forward  The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, sli...
Some ways forward• Keeping the data and simply NOT summarising it (at  least not prematurely)• Data mining local patterns ...
Data-mining Rich Data• Rich Data is data that:  – Encodes many different aspects of the    event/situation/actor  – Is ove...
Cleveland Heart Disease Data Set – theprocessed sub-set usedIn processed sub-set:• 281 entries• 14 numeric or numerically ...
Fitting a Global Model (R=56%)Num = -0.01*age + 0.17*sex + 0.20*cp + 0.00*trestbps + 0.10*restecg + -0.01*thalach + 0.23*e...
Looking for Clusters in HD Data Set(Start of Process)                The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences,...
Final Set of Clustered Solutions                                                             • Final solution             ...
Clusters of Model Scopes maysuggest a ContextM               1                        M1 M2                               ...
Need for a Meta-ClusteringAlgorithm                                                                                      S...
Adding Context-Dependency intoSimulation Models• Wander has argued for a needs-oriented  cognitive architecture for the ag...
Basic Cognitive Model                                                                          Reasoning/plan     Context ...
Example: an artificial stock market• Traders decide which of several stocks to hold,  or to keep cash• Fundamentals are th...
Example – models in thecognition of a trading agent                               950 Volatility - past 5 periods         ...
The model contents in snapshot ofone trader    model-256 priceLastWeek [stock-4]    model-274 priceLastWeek [stock-5]    m...
Total Assets in a Typical Run                        30000Total Value of Assets                        25000              ...
Lessons from Stock Market Example• Traders with a context-dependent memory  learned to recognise certain market conditions...
Integrating Aspects of QualitativeEvidence into Formal Models• Identifying kinds of context (those over which we  might ex...
Analysing Narrative Evidence in aContext-Sensitive Manner• It is hard since people assume context, it is  usually left imp...
Conclusions – Prospects forResearching Context• Ignoring it and simply hoping it won’t matter is not  an option (if we are...
Acknowledgements      Many thanks to all those with whom I have         discussed these ideas, including…     Emma Norling...
The End        Bruce Edmonds http://bruce.edmonds.nameCentre for Policy Modelling         http://cfpm.org The Scandal of G...
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The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences

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Despite overwhelming evidence that many aspects of human cognition are highly context-dependent, generic (that is models that are supposed to hold across different contexts) abound, including: most models of rationality and decision making, and most models that are based on statistically fitting equations to data. Context itself, especially social context, has been systematically by-passed by both quantitative and qualitative researchers. Quantitative researchers claim to be only interested in those patterns that are cross-context. Qualitative researchers only deal with accounts within context. Neither tackle the nature of context itself: how it works, in what ways it impacts upon behaviour.

Dealing with context is notoriously hard: the concept is slippery and its effects hard to identify. However, I claim it is not impossible to research. A combination of rich datasets and newer computational methods could help (a) identify some social contexts and (b) relate what happens within a context to how contexts are collectively constructed. Such a step could help relate quantitative and qualitative evidence in a way that is better founded and hence, perhaps, open the way to the unification of the social sciences as a coherent discipline.

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  • AI, NL, Sociology, Philosophy, Mobile devices, Psychology, Cognitive ScienceFor detailed argument seem my previous papers on thisDustbin Like complexitywill talk about this problem later
  • Imagine a professor of physics in a wild place – does his intelligence help him to survive?
  • Reader 1980, Man on Earth
  • leakage  noisenot the case where un-modelled aspects are effectively randomdiscuss random gas example
  • The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences

    1. 1. The Scandal ofGeneric Models in the Social Science Bruce Edmonds Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 1
    2. 2. Outline of Talk 1. The Main Point 2. A Bit About Context 3. Social Roots of Cognitive Context 4. Defensive Responses 5. Some Ways Forward The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 2
    3. 3. Part 1:The Main Point (in four slides)The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 3
    4. 4. The Elephant in the Room• Many aspects of human cognition are known to be highly context-sensitive, including: memory, preferences, language, visual perception, reasoning and emotion• There is a mountain of qualitative research that has documented instances where a specific context is essential to understanding the observed behaviour• Simple observation and introspection tells us that behaviour in different kinds of situation is not only different but decided on in different ways (e.g. in a lecture and a football game) The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 4
    5. 5. However despite this…• Almost all formal models of human behaviour (mathematical, logical or computational) are generic – they do not exhibit this sharp context-dependency• Another stream of models (models fitted to or tested against data) consider a single model (at a time) against a set of data that derives from many different contexts• This seems to me to be a case of massive “wishful thinking” The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 5
    6. 6. Qualitative research…• Does take context seriously in a way, but has (largely) retreated to description within specific (and described) contexts• Knowledge is only useful if it is to some extent applicable in a new situation (even if only slightly new)• Analogical reasoning can use knowledge from one context to be projected upon another, and this can give insights (interesting hypotheses) but not reliable knowledge• This kind of research often avoids responsibility for the application of knowlnecessarily in a different situation to where it was observededge gained from its studies () whilst implying it is somehow useful The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 6
    7. 7. ContextTo summarise:• We have one set of researchers who are ignoring context, optimistically hoping to find general patterns even though they must know context must be crucial in many cases• Another set of researchers refuse to look at what is general across contexts or how contexts might systematically affect behaviour• Not many are seriously trying to study social context itself – how it works, what regularities there are, how to identify it, how to model its impact• Social context is central to human behaviour but effectively not researched much The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 7
    8. 8. The Point of the Talk is… 1. To look at the role context (again!) 2. To look at (and argue against) some of the arguments that are raised to justify ignoring context 3. To persuade you to take context seriously, not just as an “add-on” 4. To suggest some positive ways forward 5. To (hopefully!) motivate you to join this project and help contribute methods that will help us seriously tackle context The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 8
    9. 9. Part 2:A Bit About Context The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 9
    10. 10. The Difficulty of Talking aboutContext• The word “context” is used in many different senses across different fields• Somewhat of a “dustbin” concept resorted to when more immediate explanations fail (like the other “c-word”, complexity)• Problematic to talk about, as it is not clear that “contexts” are usually identifiably distinct• Mentioning “context” is often a signal for a more “humanities oriented” or “participatory/involved” approach and hence resisted by “scientists” who are seeking general laws The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 10
    11. 11. A (simplistic) illustration of context from thepoint of view of an actor The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 11
    12. 12. 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? The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 12
    13. 13. 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 The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 13
    14. 14. 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 The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 14
    15. 15. Implications of the Context Heuristic• One would expect whole clusters of norms, habits, expectations, knowledge, language, ways of making decisions etc. etc. to be associated with a context• Although we may use various proxies for context (place in network, physical location, occurrence of co-occurring words etc.) kinds of situation are recognised in an information rich manner, often with quite subtle social signals• It is a fallible heuristic…• …so why do we have this kind of cognition? The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 15
    16. 16. Part 3:Social Roots of Cognitive Context The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 16
    17. 17. Social Intelligence Hypothesis• Kummer, H., Daston, L., Gigerenzer, G. and Silk, J. (1997)• The crucial evolutionary advantages that human intelligence gives are due to the social abilities it allows• Explains specific abilities such as imitation, language, social norm instinct, lying, alliances, gossip, politics etc.• Social intelligence is not a result of general intelligence, but at the core of human intelligence, “general” intelligence is a side- effect of social intelligence The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 17
    18. 18. An Evolutionary PerspectiveSocial intelligence implies that:• Groups of humans can develop their own (sub)cultures of technologies, etc. (Boyd and Richerson 1985)• These allow the group with their culture to inhabit a variety of ecological niches (e.g. the Kalahari, Polynesia) (Reader 1980)• Thus humans, as a species, are able to survive catastrophes that effect different niches in different ways (specialisation) The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 18
    19. 19. Implications of SIH• That different complex “cultures” of knowledge are significant• An important part of those cultures is how to socially organise, behave, coordinate etc.• One should expect different sets of social knowledge for different groups of people• That these might not only be different in terms of content but imply different ways of coordinating, negotiating, cooperating etc.• That these will relate as a complete “package” to a significant extent The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 19
    20. 20. 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 The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 20
    21. 21. Implications of Social Embedding• In many circumstances agents can learn to exploit the computation and knowledge in their society, rather than do it themselves (invest in what Warren Buffet invests in)• Knowledge is often not explicit but is something learned – this takes time• This is particularly true of social knowledge – studying guides as to living in a culture are not the same as living there for a time• Social embedding means that human behaviour can not be understood well separate from its cultural context The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 21
    22. 22. The Social Co-Development of SharedRecognised Context• Over time, due to their similarities, certain kinds of situation become recognised as similar by participants• This facilitates the development of a set of shared habits, norms, knowledge, language etc. that is specific to the context• The more this happens the more distinctive that kind of situation becomes and hence more recognisable by newcomers• Eventually these may become institutionalised in terms of infranstructure, training etc. (e.g. how to behave in a lecture theatre)• This co-development of context may be the reason for its social/evolutionary value The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 22
    23. 23. Implications of the Social Roots ofContext-Dependency• Behaviour of observed actors might change sharply across different social contexts• The relevant behaviour, norms, kinds of interaction etc. might also change• Social contexts are co-developed and changing• They may be different for different groups• Some kinds of social behaviour seem to be inherently context-dependent (compliance)• It is unlikely that a lot of key social knowledge, norms, behaviour etc. will be generic• Models that assume a cross-context engine of human behaviour may be deeply misleading! The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 23
    24. 24. Part 3:Some Defensive Responses The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 24
    25. 25. Some Possible Responses• Its too difficult, I’ll continue to ignore it• I am only 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/features 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• We can achieve generality through simpler models• I need an analytic expression for my model• Use natural language/analogical models only• I don’t have enough data The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 25
    26. 26. Background – wishful thinking andthe resistance to change• Everyone (me included) has developed certain core habits/skills and is loth to abandon these, since it is a lot of effort• There is also a tendency to shape our opinions/arguments to be coherent with our goals (rather than the other way around)• We should not assume that the world we study (the social world) is organised for our benefit (as academics studying it)• Thus I ask you to resist the impulse to react against “yet another difficulty” – the difficulty is real and exists even if we ignore it The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 26
    27. 27. Ignoring Context• Much modelling happens with a single context in mind, in which case it can be ignored but only if – everyone is using the same idea of this context – there is no significant “leakage” of causation from outside the background, that is the scope is wide enough to include all significant influencing factors – The actors/organisms don’t deal with the same situation as different cognitive contexts The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 27
    28. 28. 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 not 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) The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 28
    29. 29. Context-Dependency andRandomness What appears to be random may in fact be due to variation of context The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 29
    30. 30. Using Randomness as a Proxy forContextual Variation• It is completely unsurprising that many factors will be significantly correlated with many outcomes in a multi-context situation• It is also unsurprising that the explanatory level of such exercises are unimpressive• The correlation may be due to a strong correlation in only one kind of context and, indeed, mask anti-correlations in others• Using randomness as a proxy for contextual variation simply discards a lot of the information in the phenomena – it amounts to ignoring evidence The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 30
    31. 31. Scaling by Size • Look at variance as system size increases… • Does variance as a proportion of size disappear? • In this case Law of large numbers does not apply • Simple examples: • Kaneko (1990): parallel globally coupled chaotic processes • Edmonds (199?): scaling Brian Arthur’s “El Farol Bar” Model Contextual variationVariance(scaled by size) Model with random noise Size The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 31
    32. 32. Context-Dependencyand “Being Scientific”• If the relevant context can be reliably identified 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 The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 32
    33. 33. Analogical Thinking• Humans are good at using analogies, relating an idea or example from one context to another in a rich, relevant and flexible manner – it is a powerful method of thought• They build the mapping from the analogy to the a context “on the fly”, largely unconsciously• The mappings are different each time an analogy is applied, thus not a reliable source of transmittable knowledge – each person might build a different mapping unless they inhabit the same context• Many published models do not have an explicit mapping to a domain, but are used more as analogy• This is sometimes hidden, so when a simulation (or analytic model) does not directly map to observations but to an idea which then applies as an analogy to the domain and not directly, this gives a spurious impression of generality The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 33
    34. 34. Part 4:Some Ways Forward The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 34
    35. 35. 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• Integrating personal/anecdotal accounts of behaviour – making use of qualitative evidence with its context• Not leaving the context(s) – acting within the normal sphere of shared and relevant situations• Staging abstraction more gradually• Clusters of related models covering different contexts The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 35
    36. 36. Data-mining Rich Data• Rich Data is data that: – Encodes many different aspects of the event/situation/actor – Is over time (not one-shot) and reasonably frequent – Is not merely lots of data if this is thin (e.g. second-by-second coordinates of where a person is)• The first stage is to look for “Local Patterns” – patterns that hold for a part of the data along with their scope The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 36
    37. 37. Cleveland Heart Disease Data Set – theprocessed sub-set usedIn processed sub-set:• 281 entries• 14 numeric or numerically coded attributes• Attribute 14 is the outcome (0, 1, 2, 3, 4)• Some attributes: age, sex, resting blood pressure (trestpbs), cholesterol (chol), fasting blood sugar (fbs), maximum heart rate (thalach), number of major vessels (0- 3) colored by flourosopy (ca)• From the Machine Learning Repository The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 37
    38. 38. Fitting a Global Model (R=56%)Num = -0.01*age + 0.17*sex + 0.20*cp + 0.00*trestbps + 0.10*restecg + -0.01*thalach + 0.23*exang + 0.18*oldpeak + 0.16*slope + 0.43*ca + 0.14*thal + -0.60 (+/- 0.83) The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 38
    39. 39. Looking for Clusters in HD Data Set(Start of Process) The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 39
    40. 40. Final Set of Clustered Solutions • Final solution set after some time. • Still complex but some structure is revealed • Note presence of “fbs” despite not being globally correlated and that “chol” helped define the context space The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 40
    41. 41. Clusters of Model Scopes maysuggest a ContextM 1 M1 M2 suggests a contextA useful context is one that: – includes related models with different goals/predictions but similar scope The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 41
    42. 42. Need for a Meta-ClusteringAlgorithm Suggests Time of Day a Context Item Type Shop Location The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 42
    43. 43. Adding Context-Dependency intoSimulation Models• Wander has argued for a needs-oriented cognitive architecture for the agents in a simulation• Here the idea is to allow the agents in a simulation to learn/reason/decide in a context dependent fashion• This does not affect the method of each of these, but does change what knowledge, expectations etc. the methods act upon The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 43
    44. 44. Basic Cognitive Model Reasoning/plan Context ning/belief Recognition revision/etc. Context-Structured Memory• Rich, automatic, imprecise, messy cognitive context recognition using many inputs (including maybe internal ones)• Crisp, costly, conscious, explicit cognitive processes using material indicated by cognitive context The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 44
    45. 45. Example: an artificial stock market• Traders decide which of several stocks to hold, or to keep cash• Fundamentals are the dividend rates which follow slow random walks• Agents evolve and evaluate possible strategies by what their wealth would be (including all aspects like transaction costs) of using these over a past time period• Some agents can be given a context- dependent memory of strategies, others a universal store of strategies The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 45
    46. 46. Example – models in thecognition of a trading agent 950 Volatility - past 5 periods 900 850 800 750 700 750 850 950 Volume - past 5 periods The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 46
    47. 47. The model contents in snapshot ofone trader model-256 priceLastWeek [stock-4] model-274 priceLastWeek [stock-5] model-271 doneByLast [normTrader-5] [stock-4] model-273 IDidLastTime [stock-2] model-276 IDidLastTime [stock-5] minus [divide [priceLastWeek [stock-2]] model-399 [priceLastWeek [stock-5]]] [times [priceLastWeek [stock-4]] [priceNow [stock-5]]] The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 47
    48. 48. Total Assets in a Typical Run 30000Total Value of Assets 25000 20000 15000 10000 5000 0 0 100 200 300 400 500 Time Black=context, White= non-context The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 48
    49. 49. Lessons from Stock Market Example• Traders with a context-dependent memory learned to recognise certain market conditions and develop/select strategies specifically for these• Though the context heuristic was not always better – e.g. if the market was very turbulent then it is better to act fast and adaptively• In any case “context traders” acted in a different kind of pattern to “generic traders”• The presence of “context traders” changed how the whole market reacted The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 49
    50. 50. Integrating Aspects of QualitativeEvidence into Formal Models• Identifying kinds of context (those over which we might expect some regularity in terms of shared norms, expectations etc.) might allow suggestions from qualitative evidence to be incorporated into agent-based models• For example by providing the repertoire of possible strategies in the context which are decided between• This could greatly enrich agent-based models allowing in some of the social “mess” we observe• However this requires new methods to analyse narrative evidence in a context-depenent manner The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 50
    51. 51. Analysing Narrative Evidence in aContext-Sensitive Manner• It is hard since people assume context, it is usually left implicit, indeed people are often not aware of the context they are assuming• However… – Socially entrenched contexts can be identified – When giving examples (could you imagine doing that in situation X) people are relatively good at recognising when the context is wrong – Our intuitions are a good starting point, as long as we are aware they might be wrong• No well-developed methods – this needs further research The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 51
    52. 52. Conclusions – Prospects forResearching Context• Ignoring it and simply hoping it won’t matter is not an option (if we are serious about our project)• There are ways forward to meaningfully make progress in dealing with context-dependency• And some of these involve the integration of qualitative/in situ approaches with quantitative/formal modelling• We will need a LOT more data both multi-dimensional and at a finer-granularity, but this is starting to come on stream• Ignoring context seems to be impeding the integration of both: action-oriented and model- based approaches, as well as quantitative and qualitative approaches• Please help The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 52
    53. 53. Acknowledgements Many thanks to all those with whom I have discussed these ideas, including… Emma Norling, Nick Shryane, Jason Dykes, Scott Moss, Wander Yager, Cathy Urquhart; those at the Conference Series on “Modelling & Using Context”;the regulars at the Manchester Complexity Seminar; those in the SCID Project; and the participants of the recent Lorentz workshop on “Formal Methods for an Informal World”. The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 53
    54. 54. The End Bruce Edmonds http://bruce.edmonds.nameCentre for Policy Modelling http://cfpm.org The Scandal of Generic Models in the Social Sciences, Bruce Edmonds, Gronigen, , April 2013, slide 54

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