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SIMIAN finished its work in 2011.


Repeated Strategic Interaction

The last 60 years of research into repeated interaction, explored in games such as the Prisoner's Dilemma, has produced many theories. Some are based around an idealised capacity for individuals to maximise their payoff, assuming access to complete knowledge. More recent ideas stem from the idea of a limited rationality, where bounded rules operate with limited memories. Although unbounded rationality appears very unlikely, whether or not real players follow bounded rule-sets remains an open question.

SIMIAN undertook an in-depth investigation into historically important approaches in the literature and compared it to available data. They shifted focus away from a question that pervades much of the recent literature, i.e., 'which rule-based strategies do real players employ?' and they asked 'how do the unfolding dynamics of rule-based strategies compare with the unfolding dynamics of real players?' SIMIAN began to re-evaluate the influential, computational approach taken over the last 30 years, and how it might or might not relate to how real people behave. If players use such rules, which particular forms are representative? If such rules do not reproduce data, then which alternative representations should we explore?

SIMIAN developed a review of existing approaches, both modern and more classical, with the criterion of relevance to real data in mind. They aimed to motivate research in the area of repeated interaction by refocusing efforts along the lines originally provided by the pioneering researchers of the 1950's and 1960's, whose methods have been largely ignored by modern research.

Researcher: Richard Holden

Tools for Rethinking Innovation

"Radical innovation" refers to innovations that are not quantitative extensions of existing technologies (bigger, faster, cheaper ones) but rather qualitatively new. Their value, meaning and effects are unforeseeable. They are most noticeable by their impact on existing technologies, which they do not so much surpass at previous tasks as render them irrelevant or obsolete. Genuine novelty emerges suddenly from the interplay of interdependent, interacting parts.

How is such radical innovation produced? Through relatively small-scale processes:

The fact that novel combinations of known components, imported ideas in novel contexts, and departures into novel territory can have radical, unforeseeable effects - both positive and negative - is what makes "radical innovation" worth understanding.

Why do we need computer simulation models to study this concept? Other forms of research cannot deal with "radical innovation". Qualitative approaches such as ethnographic studies can capture complexity in micro-events, but they are difficult to scale up. Quantitative methods using statistical analysis can deal with large scale, but struggle with complex interdependent parts, non-linearity, and feedback loops. Simulation modelling can support the aims of qualitative researchers and extend their findings, using some of the formalisation and rigour of quantitative methods. It alone seems well placed to represent the phenomena of genuinely novel innovations.

Researcher: Christopher Watts

Cognitive Bases of Normative Behaviour

Simulation has been a ground breaking methodological innovation. It is often labelled the 'virtual laboratory of the social sciences' as it allows for the controlled variation of parameters, identification of mechanisms and testing of theories similar to laboratory experiments in the natural sciences. The major research focus of this strand of SIMIAN was to show how this innovative methodology can shed light on the 'Paradox of Agency': How are social norms possible without losing agent autonomy?

Nowhere is the Paradox of Agency more apparent than in the analysis of criminal behaviour. The purpose of this research strand was to identify and where possible fill gaps in the modelling of criminal behaviour. A major focus is the different modes of explanation of criminal behaviour as environmentally conditioned activity (external) versus criminal behaviour as individually chosen activity (internal).

Researcher: Corinna Elsenbroich