Sunday, November 8, 2015

Complex humans

In the last book of the trilogy of JM Epstein about complexity and agent based modelling in social sciences, he presents a model of human decision making based on three components, which are well grounded in modern neuro-sciences:
-Affect (emotions). This is the mostly automatic mechanism by which our amygdala processes external inputs and delivers physilogical outputs (such as increased blood pressure or hormone production), for example as a result of fear. We developed this ability in our evolution as species thousands of years ago.
-Deliberation. As superior primates, we have the ability to spend time and neural resources thinking carefully about some issues, evaluating costs and benefits of certain courses of action. Of course, this "slow thinking" is also prone to biases, but it gives us the possibility of learning and computing.

-Social influence. We are also sensitive to the opinions, values and judgements of others. We belong to social networks, where the links we have to others and the strength of these links determine to some extent our disposition to acquire what we think are our own beliefs.
Of course, these three components interact, as some of the emotions are related to groups we belong to. Also, one component sets contraints on another one, for example deliberation setting limits to what we would be inclined to do purely by emotion. 
Epstein sets the stage for lots of applications of this framework, which itself connects with many branches of the existing literature on social and behavioural sciences.

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