SI: Epistemological Perspectives Simulation

Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 5-21

First online:

Context in social simulation: why it can’t be wished away

  • Bruce EdmondsAffiliated withCentre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University Email author 

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Context is everywhere in the human social and cognitive spheres but it is often implicit and unnoticed. However, when one is involved in trying to understand and model the social and cognitive realms context becomes an important factor. This paper is an analysis of the role and effects of context on social simulation and a call for it to be squarely faced by the social simulation community. It briefly looks at some different kinds of context, and discussed the difficulty of talking about context, before looking at the “context heuristic” that seems to be used in human cognition. This allows for rich and fuzzy context recognition to be combined with crisp ‘foreground’ belief update and reasoning. Such a heuristic allows for causality to make sense, and limits the phenomena of causal spread—it is thus at the root of the modelling enterprise. This analysis is then applied to simulation modelling, considering the context of a simulation, and its ramifications, in particular, why generalisation is so hard.


Context Simulation Generalisation Philosophy Simplicity Causality