Mind & Society

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 57–72 | Cite as

How to build and use agent-based models in social science

  • Nigel Gilbert
  • Pietro TernaEmail author


The use of computer simulation for building theoretical models in social science is introduced. It is proposed that agent-based models have potential as a “third way” of carrying out social science, in addition to argumentation and formalisation. With computer simulations, in contrast to other methods, it is possible to formalise complex theories about processes, carry out experiments and observe the occurrence of emergence. Some suggestions are offered about techniques for building agent-based models and for debugging them. A scheme for structuring a simulation program into agents, the environment and other parts for modifying and observing the agents is described. The article concludes with some references to modelling tools helpful for building computer simulations.


agent based computational economics social simulation neural networks classifier systems genetic algorithms 


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Copyright information

© Fondazione Rosselli, Rosenberg & Sellier 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research on Simulation for the Social Sciences, School of Human SciencesUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze economiche e finanziarieUniversità di TorinoTorinoItalia

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