Mind & Society

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 131–143 | Cite as

The simplicity of complex agents: a Contextual Action Framework for Computational Agents

  • Corinna Elsenbroich
  • Harko Verhagen


Collective dilemmas have attracted widespread interest in several social sciences and the humanities including economics, sociology and philosophy. Since Hardin’s intuitive example of the Tragedy of the Commons, many real-world public goods dilemmas have been analysed with a wide ranging set of possible and actual solutions. The plethora of solutions to these dilemmas suggests that people make different kinds of decision in different situations. Rather than trying to find a unifying kind of reasoning to capture all situations, as the paradigm of rationality has done, this article develops a framework of agent decision-making for social simulation, that takes seriously both different kinds of decision making as well as different interpretations of situations. The Contextual Action Framework for Computational Agents allows for the modelling of complex social phenomena, like dilemma situations, with relatively simple agents by shifting complexity from an agent’s cognition to an agent’s context.


Agent-based modelling Collective dilemmas Context Action theory Social ontology 



The work presented in this article was supported by Sintelnet through workshops at which previous versions of the framework have been presented. The research presented here is undertaken within the project Collective Reasoning as a Moral Point of View (AH/L007282/1) funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research in Social SimulationUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK
  2. 2.Department of Computer and Systems SciencesStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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