Modelling social behavior with a socio psychological simulation approach
The research work presented here seeks answers to the following question: What are the conditions that foster widespread, effective inner dynamics that change collective environmental overuse (in thinking and action) to collective, environmentally-responsible thinking and acting?
Our research approaches this question using computer simulation. The simulation is based upon a model that is a highly expanded extension of the rational choice model. The model goes beyond the "economic man" approach to include inner psychological factors, such as motives, values, and attitudes, and it considers social influences on a person's behavior.
To this purpose, we first design a basic model of an individual, which - as 10,000 identically structured copies (equipped, however, with individually different characteristics) - serves as the basis for the simulated influencing and resource-use processes. The model yields information about the inner psychological processes that take place when people use environmental resources. These processes change, in dependency on further internal and external conditions, the ways in which we feel, think, and argue about the environment and the way we act toward the environment. The simulated individuals have at their disposal variously structured social contact nets.
Using simulation, the following research questions are investigated:
- How must a minority of people behaving in an environmentally friendly way be distributed and networked within a population in order that the environmentally unfriendly majority comes to change its attitudes and behavior?
- What types of role models for behavior are required for the population to follow the example of such pioneers?
- How must the social surround be perceived for people to become willing to use an environmental resource sustainably?
- What is the effect of convincing attempts (persuasion) in populations, according to individuals' concern about the environment, knowledge of the environment, and biases?
A highly condensed summary of the results yields the following conclusion: For a collective reorientation in a population towards environmentally sustaining behavior to occur, there must be - with the forms of intervention we have proposed - a sufficient number of active, "convinced" persons who have "close" enough relations with other persons.
The present contribution attempts to show that the old triad of "traditional information campaigns", "legal measures", and "economic measures" can be complemented by additional, novel strategies. These potentially successful forms of intervention should be tested in practical application.