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What is social simulation?

Reproducing social processes with computer simulations is a big challenge for sociology. At ISTC the Laboratory of Agent-Based Social Simulation (LABSS) is following this path, shading new lights on the complexity of human social behaviour. 

Can social artifacts such as norms and reputation be studied as scientific objects? Can social behaviour be modeled? These questions were nonsense in traditional sociology, which was based on a descriptive approach. But in the latest years the focus of social science has moved on to the study of complex collective reality through computer science. Simulating society: this is the challenge of the new research field, which aims at reproducing some aspects of social life with computational models.

At ISTC there is a long tradition of social simulations. Born in the 1990s, the Laboratory of Agent-Based Social Simulation (LABSS) works at the intersection among cognitive, social and computational sciences. Its main claim is that social intelligence is a group of properties of multi-agent systems: for this reason, LABSS's goal is to model the emergence of social relationships from a collection of artificial agents which independently interact on networks.

This research contributes to understand many micro and macro dynamics of social life, bridging the gap between the descriptive and the experimental approach. How do new conventions and norms spread in society? What is the role of reputation in competitive settings? How do socially desirable behaviours emerge? LABSS team works to answer these and other questions, making social simulation a fundamental tool connecting technology and society. 

Contacts: Rosaria Conte, Mario Paolucci

ISTC Group: Laboratory of Agent-Based Social Simulation

Relevant publications

Andrighetto, G., Villatoro, D., Conte, R. (2010), Norm internalization in artificial societies. AI Communication, 23(4), pp. 325-339.

Conte, R. (2009), From Simulation to Theory (and Backward), In Squazzoni, Flaminio (Ed.) Epistemological Aspects of Computer Simulation in the Social Sciences, Second International Workshop, EPOS 2006, Brescia, Italy, October 5-6, 2006, Springer, Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 5466, pp. 29-47.

Conte, R., Paolucci, M. (2002), An Alternative Perspective: The Reputing Agent. In Reputation in Artificial Societies, Social Beliefs for Social Order, Springer, Vol. 6, Chapter 4.