Discussion papers

CPM-98-35 - 8 May 1998

Social Simulation Models and Reality: Three Approaches

Scott Moss


Theories in the social sciences are informed either by sociology or by economics. That is, they either draw generalizations from verbal descriptions of social interaction or from mathematical representations of interacting agents as constrained maximizers. The three models discussed in this paper are not less rigorous than economic models and, because they are validated relative to a formal logic rather than mathematics alone, capture much more of the richness of sociological analysis than does the economics approach. Moreover, each has, in its own way, been developed to capture salient characteristics of observed regularities in specific social interactions. Together they exemplify a set of modelling techniques and an integrated methodology which capture the rigour and precision of the economist’s approach to the social sciences while, at the same time, capturing the suggestiveness and richness of the sociologist’s approach.

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