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«Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades (Dr. rer. soc.) des Fachbereichs Gesellschaftswissenschaften der Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen ...»

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STRUCTURED DYNAMICS: METHODOLOGY AND

APPLICATIONS OF MODELS OF SOCIAL INTERACTION

Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades (Dr. rer. soc.)

des Fachbereichs Gesellschaftswissenschaften

der Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

Vorgelegt von

Gero Schwenk M.A.

aus Gießen

Table of Contents

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………3

Chapter one..………………………………………………………………………………..23 Interlevel Relations and Manipulative Causality Chapter two………………………………………………………………………….………42 Probabilistic Inference for Actor Centered Models Chapter three………………………………………………………………………………..65 Simple Heuristics in Complex Networks: Models of Social Influence Chapter four…………………………………………………………………………………97 Evaluating Social Influence Relations: an Item-Response-Modeling Approach Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………131 Introduction Topic of this work is the explanation of collective behavior through its founding component, the behavior of the socially situated person. More specifically, I aim at developing methods and tools for this purpose, which are supposed to prove beneficial if applied to empirical, real world problems.

As it is clearly visible, the enterprize of explaining collective behavior is at the core of many, if not all, social sciences. Be it Sociology, Social Psychology, Economics or even Business Administration: all these have to deal with the causes and consequences of collective phenomena. Over the past centuries, a large body of approaches and concepts concerning this topic has evolved. However, there is a ubiquitous distinction, which is shared across scientific disciplines: It is the distinction between microscopic and macroscopic (or individualistic and collective) levels of explanation. So for instance, Durkheims´s (1973) social facts and his famous claim to explain social phenomena by social phenomena are a famous example for the collectivist position, while Webers´s (1984) also classical claim for methodological individualism locates itself on the opposite side of the spectrum. Of course, for individualists there is the need to acknowledge the existence of macroscopic properties, which is most prominently (but not sufficiently, as the reader will see later) reflected in Colemans´s (1990) work on the micro-macro link (c.f. Opp 2007).

However, I will not attempt to examine the different positions or their philosophical foundations in very detail at this point. (There will be reference especially to the ontological and methodological aspects in the later chapters.) What I want to do is to provide the reader with information which sets my enterprize in a proper frame. In order to demonstrate the challenges which one has to face in this subject, I now start by presenting an exemplary case.

Scenario Consider the following situation which I adapted from Lazega (2001) and to which I will refer as blueprint - scenario in the later chapter on simulation of influence

processes:

Suppose there is a group of lawyers who are partners in a law firm. In regular intervals, these partners gather in a partnership meeting in order to decide about topics concerning the firm, for instance, the branch of business in which the firm should further expand. In the time between those meetings the partners communicate among each other, of course with a pattern aligned to their formal work demands and informal preferences. At times, they also communicate about the forthcoming meeting. During the course of their communication, the partners may possibly alter their views and opinions on the topic to be discussed, thereby changing the communication environment of their fellow partners. Eventually, this repeated process either converges to unanimous views on the mentioned topics or leads to entrenchment of factions in the forthcoming partnership meeting.

This scenario is obviously close to everyday experience, and with changed actors and topics, one might consider it a prototypical case of the ubiquitous processes of communication and influence. Therefore it is quite appealing as a starting point for discussion of the problems and approaches of explaining collective behavior. Of course reality can (and often will) be more complicated, but nevertheless this scenario contains all generic complexities of the problem on a small scale.

–  –  –

In order to structure the problem, it should be helpful to introduce some basic notions, in line with the fundamental distinction of microscopic and macroscopic properties. A constructive terminology is provided by Bunge´s (1979) account on systemism.

According to Bunge, a system is a set of interdependent components, nothing more and nothing less. It should be quite natural to identify the lawyers with the system´s components and their set of communications and opinion adjustments with the system´s structure of interdependence. Consequently, microscopic properties are those properties which belong to the systems components, the single lawyers.





Macroscopic properties are furthermore those properties which belong to the system, i.e. the set of lawyers. (Of course it is possible to define macroscopic properties on some subsystem, that means a set of lawyers, which contains not all lawyers, but certainly more than one.) These macroscopic properties are by definition (or as a first conception as we will se later) relational properties, such like distributions of opinions or communication - or power relations. As the reader will certainly know, Bunge´s definition of a system is only one taken from a huge array of possible approaches to social phenomena. However, as its application to our scenario shows, it is an approach which is simple and can easily be applied to everyday problems. A further advantage is that it can be quite straightforwardly be used to reformulate concurring approaches, as will be shown subsequently.

–  –  –

A possible approach to explaining collective behavior is to restrict theorizing to the collective level, which means that only macroscopic properties are considered to be acceptable as explanatory factors. In our example, collective phenomena like for instance norms and culture would be such factors which could be used to explain the lawyers distribution of preferences.

A classical example is Parsons´ (1996) theory of structural functionalism with its famous AGIL paradigm. Here behavior of a social system is seen to be determined by functions the system is expected to fulfil in order to persist in the future. According to Parsons these functions are adaptation, goal-attainment, integration and latent pattern maintenance (AGIL). Without discussing this theory and its plausibility in too much detail, I want to point to the following fact: Since all relevant notions are defined on the collective, the flow of causality is confined to the system (i.e. macroscopic) level.

This restriction immediately results in the shortcoming that there is no way to explain how these macroscopic functions are related to the basic elements of a social system, the individual persons. Ironically, the confinement of theorizing to the macroscopic level ruins the theory´s explicit systemic character, as it is defined by Bunge (1979). Of course it is possible to propose other system components than persons, such as the "cultural subsystem" or the "economic subsystem". Taken to the extreme, this trick results in Luhmann´s (1984) conception of an "autopoietic social system", which only parasites on individuals without containing them. It is my strong conviction that restriction to qualitative reasoning may tempt oneself to such improper reductions of complexity. As Esser (1996) notes, Parson´s and Luhmann´s approaches are furthermore characterized best as terminological systems but as proper theories, which parallels our claim.

–  –  –

Another approach is to base explanation of collective phenomena on assumptions about individual behavior. In our example this would mean that the lawyers distribution of preferences would be explained by individual characteristics like for instance utility functions or specific decision behavior.

As implied by these examples, rational choice theory can be considered a prominent microscopic approach. Its core is the assumption of maximization of subjective expected utility (SEU), which defines the concept of rational action of individuals. Rational choice theory is represented in two versions, either "hard" and microeconomics-oriented (c.f. Coleman 1991, Esser 1996, Diekmann / Preisendörfer

1993) or "soft", psychologically oriented (c.f. Ajzen 2005, Opp 2005). But regardless of the version considered, the main focus in empirical application lies in instantiation of the SEU-hypothesis, this is the determination of individual utility functions or attitudes. From this point, individual decisions can be derived, and it is possible to statistically aggregate a global distribution from these individual results.

In principle, rational choice theory provides a rationale for integration of macroscopic explanatory factors, as it has been developed by McClelland (1967) and has prominently been advocated by Coleman (1991) and Esser (1996). This schematic of micro-macro-explanation operates the following way. A collective state at some time point is supposed to form a decision environment for the individual actors. During a time step the individual actors assess their situation and update their decisions, whose aggregation can be considered the collective state at the next time point.

While this schematic appears convincing in principle, it is non-identified in a serious aspect. It makes no statements regarding how collective states are connected to individual decisions. Usually these connections are conceptualized as concrete and elementary hypotheses, analogous to behavioral hypotheses on the particular micro- or macro level. In this case hypotheses connecting the macro- to the micro level are called bridge hypotheses, following Nagel´s (1961) account on nomological reduction of theories, while hypotheses connecting the micro- to the macro-level are called aggregation rule. This rationale is advocated by Esser (1996) and Opp (2005). The critical (and in my view widely ignored) point is, that it is more than complicated to propose elementary hypotheses which connect a compound of objects to a single one. Coleman himself recognized this problem and wrote of these hypotheses as such which "could follow as deductions from a theory." (Coleman 1991, p.14) In his work, this theory was usually one of market mechanisms, which allows to determine some equilibrium point of the expected behavior of a set of market members. If one however lacks such a method of inference in a multi-agent situation, one may be tempted to mistake empirical instantiation of the SEUhypothesis for building properly working bridge hypotheses, especially if usually only survey data on mutually unconnected persons is available. The discussion of Kelle and Lüdemann (1995) and Lindenberg (1996) is a lucid example for this. Another problem that arises before the background of proposing bridge-hypotheses is whether bridge hypotheses can be considered causal. The reason is that it is not selfevident how causal agency of a compound of objects refers to the causal agency of its elements. I will discuss this topic in detail in a later chapter on the philosophy of level transitory relations. I want to emphasize the most important result of above discussion. Properties of a compound of objects (or individuals) can not straightforwardly be connected to properties of its components, least in form of an elementary hypothesis. The reason is that such a projection needs to take account of the structure of interaction of the components, and for this specialized methods of inference need to be employed.

–  –  –



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