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Journal Articles

Modelling social norms of water conservation

Janssen, M.A.

2017 Nature Human Behavior 1: 624-625.


Global groundwater resources are threatened by over-extraction. Castilla-Rho et al. develop an agent-based model of irrigated agriculture based on cooperative and collective action theory, incorporating results from the World Values Survey. The model captures the cultural, socioeconomic, institutional and physical conditions that determine how likely people in different at-risk regions are to comply with regulations.


Using agent-based models to compare behavioral theories on experimental data: Application for irrigation games

Janssen, M.A. and J.A. Baggio

2017 Journal of Environmental Psychology 52: 194-203.


Behavioral experiments have demonstrated that people do cooperate in commons dilemmas. There are alternative theories that are proposed to explain the data. We will use agent-based models to compare alternative behavioral theories on a series of experimental data of irrigation games. The irrigation dilemma captures situations of asymmetric access to common resources while contributions of all participants are needed to maintain the physical infrastructure.

In our model analysis we compare various alternative theories, including naïve simple ones like selfish rational actors and altruistic actors. We contrast these with various alternative behavioral models for collective action as well as inclusion of other-regarding preferences. The systematic comparison of alternative models on experimental data from 44 groups enables us to test which behavioral theories best explain the observed effects of communication. We do not find that one theory clearly outperform others in explaining the data.


When patience leads to destruction: the curious case of individual time preferences and the adoption of destructive fishing gears

Javoid, A., M.A. Janssen, H. Reuter, A. Schlüter

2017 Ecological Economics 142: 91-93.


The use of destructive fishing methods is a serious problem, especially for tropical and developing countries. Due to inter temporal nature of fisheries extraction activities, standard economic theory suggests that an individual’s time preference can play a major role in determining the gear choice decision. Based on earlier theoretical work we identify two ways in which individual time preferences can impact the adoption of destructive extraction methods; (i) the conservation effect which posits that patient individuals (as indicated by relatively high discount factor) are less likely to use destructive extraction methods since they are more likely to account for the loss of future income that is accompanied by using these methods, (ii) the disinvestment effect which argues that patient individuals are more likely to use destructive extraction methods since they have greater investment capability.

Using an agent-based model we clarify the conditions under which one of these effects is more dominant than the other one. Our model suggests that the nature of destructive gear along with the level of social dilemma determines whether patient or impatient individuals (relatively lower discount factor) are more likely to adopt such a gear. Additionally agent’s beliefs regarding future resource condition and other agent’s extraction level can have a major influence in some cases.


On our rapidly shrinking capacity to comply with the planetary boundaries on climate change

Mathias, J-D., J.M. Anderies and M.A. Janssen

2017 Scientific Reports 7: 42061.


The planetary boundary framework constitutes an opportunity for decision makers to define climate policy through the lens of adaptive governance. Here, we use the DICE model to analyze the set of adaptive climate policies that comply with the two planetary boundaries related to climate change: (1) staying below a CO2 concentration of 550 ppm until 2100 and (2) returning to 350 ppm in 2100. Our results enable decision makers to assess the following milestones: (1) a minimum of 33% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2055 in order to stay below 550 ppm by 2100 (this milestone goes up to 46% in the case of delayed policies); and (2) carbon neutrality and the effective implementation of innovative geoengineering technologies (10% negative emissions) before 2060 in order to return to 350 ppm in 2100, under the assumption of getting out of the baseline scenario without delay. Finally, we emphasize the need to use adaptive path-based approach instead of single point target for climate policy design.


Fragility of the provision of local public goods to private and collective risks

Cárdenas, J.C., M.A. Janssen, M. Ale, R. Bastakoti, A.M. Bernal, J. Chalermphol, Y. Gong, H.C. Shin, G. Shivakoti, Y. Wang, J.M. Anderies

2017 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114(5): 921-925.


Small holder agricultural systems, strongly dependent on water resources and investments in shared infrastructure, make a significant contribution to food security in developing countries. These communities are increasingly integrated in the global economy and are exposed to new global climate-related risks that may affect their willingness to cooperate in community level collective action problems. We performed field experiments on public goods with private and collective risks in 118 small-scale rice producing communities in four countries. Our results indicate that increasing integration of those communities with the broader economic system is associated with lower investments in public goods when facing collective risks. These findings indicate that local public good provision may be negatively affected by collective risks especially if communities are more integrated with the market economy.


Urban resilience efforts must consider social and political forces

Eakin, H., L. Bojórquez-Tapia, M.A. Janssen, M. Georgescu, D. Manuel-Navarrete, E.R. Vivoni, E.R., A.E. Escalante, A. Baeza-Castro, M. Mazari-Hiriart and A.M. Lerner

2017 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 114(2): 186-189.

Adoption as a Social Marker: Innovation Diffusion With Outgroup Aversion

Smaldino, P.E., M.A. Janssen, V. Hillis, and J. Bednar

2017 Journal of Mathematical Sociology 41(1): 26-45.


Social identities are among the key factors driving behavior in complex societies. Signals of social identity are known to influence individual behaviors in the adoption of innovations. Yet the population-level consequences of identity signaling on the diffusion of innovations are largely unknown. Here we use both analytical and agent-based modeling to consider the spread of a beneficial innovation in a structured population in which there exist two groups who are averse to being mistaken for each other. We investigate the dynamics of adoption and consider the role of structural factors such as demographic skew and communication scale on population-level outcomes. We find that outgroup aversion can lead to adoption being delayed or suppressed in one group, and that population-wide underadoption is common. Comparing the two models, we find that differential adoption can arise due to structural constraints on information flow even in the absence of intrinsic between-group differences in adoption rates. Further, we find that patterns of polarization in adoption at both local and global scales depend on the details of demographic organization and the scale of communication. This research has particular relevance to widely beneficial but identity-relevant products and behaviors, such as green technologies, where overall levels of adoption determine the positive benefits that accrue to society at large.


The Practice of Archiving Model Code of Agent-Based Models

Janssen, M.A.

2017 Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 20 (1) 2.


To evaluate the concern over the reproducibility of computational science, we reviewed 2367 journal articles on agent-based models published between 1990 and 2014 and documented the public availability of source code. The percentage of publications that make the model code available is about 10%. The percentages are similar for publications that are reportedly dependent on public funding. There are big differences among journals in the public availability of model code and software used. This suggests that the varying social norms and practical convenience around sharing code may explain some of the differences among different sectors of the scientific community.


A framework for mapping and comparing behavioral theories in models of social-ecological systems

Schlüter, M., A. Baeza, G. Dressler, K. Frank, J. Groeneveld, W. Jager, M.A. Janssen, R. McAllister, B. Müller, K. Orach, N. Schwarz, N. Wijermans

2017 Ecological Economics 131: 21-35.


Formal models are commonly used in natural resource management (NRM) to study human-environment interactions and inform policy making. In the majority of applications, human behaviour is represented by the rational actor model despite growing empirical evidence of its shortcomings in NRM contexts. While the importance of accounting for the complexity of human behaviour is increasingly recognized, its integration into formal models remains a major challenge. The challenges are multiple: i) there exist many theories scattered across the social sciences, ii) most theories cover only a certain aspect of decision-making, iii) they vary in their degree of formalization, iv) causal mechanisms are often not specified. We provide a framework- MoHuB (Modelling Human Behavior) – to facilitate a broader inclusion of theories on human decision-making in formal NRM models. It serves as a tool and common language to describe, compare and communicate alternative theories. In doing so, we not only enhance understanding of commonalities and differences between theories, but take a first step towards tackling the challenges mentioned above. This approach may enable modellers to find and formalize relevant theories, and be more explicit and inclusive about theories of human decision making in the analysis of social-ecological systems.



Experiments on the Commons: A Micro-Behavior Perspective (in Chinese)

Ying, C. and M.A. Janssen 2017
China Science Publishing and Media

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