Answers to frequently asked questions about the online article Controlled Simulation of Marriage Systems

 

1. Why are social rules seen as problematic?

Anthropologists, economists (e.g., in game theory or rational choice models), and sociologists pay great attention to social norms and rules, both in terms of what people say and what they do, which are often discrepant.Individual preferences and social žrules,Ó when put into practice, are subject to real-world constraints, unlike idealized verbal statements or norms.This study questions the validity of a common habit of social science studies: to take the raw frequencies of behavior as the relevant evidence for inferring rules or preferences.Looking at what people do, is it even possible, in principle, to find evidence of rules or preferences?The answer being: yes, insofar as we take constraints into account, behavior that follows rules or preferences can be inferred if (1) it departs from what would be expected from žrandomÓ behavior under given verisimilar constraints, and (2) there is empirical evidence supporting the mechanism by which preferential behaviors are implemented.The research results from the case studies in the present paper shows a close fit between models of preference in actual behavior under constraint, and idealized social rules, much closer than hitherto recognized in kinship studies and theories of matrimonial alliance.

 

2. What makes this a simulation?

The succession of generations is central to the simulation model: as relatives marry in early generations, they lay down patterns of relationships that will define the kinship links of succeeding generations.This, along with demographic factors such as size of sibling sets, affects the likelihood that marriages in subsequent generations will be with close kin, distant kin, or non-kin.

 

3. Does the approach generalize to other network problems?

The approach, in a more general context, is already in use in network studies, some of the most recent examples in the domain of friendship networks being:

Zeggelink, Evelyn P.H. 1993. Strangers into Friends: the Evolution of Friendship Networks Using an Individual Oriented Modeling Approach. Amsterdam: ICS.

Moody, James. 1999. The Structure of Adolescent Relations: Modeling Friendship in Dynamic Social Settings. Ph.D. Dissertation: Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina.

The null hypothesis model of žrandom behavior under known constraintsÓ is important to network studies and essential to valid statistical inferences.

 

4. What are the implications and the next steps in this research?

The application of simulation models to the particular problem of population studies -- kinship and marriage networks in the context of history, ethnography, elite studies, studies of social class, etc. Ů is currently being extended to ask questions about žcomplex systemÓ dynamics and the phenomena of institutional emergence and change due to network processes.These questions require a broader class of probabilistic simulation modeling involving social and demographic constraints, rules and agents.

 

 

 

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