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Complexity of Social Deviance

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  1. Complex Adaptive Systems (ITIS 6500) – Spring 2013 Complexity of Social Deviance Curtis M. Kularski 30 April 2013

  2. CAS Approach to Social Science • Walter Buckley – first sociologist to conceive of society as a CAS in 1968 • Society does not seek equilibrium • Cannot be predicted using a linear model • Social systems are dependent on: • Relationships between elements (agents) • Information • Environmental schemata (physical and “network”)

  3. Difficulties for CAS in Social Systems • Behavior is not easily predictable • Each agents implements the “rules” differently • Various groupings in the system behave differently • Requires development of scales for decision making separate from complexity measures • Testing is limited to subsets of society

  4. Objective of Modeling the System • Determine the variables that have the largest impact on deviance and model social interactions based on the assumptions of those variables • Understand the relationship between social controls and free will (agency) • Predict outcomes for a particular deviance in a given population

  5. Rules Governing the System • For modeling social systems, existing theoretical approaches to understanding social behavior can be applied • CAS/ABM can function as a different way to test existing theories • Structural aspects of society often prevail, despite cases of deviance or anomie • Combination of formal and informal structures

  6. Agents • Agents in social systems are all people of a particular society • Can be grouped to smaller sub-systems based on identification • Agents in social system exercise free will in relation to (or in anomie with) the controls of their social context

  7. Rules of the Social System • Folkways/Customs – Traditions of the culture • Mores – Informal rules of conduct in a society • Rules – Formal procedures for institution or sub-set of system • Laws – Formal rules for society

  8. Rules Affecting Agent Behavior • Number of close relationships (control theory) • Previous occurrence of deviance (labeling theory) • Congruence between identity and self-concept (labeling theory) • Severity of sanctions, relative to weight of deviation • Behavior of close agents (differential association)

  9. Examples of Deviance • Using the “wrong” spoon at a formal dinner • Exceeding posted speed limits • Plagiarizing an exam • Theft • Homicide

  10. Agents Act in Context • Rules are different in each situation/context • Agents weigh potential behaviors in context • Context is often defined by nearby agents

  11. Example of Contextual Behavior • Nudity: Western culture rules of modesty • In private, while bathing: no sanctions, acceptable • In private, with friends: dependent upon “friendly” agents • In public: violation of mores and laws • Agent must consider environment and relationship with other agents before enacting a behavior

  12. Deviance as Adaptation • The default state of a social system is compliance (social identity theory) • Social agents deviate when compliance is against personal goals • Agents in society use many factors in deciding in a deviation

  13. Self-Organization • In attempt to return to default state, deviant agents will attempt to form social connections to similarly deviant agents • New social connections affirm a new social identity • In the absence of self-organization, deviant agents are re-absorbed by larger system - “rehabilitation” to norms is encouraged • Rebellious agents are outliers that also tend to self-organize

  14. Use of Information • Social information includes: • Nearby agents • Knowledge of rules/norms and sanctions • Perceived likelihood of enforcement of norms • Internalized identity • Goals associated with identity (risk/benefit to goals as a result of deviance) • Rational Choice Theory indicates this is the primary basis for deviance or conformity

  15. Measuring Complexity • Complexity for social systems can be measured in various ways: • Number of agents/nodes affected • Number of factors to be considered before a decision • Levels of hierarchical depth influencing decisions/interactions

  16. Fitness of Models • Fitness of CAS model of deviance would need to be tested against normal societal measures of deviance (number of occurrences per 1000) of a particular behavior • Model would likely only be able to test for one type of deviance at a particular time • No agent-specific predictions are expected, only system-level predictions of occurrence

  17. Validation • A CAS designed to model social behavior can only be validated against a particular social and temporal context for which the system was designed • Outcome of system may vary based on factors that affect the individual agents if the model is not sufficiently complex

  18. Conclusion • CAS may be an effective way of predicting factors that influence deviance for a large social system • A variety of variables act on agents to influence how they implement rules • Connections to other agents are an important factor in social decision-making

  19. Notes • Presentation is an adaptation of a paper of the same title submitted for ITIS 6500 on 30 April 2013. For references, please see original paper • Presentation theme is an adaptation of a theme created by Dr. Stephanie Moller, Department of Sociology, UNC Charlotte • Author is a dual Masters degree student in Sociology and Information Technology at UNC Charlotte