Modeling Society with Statistical Mechanics: an Application to Cultural Contact and Immigration

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Pierluigi Contucci, Stefano Ghirlanda
Quality & Quantity 41(4), pages 569-578
August 2007

We introduce a general modeling framework to predict the outcomes, at the population level, of individual psychology and behavior. The framework prescribes that researchers build a cost function that embodies knowledge of what trait values (opinions, behaviors, etc.) are favored by individual interactions under given social conditions. Predictions at the population level are then drawn using methods from statistical mechanics, a branch of theoretical physics born to link the microscopic and macroscopic behavior of physical systems. We demonstrate our approach building a model of cultural contact between two cultures (e.g., immigration), showing that it is possible to make predictions about how contact changes the two cultures.

keywordsSociology; Psychology; Statistical mechanics; Phase transitions; Cultural contact; Immigration