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Thomas C. Schelling and James M. Sakoda: The Intellectual, Technical, and Social History of a Model Download PDF

Rainer Hegselmann

Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, Germany

Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 20 (3) 15
DOI: 10.18564/jasss.3511

Received: 04-Jun-2017    Accepted: 22-Jun-2017    Published: 30-Jun-2017


The Journal of Mathematical Sociology (JMS) started in 1971. The second issue contained its most cited article: Thomas C. Schelling, “Dynamic Models of Segregation”. In that article, Schelling presented a family of models, one of which became a canonical model. To date it is called the Schelling model—an eponym that affixes the inventor’s name to the invention, one of the highest forms of scientific recognition. In the very first issue of JMS, James Minoru Sakoda published an article entitled “The Checkerboard Model of Social Interaction”. Sakoda’s article more or less went unrecognized. Yet, a careful comparison demonstrates that in a certain sense the Schelling model is just an instance of Sakoda’s model. A precursor of that model was already part of Sakoda’s 1949 dissertation submitted to the University of California at Berkeley. A substantial amount of evidence indicates that in the 1970s Sakoda was well known and recognized as a computational social scientist, whereas Schelling was an unknown in the field. A generation later, the pattern of recognition almost completely reversed: Sakoda had become the unknown, while Schelling was the well-known inventor of the pioneering Schelling model. This article explains this puzzling pattern of recognition. Technical and social factors play a decisive role. Some contrafactual historical reflection suggests that the final result was not inevitable.
Keywords: Schelling, Sakoda, Checkerboard Models, Tipping Models, Threshold Models, Agent-Based Modeling

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