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Forecasting Changes in Religiosity and Existential Security with an Agent-Based Model

Ross Gore, Carlos Lemos, F. LeRon Shults and Wesley J. Wildman
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 21 (1) 4

Abstract: We employ existing data sets and agent-based modeling to forecast changes in religiosity and existential security among a collective of individuals over time. Existential security reflects the extent of economic, socioeconomic and human development provided by society. Our model includes agents in social networks interacting with one another based on the education level of the agents, the religious practices of the agents, and each agent's existential security within their natural and social environments. The data used to inform the values and relationships among these variables is based on rigorous statistical analysis of the International Social Survey Programme Religion Module (ISSP) and the Human Development Report (HDR). We conduct an evaluation that demonstrates, for the countries and time periods studied, that our model provides a more accurate forecast of changes in existential security and religiosity than two alternative approaches. The improved accuracy is largely due to the inclusion of social networks with educational homophily which alters the way in which religiosity and existential security change in the model. These dynamics grow societies where two individuals with the same initial religious practices (or belief In God, or supernatural beliefs) evolve differently based on the educational backgrounds of the individuals with which they surround themselves. Finally, we discuss the limitations of our model and provide direction for future work.

A Generative Model of the Mutual Escalation of Anxiety Between Religious Groups

F. LeRon Shults, Ross Gore, Wesley J. Wildman, Christopher Lynch, Justin E. Lane and Monica Toft
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 21 (4) 7

Abstract: We propose a generative agent-based model of the emergence and escalation of xenophobic anxiety in which individuals from two different religious groups encounter various hazards within an artificial society. The architecture of the model is informed by several empirically validated theories about the role of religion in intergroup conflict. Our results identify some of the conditions and mechanisms that engender the intensification of anxiety within and between religious groups. We define mutually escalating xenophobic anxiety as the increase of the average level of anxiety of the agents in both groups over time. Trace validation techniques show that the most common conditions under which longer periods of mutually escalating xenophobic anxiety occur are those in which the difference in the size of the groups is not too large and the agents experience social and contagion hazards at a level of intensity that meets or exceeds their thresholds for those hazards. Under these conditions agents will encounter out-group members more regularly, and perceive them as threats, generating mutually escalating xenophobic anxiety. The model’s capacity to grow the macro-level emergence of this phenomenon from micro-level agent behaviors and interactions provides the foundation for future work in this domain.