Statement of Work
Our proposed research agenda is focused on creating the pillars of a new discipline and basic research that would support the development of a theory, modeling and field surveys on dynamics and evolution of sociopolitical change, social norms, and societal stability. The research is organized along 4 major thrusts, each subdivided into a series of inter-related tasks that are synergistic both within and across thrusts. Each task has a detailed set and timeline of deliverables.
In Thrust 1, we develop and analyze models of social change, social aggregation, and evolution of social norms. We will investigate questions such as why similar societies end up with different social norms, why and how social norms sometimes change, and why is it that certain societies are able to break away from a less favorable (e.g., low trust or corrupt) equilibrium, while others are not able to. We answer such questions by proposing a new theoretical paradigm based on new models in which social norms shape inferences about past behavior and also regulate expectations of future behavior while examining the roles of leadership and prominent agents in changing social norms and behavior. We will also investigate a variety of conditions under which agents in a society can aggregate information in a network setting where the information available to an individual is not directly observable by others, as well as scenarios where some agents have interests in swaying the beliefs of others. The emergence and consolidation of democracy and other political outcomes are shaped by the interplay of the beliefs and information of the population and the nature of various conflicts among them.
While Thrust 1 focuses on developing a systematic framework for the study of such belief and information dynamics, Thrust 2 turns to an investigation of how such conflicts are (or fail to be) resolved politically. In particular, our research here will leverage pioneering work of our PIs on game-theoretic models of democracy and on the effects of political attitudes on social stability. Using both theoretical models and field data, our research will develop a much more holistic understanding of political dynamics in emerging democracies and fragile societies.
Thrust 3 will complement these themes by providing a more systematic development of mathematical models of social interactions, model identification using social network data as well as modeling and analysis of various types of of cascades and contagion phenomena that make sociopolitical change spread. We will propose novel multi-agent simulation mechanisms for study of robustness in large scale networks, while in the Thrust 4, our focus is on decision making and control of socio political change by combining insights and tools from different disciplines including economics, political science, control theory, optimization, and networks. The goal here is the development of a control paradigm for time critical and robust decision-making. The above 4 thrusts lay the foundation for a new mathematical and computational theory of social change. In laying the rigorous foundations for a new Theory, our proposed research plan addresses the whole spectrum, from from mathematical modeling and theoretical analysis, to large scale data analysis, to controlled stylized lab experiments and finally to field experiments.