Agent-based modelling as scientific method: a case study analysing primate social behaviour

J J Bryson, Y Ando, H Lehmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A scientific methodology in general should provide two things: first, a means of explanation and, second, a mechanism for improving that explanation. Agent-based modelling ( ABM) is a method that facilitates exploring the collective effects of individual action selection. The explanatory force of the model is the extent to which an observed meta-level phenomenon can be accounted for by the behaviour of its micro-level actors. This article demonstrates that this methodology can be applied to the biological sciences; agent-based models, like any other scientific hypotheses, can be tested, critiqued, generalized or specified. We review the state of the art for ABM as a methodology for biology and then present a case study based on the most widely published agent-based model in the biological sciences: Hemelrijk's DomWorld, a model of primate social behaviour. Our analysis shows some significant discrepancies between this model and the behaviour of the macaques, the genus used for our analysis. We also demonstrate that the model is not fragile: its other results are still valid and can be extended to compensate for these problems. This robustness is a standard advantage of experiment-based artificial intelligence modelling techniques over analytic modelling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1685-1698
Number of pages14
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences
Volume362
Issue number1485
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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