Normal = Normative? The role of intelligent agents in norm innovation

Mind and Society 8 (2):153-172 (2009)
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Abstract

The necessity to model the mental ingredients of norm compliance is a controversial issue within the study of norms. So far, the simulation-based study of norm emergence has shown a prevailing tendency to model norm conformity as a thoughtless behavior, emerging from social learning and imitation rather than from specific, norm-related mental representations. In this paper, the opposite stance—namely, a view of norms as hybrid, two-faceted phenomena, including a behavioral/social and an internal/mental side—is taken. Such a view is aimed at accounting for the difference between norms, on one hand, and either behavioral regularities (conventions) on the other. This paper, in particular, is addressed to find out the internal ingredients required for the former distinction, i.e., to model norms as distinct from mere conventions, and defined as behaviors spreading to the extent that and because the corresponding commands and beliefs do spread as well. After a brief presentation of a normative agent architecture, the results of agent-based simulations testing the impact of norm recognition and the role of normative beliefs in the emergence and innovation of social norms are presented and discussed. More specifically, the present work will endeavour to show that a sudden external constraint (e.g. a barrier preventing agents from moving among social settings) facilitates norm innovation: under such a condition, agents provided with a module for telling what a norm is can generate new (social) norms by forming new normative beliefs, irrespective of the most frequent actions.

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