Research Seminar

The Origin of Status Inequality: A Simulation-Based Study

Date: 18 January 2013
Time: 12.30-14.00

Gianluca Manzo, Sociology Sorbonne

Status hierarchies have the characteristic of being increasingly asymmetric distributions that, however, never turn into winner-take-all structures. In this paper we model the origin of status inequality as stemming from a myriad of deference gestures that actors exchange in their everyday interactions. We reproduce population-level patterns of status inequality by combining two micro-level mechanisms: reliance on other people’s judgment (social influence) triggers a process of cumulative advantage, while the desire of being reciprocated (symmetry concern) limits the amount of asymmetric deference. We re-implement in an agent-based computational framework Gould and Lynn et al.’s models of the origin of status hierarchies, and, building on them, we develop our own model. The latter improves on the realism of previous models by replacing a maximizing function with a heuristic-based decision-making process that is cognitively plausible, and implementing a realistic structural constraint to define the range of others ego interacts with. We extensively analyze the parameter space of all three models, document important inconsistencies of previous models, and conclude that our model better fulfills theoretical expectations concerning the independent and combined effect of the cumulative advantage and symmetry concern mechanisms.

Seminars hosts are Peter Hedström, David Sumpter and Fredrik Liljeros from the Institute for Futures Studies. The seminars are free of charge and take place at 12.30–14.00 in the Institute’s seminar room at Holländargatan 13, Stockholm.

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