Seminar: Prof Alex Bentley, "Social influence and drift in collective behaviour"

Past Event

06 March 2012, 1:30pm - 3:00pm

Said Business School
Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HP

This seminar is being hosted by the Oxford Martin Programme on Complexity and the Cabdyn Complexity Centre

Abstract: Generally speaking, social sciences explain changes in collective behaviour by focusing on the individuals. Human decision models often begin with individual, cost-benefit analyses as the basic behavior, with any social influence as a secondary add-on. This often underestimates social influence among humans, whose brains have actually evolved to handle social relations. In fact, a better starting point in many cases may be to assume that people base their choices (consciously or not) primarily on the decisions of those around them. As captured by experiments and simple evolutionary drift models, undirected social influence models do remarkably well at capturing the large scale dynamics of popular culture change. Network structure (e.g., kinship or social networks) can be added incrementally to such models. The goal is to offer an explanation for the irrationality and unpredictability to collective behaviour, with implications for anthropology, psychology and economics.

Speaker: Professor Alex Bentley, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol

Biography: Alex Bentley is Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Bristol. He also is Deputy Director of a 5-year, interdisciplinary program to study 'Tipping Points' in the environment and society, a project that integrates work on climate change, the banking crisis, and the spread of fashions. Bentley has applied his research in projects with the British Department of Health, the Gates Foundation and commercial organizations. His new book, with Mark Earls and Michael O’Brian, is "I'll Have What She’s Having: Mapping Social Behavior" (MIT Press).

Venue: Seminar Room 13, Saïd Business School

Sandwiches and drinks will be provided.