Final Reports
  School Map
  Discussion Forum
  Technical Guide
  Past Participant
Supercomputing Challenge

Examining the Evolution of Social Behaviors

Team: 94


Area of Science: Social/Behavoiral Sciences

Interim: Interim Rough Draft:

Description of Problem:
Ethnocentrism is a discriminatory behavior that shapes the social framework of a civilization. The goal of this project is to explore the hypothesis that ethnocentrism is an emergent behavior by developing a computational model in which ethnocentrism arises. In modeling the social development of a society, we hope to explore the evolution of this behavior and its effect on history, politics, and communication. By exploring the limits of the conditions in which ethnocentrism arises, we hope to better our understanding of the racial, religious, and historical tensions that divide our planet.

Progress to Date:
So far, we have begun to study the evolution of ethnocentrism based on the model created by Robert Axelrod and Ross Hammond. We are designing an object-oriented program in C# which models the evolution of ethnocentrism based on a simple prisoner’s dilemma model. We have taken into account immigration, reproduction, mutation, and death rates as well as the benefit and cost of cooperating. We have also assigned each agent a specific ethnicity. Hopefully, patterns of cooperation will emerge based on ethnicity. Each team member is creating a separate class in which a specific objective is accomplished. We will then combine all the separate classes into our main program. We hope to have the program running by the New Year so that we start experimenting with the limits of ethnocentrism. At this point, we have successfully incorporated all of the pieces of the program except the class that records and compiles the results.
Standard random number generators contain repetitive patterns that may bias results. Instead of relying on a standard random number generator, we have also incorporated a pseudorandom number generator, the Mersenne Twister, into our program. Hopefully, this new generator will improve our results.

Expected Results:
We expect that ethnocentrism will evolve even in the most general situations. Once we have completed the basic model, we will test the limits of our parameters. Is Ethnocentrism a delicate emergent property can only evolve in specific situations? Or rather, is ethnocentrism a resilient behavior that will evolve in any situation where social interaction occurs? We hope to expand on our current results and conclusions about ethnocentrism by experimenting with the number of ethnicities and various immigration, reproduction, mutation, and death rates. We also hope to experiment with the cost of cooperating versus the benefit of cooperating. Eventually we would like to modify our program to take into account geographical obstacles such as mountains or rivers that might hinder social interaction. Hopefully our results will provide a better understanding of how discriminatory behaviors affect the growth and stability of a developing society in the future, and how ethnocentrism has already shaped our world.

Axelrod, Robert. The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books, 1984.

Axelrod, Robert. Harnessing complexity: organizational implications of a scientific frontier. New York: Free Press, 1999.

Axelrod, Robert, and Ross Hammond. “The Evolution of Ethnocentrism.” Journal of Conflict Resolution. 50.6 (Dec 2006): 926-936.

Brundage, Michael L. “Mersenne Twister.” Random Number Generation.

Matsumoto, Makoto. “Mersenne Twister with Improved Initialization.” Mersenne Twister Homepage.

Team Members:

  Jeffrey Fenchel
  Amelia Clement
  Alexander Clement
  Gregory Fenchel
  Jayson Lynch

Sponsoring Teacher: Neil McBeth

Mail the entire Team