Fundamentalism in a Social Learning Perspective

Thomas Schmickl
IEEE Symposium on Artificial Life (2017)


Fundamentalism   and   extremism   are   behavioral traits  prominently  observed  today,  ranging  from  religion  and ideology  to  product  choices  and  even  dietary  preferences.  This study develops a multi-agent model depicting the exemplary case of  preventing  to  eat  meat  (vegetarianism)  or  animal-derived products (veganism) as a set of “memes” that can evolve within a society. Behavioral traits can develop over time by means of (local) individual-based adaptation to an ultimate societal phenomenon by  cultural  (global)  learning.  The  multi-agent  model  presented here predicts that fundamentalist strategies emerge in significant amounts   only   if   certain   extreme   starting   conditions   of   the environment (market) or of the initial population are met. When starting  from  non-extreme  conditions,  the  population  develops towards  moderate  behavioral  traits  and  the  market  adapts  to comfort  these  society-level  adaptations.  The  underlying  social network structure has a significant effect on those processes, as fundamentalism  occurs  only  in  fragmented  subpopulations  as longer-lasting  phenomena.  A  very  simple  mechanism  of  social interaction   is   capable   to   capture   general  principles   of   the emergence of fundamentalist traits in societies.