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Norms and networks

Coordinator: Andreas Flache

The overarching focus of this research line is on modeling the interdependent dynamics of social norms and social networks. Substantively, we are interested in two main questions. First, how and under what conditions does social integration arise in groups that are socially or culturally diverse? Second, how and under what conditions do stable social norms arise in groups with divergent interests and preferences? Social networks play a key role both for social integration and for social norms.

Social integration in diverse settings (like interethnic work teams or school classes) is to an important part network integration based on social relations (like friendships) that cut across subgroup boundaries. Network integration, in turn, is closely linked to normative integration, i.e. consensus across different subgroups on salient social norms. We study the dynamics of social integration both theoretically and empirically for various settings in which diversity forms an important challenge, with particular emphasis on integration at the workplace and in schools. On-going or recently finished subprojects in this line are:
- "Timing and Structure of Contacts", Andreas Flache (financed by NWO-VIDI, finished in 2010)
- "Demographic faultlines and social networks", Michael Mäs (postdoc. Ph.D. project finished in 2010)
- "School Policies and the Ethnic Integration Within Dutch Secondary Schools", Tobias Stark (Ph.D. project)
- "Ethnic Integration of Pre-Adolescents in Multi-Ethnic Primary and Secondary Schools: The Role of the School and of Parents", Anke Munniksma, Ph.D. project.

Social norms are typically linked to cooperative behavior with regard to a salient common interest. However, people also have incentives to deviate from norms and to behave not cooperatively. This constitutes a social dilemma. Social networks are an important condition for cooperation in social dilemmas and we study how exactly the structure and dynamics of social networks are related to cooperative behavior in various realms, including workplace situations or exchange networks. More information about on-going subprojects can be found here:
- Learning and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas (Andreas Flache, continuation of previous project "Network embeddedness and group solidarity").
- Third parties and social exchange in social dilemmas (Jacob Dijkstra).

An important common denominator of the projects in this research line is that we use advanced modeling techniques to deal with the complexities of the interdependent dynamics of norms and networks. Depending on the specific subproject, this can involve agent-based computer modeling or game theory on the theoretical side, or the application of exponential random graph models (ERGM) or actor-oriented statistical models of the co-evolution of networks and behavior (SIENA) on the statistical side.

Selected key publications:
1. Mäs M, Flache A, Helbing D. 2010. Individualization as Driving Force of Clustering Phenomena in Humans. PLoS Computional Biology 6(10): e1000959. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000959.
2. Flache, A, M. Mäs. 2008. How to get the timing right. A computational model of the effects of the timing of contacts on team cohesion in demographically diverse teams. Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory 14.1:23-51.
3. Dijkstra, Jacob & Marcel A.L.M. van Assen. 2008. ‘Transferring goods or splitting a resource: testing the consequences of the violation of a basic assumption in exchange research.' Social Psychology Quarterly, vol. 71(1): 17-36.
4. M. Macy, A. Flache. 2007. Reply: Collective Action and the Empirical Content of Stochastic Learning Models. American Journal of Sociology 112.5:1546-1554.
5. Macy, M.W., A. Flache. 2002. Learning Dynamics in Social Dilemmas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. May 14;99(10):7229-36.