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The Simplified Nature of Threshold Modelling

You have probably noticed that in threshold models people tend to be very simplified. A threshold sums up their attitude towards the protest and then - after they make a decision - they also have a colour (gray or purple) that indicates if they are protesting or not. And that’s it!
Modelling Individuals As Crash Test Dummies
© ACTISS

In this step we will focus our attention on the residents of Fruit County.

Threshold Models are Very Simplified

You have probably noticed that in threshold models people tend to be very simplified. A threshold sums up their attitude towards the protest and then – after they make a decision – they also have a colour (gray or purple) that indicates if they are protesting or not. And that’s it! They don’t have a lot of features that characterize people – profession, level of education, life history, physical characteristics, musical preferences… Why? Because we decided that it is enough that we need in our story – we chose those features which are the most important for understanding the phenomenon. And we hope that you agree that – under certain conditions – it is helpful in understanding and illustrating the process of how demonstration spreads.

Are Threshold Models Too Simple?

Of course, you can say – it is too simple, real people are much more complicated and there are for sure other features which can influence a process of protesting. Yes, that is true, but it was our choice – when we construct a model, we start from making decisions on choosing some elements and skipping the others, depending on what phenomenon we want to present.

pixilated human from minecraft realistically looking human from sims Source: Minecraft and The Sims 4

Simpler Models are Easier to Analyse

There is one important principle: the simpler model we choose, the easier it is to control the process and to analyse it. On the other hand, a more complicated model will be closer to real life. The decision is in our hands. Remember, we can always start from something very simple and then add more features gradually. For example we can decide that apart from the threshold, political views of Fruit County citizens could be important. Then we can add this feature, remodel the whole process a bit, and see what happens. However, sometimes a simpler model, with a very elementary concept of individual behaviour is enough to show the most important parts of mechanisms.

Now let’s take a look at a quite well-known model of the human body used for testing car safety, the crash test dummy.

a crush dummy sitting behind the wheel of a car Source: wikipedia

You can see that – in some aspects – it is definitely more complicated than Fruit County inhabitants but still much simpler than real people! For example, crash test dummies have a weight and height and – which may come as a surprise – articulating vertebrae, but – if we compare them to Appeltoners – they do not have any willingness to protest. Here, we should come back to the purpose of constructing the model: crash test dummy has those features of a human being that are important in the case of car accidents while Appletoners and other Fruit County residents have the features that are important for understanding the dynamics typical for organising protests.

With all that in mind, please watch this video about crash test dummies (warning: contains some disturbing images of car accidents – artificial – but still a bit scary!).

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Think about features that crash test dummies have and try to compare it with features of real people and citizens of Fruit County.

© ACTISS
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People, Networks and Neighbours: Understanding Social Dynamics

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