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Welcome to the course!

In this step, we introduce the course Decision making in a Complex World.
An apple and a doughnut
© Andres Ayrton on

Welcome to the course Decision making in a Complex World.

Within the next three weeks, you will be exploring how human decision making can be represented in computer simulations. We will see how this helps to understand both the individual choices and the social dynamics of change, such as transitions in our diet, dealing with an energy transition, and adapting to a virus. On the way, you will have the opportunity to experience how computational approach to social problems works, with a focus on modelling decision making and social simulations. For that, we will use examples, and game-like tools – no mathematical and programming skills are required!

Each week of the course has a specific focus:

Week 1: Modelling individual choices

This week you will reflect on how people make decisions and judgments in a complex world. We will talk about how people choose houses, tea and means of transport. You will see that we can think about decisions in many different ways and that it is often not obvious what a rational choice is. On our way through the week we will talk about utilities, attributes, bounded rationality, and algorithms.

Week 2: The social context of decision making

This week, you will explore how individual decisions can be influenced by our social networks. You will see how this sociality of individual decisions can shape the environments in which we live. We will talk about information sharing and social norms. You will also have the opportunity to play with some simple computer models.

Week 3: Integrated models of decision making

This week you will have a chance to see how knowledge from various disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and economics can be used to understand our world better. We will talk about habits, innovation spread, city referenda, and social policy. You will also have the opportunity to think about models themselves and reflect on how they should be built to be useful.

Each week you will learn by engaging in different activities, such as watching videos, undertaking quizzes, reading articles, doing exercises, and discussing topics related to social dynamics with other learners.

What will you learn?

At the end of the course you should be able to:

  • Explain how humans make decisions, according to classic and more contemporary theories on human decision-making from different disciplines: economics, psychology, and sociology.
  • Explain how the environment and societal clues can shape choices and the other way around.
  • Apply a simple algorithm / model describing a decision process in a chosen situation.
  • Experiment with different individual decision processes and their impact on the social level.
  • Debate the need for accurate representation of individual choice and decision behaviour when analysing social phenomena.
  • Identify which human behaviour has been included in a (computational) model.

Share with others

We are looking forward to your contributions in the comment sections. Also, consider joining us on social media to build the debate. For those of you who use Twitter, the hashtag #FLdecisionmaking will help you to share ideas and experiences of the course. Don’t forget to check your privacy settings before posting anything to the course hashtag, to ensure you are happy.

More on social dynamics, modelling and simulations

This course is a part of ACTiSS – an educational initiative Action for Computational Thinking in Social Sciences – if you’re interested in the project, please check out our website.

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Decision Making in a Complex World: Using Computer Simulations to Understand Human Behaviour

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