Handbooks of Research Methods in Management series
Edited by Fergus Lyon, Guido Möllering and Mark N.K. Saunders
Chapter 5: Agent-based simulation of trust
Agent-based simulation is useful for exploring possible worlds, seeing what might happen under what conditions as a result of complex interaction between agents, as in the building and breaking of trust. A survey of some attempts is given, and a specific case is summarized. Shortcomings and problems are also indicated. With a variety of associates I had done a number of statistical/econometric studies of trust (Noorderhaven et al., 1998; Nooteboom et al., 1997, 2000) but when you find statistical associations between antecedents and outcomes of trust this does not tell you how trust processes work. So with other associates I turned to case studies (Klein Woolthuis et al., 2005), studying the development of trust over time, but this still does not trace how interactions produce the trust outcomes you find. Therefore with yet other associates I turned to agent-based simulation. Trust is an interactive phenomenon. People adjust their trust or distrust in others on the basis of observed actions and their interpretation. This becomes especially complex when there are multiple agents. In such complex interaction there may arise virtuous cycles of trust-building and vicious cycles of collapse. A natural method for investigating this is that of agent-based simulation, in which interaction is explicitly modelled. With this method one can study emergent properties that would be hard or impossible to tackle analytically.
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