The status-power arena: social status and gender in groups

Social life from a distance

If you look at social life from a distance, humans are like huge colonies of ants following rather simple rules. These rules are about status and power. Our social world is a status-power arena: people give status to those they love, repect, or fear, and they use power on those they want to correct or coerce.

Sociologist Theodore D. Kemper proposed the status-power theory of social relations. Gert Jan took it and tested it in an agent-based simulation. The simulation generates fictitious groups of schoolchildren on a playground. It shows the dynamics of their play. In particular, it shows consequences for gender-based status distribution in groups. Although the simulation is based on research at schools, much of it has analogies in adult life, for those willing to see them.

The cultural dimension of masculinity versus femininity is also implemented in the model. It is represented simply as the social tolerance to picking fights.

The model, an article about it, and some vdeos about it, are now all available online.

Reading the article

This an Open Access publication in the journal Artificial Intelligence & Society (Cite as Hofstede, Gert Jan; Jillian Student; Mark R. Kramer (2018) The status arena: A comprehensive agent-based model of social status dynamics and gender in groups of children. AI & Society (for online access: just click the title)

Hearing Gert Jan explain it

If you would like to hear Gert Jan explain the model, go to this youtube playlist.

Fiddling with it yourself

Those who would like to play with the model themselves, or use it to create other models, should download Netlogo (say ‘download netlogo’ to your search engine) and the model. The model can be found on ABM repository OpenABM: The simulation was created in version 5.3, but will probably run with coming versions.