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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Human Complex Systems


The Center for Human Complex Systems incorporates a group of scholars whose research focuses on the interaction of heterogeneous individuals. We examine how culture and structure co-evolve to influence behavior and interaction, thereby affecting system performance. Conversely, we consider how individual choices and social interaction shape, and are shaped by, system structure. We place particular emphasis on the role of information processes (how information gets represented, processed, and communicated), methods of social order-creation (competition, coevolution, self-organization, autopoiesis, restructuring) and redefinition (rule generation and selection, boundary construction, institution of culturally based conceptual structures) of social systems. Methodologically we emphasize agent-based computational methods as a way to incorporate agent heterogeneity in the study of social behavior of individual actor/agents inhabiting complex social systems.

Contact person: Dwight Read, Professor of Anthropology, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095 (

Cover page of On a Hierarchically Decomposed Agent

On a Hierarchically Decomposed Agent


The present manuscript is intended to informally elucidate my ideas on a general theory of collective behavior and structure formation, with a resulting architecture that can be broadly applied. The proposed model represents a decomposition of intent, based on the idea that an agent’s behavior, whether it represents an individual or a group, can be seen as an emergent property of a collection of intertwined aims and constraints. I consider a disentangled agent that is formed by multiple and relatively independent components. Part of the resulting agent’s task is to present alternatives, or ‘fields of action’ to its component selves. Correspondingly, the composed agent is itself constrained by a field of action that the superstructure to which it belongs presents. The superstructure of agents possesses a certain amount of cohesion, and can thus be ascribed agency and modeled as a unit; its independent parts could be consciously or evolutionally constructed and aligned.

Cover page of Culture, Cultural Models, and the Division of Labor

Culture, Cultural Models, and the Division of Labor


“Cultural Models” (CM) is a term that has come to apply to culturally standardized and shared/distributed cognitive structures for explaining or structuring action. They contrast with more cultural conceptual systems (such as kinship or ethnobiological terminological systems) and more general procedures analyzing and imposing initial structure on new problems. They are functionally a little like Schank and Abelson’s “scripts”. CMs combine motives, emotions, goals, mechanisms, classificatory information, etc.--in each case, perhaps, cross-linking to separate cognitive structures within which these separate entities are organized, structured, and classified--into possible actions. CMs can be used by individual actors to generate behavior--often after some consideration of the downstream implications of the choice of one model over another--but are not themselves the individual internal cognitive schemas that actually generate behavior. Different CMs are cross-linked with one another in a variety of ways. One area of cross-linkage includes models held by members of a given community in responsse to similar situations (as in overlap among models for doing similar things, modes for use in similar situations, models involving similar attidudes or goals, and so forth). Another kind of cross-linkage involves models for more or less the same thing that are held by members of different communities--expecially where membership overlaps in one way or another. CMs have to be easily learned, productive, and systematic.

I want to discuss the implications of these kinds of overlap for the shape of cultural models and the way in which they are learned, held, and applied. Illustrative examples will be utilized, but no systematic formal description or model of CMs will be offered--it’s too soon.