Agent-based modeling: the right mathematics for the social sciences?

Campus Units


Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Version

Submitted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Elgar Companion to Recent Economic Methodology


John Bryan Davis and D. Wade Hands


Edward Elgar

Place of Publication

New York, NY

First Page or Article ID Number


Last Page



This study provides a basic introduction to agent-based modeling (ABM) as a powerful blend of classical and constructive mathematics, with a primary focus on its applicability for social science research. The typical goals of ABM social science researchers are discussed along with the culture-dish nature of their computer experiments. The applicability of ABM for science more generally is also considered, with special attention to physics. Finally, two distinct types of ABM applications are summarized in order to illustrate concretely the duality of ABM: Real-world systems can not only be simulated with verisimilitude using ABM; they can also be efficiently and robustly designed and constructed on the basis of ABM principles.

JEL Classification

B4, C6, C9, D, E


This is a working paper of a chapter published in Elgar Companion to Recent Economic Methodology, Ch. 11, John Bryan Davis and D. Wade Hands (eds.), Edward Elgar Publishers, New York, NY, (2011): 228-258.