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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2017-18
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Review article
02 Mar 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).
How to represent human behavior and decision making in Earth system models? A guide to techniques and approaches
Finn Müller-Hansen1,2, Maja Schlüter3, Michael Mäs4, Rainer Hegselmann5,6, Jonathan F. Donges1,3, Jakob J. Kolb1,2, Kirsten Thonicke1, and Jobst Heitzig1 1Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Telegrafenberg A31, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
2Department of Physics, Humboldt University Berlin, Newtonstraße 15, 12489 Berlin, Germany
3Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B, 114 19 Stockholm, Sweden
4Department of Sociology and ICS, University of Groningen, Grote Rozenstraat 31, 9712 TG Groningen, the Netherlands
5Frankfurt School of Finance & Manangement, Sonnemannstraße 9–111 60314 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
6Bayreuth Research Center for Modeling and Simulation, Bayreuth University, Universitätsstrasse 30, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany
Abstract. In the Anthropocene, humans have a critical impact on the Earth system and vice versa, which can generate complex feedback processes between social and ecological dynamics. Integrating human behavior into formal Earth System Models (ESMs), however, requires crucial modeling assumptions about actors and their goals, behavioral options and decision rules, as well as modeling decisions regarding human social interactions and the aggregation of individuals' behavior. In this tutorial review, we compare existing modeling approaches and techniques from different disciplines and schools of thought dealing with human behavior at various levels of decision making. Providing an overview over social-scientific modeling approaches, we demonstrate modelers' often vast degrees of freedom but also seek to make modelers aware of the often crucial consequences of seemingly innocent modeling assumptions.

After discussing which socio-economic units are potentially important for ESMs, we review models of individual decision making that correspond to alternative behavioral theories and that make diverse modeling assumptions about individuals' preferences, beliefs, decision rules, and foresight. We discuss approaches to model social interaction, covering game theoretic frameworks, models of social influence and network models. Finally, we elaborate approaches to study how the behavior of individuals, groups and organizations can aggregate to complex collective phenomena, discussing agent-based, statistical and representative-agent modeling and economic macro-dynamics. We illustrate the main ingredients of modeling techniques with examples from land-use dynamics as one of the main drivers of environmental change bridging local to global scales.


Citation: Müller-Hansen, F., Schlüter, M., Mäs, M., Hegselmann, R., Donges, J. F., Kolb, J. J., Thonicke, K., and Heitzig, J.: How to represent human behavior and decision making in Earth system models? A guide to techniques and approaches, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2017-18, in review, 2017.
Finn Müller-Hansen et al.
Finn Müller-Hansen et al.
Finn Müller-Hansen et al.

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Short summary
Today, human interactions with the Earth system lead to complex feedbacks between social and ecological dynamics. Modeling such feedbacks explicitly in Earth System Models (ESMs) requires making assumptions about individual decision making and behavior, social interaction and their aggregation. In this tutorial review, we compare different modeling approaches and techniques and highlight important consequences of modeling assumptions. We illustrate them with examples from land-use dynamics.
Today, human interactions with the Earth system lead to complex feedbacks between social and...
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