The Etiology of Social Change


should be sent to Kathleen M. Carley, Professor, Institute for Software Research, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. E-mail:


A fundamental aspect of human beings is that they learn. The process of learning and what is learned are impacted by a number of factors, both cognitive and social; that is, humans are boundedly rational. Cognitive and social limitations interact, making it difficult to reason about how to provide information to impact what humans know, believe, and do. Herein, we use a multi-agent dynamic-network simulation system, Construct, to conduct such reasoning. In particular, we ask, What media should be used to provide information to most impact what people know, believe, and do, given diverse social structures? All simulated agents are boundedly rational both at the cognitive and social level, and so are subject to factors such as literacy, education, and the breadth of their social network. We find that there is no one most effective intervention; rather, to be effective, messages and the media used to spread the message need to be selected for the population being addressed. Typically, a multimedia campaign is critical.