A simple model of the emergence of resistance norms

Brief description

Briefly, the model used in this chapter (which is fully described in the appendix) represents a landscape where “patches” hold a certain reserve of a valuable resource that, for the sake of illustration, I will assume is grain. The population of 20 artificial agents represents workers who have the job collecting a certain amount of the valuable resource per minute (the quota formally established by the firm). Agents interact for a working period of 480 minutes. As suggested in the introductory section, a social norm may prescribe a working rhythm lower than that formally established by the managers. However, for that social norm to emerge two conditions have to be met:

  • (a) Agents have to be sensitive to others’ expectations. It is assumed that this happens through an “influence process”: agents will change their behavior if it differs from the behavior displayed by a number of agents in their local environments (see details in the appendix).
  • (b) Agents have to be sensitive to social sanctions provided by peers. In the model, a number of “unconditional agents” (see details in the appendix) will be introduced. These agents are invested with the capacity to sanction, but no assumption is made about the nature of the sanction or the nature of the internal psychological process driving the behavior of the target of the sanction[1].

Unconditional agents are assumed to be the “leaders” of the resistance behavior. They are unconditional in the sense that, whatever the behavior of other agents, they always produce below the manager’s quota. Other agents have a binary choice between collecting the quota or an amount below it (which, because of the exposition convenience, is fixed and the same for all agents). Thus, in the initial (“set up”) stage these agents are programmed to meet the quota. However, as the simulation runs, their behaviors will evolve according to the interaction rules mentioned above; this is why they are “conditional” agents.

Because the central interest of the paper is on the emergence of social norms of resistance among peer workers, other important features of the firm’s internal activity, such as the procedures for supervising workers’ activity or the effects of workers’ formal organization (i.e. unions) have been obviated in the model; which is not to say that they are not important at all in reality. Nonetheless, some conclusions related to unions’ activity will be derived based on the realization of the simulation results.

  • [1] Public goods experiments have shown that certain individuals have the capacity toimpose sanctions regardless of the cost; a trait that has been called “strong reciprocity”(Gintis 2000). It has been estimated that roughly one-third of the population holds thistrait.
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