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Elementary Social Structure and the Resolution of Ambiguity: Some Results from a Computer Simulation Model

WILLIAM E. FEINBERG and NORRIS R. JOHNSON
Sociological Focus
Vol. 23, No. 4 (October 1990), pp. 315-331
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20831558
Page Count: 17
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Elementary Social Structure and the Resolution of Ambiguity: Some Results from a Computer Simulation Model
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Abstract

In this test with a computer simulation model of crowds we manipulate the presence of various elements of social structure (both microstructure and macrostructure) and investigate the impact of structure on crowd outcomes. The theoretical framework and computer simulation translation on which this work is based (Johnson and Feinberg 1989) assumes an ambiguous stituation confronting a gathering in which each member can be located on a 10-point scale of action-choices. In the milling process that ensues, cues for action are offered and crowd members respond by shifting their choices and/or physical locations; thus, consensus for action is achieved and crowd structure emerges. Our general expectations, based loosely on Blau's work, are that social structural conditions — initial aggregate distribution of action-choices, presence of social bonds, and sorting relationship between action-choice and physical location — influence the probabilities of interaction among those with similar action-choices and consequently affect crowd outcomes. Additionally, we hypothesize specifically that initial structural elements, by limiting individual choices, will reduce the variability in crowd outcomes. Results generally suggest that crowd structure has the expected effects.

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