John Wiley & Sons Agent-based Models and Causal Inference Cover Agent-based Models and Causal Inference Scholars of causal inference have given little credence to .. Product #: 978-1-119-70447-8 Regular price: $74.67 $74.67 In Stock

Agent-based Models and Causal Inference

Manzo, Gianluca

Wiley Series in Computational and Quantitative Social Science

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1. Edition March 2022
176 Pages, Hardcover
Wiley & Sons Ltd

ISBN: 978-1-119-70447-8
John Wiley & Sons

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Agent-based Models and Causal Inference

Scholars of causal inference have given little credence to the possibility that ABMs could be an important tool in warranting causal claims. Manzo's book makes a convincing case that this is a mistake. The book starts by describing the impressive progress that ABMs have made as a credible methodology in the last several decades. It then goes on to compare the inferential threats to ABMs versus the traditional methods of RCTs, regression, and instrumental variables showing that they have a common vulnerability of being based on untestable assumptions. The book concludes by looking at four examples where an analysis based on ABMs complements and augments the evidence for specific causal claims provided by other methods. Manzo has done a most convincing job of showing that ABMs can be an important resource in any researcher's tool kit.

Christopher Winship, Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University, USA

Agent-based Models and Causal Inference is a first-rate contribution to the debate on, and practice of, causal claims. With exemplary rigor, systematic precision and pedagogic clarity, this book contrasts the assumptions about causality that undergird agent-based models, experimental methods, and statistically based observational methods, discusses the challenges these methods face as far as inferences go, and, in light of this discussion, elaborates the case for combining these methods' respective strengths: a remarkable achievement.

Ivan Ermakoff, Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Agent-based models are a uniquely powerful tool for understanding how patterns in society may arise in often surprising and counter-intuitive ways. This book offers a strong and deeply reflected argument for how ABM's can do much more: add to actual empirical explanation. The work is of great value to all social scientists interested in learning how computational modelling can help unraveling the complexity of the real social world.

Andreas Flache, Professor of Sociology at the University of Groningen, Netherlands

Agent-based Models and Causal Inference is an important and much-needed contribution to sociology and computational social science. The book provides a rigorous new contribution to current understandings of the foundation of causal inference and justification in the social sciences. It provides a powerful and cogent alternative to standard statistical causal-modeling approaches to causation. Especially valuable is Manzo's careful analysis of the conditions under which an agent-based simulation is relevant to causal inference. The book represents an exceptional contribution to sociology, the philosophy of social science, and the epistemology of simulations and models.

Daniel Little, Professor of philosophy, University of Michigan, USA

Agent-based Models and Causal Inference delivers an insightful investigation into the conditions under which different quantitative methods can legitimately hold to be able to establish causal claims. The book compares agent-based computational methods with randomized experiments, instrumental variables, and various types of causal graphs.

Organized in two parts, Agent-based Models and Causal Inference connects the literature from various fields, including causality, social mechanisms, statistical and experimental methods for causal inference, and agent-based computation models to help show that causality means different things within different methods for causal analysis, and that persuasive causal claims can only be built at the intersection of these various methods.

Readers will also benefit from the inclusion of:
* A thorough comparison between agent-based computation models to randomized experiments, instrumental variables, and several types of causal graphs
* A compelling argument that observational and experimental methods are not qualitatively superior to simulation-based methods in their ability to establish causal claims
* Practical discussions of how statistical, experimental and computational methods can be combined to produce reliable causal inferences

Perfect for academic social scientists and scholars in the fields of computational social science, philosophy, statistics, experimental design, and ecology, Agent-based Models and Causal Inference will also earn a place in the libraries of PhD students seeking a one-stop reference on the issue of causal inference in agent-based computational models.

List of Acronyms xi

List of Tables xii

Preface xiii

The Book in a Nutshell xvii

Introduction 1

1 The Book's Question 3

2 The Book's Structure 6

Part I: Conceptual and Methodological Clarifications 9

1 The Diversity of Views on Causality and Mechanisms 11

1.1 Causal Inference 11

1.2 Dependence and Production Accounts of Causality 13

1.3 Horizontal and Vertical Accounts of Mechanisms 17

1.3.1 Vertical versus Horizontal View 19

1.3.2 Horizontal versus Vertical View 21

1.4 Causality and Mechanism Accounts, and ABM's Perception 22

2 Agent-based Models and the Vertical View on Mechanism 25

2.1 ABMs and Object-oriented Programming 26

2.2 ABMs and Heterogeneity 27

2.3 ABMs and Micro-foundations 28

2.4 ABMs and Interdependence 28

2.5 ABMs and Time 29

2.6 ABMs and Multi-level Settings 30

2.7 Variables within Statistical Methods and ABMs 31

3 The Diversity of Agent-based Models 33

3.1 Abstract versus Data-driven ABMs: An Old Opposition 34

3.2 Abstract versus Data-driven ABMs: Recent Trends 36

3.3 Theoretical, Input, and Output Realism 38

3.4 Different Paths to More Realistic ABMs 40

3.4.1 "Theoretically Blind" Data-driven ABMs 41

3.4.2 "Theoretically Informed" Data-driven ABMs 45

Part 2: Data and Arguments in Causal Inference 49

4 Agent-based Models and Causal Inference 51

4.1 ABMs as Inferential Devices 52

4.1.1 The Role of "Theoretical Realism" 52

4.1.2 The Role of "Output Realism" and Empirical Validation 54

4.1.3 The Role of "Input Realism" and Empirical Calibration 55

4.1.4 In Principle Conditions for Causally Relevant ABMs 57

4.1.5 Can Data-driven ABMs Produce Information on Their Own? 58

4.2 In Practice Limitations 59

4.2.1 ABMs' Granularity and Data Availability 59

4.2.2 ABM's Granularity and Data Embeddedness 61

4.3 From-Within-the-Method Reliability Tools 62

4.3.1 Sensitivity Analysis 64

4.3.2 Robustness Analysis 65

4.3.3 Dispersion Analysis 65

4.3.4 Model Analysis 66

5 Causal Inference in Experimental and Observational Methods 69

5.1 Causal Inference: Cautionary Tales 71

5.2 In Practice Untestable Assumptions 73

5.2.1 RCTs and Heterogeneity 73

5.2.2 IVs and the "Relevance" Condition 74

5.2.3 DAGs, Causal Discovery Algorithms and Graph Indistinguishability 76

5.3 In Principle Untestable Assumptions 79

5.3.1 RCTs and "Stable Unit Treatment Value Assumption" (SUTVA) 79

5.3.2 IVs and the "Exclusion" Condition 81

5.3.3 DAGs and Strategies for Causal Identification 83

5.3.3.1 DAGs and the "Backdoor" Criterion 83

5.3.3.2 DAGs and the "Front Door" Criterion 84

5.4 Are ABMs, Experimental and Observational Methods Fundamentally Similar? 85

5.4.1 Objection 1: ABM Lacks "Formal" Assumptions 86

5.4.2 Objection 2: ABM Lacks "Materiality" 89

5.4.3 Objection 3: ABMs Lack "Robustness" 91

5.5 A Common Logic: "Abduction" 94

6 Method Diversity and Causal Inference 95

6.1 Causal Pluralism, Causal Exclusivism, and Evidential Pluralism 97

6.2 A Pragmatist Account of Evidence 99

6.3 Evidential Pluralism and "Coherentism" 101

6.4 When is Diverse Evidence Most Relevant? 104

6.5 Examples of Method Synergies 106

6.5.1 Obesity: ABMs and Regression Models 106

6.5.2 Network Properties: ABMs and SIENA Models 109

6.5.3 HIV prevalence: ABMs and RCTs 111

6.5.4 HIV treatments: ABMs and DAG-based identification strategies 113

Coda 115

1 Possible Objections 116

1.1 Causation is Not Constitution 117

1.2 Lack of a Specific Research Strategy 118

1.3 A Limited Methodological Spectrum 119

2 Summary 121

References 127

Index 149
Scholars of causal inference have given little credence to the possibility that ABMs could be an important tool in warranting causal claims. Manzo's book makes a convincing case that this is mistake. The book starts by describing the impressive progress that ABMs have made as a credible methodology in the last several decades. It then goes on to compare the inferential threats to ABMs versus the traditional methods of RCTs, regression, and instrumental variables showing that they have common vulnerability of being based on untestable assumptions. The book concludes by looking at four examples where an analysis based on ABMs complements and augments the evidence for specific causal claims provided by other methods. Manzo has done a most convincing job of showing that ABMs can be an important in any researcher's tool kit.


--Christopher Winship, professor of sociology at Harvard University

Agent-based Models and Causal Inference is a first-rate contribution to the debate on, and practice of, causal claims. With exemplary rigor, systematic precision and pedagogic clarity, this book contrasts the assumptions about causality that undergird agent-based models, experimental methods, and statistically based observational methods, discusses the challenges these methods face as far as inferences go, and, in light of this discussion, elaborates the case for combining these methods' respective strengths: a remarkable achievement.

-- Ivan Ermakoff, professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Agent-based models are a uniquely powerful tool for understanding how patterns in society may arise in often surprising and counter-intuitive ways. This book offers a strong and deeply reflected argument for how ABM's can do much more: add to actual empirical explanation. The work is of great value to all social scientists interested in learning how computational modelling can help unraveling the complexity of the real social world.

-- Andreas Flache, professor of sociology at the University of Groningen

Agent-based Models and Causal Inference is an important and much-needed contribution to sociology and computational social science. The book provides a rigorous new contribution to current understandings of the foundation of causal inference and justification in the social sciences. It provides a powerful and cogent alternative to standard statistical causal-modeling approaches to causation. Especially valuable is Manzo's careful analysis of the conditions under which an agent-based simulation is relevant to causal inference. The book represents an exceptional contribution to sociology, the philosophy of social science, and the epistemology of simulations and models.

-- Daniel Little, professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan
Gianluca Manzo is a professor of sociology at Sorbonne University and a fellow of the European Academy of Sociology. He has held various positions at institutions across the world including Nuffield College, Columbia University, the European University Institute (EUI), and the Universities of Oslo, Barcelona, Cologne, and Trento.

G. Manzo, Sorbonne University, Paris, France