ERC Momentum

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Contact Person: Dr. Heinrich Nax

Duration: 06/2013 - present

Funding: ERC Advanced Grant (324247)

The Momentum project develops a new perspective on social systems by combining analytical sociology with evolutionary game theory, agent-based modeling, computational social science, complexity science, and experimental research. Our focus on co-evolutionary processes will shed new light on emergent phenomena in social systems to develop a perspective which views our world as a “social ecosystem”. We will overcome the problems of previous approaches by implementing social mechanisms, learning rules, and parameters in an evolutionary way. Our major goal is to show how a “homo socialis” can emerge as the result of evolutionary competition. For this, we will demonstrate that strict payoff maximization or mechanistic, stimulus-response interactions may eventually be replaced by other-regarding behaviors.

In particular, we will study how social cooperation and social norms emerge from repeated social interactions. Furthermore, we will equip agents with small virtual “brains” to simulate the co-evolution of individual and societal complexity. This will add cognitive complexity to our modeling approach and allow us to study the origins and effects of subjectivity, but also the early stages in human social evolution. We plan to demonstrate that, in a complex society, agents with bounded rationality can perform equally well as a perfect “homo economicus”, and that both types of agents emerge and spread under different conditions.

Our project is broad and highly interdisciplinary. It combines various methodologies and pursues an innovative approach which harnesses the power of complexity science to solve long-standing scientific puzzles. It has the potential to bridge previously incompatible research traditions by revealing unexpected and seemingly paradoxical relationships between them. Thereby, it will help to overcome existing controversies and the related fragmentation of the social sciences.

Projects related to the ERC Momentum project are New Economic Thinking, Evolutionary Game Theory, and Habitat Lab Maelzel.


S. Balietti, R. L. Goldstone, D. Helbing (2016). Peer review and competition in the Art Exhibition Game. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201603723.

D. Helbing, and H. Gintis. (2015). Homo Socialis: An Analytical Core for Sociological Theory. Review of Behavioral Economics, 2 (1-2): 1-59. [The entire Review of Behavioral Economics, 2 (1-2), is dedicated as a double-special issue to this target article (edited by J. Barkley Rosser, Jr.)]

M. Schich, C. Song, Y. Y. Ahn, A. Mirsky, M. Martino, A. L. Barabási, and D. Helbing (2014). A network framework of cultural history. Science 345(6196), 558-562.

K.-K. Kleineberg, D. Helbing (2016). A “Social Bitcoin” could sustain a democratic digital world. Eur. Phys. J. Special Topics. Forthcoming.

M.U.G. Kraemer, N.R. Faria, R.C.Reiner Jr., N. Golding, B. Nikolay, M. A. Johansson, H. Salje, O. Faye,  G.R.W. Wint, M. Niedrig, F.M. Shearer, D. Bisanzio, H.H. Nax, B.S.R. Pradelski, N.R. Murphy, J.S. Brownstein, A.J. Tatem, T. de Oliveira, D.L. Smith, O.G. Pybus, S.I. Hay, and S. Cauchemez (2016). Spread of Yellow Fever Virus outbreak in Central Africa 2015-2016. Lancet Infectious Diseases. Forthcoming.

H. H. Nax,  M. N. Burton-Chellew, Stuart A. West and H. Peyton Young (2016). Learning in a black box. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 127: 1-15.

H. H. Nax, and B. S.R. Pradelski (2016). Core stability and core selection in a decentralized labor matching market. Games, 7.10: 1-16.

T. Sakamoto (2016). Computational Research on Mobile Pastoralism Using Agent-Based Modeling and Satellite Imagery. PloS one 11.3.

T. Sakamoto (2016). Mobility and Sustainability: A Computational Model of African Pastoralists. Journal of Management and Sustainability 6: 1.

H. H. Nax and A. Rigos (2016). Assortativity evolving from social dilemmas. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 395: 194–203.

Micheal Mäs and Heinrich H Nax (2016). A behavioral study of “noise” in coordination games. Journal of Economic Theory 162: 195-208.

D. Helbing (2015). The Automation of Society is Next: How to Survive the Digital Revolution.

L. Böttcher, O. Woolley-Meza, N. A. Araújo, H. J. Herrmann and D. Helbing (2015). Disease-induced resource constraints can trigger explosive epidemics. Scientific reports, 5.

M. Leiss, H. H. Nax, and D. Sornette (2015). Super-exponential growth expectations and the Global Financial Crisis. Journal of Economic Dynamics & Control 55: 1-13.

R. P. Mann, R. Garnett (2015). The entropic basis of collective behaviour. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 12: 20150037.

S. Müller, M. Kapadia, S. Frey, S. Klinger, R. P. Mann, B.Solenthaler, R. W. Sumner and M. Gross (2015a). Statistical Analysis of Player Behavior in Minecraft. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games.

S. Müller, M. Kapadia, S. Frey, S. Klinger, R. P. Mann, B.Solenthaler, R. W. Sumner and M. Gross (2015b). HeapCraft: Understanding and Improving Player Collaboration in Minecraft. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games.

S. Müller, M. Kapadia, S. Frey, S. Klinger, R. P. Mann, B.Solenthaler, R. W. Sumner and M. Gross (2015c). Quantifying and Predicting Collaboration in Shared Virtual Worlds. Forthcoming in Proceedings of AIII Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment

H. H. Nax, R.  O. Murphy, and K. A. Ackermann (2015a). Interactive preferences. Economics Letters 135: 133-136.

H. H. Nax, M. Perc, A. Szolnoki, D. Helbing (2015). Stability of cooperation under image scoring in group interactions. Scientific Reports 5: 12145.

C. Gershenson, D. Helbing (2015). When slower is faster. Complexity, 21(2), 9-15.

H. H Nax (2015). Equity dynamics in bargaining without information exchange. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 25(5), 1011-1026.

C. Efferson, C. P. Roca, S. Vogt & D. Helbing (2015). Sustained cooperation by running away from bad behavior. Evolution and Human Behavior.

S. Balietti, M. Mäs, D. Helbing (2015). On Disciplinary Fragmentation and Scientific Progress. PLoS ONE 10(3), e0118747.

D. Helbing, D. Brockmann, T. Chadefaux, K. Donnay, U. Blanke, O. Woolley-Meza,M. Moussaid, A. Johansson, J. Krause, S. Schutte and M. Perc (2015). Saving Human Lives: What Complexity Science and Information Systems can Contribute. Journal of Statistical Physics 158(3), 735-781.

H. H. Nax, M. Perc (2015). Directional learning and the provisioning of public goods. Scientific Reports 5: 8010.

M. N. Burton-Chellew, H. H. Nax, S. A. West (2015). Payoff-based learning explains the decline in cooperation in public goods games. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 282(1801), 20142678.

H. H. Nax, B. S. R. Pradelski (2015). Evolutionary dynamics and equitable core selection in assignment games. International Journal of Game Theory, 1-30.

H. H. Nax (2014). A Note on the Core of TU-cooperative Games with Multiple Membership Externalities. Games 5(4), 191-203.

R. Mani, L. Böttcher, H. J. Herrmann, and D. Helbing (2014). Extreme power law in a driven many-particle system without threshold dynamics. Physical Review E 90(4), 042201.

D. Helbing, W. Yu, K. D. Opp, H. Rauhut (2014). Conditions for the Emergence of Shared Norms in Populations with Incompatible Preferences. PLOS ONE 9(8), e104207.

T. Kuhn, M. Perc, D. Helbing (2014). Inheritance patterns in citation networks reveal scientific memes. Physical Review X 4, 041036.

M. Schich, C. Song, Y. Y. Ahn, A. Mirsky, M. Martino, A. L. Barabási, and D. Helbing (2014). A network framework of cultural history. Science 345(6196), 558-562.

G. L. Ciampaglia, S. Lozano, D. Helbing (2014). Power and fairness in a generalized ultimatum game. PLOS ONE 9(6), e99039.

R. Bhavnani, K. Donnay, D. Miodownik, M. Mor, and D. Helbing (2014). Group Segregation and Urban Violence. American Journal of Political Science 58(1): 226–245

A. Emanuele Biondo, A. Pluchino, A. Rapisarda, and D. Helbing (2013). Reducing financial avalanches by random investments. Physical Review Letters 88, 062814.M.

M. Perc, K. Donnay, D. Helbing (2013). Understanding Recurrent Crime as System-Immanent Collective Behavior PLOS ONE 8(10): e76063.

T. Grund, C. Waloszek, D. Helbing (2013). How natural selection can create both self- and other-regarding preferences, and networked minds, Scientific Reports 3, 1480.

D. Helbing (2013). Economics 2.0: The natural step towards a self-regulating, participatory market society. Evolutionary and Institutional Economics Review 10(1), 3-41.


S. Balietti (nodeGame). nodeGame: Real-Time Social Experiments in the Browser.

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