Abstract for: Modeling the Influence of Narratives on Collective Behavior

This paper combines System Dynamics Modeling of group behavior with theory of narrative influence and with data from social-media streams to predict social outcomes. Narrative theory describes how stories help people make sense of their world, and is being called upon to explain behavior in domains such as security, health care, and consumer behavior, among others. The model described in this paper quantifies the time-varying strength of cultural narratives as a degree of belief in the narrative’s explanatory power, updated heuristically in response to observations about similarity between cultural narratives and current events. The paper introduces Twitter posts as a proxy variable for measuring narrative- significant observations in the real world. Using this proxy, the research develops a case study of the violent riots in London in 2011, and demonstrates how relevant narratives can be identified, monitored, and included in behavior models to predict violent behavior.