The Emperor’s Dilemma (Centola, Willer & Macy, 2005) models how norms spread among populations despite low popularity. Similar to the Salem witch trials of the 17th century, the phenomenon is caused “not by an outbreak of deviance, but of enforcement.” A few agents who are ‘true believers’ in the norm make it costly for nonbelievers to not take a stance — despite their indifference or even opposition, they become enforcers of the norm and cause it to spread across the population. This results in an environment where few actually believe in the dominant norm, but nearly all enforce it.
In this simulation, agents are connected in a small world network (most agents connected to those close to them, with a few ‘random’ connections to far-flung others). Red agents represent those complying with the norm, and the few yellow agents are those ‘true believers’ who always enforce the norm. Agents who do not believe in the norm will comply and enforce it if they see enough of their neighbors enforcing it. By adjusting the
cost, percentage of
strength (maximum conviction against the norm), and
rewire parameters, the spread of the norm will take different trajectories. What dynamics lead to it spreading more quickly, slowing, or halting?