Using qualitative reasoning for social simulation of crowds

Natalie Fridman, Gal A. Kaminka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The ability to model and reason about the potential violence level of a demonstration is important to the police decision making process. Unfortunately, existing knowledge regarding demonstrations is composed of partial qualitative descriptions without complete and precise numerical information. In this article we describe a first attempt to use qualitative reasoning techniques to model demonstrations. To our knowledge, such techniques have never been applied to modeling and reasoning regarding crowd behaviors, nor in particular demonstrations. We develop qualitative models consistent with the partial, qualitative social science literature, allowing us to model the interactions between different factors that influence violence in demonstrations. We then utilize qualitative simulation to predict the potential eruption of violence, at various levels, based on a description of the demographics, environmental settings, and police responses. We incrementally present and compare three such qualitative models. The results show that while two of these models fail to predict the outcomes of real-world events reported and analyzed in the literature, one model provides good results.We also examine whether a popular machine learning algorithm (decision tree learning) can be used. While the results show that the decision trees provide improved predictions, we show that the QR models can be more sensitive to changes, and can account for what-if scenarios, in contrast to decision trees. Moreover, we introduce a novel analysis algorithm that analyzes the QR simulations, to automatically determine the factors that are most important in influencing the outcome in specific real-world demonstrations. We show that the algorithm identifies factors that correspond to experts' analysis of these events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number54
JournalComputer Communication Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2013


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