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 International Conference on Complex Systems (ICCS2007)

Modeling Individuals Building Conceptual Structures: Knowledge Structure, Culture Bags and Creative Interests

Jonathan Feinstein
Yale School of Management

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     Last modified: June 25, 2007

The predominant form of modeling in economics and the social sciences does not describe individuals as distinctive, even unique, following unique paths of development. The distinctiveness of individuals is fundamental to our conception of liberty and the ways individuals make original contributions to society.

Individuals build up rich, distinctive conceptual structures over time, through pursuing their creative interests (Feinstein (2006, Stanford U. Press), The Nature of Creative Development). These conceptual structures are the basis for their insights and ideas, and, ultimately, contributions to society.


I have developed a computer simulation model of individuals building up conceptual structures in the domains of their creative interests. The model has 3 components. 1) A pool of cultural elements, divided into 3 sectors, two of which describe a field of activity and one of which describes broader culture. Part of this pool is used to form a knowledge structure for the field. 2) A set of individuals. 3) Culture bags which consist of elements drawn from the pool.
Each individual forms creative interests out of seed elements. Individuals then build up conceptual structures in the domains of their interests. In part this process is driven by individuals encountering culture bags, internalizing elements that overlap with their interests.


I use the model to explore the distinctiveness of the conceptual structures individuals build up in their interest domains. Results show how distinctiveness relates to (i) the form of the knowledge structure, (ii) the nature of culture bags, and (iii) the nature of individuals’ creative interests.

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