Simulating Withdrawal Behaviors in Work Organizations: An Example of a Virtual Society

Steven T. Seitz, Charles L. Hulin, Kathy A. Hanisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article discusses computational modeling as a research discipline increasingly accessible to researchers in the social and behavioral sciences, a method necessary to allow us to address several important questions. Construction and use of virtual societies in which complex behavioral processes may be simulated in exquisite detail is possible because of the capacity and speed of desk top computers combined with requisite theoretical and methodological developments. Modeling has strengths orthogonal and complementary to those of the experimental tradition and correlational analyses of individual differences. These strengths can be exploited in many areas of psychology. Behavioral processes within a segment of a virtual society can be simulated with extreme levels of realism using overarching theoretical and empirical framework; segments can be combined to provide more macro statements. Variables that represent forces impinging on individuals from the macro-environment; variables that characterize relatively more micro-environments such as a work organization or the family or a classroom; and individual-level variables that summarize attitudinal, cognitive, and value states or traits can be included easily in simulations. Researchers can decompose and evaluate the interplay of multi-level causal forces as they interact within different theoretical models of how individuals enact different, interrelated behaviors. Temporal dynamics of behavioral processes, not well addressed by traditional research disciplines, can be exploited in modeling to permit the realistic study of dynamical, nonlinear systems. These points are illustrated by results from a program designed to simulate the process by which individuals withdraw from aversive work situations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-65
JournalNonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


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