Societal Transition: Toward a Dynamical Model of Social Change
This chapter describes a dynamic model of social change and presents the results of computer simulations developed to test the assumptions and predictions of this model. The central notion is that social change sometimes occurs rapidly in an abrupt and nonlinear manner. Social influence processes play a pivotal role in promoting such societal phase transitions. These processes and their group-and societal-level consequences are modeled within a cellular automata framework. The validity of the model is tested against empirical data collected during the societal transitions that occurred in Poland in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In addition to capturing the dynamics of social change, the model has important implications for designing programs to facilitate new attitudes and behaviors in society. The model also provides a framework for understanding cross-cultural differences in the dynamics of social influence and societal transition.