Engineering the emergence of norms: a review

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Complex systems often exhibit emergent behaviour, unexpected macro-level behaviour caused by the interaction of micro-level components. In multiagent systems, these micro-level components may be autonomous agents and the emergent behaviour may be expressed as norms: patterns of behaviour that arise among the agents in response to their environment and each other. These emergent norms may be beneficial (for example, by encouraging cooperative behaviour), or detrimental, but in either case it is useful to recognise these norms as they emerge and either encourage or discourage their establishment. We term this process engineering the emergence of norms and have identified three steps: the identification of a possible norm, evaluation of its benefit, and its encouragement (or discouragement). This paper is an attempt to provide a survey
of existing research related to these steps. We also provide an analysis of the approaches based upon their suitability for a variety of normative systems: we examine the requirements for agents to have autonomy over their choice of norms, the degree of observability required in the system, and the norm enforcement methods. The paper concludes with an discussion of open issues.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere18
Early online date22 Aug 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Aug 2017


  • Multi-agent Systems
  • Norms
  • Emergent behaviour


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