Simulating hidden dynamics

Introducing Agent-Based Models as a tool for linkage analysis

  • Martin Wettstein University of Zurich
Keywords: Agent-Based Modeling, Simulation, Linkage analysis, Panel data, Media Effects


Linkage analyses use data from panel surveys and content analyses to assess media effects under field conditions and are able to close the gap between experimental and survey-based media effects research. Results from current studies and simulations indicate, however, that these studies systematically under-estimate real media effects as they aggregate measurement errors and reduce the complexity of media content. In response to these issues, we propose a new method for linkage analysis which applies agent-based simulations to directly assess short-term media effects using empirical data as guideposts.

Results from an example study modeling opinion dynamics in the run-up of a Swiss referendum show that this method clearly outperforms traditional regression-based linkage analyses in detail and explanatory power. In spite of the time-consuming modeling and computation process, this approach is a promising tool to study individual media effects under field conditions.

How to Cite
Wettstein, M. (2020). Simulating hidden dynamics. Computational Communication Research, 2(1), 1-33. Retrieved from