There is considerable correspondence between theories and models used in biology and the social sciences. One type of model that is in use in both biology and the social sciences is the fitness landscape model. The properties of the fitness landscape model have been applied rather freely in the social domain. This is partly due to the versatility of the model, but it is also due to the difficulties of transferring a model to another domain. We will demonstrate that in order to transfer the biological fitness landscape model to the social science it needs to be substantially modified. We argue that the syntactic structure of the model can remain unaltered, whilst the semantic dimension requires considerable modification in order to fit the specific phenomena in the social sciences. We will first discuss the origin as well as the basic properties of the model. Subsequently, we will demonstrate the considerations and modifications pertaining to such a transfer by showing how and why we altered the model to analyse collective decision-making processes. We will demonstrate that the properties of the target domain allow for a transfer of the syntactic structure but don’t tolerate the semantic transfer.

doi.org/10.1007/s10539-018-9669-4, hdl.handle.net/1765/113969
Biology & Philosophy
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Marks, P.K, Gerrits, L.M, & Marx, J. (2019). How to use fitness landscape models for the analysis of collective decision-making: a case of theory-transfer and its limitations. Biology & Philosophy, 34(7). doi:10.1007/s10539-018-9669-4