Quantum Models for Social Scientists (SS7X14)

Posted by jcm22 at May 13, 2015 05:25 PM |
An introduction to novel alternative approaches to model human decision-making in economics and cognition that use concepts inspired by quantum theory.
Duration: 8 hours
Thursday 28/05/2020 12pm-4pm
Friday 29/05/2020 12pm-4pm
Tutor Sandro Sozzo
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No prior knowledge or specific preparation is needed. In particular, no background in physics is required.



Suitable for

Second/third year (i.e. post-probation) students


Quantum theory was born at the beginning of the 20th century to explain experimental results that were paradoxical according to classical physics under a unitary and coherent theoretical framework. More recently, the application of this mathematical formalism of quantum theory outside physics and, in particular, in social and cognitive science, is rapidly growing and it is becoming a major alternative to traditional approaches in these domains.

Increasing empirical evidence confirms that human reasoning and decision-making violate the laws of classical logic and elementary probability theory. Such observed violations have deep consequences for behavioral disciplines where the formalisation of human decisions are at stake. These 'irrational' aspects of human reasoning are frequently called 'paradoxes', or 'effects' (e.g., prisoner dilemma; conjunction fallacy; disjunction effect; Ellsberg paradox).

Quantum theory provides the mathematical and conceptual framework to cope with these paradoxical situations. This module specifically deals with the use of the mathematics of quantum theory to model concrete decision-making and economic situations.

With the help of simple mathematical tools, we show how quantum effects can be visualized and how effective and powerful the quantum formalism is in these situations.



  • Fundamentals of probability theory
    We study the main differences between classical and quantum theories of probability and how the latter can be conceived as an extension of the former.
  • Modelling decision processes
    We illustrate two relevant case studies in decision theory, namely, the so-called “disjunction effect” and “conjunction fallacy”, where the rules of classical probability are experimentally violated. We show that quantum models agree instead with the collected data.
  • Decision processes in economics
    The effects above have their counterpart in economics, the Ellsberg paradox: people do not maximize their utility when betting, but they prefer sure to uncertain gambles. Concepts from quantum theory can explain why.
  • The combination problem in concept theory
    The human mind violates the rules of logic and probability when combining concepts. E.g., the conceptual conjunction “Fruits and Vegetables” cannot be represented as a logical conjunction of “Fruits” and “Vegetables”.
  • We show how a quantum model allows faithful modelling of a huge amount of data on combinations of two concepts.
In the discussion, students will be invited to participate in simple cognitive tests involving decisions under uncertainty.

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