Journal on Policy & Complex Systems Vol. 2, Issue 2, Fall 2015 - Page 111

Journal on Policy and Complex Systems - Fall 2015, Volume 2, Number 2 Thresholds of Behavioral Flexibility in Turbulent Environments for Individual and Group Success Andrea Jones-Rooy New York University. Contact The author thanks Dejan Duzevik, Rick Riolo, Scott E. Page, Robert Axelrod, Ted Carmichael, Mirsad Hadzikadic, and two anonymous reviewers. Abstract Adaptability is a central component of both individual and group success in a complex adaptive system, as well as a major part of policy design and implementation. Yet adaptability is often narrowly conceived and applied post hoc. In addition, we lack a general framework for understanding the circumstances under which it is desirable a priori. I propose behavioral flexibility as a useful conceptualization, operationalization, and measure of adaptability. I present an agent-based model that employs behavioral flexibility to evaluate the utility of adaptability to both individuals and groups in a turbulent environment. I find (1) there are thresholds of behavioral flexibility and environmental turbulence above and below which flexibility is undesirable at the individual level; (2) individual flexibility can contribute to group outcomes of, surprisingly, increased inequality and lost diversity; (3) very high levels of environmental turbulence can overshadow any benefit to flexibility, suggesting, counterintuitively, that the best strategy in a highly variable environment may be to stay constant; and (4) if everyone in a system is flexible, the benefits of adaptability for any one agent decrease. A final contribution is I am able to generate disadvantages to flexibility without relying on explicit costs to change, as is done in much of the literature on adaptability. In war as in life, it is often necessary when some cherished scheme has failed, to take up the best alternative open, and if so, it is folly not to work for it with all your might. Sir Winston Churchill (1948) Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty —never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Sir Winston Churchill (1941) 109 doi: 10.18278/jpcs.2.2.7