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Empirically Discriminating between Chaotic and Stochastic Time Series

  • John T. Williams and Robert Huckfeldt

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In recent years, more and more social scientists have begun to view the world as inherently probabilistic (Suppes 1984; Gigerenzer 1987). Without detailing the philosophical underpinnings of such a view, this subtle movement away from deterministic positivism has been fed, in large part, by a recognition of the indeterminacy of strategic interaction among individuals and the inevitability of uncertainty in social relations (Boudon 1986). Chaos theory provides an alternative viewpoint from which to view indeterminacy because the complexity we see in the real world may, in theory, be a reflection of chaotic dynamics resulting from simple deterministic structures (Huckfeldt 1990). Particularly when processes are generated by social or strategic interaction among actors, nonlinear models provide useful representations and chaotic outcomes become conceivable. In short, the existence of a complex social reality is in itself inadequate evidence of indeterminacy.

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