Surprisingly Stochastic: Learning and Application of Emergent Behavior Using Interactive Simulations of Nano-Mechanical Biological Systems

Paul F. Egan, Christian D. Schunn, Jonathan Cagan, Phillip R. LeDuc

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

Abstract

Emergent behavior is pervasive in complex systems, and often produces surprising phenomenon that are challenging to understand and apply usefully, especially with regards to inter-level causalities. Here, we study engineering undergraduates' capacity to understand and solve design problems concerning inter-level causalities in nanomechanical biological systems. To test user understanding and application of inter-level causalities in this system, we developed a GUI bolstered by an agent-based molecular simulation that calculates system performance and renders animations in real-time as users adjust design inputs. We randomly assigned undergraduate engineering students to design-based learning groups with support of either animated simulation rendering or charts. Both groups improved on a set of pre/post design problems. But on assessments of understanding of inter-level causal relationships, only the animation group demonstrated an understanding. Both groups were then presented contrasting animations of continuous and intermittent systems, resulting in about half of participants in each group demonstrating an understanding of inter-level causal behaviors. These findings demonstrate the difficulty in understanding inter-level causal relationships in emergent systems, the usefulness in interactive software tools in overcoming these difficulties, and that understanding of inter-causal relationships may improve performance in design applications.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014
PublisherThe Cognitive Science Society
Pages2151-2156
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780991196708
StatePublished - 2014
Event36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014 - Quebec City, Canada
Duration: Jul 23 2014Jul 26 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014

Conference

Conference36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014
Country/TerritoryCanada
CityQuebec City
Period07/23/1407/26/14

Keywords

  • Biomedical
  • Complex Systems Design
  • Emergence
  • Engineering
  • Graphical User Interface
  • Inter-level Causality
  • Learning
  • Multiscale

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