In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Computational Social Science

  • Introduction
  • Origins
  • Journals and Book Series

Political Science Computational Social Science
R. Michael Alvarez, Seo-young Silvia Kim
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 October 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0285


Social scientists have long made use of advanced computational techniques in their research. There have been two very different applications of computational technologies in social science: one largely about simulation of complex political interactions, the other focused on the use of computational approaches with data to estimate models of political phenomenon. In this chapter, our emphasis is generally on the latter area of computational social science, and while we provide some grounding in the early and foundational work in this area, we mainly discuss recent research in computational social science applications involving data and model estimation.


Early on in the development of computing, with the growing adoption of mainframe computers in government and industry in the late 1950s and early 1960s, political and social scientists began to develop innovative ways to take advantage of this new technology. Early applications of computational social science focused more on the use of these new technologies for simulation studies on a wide variety of substantive and methodological topics. One area of interest for computational simulations regarded political behavior and electoral politics, as discussed in de Sola Pool, et al. 1965 and McPhee 1963, while the other area of interest was simulations for complex models in international relations, as seen in Guetzkow, et al. 1963.

  • de Sola Pool, Ithiel, Robert P. Abelson, and Samuel L. Popkin. Candidates, Issues, and Strategies: A Computer Simulation of the 1960 and 1964 Presidential Elections. Rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965.

    An early use of survey data and computational techniques, with the goal being the forecasting of electoral behavior in the 1960 and 1964 US presidential elections.

  • Guetzkow, Harold, Chadwick F. Alger, Richard A. Brody, Robert C. Noel, and Richard C. Snyder. Simulation in International Relations: Developments for Research and Teaching. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963.

    A volume describing the use of computational approaches for simulating complex interactions of international relations, for both research and teaching.

  • McPhee, William N. Formal Theories of Mass Behavior. New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1963.

    A series of studies in the development of complex formal models of mass political and social behavior, and of computational approaches for their simulation.

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