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Agent-Based Computational Laboratories for the Experimental Study of Complex Economic Systems


  • Leigh Tesfatsion

    () (Economics Iowa State University)


Computational laboratories (CLs) are computational frameworks that facilitate the study of complex system behaviors by means of controlled and replicable experiments. CLs permit students to engage in open-ended creative research, to explore interesting questions of their own devising for which answers are not known in advance. Students can tweak key parameters and get immediate run-time feedback of results through tables, charts, and other forms of graphical visualization with no original programming required. Moreover, students with programming backgrounds can modify and extend CL features to adapt them more closely to their desired applications. This talk will discuss the development of CLs as computer-based instructional materials for an agent-based computational economics (ACE) course, Econ 308, offered each Spring as part of the undergraduate economics curriculum at Iowa State University. ACE is the computational study of economies modeled as dynamic systems of interacting agents. Topics covered in this ACE course include: the complexity of decentralized market economies; learning and the embodied mind; network economics; and the experimental study of specific types of market processes (labor, financial, electricity, and general auction markets). CLs have been successfully used in this ACE course for take-home exercises, for in-class exercises, and as the basis for student course projects. REFERENCES: On-Line Syllabus for ACE Course (Econ 308): L. Tesfatsion, "Computational Laboratories for the Experimental Exploration of Complex System Behaviors: Phase II," Preliminary Project Report for LASCAS Grant, October 2004, available at

Suggested Citation

  • Leigh Tesfatsion, 2005. "Agent-Based Computational Laboratories for the Experimental Study of Complex Economic Systems," Computing in Economics and Finance 2005 72, Society for Computational Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sce:scecf5:72

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    Cited by:

    1. Tesfatsion, Leigh, 2006. "Agent-Based Computational Modeling And Macroeconomics," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12402, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    2. Tesfatsion, Leigh, 2007. "Agents come to bits: Towards a constructive comprehensive taxonomy of economic entities," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 333-346, June.

    More about this item


    Computational laboratory; Agent-based; Complex economic systems; Computer-aided instruction;

    JEL classification:

    • A20 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - General
    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology
    • C6 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling

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