Social and Cognitive Modelling

Social and Cognitive Modelling concerns the area of research in which knowledge of human behaviour and thought is used to better understand humans, artificial systems, and/or the interaction between humans and artificial systems. Preferably, this is done by developing, using, or testing formal simulations of human like behaviour (models), to encourage “understanding by building”.

Scientist Wearing Virtual Reality Headset

Social and Cognitive Modeling is an instantiation of interaction between AI and the social and behavioural sciences. These interactions have a long history. For example, at the famous Dartmouth workshop on AI the ambition was “to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it."

Since 1956, social and cognitive modelling has expanded, and roughly concerns with at least these four areas:

  • Understanding humans through the process of modeling, simulating, or building 
  • Using humans as inspiration for (system) design
  • Using human performance as a benchmark for systems performance
  • Human-AI interaction

Research in these areas is present at various faculties of Utrecht University. To succeed, Social and Cognitive Modeling requires multi- and interdisciplinary approaches in which there is more than merely “applying” one technique or method to a “domain”. It also requires fundamental studies into the underlying methods and domains, and cross-over between the two. The SIG therefore highly encourages inter- and multi-disciplinary collaborations.


The aim of the Special Interest Group Social and Cognitive Modeling is three-fold:

  1. To increase awareness of existing research in the domain of Social and Cognitive Modeling
  2. To foster and grow inter- and multi-disciplinary communities and collaborations within this domain
  3. To help the researchers in this domain flourish and succeed

To achieve these goals, we welcome help from all interested parties. If you have an idea, please contact the SIG leader: Dr. Chris Janssen


Research into Social and Cognitive Modeling occurs across the entire University, including: Social and Behavioral Sciences, Science, Humanities, Geosciences, and the Medical Hospital.


At the moment we are planning various activities, which will be announced at a later time.

Affiliated researchers

The following researchers are affiliated with the special interest group of Social and Cognitive Modeling. You are encouraged to check out their homepages, as each researcher focuses on a different aspect that is relevant to the theme. If you would like to be added to this list, please get in touch with the coordinator of this SIG, Dr. Chris Janssen.

Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance