Spatially explicit experiments for the exploration of land-use decision-making dynamics

Tom P. Evans, Wenjie Sun, Hugh Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We explore the special outcomes of decision-making through two laboratory-based experiments, one with a homogenous land suitability surface and another with a heterogeneous suitability surface. Subjects make resource allocation decisions on an abstract landscape and are given a monetary incentive to maximize their revenue during the experiment. These experimental results are compared with simulation output from an agent-based model run on the same abstract landscape that uses a utility-maximizing agent. The main findings are: (1) landscapes produced by subjects result in greater patchiness and more edge than the utility-maximization agent predicts; (2) there is considerable diversity in the decisions subjects make despite the relatively simple decision-making context; and (3) there is greater deviation of subject revenue from the maximum potential revenue in early rounds of the experiment compared with later rounds, demonstrating the challenge of making optimal decisions with little historical context. The findings demonstrate the value of using non-maximizing agents in agent-based models of land-cover change and the importance of acknowledging actor heterogeneity in land-change systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1013-1037
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • Agent-based modelling
  • Experiments
  • GIS
  • Land cover
  • Land-use change
  • Model validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Library and Information Sciences


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