Newtonian Framework

The expression “interpretive framework” describes the norms, beliefs and guidelines that people use to explain what they see. People interpret events by fitting them into pre-existing pictures of similar events, which then act as a frame of reference for understanding the observed behaviour.  In the more restricted sense of scientifically quantifiable measurements, an interpretive framework consists of laws, patterns and archetypes that help understand behaviour. System dynamics is one such framework, based on stocks, flows and feedback.

The Newtonian interpretive framework uses familiar concepts from Newton’s laws of mechanics to help understand the behaviour of dynamical systems, including those of human behaviour. Thus, force, momentum, mass, Newtons’s three laws, etc. can be used to explain how people-based systems behave, both in the real world and the corresponding mathematical models. The framework is seen as complementing other frameworks, such as system dynamics and state-based equilibria and stability.  The name “sociomechanics” encompasses the general principle that the framework of mechanics can be applied to social systems.

Within system dynamics, the Newtonian framework proposes:

  • The causal connections between stocks can be described by force. Force represents the ability of one stock to cause acceleration in another stock.
  • The momentum of a stock is measured by the stock values of the stocks that influence it.
  • The mass of one stock with respect to another measures the degree of responsiveness of one stock to changes in another. Thus stocks have intertial resistance to change.
  • Stocks will remain level, or change uniformly, unless they are acted upon by a force, that is they are influenced by stocks that are themselves undergoing change. The first law of stock dynamics.
  • The acceleration of a stock produced by a net force is in proportion to that force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the stock. The second law of stock dynamics.
  • The force on a stock through a flow has an equal and opposite force on a stock at the other end of the flow. The third law of stock dynamics.