About Dr Michael Harre

I am interested in the dynamics of large systems and how they can suddenly change, causing catastrophic and unpredictable changes. These changes can be seen in the dynamics of brain imaging, artificial neural networks, financial markets, economics, social networks and have been predicated in climate change.

The goal of my work has been to understand if we are at risk from sudden disasters such as a economic or financial collapse, abrupt climate change or the collapse of our social infrastructure. This is one of the key issues we are confronted with today, we live in a complex network of relationships and interdependencies and so it is very hard to know whether we are in a ‘safe’ position or a ‘risky’ position, and how are we be able to tell one from the other?

Collaborating with NASA I have developed a new type of equilibrium for economic games that has been extended to a neural network model of our ‘Theory of Mind’: The neural structures of me thinking about you thinking about me, and how this leads to the complex social networks in which we live. In a similar direction I have developed a model for the ‘perceptual templates’ that an expert learns over time, it is these templates that allow experts to see the world in fundamentally different ways to the rest of us. I have recently combined these two different systems of thinking into a single model of social and perceptual expertise using a unified neural framework. In a different but related direction I have been working on a new approach to describing the collapse of financial markets using information theory. Through this approach market crashes are like the ‘phase transitions’ that physicists study: A small change in a parameter like temperature can spontaneously change water to ice and markets can go through similar transitions at crashes. These phase transitions change the whole system and I have recently published several articles on these tipping points in financial markets, economics and other complex social contexts.

Understanding ‘socio-economic phase transitions’ is one of the most important areas of fundamental research in Complex Systems and the new approaches we have been developing promise to lead to ground breaking new discoveries in the way financial panics can spread like contagious diseases through financial markets. But these financial wild fires are based on the way in which we make decisions, both as individuals and collectively, so what’s going on inside our heads, in our individual neural networks, when we make these decisions? Answering these questions will help us understand how our decisions have led to the world in which we live in and how that world can be made a more stable and sustainable place in which to enjoy our lives.

Selected publications

  • Simple Nonlinear Systems and Navigating Catastrophes Harré, M., Atkinson, S., Hossain, L. (2013). Eur. Phys. J. B: Condensed Matter and Complex System, 86:289 DOI 10.1140/epjb/e2013-31064-x.
  • From Amateur to Professional: A Neuro-Cognitive Model of Categories and Expert Development, Harré, M. (2013). Minds and Machines: DOI 10.1007/s11023-013-9305-7
  • Information and Phase Transitions in Socio-Economic Systems Bossomaier, T., Barnett, L., Harré, M. (2013). Complex Adaptive Systems Modeling, 1:9 DOI 10.1186/2194-3206-1-9
  • The Perceptual Cues that Reshape Expert Reasoning, Harré, M., Bossomaier, T. & Snyder, A. (2012). Nature: Scientific Reports, issue 2, article no. 502, DOI: 10.1038/srep00502.
  • Hysteresis effects of changing the parameters of noncooperative games. Wolpert, D., Harré, M., Olbrich, E., Bertschinger, N. & Jost, J. (2012). Physical Review E. 85, 036102.
  • Social Network Size Linked to Brain Size, Harré, M. (2012). Scientific American, August 7th 2012.
  • Seeing the Big Picture: Influence of Global Factors on Local Decisions. Bossomaier, T., Harré, M. & Thiruvarudchelvan, V. (2012). International Journal on Advances in Software, vol. 5, no. 1.
  • Strategic Choice of Preferences: The Persona Model, Wolpert, D., Jamison, J., Newth, D. & Harré, M. (2011). The B.E. Journal in Theoretical Economics [Topics], vol. 11, issue 1, article 18.
  • Equity Trees and Graphs via Information Theory. Harré, M. & Bossomaier, T. (2009). European Physical Journal B: Condensed Matter and Complex Systems (Topical Issue: Interdisciplinary Applications of Physics in Economics and Finance), vol. 73, no. 1, p. 59-68.
  • Phase-transition-like behaviour of information measures in financial markets. Harré, M. & Bossomaier, T. (2009). Europhysics Letters, vol. 87, issue 1.