In this thesis we present our work, where we developed artificial societies of intelligent agents, in order to understand and simulate adaptive behaviour and social processes. We obtain this in three parallel ways: First, we present a behaviours production system capable of reproducing a high number of properties of adaptive behaviour and of exhibiting emergent lower cognition. Second, we introduce a simple model for social action, obtaining emergent complex social processes from simple interactions of imitation and induction of behaviours in agents. And third, we present our approximation to a behaviours virtual laboratory, integrating our behaviours production system and our social action model in animats. In our behaviours virtual laboratory, the user can perform a wide variety of experiments, allowing him or her to test the properties of our behaviours production system and our social action model, and also to understand adaptive and social behaviour. It can be accessed and downloaded through the Internet. Before presenting our proposals, we make an introduction to artificial intelligence and behaviour-based systems, and also we give notions of complex systems and artificial societies. In the last chapter of the thesis, we present experiments carried out in our behaviours virtual laboratory showing the main properties of our behaviours production system, of our social action model, and of our behaviours virtual laboratory itself. Finally, we discuss about the understanding of adaptive behaviour as a path for understanding cognition and its evolution
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