Agent-based models in human behaviors

Agent-based models in human behaviors

When we started in the field of computational methods for obesity research, we knew that an individual received feedback from the environment as well as peers. However, little was known about the relative importance of these two sources of influence. We led the development of the first models that explored how physical activity and food behaviors were shaped by both social and environmental influences (Giabbanelli et al., 2012). Through simulation studies, it became apparent that both sources of influence contributed to a similar order of magnitude to weight change in the population. This finding was particularly important for obesity research at the time, as the nascent modeling community was focusing on the role of peers while downplaying the contribution of the environment. This early model was later improved by detailing the environment, thus allowing to study specific phenomena such as food deserts (Zhang et al., 2014). While these studies have focused on simulating human behavior in overweight and obesity, we have also examined other complex health problems, leading for examples to new models for binge drinking (Giabbanelli & Crutzen, 2013).

Key references:

  • Giabbanelli, P.J., Alimadad, A., Dabbaghian, V., Finegood, D.T. (2012) Modeling the influence of social networks and environment on energy balance and obesity. Journal of Computational Science, 3, 17-27.
  • Giabbanelli, P.J., Crutzen, R. (2013) An agent-based social network model of binge drinking among Dutch adults. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulations, 16(2).
  • Zhang, D., Giabbanelli, P.J., Arah, O.A., Zimmerman, F.J. (2014) Impact of different policies on unhealthy dietary behaviors in an urban adult population: an agent-based simulation model. American Journal of Public Health, 104(7), 1217-1222.

Key collaborators:

  • Dr. Rik Crutzen, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • Dr. Diane T. Finegood, Simon Fraser University, Canada
  • Dr. Donglan Zhang, University of Georgia, USA