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Homo-psychologicus: Reactionary behavioural aspects of epidemics

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We formulate an in silico model of pathogen avoidance mechanism and investigate its impact on defensive behavioural measures (e.g., spontaneous social exclusions and distancing, crowd avoidance and voluntary vaccination adaptation).

We formulate an in silico model of pathogen avoidance mechanism and investigate its impact on defensive behavioural measures (e.g., spontaneous social exclusions and distancing, crowd avoidance and voluntary vaccination adaptation). In particular, we use SIR(B)S (e.g., susceptible-infected-recovered with additional behavioural component) model to investigate the impact of homo-psychologicus aspects of epidemics. We focus on reactionary behavioural changes, which apply to both social distancing and voluntary vaccination participations. Our analyses reveal complex relationships between spontaneous and uncoordinated behavioural changes, the emergence of its contagion properties, and mitigation of infectious diseases. We find that the presence of effective behavioural changes can impede the persistence of disease. Furthermore, it was found that under perfect effective behavioural change, there are three regions in the response factor (e.g., imitation and/or reactionary) and behavioural scale factor (e.g., global/local) factors ρ–α behavioural space. Mainly, (1) disease is always endemic even in the presence of behavioural change, (2) behavioural-prevalence plasticity is observed and disease can sometimes be eradication, and (3) elimination of endemic disease under permanence of permanent behavioural change is achieved. These results suggest that preventive behavioural changes (e.g., non-pharmaceutical prophylactic measures, social distancing and exclusion, crowd avoidance) are influenced by individual differences in perception of risks and are a salient feature of epidemics. Additionally, these findings indicates that care needs to be taken when considering the effect of adaptive behavioural change in predicting the course of epidemics, and as well as the interpretation and development of the public health measures that account for spontaneous behavioural changes.

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Date Created
  • 2015-10-14