How Culture Influences Individual Behavior During a Pandemic: A Social Simulation of the COVID-19 Crisis

Kurt Kreulen, Bart de Bruin, Amineh Ghorbani*, René Mellema, Christian Kammler, Loïs Vanhee, Frank Dignum, Virginia Dignum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Since its first appearance in Wuhan (China), countries have been employing, to varying degrees of success, a series of non-pharmaceutical interventions aimed at limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 within their populations. In this article, we build on scientific work that demonstrates that culture is part of the explanation for the observed variability between countries in their ability to effectively control the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. We present a theoretical framework of how culture influences decision-making at the level of the individual. This conceptualization is formalized in an agent-based model that simulates how cultural factors can combine to produce differences across populations in terms of the behavioral responses of individuals to the COVID-19 crisis. We illustrate that, within our simulated environment, the culturally-dependent willingness of people to comply with public health related measures might constitute an important determinant of differences in infection dynamics across populations. Our model generates the highest rates of non-compliance within cultures marked as individualist, progressive and egalitarian. Our model illustrates the potential role of culture as a population-level predictor of infections associated with COVID-19. In doing so, the model, and theoretical framework on which it is based, may inform future studies aimed at incorporating the effect of culture on individual decision-making processes during a pandemic within social simulation models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Agent-Based Modelling
  • COVID-19
  • Culture
  • Epidemiological Models
  • Pandemic
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Simulations
  • Values


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