Orr, M.G., Thrush, R., and Plaut, D.C. (2013). The theory of reasoned action as parallel constraint satisfaction: Towards a dynamic computational model of health behavior. PLoS ONE, 8(5), e62490. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062490
The reasoned action approach, although ubiquitous in health behavior theory (e.g., Theory of Reasoned Action/Planned Behavior), does not adequately address two key dynamical aspects of health behavior: learning and the effect of immediate social context (i.e., social influence). To remedy this, we put forth a computational implementation of the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) using artificial-neural networks. Our model re-conceptualized behavioral intention as arising from a dynamic constraint satisfaction mechanism among a set of beliefs. In two simulations, we show that constraint satisfaction can simultaneously incorporate the effects of past experience (via learning) with the effects of immediate social context to yield behavioral intention, i.e., intention is dynamically constructed from both an individual’s pre-existing belief structure and the beliefs of others in the individual’s social context. In a third simulation, we illustrate the predictive ability of the model with respect to empirically derived behavioral intention. As the first known computational model of health behavior, it represents a significant advance in theory towards understanding the dynamics of health behavior. Furthermore, our approach may inform the development of population-level agent-based models of health behavior that aim to incorporate psychological theory into models of population dynamics.