||Anderson, C.A., & Titler, M.G. (2014). Development and verification of an agent-based model of opinion leadership
||Development and verification of an agent-based model of opinion leadership
||Background: The use of opinion leaders is a strategy used to speed the process of translating research into practice. Much is still unknown about opinion leader attributes and activities and the context in which they are most effective. Agent-based modeling is a methodological tool that enables demonstration of the interactive and dynamic effects of individuals and their behaviors on other individuals in the environment. The purpose of this study was to develop and test an agent-based model of opinion leadership. The details of the design and verification of the model are presented. Methods: The agent-based model was developed by using a software development platform to translate an underlying conceptual model of opinion leadership into a computer model. Individual agent attributes (for example, motives and credibility) and behaviors (seeking or providing an opinion) were specified as variables in the model in the context of a fictitious patient care unit. The verification process was designed to test whether or not the agent-based model was capable of reproducing the conditions of the preliminary conceptual model. The verification methods included iterative programmatic testing (‘debugging’) and exploratory analysis of simulated data obtained from execution of the model. The simulation tests included a parameter sweep, in which the model input variables were adjusted systematically followed by an individual time series experiment. Results: Statistical analysis of model output for the 288 possible simulation scenarios in the parameter sweep revealed that the agent-based model was performing, consistent with the posited relationships in the underlying model. Nurse opinion leaders act on the strength of their beliefs and as a result, become an opinion resource for their uncertain colleagues, depending on their perceived credibility. Over time, some nurses consistently act as this type of resource and have the potential to emerge as opinion leaders in a context where uncertainty exists. Conclusions: The development and testing of agent-based models is an iterative process. The opinion leader model presented here provides a basic structure for continued model development, ongoing verification, and the establishment of validation procedures, including empirical data collection.
Copyright © 2014 Anderson & Titler. Abstract reprinted by AIR in compliance with the BioMed Central Open Access Charter at http://www.biomedcentral.com/about/policies/license-agreement.
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