An Agent Based Model of Affect Contagion in a Healthcare Work Environment


Name: Patricia Schmidt

Rank: CPT

Organization: Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine

Performance Site: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD; Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Year Published: 2014

Abstract Status:


Affect contagion in the work place has been established in various corporate, and industry settings. It is a multi-faceted phenomena that can influence many workplace outcomes. This study will observe affect of healthcare providers working with patients using social network analysis to create an agent based model of the affect contagion. 

The study will occur for fifteen weeks to understand the patterns of affect within the group. An affect instrument will be administered daily to the staff in the department as well as the patients to determine whether the group affect also has correlative influences on the patients cared for. A social network survey and daily staffing assignments will be used to develop the social network. Affect groups will be compared to the identified social network. Rules for the agent based model of the affect contagion will be derived from social network analysis of the unit. 

Affect contagion has not been studied using social network analysis in a healthcare setting. Most studies of affect either focus on dyadic relationships between individuals or patient influencing staff members, not vice versa. This study would be the first to understand affect contagion as a work group phenomena in healthcare. Both administrative and patient related outcomes are influenced by the affect of the individual healthcare employee. An accurate agent based model of affect contagion has the potential for employers to understand the importance of affect on employees and workplace behaviors. Employers can then modify the work environment in ways that can effectively improve affect and therefore improve workplace outcomes.

The specific aim and research questions for this study are: 

1. Develop an agent-based model of affect contagion in a social network representing nursing staff and patients interacting in a clinical setting.

a. Are affect similarity groups correlated with social interaction groups?

b. Do Individual’s with both work and social ties have greater affect similarity at work?

c. What are the system/subsystem mechanisms influencing affect within the network?

d. Validate the agent based model