Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 849-860

First online:

Risk, Individual Differences, and Environment: An Agent-Based Modeling Approach to Sexual Risk-Taking

  • Emily NagoskiAffiliated withStudent Affairs, Smith College
  • , Erick JanssenAffiliated withKinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, Indiana University Email author 
  • , David LohrmannAffiliated withDepartment of Applied Health Science, Indiana University
  • , Eric NicholsAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, Indiana University

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Risky sexual behaviors, including the decision to have unprotected sex, result from interactions between individuals and their environment. The current study explored the use of Agent-Based Modeling (ABM)—a methodological approach in which computer-generated artificial societies simulate human sexual networks—to assess the influence of heterogeneity of sexual motivation on the risk of contracting HIV. The models successfully simulated some characteristics of human sexual systems, such as the relationship between individual differences in sexual motivation (sexual excitation and inhibition) and sexual risk, but failed to reproduce the scale-free distribution of number of partners observed in the real world. ABM has the potential to inform intervention strategies that target the interaction between an individual and his or her social environment.


Sexual risk taking Sexual motivation Sexual inhibition Agent-based modeling