Resisting hostility generated by terror: An agent-based study

Authored by Sylvie Huet, Guillaume Deffuant, Armelle Nugier, Michel Streith, Serge Guimond

Date Published: 2019

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209907

Sponsors: French National Research Agency (ANR) French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)

Platforms: Java

Model Documentation: Mathematical description Other Narrative

Model Code URLs:


We propose an agent-based model leading to a decrease or an increase of hostility between agents after a major cultural threat such as a terrorist attack. The model is inspired from the Terror Management Theory and the Social Judgement Theory. An agent has a cultural identity defined through its acceptance segments about each of three different cultural worldviews (i.e., Atheist, Muslim, Christian) of the considered society. An agent's acceptance segment is composed from its acceptable positions toward a cultural worldview, including its most acceptable position. An agent forms an attitude about another agent depending on the similarity between their cultural identities. When a terrorist attack is perpetrated in the name of an extreme cultural identity, the negatively perceived agents from this extreme cultural identity point of view tend to decrease the width of their acceptance segments in order to differentiate themselves more from the threatening cultural identity. We generated a set of populations with cultural identities compatible with data from a survey on attitudes among a large sample representative of the population of France; we then simulated the reaction of these agents facing a terrorist attack from Muslim extremists. For most populations, the average attitude toward Muslims becomes more negative. However, for some specific populations, we noticed the opposite effect as the average attitude of the population toward Muslims becomes less negative. In these populations, the Muslim agents strongly differentiate themselves from the terrorists' extreme cultural identity, and the other agents are aware of these changes. These reactions are due to particular properties of their cultural identities that are identified in this paper.
Model Management theory Local convergence