Bayesian networks for spatial learning: a workflow on using limited survey data for intelligent learning in spatial agent-based models

Shaheen A. Abdulkareem*, Yaseen T. Mustafa, Ellen Wien Augustijn, Tatiana Filatova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Machine learning (ML) algorithms steer agent decisions in agent-based models (ABMs), serving as a vehicle for implementing behaviour changes during simulation runs. However, when training an ML algorithm, obtaining large sets of micro-level human behaviour data is often problematic. Information on human behaviour is often collected via surveys of relatively small sample sizes. This paper presents a methodology for training a learning algorithm to guide agent behaviour in a spatial ABM using a limited survey data sample. We apply different implementation strategies using survey data and Bayesian networks (BNs). By being grounded in probabilistic directed graphical models, BNs stand out among other learning algorithms in that they can be based on expert knowledge and/or known datasets. This paper presents four alternative implementations of data-driven BNs to support agent decisions in a spatial ABM. We differentiate between training BNs prior to, or during the simulation runs, using only survey data or a combination of survey data and expert knowledge. The four different implementations are then illustrated using a spatial ABM of cholera diffusion for Kumasi, Ghana. The results indicate that a balance between expert knowledge and survey data provides the best control over the learning process of the agents and produces the most realistic agent behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-268
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2019



  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Disease modelling
  • Risk perception
  • Social survey
  • Supervised learning
  • Bayesian networks

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