The use of polite agents is a new approach in order to improve efficiency and naturalism in navigation for player characters in crowded virtual worlds. This paper aims to model the politeness of virtual humans using logic-based approaches, subject to theory of politeness decomposed of conventional and interpersonal politeness. To do so, we propose a high-level agent architecture combined with normative framework to model and reason about ‘polite’ behaviours in social situations. With this architecture, we demonstrate (i) specifying polite behaviours as a form of social norms; (ii) generating polite behaviours using social reasoning technique; (iii) deliberation with such norms in belief–desire–intention agents; and (iv) realising physical actions based on the decision. Implementation for social reasoning is achieved by InstAL, based on the semantics of answer set programming. Using experiments with simple collision avoidance model, we show the effectiveness of polite behaviour in navigation designed by such architecture, as well as the adequacy of this architecture for modelling theory of politeness in all circumstances. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.