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Social Structure and Opinion Formation

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  • Fang Wu

    (Stanford University)

  • Bernardo A. Huberman

    (HP Labs)

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    Abstract

    We present a dynamical theory of opinion formation that takes explicitly into account the structure of the social network in which individuals are embedded. The theory predicts the evolution of a set of opinions through the social network and establishes the existence of a martingale property, i.e. the expected weighted fraction of the population that holds a given opinion is constant in time. Most importantly, this weighted fraction is not either zero or one, but corresponds to a non- trivial distribution of opinions in the long time limit. This coexistence of opinions within a social network is in agreement with the often observed locality effect, in which an opinion or a fad is localized to given groups without infecting the whole society. We verified these predictions as well as others concerning the fragility of opinions and the importance of highly connected individuals by computer experiments on scale-free networks.

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    File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/comp/papers/0407/0407002.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Computational Economics with number 0407002.

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    Length: 23 pages
    Date of creation: 22 Jul 2004
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpco:0407002

    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 23
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    Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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    1. Katarzyna Sznajd-Weron & Jozef Sznajd, 2000. "Opinion evolution in closed community," HSC Research Reports HSC/00/04, Hugo Steinhaus Center, Wroclaw University of Technology.
    2. C. J. Tessone & R. Toral, 2004. "Neighborhood models of minority opinion spreading," Computing in Economics and Finance 2004 206, Society for Computational Economics.
    3. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 1998. "Learning from the Behavior of Others: Conformity, Fads, and Informational Cascades," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 151-170, Summer.
    4. Galam, Serge, 1999. "Application of statistical physics to politics," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 274(1), pages 132-139.
    5. Galam, Serge, 2003. "Modelling rumors: the no plane Pentagon French hoax case," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 320(C), pages 571-580.
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