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Sentiment and Social Mitosis: Implications of Heider's Balance Theory


  • Zhigang Wang


  • Warren Thorngate



Two Monte Carlo simulations were developed to investigate the social consequences of balancing sentiment relations among triads of members of a larger group, when balancing one triad can imbalance others. Using assumptions of Balance Theory (Heider, 1958), random starting combinations of liking, disliking and no relations among 9 or16 people were iteratively adjusted to determine if the relations ever settled to a steady state and what subgroups might emerge. Results show that, regardless of the starting configuration of sentiments, all imbalances in a group are eventually balanced in a steady state containing no more than two subgroups. Two subgroups are the rule; their relative size depends on the starting number of positive, negative and null relations. Members within each subgroup are linked by positive relations (liking), and show only negative relations (disliking) towards members of the other subgroup, a form of social mitosis. A second simulation demonstrates that a starting configuration containing only positive and negative relations (no null relations) will completely determine who will eventually belong to which of the two groups. As null relations become more plentiful in the starting configuration, the order or historical trajectory of restoring balance among triads also contributes to subgroup membership.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhigang Wang & Warren Thorngate, 2003. "Sentiment and Social Mitosis: Implications of Heider's Balance Theory," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 6(3), pages 1-2.
  • Handle: RePEc:jas:jasssj:2003-17-2

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