The Dynamics of Public Opinion in Complex Networks
This paper studies the problem of public opinion formation and concentrates on the interplays among three factors: individual attributes, environmental influences and information flow. We present a simple model to analyze the dynamics of four types of networks. Our simulations suggest that regular communities establish not only local consensus, but also global diversity in public opinions. However, when small world networks, random networks, or scale-free networks model social relationships, the results are sensitive to the elasticity coefficient of environmental influences and the average connectivity of the type of network. For example, a community with a higher average connectivity has a higher probability of consensus. Yet, it is misleading to predict results merely based on the characteristic path length of networks. In the process of changing environmental influences and average connectivity, sensitive areas are discovered in the system. By sensitive areas we mean that interior randomness emerges and we cannot predict unequivocally how many opinions will remain upon reaching equilibrium. We also investigate the role of authoritative individuals in information control. While enhancing average connectivity facilitates the diffusion of the authoritative opinion, it makes individuals subject to disturbance from non-authorities as well. Thus, a moderate average connectivity may be preferable because then the public will most likely form an opinion that is parallel with the authoritative one. In a community with a scale-free structure, the influence of authoritative individuals keeps constant with the change of the average connectivity. Provided that the influence of individuals is proportional to the number of their acquaintances, the smallest percentage of authorities is required for a controlled consensus in a scale free network. This study shows that the dynamics of public opinion varies from community to community due to the different degree of impressionability of people and the distinct social network structure of the community.
Volume (Year): 11 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
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