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Persuasion Bias, Social Influence, and Uni-Dimensional Opinions

  • Zwiebel, Jeffrey H.

    (Stanford U)

  • Vayanos, Dimitri

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

  • DeMarzo, Peter M.

    (Stanford U)

We propose a boundedly-rational model of opinion formation where agents are subject to the phenomenon of persuasion. We argue that persuasion--whereby repeated exposure to an opinion has a cumulative effect on an agent's beliefs--is pervasive and closely related to the concept of social influence. In our model, agents communicate repeatedly according to a social network, but fail to adjust properly for possible repetitions of information they receive. We show that under general conditions, agents' beliefs converge over time to a common belief, which is a weighted average of initial beliefs. Agents' weights can be characterized in several manners related to their network position, and can be interpreted as a measure of social influence. Furthermore, agents' multi-dimensional beliefs generally converge to a single line prior to obtaining a consensus. Thus, long-run differences in opinion can be characterized by a uni-dimensional measure. We explore the implications of our model in several natural settings, including neighborhoods with bilateral communication, hierarchies, and political science.

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Paper provided by Stanford University, Graduate School of Business in its series Research Papers with number 1719.

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Date of creation: Nov 2001
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:1719
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