We often see that during interaction people influence each other and grow more similar in opinions, values, and behavior. Classical modeling studies have demonstrated that social influence should, thus, lead to convergence cascades in which social groups end up in perfect uniformity. Empirical research, on the other hand, does not confirm these convergence tendencies. On the contrary, many empirical studies show that opinion diversity often remains stable and can actually increase over time. Trying to solve this puzzle, we have developed and tested new theories which can explain social diversity despite social influence.
We sought to explain two patterns of diversity. First, we sought to develop a model of opinion clustering, the existence of several internally homogeneous but mutually distinct subgroups. The animation movie shows typical clustering dynamics generated by one of our models. Second, we have developed new explanations of polarization, the development of maximally different subgroups. The surface graph shows a typical polarization process generated by one of our models.
In this project I collaborate closely with Andreas Flache, Dirk Helbing and Károly Takács
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