Here I collect the most recent important news about my work.
PLoS One published a joint paper with Andreas Flache: Differentiation without distancing. Explaining bi-polarization of opinions without negative influence.
Summary: One of the most prominent dynamics addressed in the sociological literature is social differentiation, the emergence and intensifications of differences in groups, organizations, and societies. In this paper, we focus on bi-polarization of opinions, which is defined as the development subgroups with increasingly antagonistic opinions. We show that existing explanations of opinion bi-polarization hinge on the assumption of negative influence, individuals’ striving to amplify differences to disliked others. However, empirical evidence for negative influence is inconclusive, which motivated us to search for an alternative explanation. In other words, we ask whether or not it is possible that opinion differences increase over time even though individuals do not seek to increase opinion disagreement. We demonstrate that bi-polarization can be explained without negative influence, drawing on theories that emphasize the communication of arguments as central mechanism of influence. Due to homophily, actors interact mainly with others whose arguments will intensify existing tendencies for or against the issue at stake. We develop an agent-based model of this theory and compare its implications to those of existing social-influence models, deriving testable hypotheses about the conditions of bi-polarization. Hypotheses were tested with a group-discussion experiment (N=96). Results demonstrate that argument exchange can entail bi-polarization even when there is no negative influence.
The paper is entitled "In
the short term we divide, in the long term we unite: Demographic
crisscrossing and the effects of faultlines on subgroup polarization." and has been accepted for publication in Organization Science
you can find a summary of the paper.
You can find more information about the great work of Anatol Rapoport here
Organization Science accepted our paper on the effect of demographic faultlines on polarization in work teams.
Title: In the short term
we divide, in the long term we unite: Demographic crisscrossing and the effects
of faultlines on subgroup polarization
The paper is published online ahead of print here
We would like to thank the anonymous reviews, and the editor of OS for their patience and numerous valuable comments that helped us improve the manuscript.
Do strong demographic faultlines breed opinion polarization in work teams? We integrate two theories that have been used to explain faultline effects. The first, Lau and Murnighan’s approach, suggests that in teams with strong faultlines the mechanisms of homophilious selection of interaction partners and persuasive influence cause subgroup polarization, defined as the split of the team into subgroups holding opposing opinions. The second, from sociological and anthropological traditions, emphasizes that crisscrossing actors bridge faultlines because they share demographic attributes with several subgroups. Demographically crisscrossing actors help to prevent polarization in social groups. We argue that Lau and Murnighan’s theory implicitly factors the effects of crisscrossing actors in. However, we show that the authors overlooked crucial implications of their theory because they did not consider crisscrossing actors explicitly. Most importantly, we demonstrate that demographic crisscrossing implies that even teams with strong faultlines will overcome polarization in the long run, although they might suffer from it in the short term. We develop and analyze a formal computational model of the opinion and network dynamics in work teams to show the consistency of our reasoning with Lau and Murnighans’ theory. The model also revealed another counter-intuitive effect; strong faultlines lead to structures of interaction that make teams with strong faultlines faster in arriving at a stable consensus than teams with weak faultlines.
1, 2011 I am post-doctoral researcher at the Chair of Sociology
, in particular of
Modeling and Simulation at ETH Zurich.
Two German radio stations broadcasted interviews with me and Andreas Flache about our recent work on opinion clustering.
to listen to Radio Interview on DRadio Wissen (7.1.2010)
to listen to Radio Interview on radioneins (20.11.2010).
to read the article.
This book is concerned with explaining the dynamics that social influence causes in groups. Under what conditions will the members of a group find a consensus? Under what conditions will initial opinion differences persist? Is opinion consensus always stable, or can homogeneous groups split up into clusters with opposing opinions? Is it possible that groups polarize in the sense that differences between subgroups will increase over time?
Existing social-influence theories imply that social influence causes convergence cascades which eventually end up with perfect uniformity. Empirical evidence, on the other hand, does not confirm these convergence tendencies. On the contrary, opinion diversity often remains stable and can actually increase over time.
In this book, we developed theories that can explain polarization and clustering of opinions besides social influence. We analyzed agent-based computational models of these theories to demonstrate under which conditions the theories predict polarization and clustering. We also report results from experimental tests of one of the theories.
You can download a pdf of the book below.
Together with Andreas Flache and Dirk Helbing, I published an article in PLoS Computational Biology. Click here
to read the article.Summary:
Modern societies are characterized by a large degree of pluralism in
social, political and cultural opinions. In addition, there is evidence
that humans tend to form distinct subgroups (clusters), characterized by
opinion consensus within the clusters and differences between them. So
far, however, formal theories of social influence have difficulty
explaining this coexistence of global diversity and opinion clustering.
In this study, we identify a missing ingredient that helps to fill this
gap: the striving for uniqueness. Besides being influenced by their
social environment, individuals also show a desire to hold a unique
opinion. Thus, when too many other members of the population hold a
similar opinion, individuals tend to adopt an opinion that distinguishes
them from others. This notion is rooted in classical sociological
theory and is supported by recent empirical research. We develop a
computational model of opinion dynamics in human populations and
demonstrate that the new model can explain opinion clustering. We
conduct simulation experiments to study the conditions of clustering.
Based on our results, we discuss preconditions for the persistence of
pluralistic societies in a globalizing world.