Opinion strength influences the spatial dynamics of opinion formation

Journal of Mathematical Sociology 40 (4):207-218 (2016)

Bert Baumgaertner
University of Idaho
Opinions are rarely binary; they can be held with different degrees of conviction, and this expanded attitude spectrum can affect the influence one opinion has on others. Our goal is to understand how different aspects of influence lead to recognizable spatio-temporal patterns of opinions and their strengths. To do this, we introduce a stochastic spatial agent-based model of opinion dynamics that includes a spectrum of opinion strengths and various possible rules for how the opinion strength of one individual affects the influence that this individual has on others. Through simulations, we find that even a small amount of amplification of opinion strength through interaction with like-minded neighbors can tip the scales in favor of polarization and deadlock.
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