Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Because not only arguments count

30.10.2018

The phenomenon of opinion polarization has gained a lot of public attention in recent years, especially in the political context. Using tools from network science and game theory, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences were able to show that social interaction has a pronounced influence on opinion polarization. Their approach allows for a precise analysis of the entire opinion-forming process and could, among other things, contribute to a better understanding of opinion tendencies in social networks.

We all react very sensitively to positive or negative signals in the behavior of our peers and unconsciously include this feedback in our own decision-making. Motivated by psychological research into implicit processes of attitudinal change, MPI scientists affiliated to the ODYCCEUS project (Opinion Dynamics and Cultural Conflict in European Space) are exploring a new opinion-forming mechanism in which agents within a network evaluate alternative views based on the received social feedback.


Computer simulations show how polarization evolves and develops over time.

© Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences

If an opinion favored by the agent meets with high agreement in the social environment, this is regarded as positive feedback and this, in turn, reinforces the value associated with this opinion. Of course, this also applies in the opposite case with negative feedback: disagreement among peers leads to decreased attachment to a certain opinion and to a reevaluation of one’s position. In interconnected networks of sufficiently high modularity, this leads to the formation of very strong beliefs among different groups of agents.

Two basic properties combine to create and maintain polarization in the proposed model. On the one hand, the described amplification mechanism results in a group polarization process, which can be considered as a repetitive stochastic game. As a result of feedback, an initially already cohesive subgroup within the system tends to align towards a single opinion over time, which may even lead to an extreme direction. This process leads to the formation of opinion clusters.

On the other hand, real social networks are never complete, but have a rather complex structure with some gaps. These have a so-called "gate-keeping" function, which prevents occasional contradictory opinions from overcoming structural gaps within the groups and thus spreading over the entire network.

"Unlike other existing models, our model emphasizes an affective and emotional route to the phenomenon of polarization. These mechanisms are gaining importance, especially in relation to new media, and the model is a first step in taking into account intrinsic motivations behind opinion expressions.

The approach of reinforcement learning is, in my opinion, particularly suitable because on the one hand it is psychologically sound and sociologically compatible and on the other hand it allows a connection to game theory concepts and thus allows for mathematical analysis. "Sven Banisch, research assistant in the EU Odycceus project.

In the given case, this combination allowed the scientist to precisely determine which structural features are a condition for the stability of polarized opinion patterns. They proved that the existence of cohesive subgroups is a sufficient condition to produce a stable polarization, even if these subgroups have the opportunity to interact with each other.

With their work, the scientists want to contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon of polarizing opinions, as we often see them in political discourse today, and to gain deeper insights into the mechanisms underlying these processes. The scientists of the Odycceus research group see a great potential to map these processes also on digital media in order to better analyze and understand mechanisms of opinion formation and exchange in social networks.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Dr. Eckehard Olbrich
Project leader
eckehard.olbrich@mis.mpg.de

Dr. Sven Banisch
sven.banisch@mis.mpg.de

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences
Inselstraße 22
04103 Leipzig

Originalpublikation:

Sven Banisch, Eckehard Olbrich
„Opinion polarization by learning from social feedback”
The Journal of Mathematical Sociology”
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0022250X.2018.1517761

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.odycceus.eu Information about the project ODYCCEUS Opinion Dynamics and Cultural Conflict in European Space
http://www.mis.mpg.de Information about the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences

Jana Gregor | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New measure for the wellbeing of populations could replace Human Development Index
07.11.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Being Spoiled for Choice – What Happens in the Human Brain
02.10.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Tübingen

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Synthesis of helical ladder polymers

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

Ultra-thin superlattices from gold nanoparticles for nanophotonics

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

Chaperones keep the tumor suppressor protein p53 in check: How molecular escorts help prevent cancer

21.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>