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Opinion Dynamics and Models of Social Influence

Monday 4th April 2011
Organisers: Colm Connaughton and Yasmin Merali


This one day workshop on opinion dynamics and models of social influence in networks is co-sponsored by the Mathematical Interdisciplinary Research at Warwick programme and the Assyst project.

All talks will be in Room B3.02 Mathematics Institute, Zeeman Building
Lunch, tea and wine will be in the Mathematics Common Room

Programme

  • 12:10 -12:15 Welcome from the organisers
  • 12:15 - 13:00 Antony Mayfield (Brilliant Noise)
    Living in Networks: Questions from Business and Society.

13:00 - 14:00 Lunch

  • 14:00 - 14:45 Andreas Flache (Department of Sociology, University of Groningen)
    Comparing two theories of opinion differentiation in continuous opinion dynamics.
  • 14:45 - 15:30 Tobias Galla (School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester)
    Effects of noise and confidence thresholds in nominal and metric Axelrod dynamics of social influence.

15:30 - 16:00 Tea break

  • 16:00 - 16:45 Federico Vazquez (Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden)
    The dynamics of group formation in adaptive social networks.
  • 16:45 - 17:10 Duncan Robertson (St Catherine's College, Oxford & Associate Fellow, Warwick)
    Collaborative Network Dynamics and the Rise of Academic Fields: The Case of Strategic Management.
  • 17:10 - 17:35 Anthony Woolcock (Warwick Centre for Complexity Science)
    Linked and Weighted Opinions: Extensions to the Axelrod Model.
  • 17:35 - 18:00 Alistair Tucker (Warwick Centre for Complexity Science)
    Retweet Waves: Contagion in a Social Network.

18:00 - 18:45 Wine and snacks


Abstracts

Andreas Flache (Department of Sociology, University of Groningen)

Comparing two theories of opinion differentiation in continuous opinion dynamics

Empirical and theoretical research on continuous opinion dynamics has demonstrated a pervasive tendency toward conformity among individuals connected by positive social ties. Earlier models of social influence in connected networks suggest that opinions should thus converge toward uniformity. Observing that diversity persists even in small scale groups and organizations, we compare two mechanisms of social differentiation that have been proposed to account for this persistence: First, actors may dislike or disrespect peers who diverge too much from their own views, and may change their opinions or behaviors to distance themselves further from those negative referents (distancing, or negative influence). Second, when surrounded by similar others, actors may try to maintain a sufficient sense of uniqueness by exploring new opinions or behaviors (strive for uniqueness). Using computational experiments, we demonstrate that these two forces lead to different patterns of polarization, radicalization, and factionalism and also investigate the conditions under which integration occurs.

(co-authored by Michael Maes, University of Groningen and James Kitts, Columbia University)


Tobias Galla (School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester)

Effects of noise and confidence thresholds in nominal and metric Axelrod dynamics of social influence.

In this talk I discuss the effects of bounded confidence thresholds and of interaction and external noise on Axelrod’s model of social influence. The study is based on a combination of numerical simulations and an integration of the mean-field master equation describing the system in the thermodynamic limit. We find that interaction thresholds affect the system only quantitatively, but that they do not alter the basic phase structure. The known crossover between an ordered and a disordered state in finite systems subject to external noise persists in models with general confidence threshold. Interaction noise here facilitates the dynamics and reduces relaxation times. We also study Axelrod systems with metric features and point out similarities and differences compared to models with nominal features. In the final part of the talk I will discuss the effects of `extremists' in Axelrod models of social influence.


Federico Vazquez (Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden)

The dynamics of group formation in adaptive social networks.

In this talk, I will discuss some of the adaptive network models that have been proposed in order to explore the phenomena of group formation in
human societies. It is assumed that individuals shape their opinions based on their interacting partners (social pressure) and, at the same time,
they have a tendency to drop ties with neighbors that don't support their opinion and form new ties with other like-minded individuals
(homophily). In this way, the dynamics of nodes (individuals) and links (interactions) in a social network are not independent, but they coevolve. When the
evolution of network is fast compared to the rate at which nodes update their opinions, the network fractures into disconnected components, each representing a
group of nodes holding the same opinion. An insight about this particular mechanism for group formation can be obtained by studying a simple model, that
possesses all the ingredients of related models, and has the advantage of being analytically tractable.

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