An Agent-Based Model of Collective Emotions in Online Communities

CCSS Working Paper No. 10-007

27 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2010 Last revised: 6 Aug 2014

Date Written: July 2, 2010


We develop a agent-based framework to model the emergence of collective emotions, which is applied to online communities. Agents individual emotions are described by their valence and arousal. Using the concept of Brownian agents, these variables change according to a stochastic dynamics, which also considers the feedback from online communication. Agents generate emotional information, which is stored and distributed in a field modeling the online medium. This field affects the emotional states of agents in a non-linear manner. We derive conditions for the emergence of collective emotions, observable in a bimodal valence distribution. Dependent on a saturated or a superlinear feedback between the information field and the agent's arousal, we further identify scenarios where collective emotions only appear once or in a repeated manner. The analytical results are illustrated by agent-based computer simulations. Our framework provides testable hypotheses about the emergence of collective emotions, which can be verified by data from online communities.

Keywords: Physics and Society, Multiagent Systems, Adaptation and Self-Organizing Systems

Suggested Citation

Schweitzer, Frank and Becerra, David Garcia, An Agent-Based Model of Collective Emotions in Online Communities (July 2, 2010). CCSS Working Paper No. 10-007. Available at SSRN: or

Frank Schweitzer (Contact Author)

ETH Zürich ( email )

Weinbergstrasse 56/58
WEV Room G 211
Zurich, CH-8032
+41 44 632 83 50 (Phone)


David Garcia Becerra

ETH Zürich ( email )

Zürichbergstrasse 18
8092 Zurich, CH-1015

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