Dynamics, Expertise, and Influence within Political Communication Networks
24 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 17 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
This paper employs a small group experiment to study the process of political influence within social networks. Each experimental session involves seven individuals, where privately obtained information is costly but communication within the group is free. Hence, individuals form prior judgments regarding candidates based on public and private information before updating their priors through a process of social communication. In general, individuals select expert informants with political preferences similar to their own, and we consider the dynamic implications for individual and group preferences. In particular, we address the diffusion of information based on a DeGroot model which provides a dynamic formulation of the influence process. We are particularly interested in the implications that arise due to varying levels of information among participants for (1) the construction of communication networks, (2) the relative influence of better informed individuals; (3) relative levels of reliance on priors and communicated messages; (4) the consequences of memory decay for the influence of experts; and (5) the diffusion of information and patterns of persuasion.
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