Persuasion Bias, Social Influence, and Uni-Dimensional Opinions
56 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2001
Date Written: November 2001
We propose a boundedly-rational model of opinion formation where agents are subject to the phenomenon of persuasion. We argue that persuasion - whereby repeated exposure to an opinion has a cumulative effect on an agent's beliefs - is pervasive and closely related to the concept of social influence. In our model, agents communicate repeatedly according to a social network, but fail to adjust properly for possible repetitions of information they receive. We show that under general conditions, agents' beliefs converge over time to a common belief, which is a weighted average of initial beliefs. Agents' weights can be characterized in several manners related to their network position, and can be interpreted as a measure of social influence. Furthermore, agents' multi-dimensional beliefs generally converge to a single line prior to obtaining a consensus. Thus, long-run differences in opinion can be characterized by a uni-dimensional measure. We explore the implications of our model in several natural settings, including neighborhoods with bilateral communication, hierarchies, and political science.
Keywords: Persuasion, Social Influence, Uni-Dimensional Opinions, Social Networks, Belief Formation, Bounded Rationality, Hierarchies, Communication
JEL Classification: D83, D72, D71, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation