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Micro Influence and Macro Dynamics of Opinion Formation

49 Pages Posted: 27 May 2017 Last revised: 4 Nov 2017

Bernhard Clemm von Hohenberg

European University Institute

Michael Maes

ETH Zurich

Bary S. R. Pradelski

ETH Zurich

Date Written: October 29, 2017

Abstract

Social media platforms, comment boards, and online market places have created unprecedented potential for social influence and resulting opinion dynamics such as polarization. We propose an encompassing model that captures competing micro-level theories of social influence. Conducting an online lab-in-the-field experiment, we observe that individual opinions shift linearly towards the mean of others' opinions. From this finding, we predict the macro-level opinion dynamics resulting from social influence. We test our predictions using data from another lab-in-the-field experiment and find that opinion polarization decreases in the presence of social influence. We corroborate these findings with large-scale field data.

Keywords: social influence, opinion polarization, Internet, field experiment

JEL Classification: D70, D80

Suggested Citation

Clemm von Hohenberg, Bernhard and Maes, Michael and Pradelski, Bary S. R., Micro Influence and Macro Dynamics of Opinion Formation (October 29, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2974413

Bernhard Clemm von Hohenberg

European University Institute ( email )

Villa Schifanoia
133 via Bocaccio
Firenze (Florence), Tuscany 50014
Italy

Michael Maes

ETH Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

Bary Pradelski (Contact Author)

ETH Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

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