Micro Influence and Macro Dynamics of Opinion Formation
49 Pages Posted: 27 May 2017 Last revised: 4 Nov 2017
Date Written: October 29, 2017
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
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