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The Impact of Individual Biases on Consensus Formation

Authors
Journal
PLoS ONE
1932-6203
Publisher
Public Library of Science
Publication Date
Volume
8
Issue
5
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058989
Keywords
  • Research Article
  • Physics
  • Statistical Mechanics
  • Social And Behavioral Sciences
  • Political Science
  • Public Opinion
  • Psychology
  • Behavior
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Computational Sociology
  • Social Networks
  • Social Research
  • Social Systems
  • Social Theory

Abstract

Social groups of interacting agents display an ability to coordinate in the absence of a central authority, a phenomenon that has been recently amplified by the widespread availability of social networking technologies. Models of opinion formation in a population of agents have proven a very useful tool to investigate these phenomena that arise independently of the heterogeneities across individuals and can be used to identify the factors that determine whether widespread consensus on an initial small majority is reached. Recently, we introduced a model in which individual agents can have conservative and partisan biases. Numerical simulations for finite populations showed that while the inclusion of conservative agents in a population enhances the population's efficiency in reaching consensus on the initial majority opinion, even a small fraction of partisans leads the population to converge on the opinion initially held by a minority. To further understand the mechanisms leading to our previous numerical results, we investigate analytically the noise driven transition from a regime in which the population reaches a majority consensus (efficient), to a regime in which the population settles in deadlock (non-efficient). We show that the mean-field solution captures what we observe in model simulations. Populations of agents with no opinion bias show a continuous transition to a deadlock regime, while populations with an opinion bias, show a discontinuous transition between efficient and partisan regimes. Furthermore, the analytical solution reveals that populations with an increasing fraction of conservative agents are more robust against noise than a population of naive agents because in the efficient regime there are relatively more conservative than naive agents holding the majority opinion. In contrast, populations with partisan agents are less robust to noise with an increasing fraction of partisans, because in the efficient regime there are relatively more naive agents than partisan agents holding the majority opinion.

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