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Modeling Opinion Dynamics in Social Networks

Abhimanyu Das, Sreenivas Gollapudi, and Kamesh Munagala


Our opinions and judgments are increasingly shaped by what we read on social media – whether they be tweets and posts in social networks, blog posts, or review boards. These opinions could be about topics such as consumer products, politics, life style, or celebrities. Understanding how users in a network update opinions based on their neighbor’s opinions, as well as what global opinion structure is implied when users iteratively update opinions, is important in the context of viral marketing and information dissemination, as well as targeting messages to users in the network.

In this paper, we consider the problem of modeling how users update opinions based on their neighbors’ opinions. We perform a set of online user studies based on the celebrated conformity experiments of Asch [1]. Our experiments are carefully crafted to derive quantitative insights into developing a model for opinion updates (as opposed to deriving psychological insights). We show that existing and widely studied theoretical models do not explain the entire gamut of experimental observations we make. This leads us to posit a new, nuanced model that we term the BiasedVoterModel. We present preliminary theoretical and simulation results on the convergence and structure of opinions in the entire network when users iteratively update their respective opinions according to the BiasedVoterModel. We show that consensus and polarization of opinions arise naturally in this model under easy to interpret initial conditions on the network.


Publication typeProceedings
Published inProc. of Intl. Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM)
PublisherACM International Conference on Web Search And Data Mining
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