Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics

CeDEx Seminar - Gordon Brown (University of Warwick)

A40 Sir Clive Granger
Wednesday 11th October 2017 (14:00-15:00)

Social norms and polarisation: A cognitive model

A process model of social norms and social influence is described. Individuals’ private attitudes, and social norms, are assumed to be represented as distributions rather than single points. Individuals located within a social network observe the behavior of their network neighbors and hence infer the social distribution of particular attitudes and behaviors. Agents dislike behaving in ways that are extreme within their neighborhood social norm (“social extremeness aversion”), and hence have a tendency to conform. However agents also prefer to behave consistently with their own underlying attitudes (“authenticity preference”). Expressed attitudes and behavior reflect a utility-maximizing compromise between these opposing principles. The model, which is dubbed Social Sampling Theory, derives from cognitive models of judgment and is explored using agent-based modeling to link individual-level and network-level effects. The model is applied to social norm influence and a number of other social phenomena including (a) homophily and the development of segregated neighborhoods, (b) polarization, and (c) social contagion effects.

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