“OPINION DYNAMICS, COLLECTIVE ACTION AND ABRUPT SOCIAL CHANGES:
THE ROLE OF PREFERENCE FALSIFICATION AND SOCIAL NETWORKS” (DOACSA)
Public opinion and the dynamics that shape it are highly relevant topics for the social sciences due to both their strictly scholarly interest within academia and their social and political transcendence, which has been particularly exacerbated by the global impact of intelligent information technologies and digital social networks. In this sense, the study of opinion dynamics is one of the main fields for the extension of formal models in the social sciences outside economics and, more specifically, of social simulation models.
The starting point of the modern academic discussion on processes that shape public opinion can be traced back to Laswell’s hypodermic needle theory (1927), which posits that public opinion is formed through the influence exerted by the media and opinion leaders on citizens.
Subsequent research, however, has pointed to two further aspects in this process. On the one hand, the agential capacity of individuals and their resistance to the greater or lesser mechanical influence exerted by the media and, more importantly, that public opinion is the emergent outcome of a dynamic process of social influence and contagion in local interactions, in which media exposure is mediated by peer opinions.
In recent years, the use of computational simulation models has become increasingly popular, with the study of public opinion dynamics being one of the most fruitful fields in this regard. Simulation models, and in particular agent-based models (ABM), are a flexible tool that is ideal for studying emergent phenomena such as public opinion formation.