Opinion strength influences the spatial dynamics of opinion formation

BO Baumgaertner, RC Tyson, and SM Krone


Opinions are rarely black and white; they can be held with different degrees of conviction and this expanded attitude spectrum has the potential to affect the influence one opinion has on others. How do strengths of opinion vary over time and space, and how do they affect the development of polarization? Our goal is to understand how different aspects of influence lead to recognizable spatio-temporal patterns of opinions and their strengths. To do this, we introduce a stochastic spatial agent-based model of opinion dynamics that includes a spectrum of opinion strengths and various possible rules for how the opinion type and strength of one individual affect the influence that individual has on others. Through simulations of the model, we find that even a small amount of amplification of opinion strength through interaction with like-minded neighbors can tip the scales in favor of polarization and deadlock.