A faculty member and two alumni of the Department of Economics have published a joint article in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. The title of the article is "Dissonance minimization and conversation in social networks".
Each of the three authors of the article is associated with the Department of Economics at the European University at St. Petersburg. Professor Kirill Borisov is a founding father of the faculty, and has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students. He teaches several courses at both the master’s and doctoral levels of the department. Mikhail Anufriev and Mikhail Pakhnin are alumni who maintain close ties with the department.
Here is a brief summary of the article:
In forming their opinions, people are guided by beliefs that already exist in society. Models that study the dynamics of opinions on social media explicitly or implicitly assume that beliefs become known only through conversation with other people. But it is widely known that people may not express their sincere views in conversations, especially if they are confronted with opinions that contradict their own. This latter fact is overlooked in most existing models that study opinion formation.
The authors incorporate this fact into their model, in which the dynamics of opinions are determined by participants minimizing the dissonance arising from differences of opinions with others in the conversation. The authors show that in a model with a fixed social network (in which participants have no ability to break or add ties), a society in which everyone knows each other (albeit through a few handshakes) eventually reaches consensus. However, in a model where participants can change their social networks (breaking old ties and creating new ones), even a society in which everyone knows each other can remain polarized in the long run.
This result shows that people's propensity to associate with peers who have similar psychological and social qualities tends to prevent society from reaching consensus.
The surprising result was that mathematical modeling shows conclusively that for a society to reach consensus, people need to communicate more often with people with views that differ from their own.