How social rewiring preferences bridge polarized communities

Henrique M. Borges, Vítor V. Vasconcelos, Flávio L. Pinheiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Recently, social debates have been marked by increased polarization of social groups. Such polarization not only implies that groups cannot reach a consensus on fundamental questions but also materializes in more modular social spaces/networks that further amplify the risks of polarization in less polarizing topics. How can network adaptation bridge different communities when individuals reveal homophilic or heterophilic social rewiring preferences? Here, we consider information diffusion processes that capture a continuum from simple to complex contagion processes. We use a computational model to understand how fast and to what extent individual rewiring preferences bridge initially weakly connected communities and how likely it is for them to reach a consensus. We show that homophilic and heterophilic rewiring have different impacts depending on the type of opinion spread. First, in the case of complex opinion diffusion, we show that even polarized social networks can reach a population-wide consensus without reshaping their underlying network. When polarized social structures amplify opinion polarization, heterophilic rewiring preferences play a key role in creating bridges between communities and facilitating a population-wide consensus. Secondly, in the case of simple opinion diffusion, homophilic rewiring preferences are more capable of fostering consensus and avoiding a co-existence (dynamical polarization) of opinions. Hence, across a broad profile of simple and complex opinion diffusion processes, only a mix of heterophilic and homophilic rewiring preferences avoids polarization and promotes consensus.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114594
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalChaos, Solitons & Fractals
Volume180
Early online date14 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Social contagion
  • Adaptive social networks
  • Opinion dynamics
  • Polarization

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