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Dynamic Attitude Fixing: A novel theory of opinion dynamics in social networks and its implications for computational propaganda in hybrid social networks (containing humans and bots)

Objective

Understanding the coordination of attitudes in societies is vitally important for many disciplines and global social challenges. Network opinion dynamics are poorly understood, especially in hybrid networks where automated (bot) agents seek to influence economic or political processes (e.g. USA: Trump vs Clinton; UK: Brexit). A dynamic fixing theory of attitudes is proposed, premised on three features of attitudes demonstrated in ethnomethodology and social psychology; that people: 1) simultaneously hold a repertoire of multiple (sometimes ambivalent) attitudes, 2) express attitudes to enact social identity; and 3) are accountable for attitude expression in interaction. It is proposed that interactions between agents generate symbolic links between attitudes with the emergent social-symbolic structure generating perceived ingroup similarity and outgroup difference in a multilayer network. Thus attitudes can become dynamically fixed when constellations of attitudes are locked-in to identities via multilayer networks of attitude agreement and disagreement; a process intensified by conflict, threat or zero-sum partisan processes (e.g. elections/referenda). Agent-based simulations will validate the theory and explore the hypothesized channels of bot influence. Network experiments with human and hybrid networks will test theoretically derived hypotheses. Observational network studies will assess model fit using historical Twitter data. Results will provide a social-psychological-network theory for attitude dynamics and vulnerability to computational propaganda in hybrid networks.
The theory will explain:
(a) when and how consensus can propagate rapidly through networks (since identity processes fix attitudes already contained within repertoires);
(b) limits of identity-related attitude propagation (since attitudes outside of repertoires will not be easily adopted); and
(c) how attitudes can often ‘roll back’ after events (since contextual changes ‘unfix’ attitudes).

Field of science

  • /social sciences/psychology
  • /social sciences/psychology/social psychology

Call for proposal

ERC-2018-STG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-STG - Starting Grant

Host institution

UNIVERSITY OF LIMERICK
Address
National Technological Park, Plassey
- Limerick
Ireland
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 499 925

Beneficiaries (1)

UNIVERSITY OF LIMERICK
Ireland
EU contribution
€ 1 499 925
Address
National Technological Park, Plassey
- Limerick
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments