Modeling Interaction Effects in Polarization: Individual Media Influence and the Impact of Town Meetings

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We are increasingly exposed to polarized media sources, with clear evidence that individuals choose those sources closest to their existing views. We also have a tradition of open face-to-face group discussion in town meetings, for example. There are a range of current proposals to revive the role of group meetings in democratic decision-making. Here, we build a simulation that instantiates aspects of reinforcement theory in a model of competing social influences. What can we expect in the interaction of polarized media with group interaction along the lines of town meetings? Some surprises are evident from a computational model that includes both. Deliberative group discussion can be expected to produce opinion convergence. That convergence may not, however, be a cure for extreme views polarized at opposite ends of the opinion spectrum. In a large class of cases, we show that adding the influence of group meetings in an environment of self-selected media produces not a moderate central consensus but opinion convergence at one of the extremes defined by polarized media.
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Archival date: 2021-03-08
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