Opinion Cascades and Echo-Chambers in Online Networks: A Proof of Concept Agent-Based Model

Abstract

In online networks, the polarization of opinions (e.g., regarding presidential elections or referenda) has been associated with the creation of “echo-chambers” of like-minded peers, secluded from those of contrary viewpoints. Previous work has commonly attributed such phenomena to self-regarding preferences (e.g., confirmation bias), individual differences, and the pre-dispositions of users, with clusters forming over repeated interactions. The present work provides a proof of concept Agent-Based Model that demonstrates online networks are susceptible to echo-chambers from a single opinion cascade, due to the spatiotemporal order induced by lateral transmission. This susceptibility is found to vary as a function of degree of interconnectivity and opinion strength. Critically, such effects are found despite globally proportionate levels of opinions, equally rational agents (i.e. absent conformity, confirmation bias or pre-disposition architecture), and prior to cyclical interactions. The assumptions and implications of this work, including the value of Agent-Based Modelling to cognitive psychology, are discussed.


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