Opinion dynamics within a virtual small group: the stubbornness effect

Andrea Guazzini1,2, Alessandro Cini2, Franco Bagnoli3 and José J. Ramasco4
1Department of Education and Psychology, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.
2University of Florence, Centre for the Study of Complex Dynamics, Florence,Italy.
3Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.
4Instituto de Fisica Interdisciplinar y Sistemas Complejos IFISC (CSIC-UIB), Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

(Aug 2015)

The modeling of opinion dynamics in social systemas has attracted a good deal of attention in the last decade. Even though based on intuition and observation, the mechanisms behind many of these models need solid empirical grounding. In this work, we investigate the relation among subjective variables (such as the personality), the dynamics of the affinity network dynamics, the communication patterns emerging throughout the social interactions and the opinions dynamics in a series of experiments with five small groups of ten people each. In order to ignite the discussion, the polemic topic of animal experimentation was proposed. The groups essentially polarized in two factions with a set of stubborn individuals (those not changing their opinions in time) playing the role of anchors. Our results suggest that the different layers present in the group dynamics (i.e., individual level, group dynamics and meso-communication) are deeply intermingled, specifically the stubbornness effect appears to be related to the dynamical features of the network topologies, and only in an undirected way to the personality of the participants.