The coevolution of social networks and vicarious dissonance

Abstract Cognitive dissonance is well-understood as a significant psychological motivator of behaviour. It can be experienced vicariously when a member of one’s social group acts inconsistently to expectations. In this paper we explore the network implications from individuals reconciling cognitive friction when their neighbours holding alternative views. Through agent-based modelling, we introduce a framework to explore the sensitivity of behaviour on social network structure, in response to vicarious dissonance. The model allows us to understand how and why vicarious dissonance may contribute to polarisation, both in terms of network structure and the convictions held by individuals. Alternative behaviours are each found to be highly effective in reducing the cognitive dissonance felt across a population, but with wide ranging outcomes for the population as a whole. The results highlight the important role of neutrality and tolerance in retaining social cohesion, while showing how easily this can be disrupted. The model presents a useful tool for further research, allowing bespoke scenarios to be investigated.
  • Roger Whitaker (Cardiff)
  • Walter Colombo (Cardiff)
  • Liam Turner (Cardiff)
  • Yarrow Dunham (Yale)
  • Darren K. Doyle (Dstl)
  • Eilish Roy (Dstl)
  • Cheryl Giammanco (ARL)
Date Sep-2020
Venue 4th Annual Fall Meeting of the DAIS ITA, 2020