The Coevolution of Social Networks and Cognitive Dissonance

Abstract Cognitive dissonance is well-understood as a significant psychological motivator of behavior. It can be experienced vicariously when a member of one's social group acts inconsistently to expectations. In this article, we explore the network implications from individuals reconciling cognitive friction when their neighbors hold alternative views. Through agent-based modeling, we introduce a framework to explore the sensitivity of behavior on social network structure, in response to vicarious dissonance. The model allows us to understand how and why vicarious dissonance may contribute to polarization, both in terms of network structure and the convictions held by individuals. Alternative response behaviors 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)
  • Gualtiero Colombo (Cardiff)
  • Liam Turner (Cardiff)
  • Yarrow Dunham (Yale)
  • Darren Doyle (Dstl)
  • Eilish Roy (Dstl)
  • Cheryl Giammanco (ARL)
Date Jul-2021
Venue IEEE Transactions on Computational Social Systems ( Early Access )