Biased processing and opinion polarization: experimental refinement and plausibility of argument communication theory.

  • Sven Banisch (Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences, Leipzig, Germany)
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We look at data from an experiment on biased argument processing from the perspective of the cognitive architecture employed in argument communication models of collective opinion formation. The empirical experiment realized in the context of attitudes toward energy reveals a strong tendency to consider arguments aligned with the current attitude more persuasive and to downgrade those speaking against the current attitude. This is integrated into a theoretical model of cognitive agents by assuming that the coherence of an argument with the current attitude controls the probability to adopt it and to change the attitude accordingly. The strength of this bias is included as a free parameter which can be estimated from experimental data. We find a clear signature of moderate biased processing. Simulations with interacting cognitive agents that exchange arguments show that deliberation with a moderate level of biased processing leads to efficient group decision processes, whereas groups without bias may be trapped in long processes of indecision and strong biases result in persistent intra-group conflict. We relate the opinion distributions emerging in the model to surveyed attitude distributions and find a good match in transitory periods of the model. We shall explore this in an online tool which allows to compare the model dynamics to empirical attitude distributions.

26.10.20 28.10.20

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Antje Vandenberg

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (Leipzig), Germany Contact via Mail

Eckehard Olbrich

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (Leipzig), Germany