The Influence of Community Structure on Opinion Expression: An Agent-Based Model

Benjamin Cabrera*, Björn Ross, Daniel Röchert, Felix Brünker, Stefan Stieglitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Social media has become important in shaping the public discourse on controversial topics. Many businesses therefore monitor different social media channels and try to react adequately to a potentially harmful opinion climate. Still, little is known about how opinions form in an increasingly connected world. The spiral of silence theory provides a way of explaining deviations between the perceived opinion climate and true beliefs of the public. However, the emergence of a spiral of silence on social media is hard to observe because only the thoughts of those who express their opinions are evident there. Recent research has therefore focused on modelling the processes behind the spiral of silence. A particular characteristic of social media networks is the presence of communities. Members of a community tend to be connected more with other members of the same community than with outsiders. Naturally, this might affect the development of public opinion. In the present article we investigate how the number of communities in a network and connectivity between them affects the perceived opinion climate. We find that higher connectivity between communities makes it more likely for a global spiral of silence to appear. Moreover, a network fragmented into more, smaller communities, seems to provide more “safe spaces” for a minority opinion to prevail.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1331-1355
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Business Economics
Early online date20 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • agent-based model
  • spiral of silence
  • network
  • communities
  • stochastic block model


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