Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One in Ten Counts? Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities

Some really interesting reading here over on the Science Blog, and the original paper here (the summary of the original paper is more concise and coherent than the blog I reference; not sure why but I found the blog itself to be a bit confusing).

Here's an excerpt of the article abstract:
We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc≈10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time Tc taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. In particular, for complete graphs we show that when p<pc, Tc~exp[α(p)N], whereas for p>pc, Tc~lnN. We conclude with simulation results for Erdős-Rényi random graphs and scale-free networks which show qualitatively similar behavior.

(Update: found the paper here, and not behind a paywall)

The effective finding is that it only takes 10% of a given population dedicated unwaveringly to a specific belief set to tip the majority over in their favor. It indicates that smaller percentages have no meaningful influence, although I haven't yet ascertained if their model can account for the "tipping point" when the golden 1 in 10 value is effectively hit (nor what size population we must be dealing with, since it seems to me that the smallest relative group size--10 people--would seem to suggest that all you need is one unwaveringly determined member of that group to get the other ten to go along). Is this an indication of behavioral mechanisms engrained in our psychology as a component of evolutionary adaptation, I wonder? Are we hardwired to look to a leader in small populations averaging ten individuals, perhaps a characteristic of our ancient heritage, a throwback to a time when the average social unit of our hominid ancestors was a group of approximately ten individuals?

Anyway, interesting reading....

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