Our beliefs and opinions are shaped by others, making our social networks crucial in determining what we believe to be true. Sometimes this is for the good because our peers help us form a more accurate opinion. Sometimes it is for the worse because we are led astray. In this context, we address via agent-based computer simulations the extent to which patterns of connectivity within our social networks affect the likelihood that initially undecided agents in a network converge on a true opinion following group deliberation. The model incorporates a fine-grained and realistic representation of belief (opinion) and trust, and it allows agents to consult outside information sources. We study a wide range of network structures and provide a detailed statistical analysis concerning the exact contribution of various network metrics to collective competence. Our results highlight and explain the collective risks involved in an overly networked or partitioned society. Specifically, we find that 96% of the variation in collective competence across networks can be attributed to differences in amount of connectivity (average degree) and clustering, which are negatively correlated with collective competence. A study of bandwagon or “group think” effects indicates that both connectivity and clustering increase the probability that the network, wholly or partly, locks into a false opinion. Our work is interestingly related to Gerhard Schurz’s work on meta-induction and can be seen as broadly addressing a practical limitation of his approach.
|Publication status||Published - 2020|