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Pages 186-193
First published 2 July 2012

Polarization and Belief Dynamics in the Black and White Communities: An Agent-Based Network Model from the Data

Patrick Grim, Stephen B. Thomas, Steven Fisher, Christopher Reade, Daniel J. Singer, Mary A. Garza, Craig S. Fryer, Jamie Chatman


Public health care interventions—regarding vaccination, obesity, and HIV, for example—standardly take the form of information dissemination across a community. But information networks can vary importantly between different ethnic communities, as can levels of trust in information from different sources. We use data from the Greater Pittsburgh Random Household Health Survey to construct models of information networks for White and Black communities—models which reflect the degree of information contact between individuals, with degrees of trust in information from various sources correlated with positions in that social network. With simple assumptions regarding belief change and social reinforcement, we use those modeled networks to build dynamic agent-based models of how information can be expected to flow and how beliefs can be expected to change across each community. With contrasting information from governmental and religious sources, the results show importantly different dynamic patterns of belief polarization within the two communities.