New paper on opinion diffusion in a hierarchical organisation


My first paper with Juliette Rouchier has finally come out in the Proceedings of the 4th and 5th UK Social Networks Conferences! You can find it here.

We develop an agent-based model of opinion diffusion in a social network, using data collected by Emmanuel Lazega and Lise Mounier on the advice network of judges at the Commercial Court of Paris. The Court is an interesting case of involvement of market participants in the regulation of their own activities, as its judges are peer-elected, volunteering businesspeople. The composition of the Court varies over time due to the fixed-term mandate of its members.

We aim to identify the motives that drive judges’ advice-seeking behavior and their effects on both the structure of the emerging network and the possible harmonisation of members’ opinions over time. Put differently, we explore the possibility that advice-seeking relationships progressively affect judges’ views, in ways that may bring them closer to one another over time. We look at the implications of different, alternative assumptions on how judges select their advisors: that they seek advice from senior colleagues who are higher up in the formal hierarchy of the organisation; from colleagues who are very much sought out by others, and therefore can be said enjoy high “reputation”; and from judges who are similar to them in terms of their initial opinion (a situation that might be called “opinion homophily”). Theoretically, we look at how these different assumptions affect the dynamics of opinion diffusion and network formation; empirically, we assess their fit with the data.

We find that a mixed strategy, according to which judges choose their advisors from among  the set of their colleagues based on their position in the formal hierarchy of the organisation as well as their reputation, provides the best fit to the data. This result shows the combined importance of both the formal structure of the Court and endogenous reinforcement effects. Even in highly hierarchical contexts, social networks mirror the organisational chain and its official rules only to an extent; they also allow for alternative, more informal dynamics to emerge spontaneously from the interactions of a multiplicity of autonomous decision-makers.

One Response to “New paper on opinion diffusion in a hierarchical organisation”

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