Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Who wants an opinion transplant?

Social network - from Wikipedia

For many years, there has been much research into the dynamics of belief and opinion. Advertising agencies have been doing it for decades. Why do people hold certain beliefs, how do beliefs spread, can they be influenced, how can they be influenced to sell more stuff?

It continues apace and as ever, the military are interested. For example, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the US is working its way through $16.75 million funding from the Army Research Laboratory. The work is on social and cognitive networks. Here is a sample of their latest research which suggests that 10% is a kind of tipping point where minority opinions finally gain enough traction to become majority opinions. The US army is presumably interested in the light this might shed on the dynamics of radical opinion.

The ultimate aim of course is to control and influence. We all know that planting stories to mould popular opinion is hugely popular with governments, publicly-funded agencies and NGOs as well as being done for purely commercial reasons. Climate change is a very obvious and successful example. The funding is certainly available and research seems to be pushing ahead with profitable academic enthusiasm.


Demetrius said...

I once gathered some time ago that if you want to get a letter hand delivered to almost any part of the globe it can often be done by six or fewer people in the chain. Is this the case with opinion?

A K Haart said...

In some cases it probably is. You certainly see a very rapid uptake of ideas on the web.