Persuasion Bias, Social Influence, and Unidimensional Opinions

Persuasion Bias, Social Influence, and Unidimensional Opinions

By
Peter M. DeMarzo, Dimitri Vayanos, Jeffrey Zwiebel
Quarterly Journal of Economics.
2003, Vol. 118, Issue 3, Pages 909-968

We propose a boundedly rational model of opinion formation in which individuals are subject to persuasion bias; that is, they fail to account for possible repetition in the information they receive. We show that persuasion bias implies the phenomenon of social influence, whereby one's influence on group opinions depends not only on accuracy, but also on how well-connected one is in the social network that determines communication. Persuasion bias also implies the phenomenon of unidimensional opinions; that is, individuals' opinions over a multidimensional set of issues converge to a single “left-right” spectrum. We explore the implications of our model in several natural settings, including political science and marketing, and we obtain a number of novel empirical implications.