A simulation of the impact of media on social cohesion

Robert Stocker, David Cornforth, David Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


One impact of the introduction of television, according to widely held views, is an undermining of traditional values and social organization. In this study, we simulate this process by representing social communication as a Random Boolean Network in which the individuals are nodes, and each node's state represents an opinion (yes/no) about some issue. Television is modelled as having a direct link to every node in the network. Two scenarios were considered. First, we found that, except in the most well connected networks, television rapidly breaks down cohesion (agreement in opinion). Second, the introduction of Hebbian learning leads to a polarizing effect : one subgroup strongly retains the original opinion, while a splinter group adopts the contrary opinion. The system displays criticality with respect to connectivity and the level of exposure to television. More generally, the results suggest that patterns of communication in networks can help to explain a wide variety of social phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-359
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Complex Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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