How social feedback processing in the brain shapes collective opinion processes in the era of social media

Research paper by Sven Banisch, Felix Gaisbauer, Eckehard Olbrich

Indexed on: 19 Mar '20Published on: 18 Mar '20Published in: arXiv - Physics - Physics and Society


What are the mechanisms by which groups with certain opinions gain public voice and force others holding a different view into silence? And how does social media play into this? Drawing on recent neuro-scientific insights into the processing of social feedback, we develop a theoretical model that allows to address these questions. The model captures phenomena described by spiral of silence theory of public opinion, provides a mechanism-based foundation for it, and allows in this way more general insight into how different group structures relate to different regimes of collective opinion expression. Even strong majorities can be forced into silence if a minority acts as a cohesive whole. The proposed framework of social feedback theory (SFT) highlights the need for sociological theorising to understand the societal-level implications of findings in social and cognitive neuroscience.