DOI: 10.1177/0022002797041002001 ISSN:

The Dissemination of Culture

Robert Axelrod
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Business, Management and Accounting

Despite tendencies toward convergence, differences between individuals and groups continue to exist in beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. An agent-based adaptive model reveals the effects of a mechanism of convergent social influence. The actors are placed at fixed sites. The basic premise is that the more similar an actor is to a neighbor, the more likely that that actor will adopt one of the neighbor's traits. Unlike previous models of social influence or cultural change that treat features one at a time, the proposed model takes into account the interaction between different features. The model illustrates how local convergence can generate global polarization. Simulations show that the number of stable homogeneous regions decreases with the number of features, increases with the number of alternative traits per feature, decreases with the range of interaction, and (most surprisingly) decreases when the geographic territory grows beyond a certain size.