Modeling Dissemination of Health Information and Beliefs in Urban Social Networks

Authors: Sara S Metcalf*, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Harvey D Palmer, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Qiuyi Zhang, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Mary E Northridge, NYU Langone
Topics: Communication, Urban Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: agent-based modeling, social networks, urban health
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Diplomat Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Social networks play a mediating role in the dissemination of information and beliefs in which trust increases the likelihood that a person receives information and accepts beliefs from a particular source. Trust is often grounded in group identity, where people are more likely to receive information and accept beliefs disseminated by sources aligned with their identity group(s) than from sources aligned with groups in conflict with their identity group(s). The impact of trust has been found to increase with the number and variety of identity groups, the average density and closeness of social links within identity groups, and the level of grievance between identity groups. However, theories of how these factors interact are limited at best. This paper contributes to social network theory by developing and experimenting with an agent-based model to simulate the dynamic interaction of group heterogeneity, intra-group cohesion, and inter-group resentment in shaping the dissemination of beliefs within a society. This model simulates an information environment in which identity-group sources disseminate subjective beliefs that conflict with information disseminated by neutral (government, scientific) sources. Whether an agent receives and accepts a message will depend on their trust in the source, which is a function of group identity and the extent to which messages received from other more trusted sources are in conflict. The model is applied to develop theoretical expectations for the substantive context of the dissemination of information and beliefs about oral health care in low-income Chinese American communities of New York City.

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