The way social networks are organized can modify the voting decision even if the information is apparently similar for two political parties, said a U.S. academic study published Wednesday.
Although it is superficial information, messages that people receive through social media influence the decisions they make, highlighted the research “How social networks shape political decisions”, developed by the University of Houston (UH).
The study applied a mathematical model and used two groups with the colors yellow and purple to represent two parties.
“Twitter, Facebook, those social networks are organized by who you follow and who follows you, and that affects both the information people are exposed to and the way they make decisions,” noted researcher Alexander Stewart, UH mathematical biologist and author of the report.
The analysis published today in the scientific journal Nature says that people use information from different sources to make decisions, but that information “can be limited by social networks and distorted by fanatics and automated ‘bots.
For this research, a “voters’ game” was designed with the aim of analyzing the data flow, which was then confirmed through the study of real-world data, including political discussions.
Thus, the Yellow and Purple teams were established, two colors over which most people have no intrinsic preferences, according to other studies.
The group of researchers – including report co-author David Rand of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – conducted more than 100 online experiments with more than 2,500 actual participants.
Each group functioned “as a simplified form of Twitter” where each user had followers and in turn followed other users.
The game was structured to “reward the loyalty and commitment of each match”. Thus, if a match won with 60% or more of the votes, each member received two dollars.
If members of one party pledged to help the other party achieve 60% of the votes, each member received 50 cents on the dollar.
If the vote was tied, no participant received incentives.
The analysis found that the decisions of the voters – or players in the experiment – were influenced by the information they received through the network in which they participated.
Thus, if the person was convinced that his or her party was going to win, he or she did would have much incentive to commit. But if he thought the other team had more votes, they were more willing to compromise.
The study highlighted the advantage of a team that manages to use social networks to influence each other’s decisions, something the researchers called “manipulation of network information for political purposes.
“Our analyses provide an account of the vulnerabilities of collective decisions, caused by systematic distortion by restricting the flow of information,” the report concludes.