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21 November, 2008

CPM Report 08-196: "Death to . . . !": On Opinion Dynamics in Conict-Torn Afghanistan - Armando Geller and Nanda Wijermans

Crowds and riots in contemporary conflict are only little understood. However, it is fairly well understood that the emergence of crowds and riots in conflict regions has a severe and lasting impact on the security situation. On the basis of an existing and cross-validated model of Afghan power structures we demonstrate what role opinion dynamics play in the evolution of a critical social condition preceding the emergence of crowds and riots. It is explained how information on security incidences spreads within an artificial society and when such a turning point is reached. The influence of network structures on the spread of information and the role opinion leaders play is explored. We find that small world network structures lead to dynamics that are volatile, unpredictable and performative in nature. It is also shown that opinion leaders have a catalytic effect on the information distribution processes. These findings bear importance for policy makers and practitioners in the field.

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