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Why more contact may increase cultural polarization

Following Axelrod's model of cultural dissemination, formal computational studies of cultural influence have suggested that more contact between geographically distant regions may increase overall cultural homogeneity and reduce societal polarization. In the present paper, we show that two plausible modifications of Axelrod's original mechanism turn the effect of range of communication upside-down. We assume a continuous rather than a nominal state space and we add the negative side of social influence, heterophobia and rejection. Computational analyses of the resulting model demonstrate that now a larger range of contact can increase rather than decrease the extent of polarization in the population. Further experiments identify the window of conditions under which the effect obtains.
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Published on April 24, 2006
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