Fakers becoming believers: how opinion dynamics are shaped by preference falsification, impression management and coherence heuristics

Francisco J. León-Medina, Jordi Tena-Sánchez*, Francesc Josep Miguel Quesada

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


© 2019, Springer Nature B.V. In the vast and rich literature on opinion dynamics, the role of preference falsification has generally been dismissed. Following the lead of Timur Kuran, in this paper we present one of the first multi-agent models that explores how opinion dynamics can be affected by the possible divorce between private and public opinions. It is also the first attempt to explore the role of social hierarchies in opinion dynamics conditioned by preference falsification. Our model formalizes heterogeneous evolving agents guided by a cognitively feasible set of heuristics and embedded in a social-rank-dependent structure of interactions. In social-rank-heterophilic encounters where people experience a high pressure of face-to-face interactions, unanimous support for the high social-rank preferred option emerges, while in any other scenario this option gathers majority but not unanimous support. Preference falsification has a crucial role in the emergence of unanimity, but it also creates the conditions for further private opinion actualizations that end up generating a self-sustained and sincere unanimity. When social-rank-homophilic encounters are the rule, or when group dynamics are irrelevant for opinion expression, agents never find incentives to falsify their opinions, therefore generating a social situation that resembles the general idea behind the ethnographic work of James C. Scott: true opinion expression in daily social-rank-homophilic encounters and a persistent opinion falsification in dissimilar social-rank interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-412
Number of pages28
JournalQuality and Quantity
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Agent-based modeling
  • Analytical sociology
  • Cellular automata
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Mechanism-based explanation
  • Social hierarchies
  • Social influence
  • Thresholds


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