Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 373–404 | Cite as

A Bayesian Model of Panic in Belief

  • Carter Butts


One common principle in the study of belief is what has been called the “consensual validation of reality”: the idea that persons in highly inbred social networks alter their beliefs regarding the external world by repeated interaction with each other rather than by direct observation. This notion accounts for phenomena such as panics, in which a substantial number of actors in a given population suddenly converge to (typically unsubstantiated) beliefs. In this paper, a Bayesian conditional probability model will be used to explore the conditions necessary for such outcomes, and alternative results will be likewise documented. Finally, suggestions for operationalization of the Bayesian model in experimental research will be given, along with some implications of the theory for common phenomena such as the propagation of ideas by media sources, organizational rumors, and polarization of group opinion.

panic belief social influence social networks Bayesian updating 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carter Butts
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social and Decision SciencesCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh

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