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Understanding Polarization: Meanings, Measures, and Model Evaluation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Polarization is a topic of intense interest among social scientists, but there is significant disagreement regarding the character of the phenomenon and little understanding of underlying mechanics. A first problem, we argue, is that polarization appears in the literature as not one concept but many. In the first part of the article, we distinguish nine phenomena that may be considered polarization, with suggestions of appropriate measures for each. In the second part of the article, we apply this analysis to evaluate the types of polarization generated by the three major families of computational models proposing specific mechanisms of opinion polarization.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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We are especially thankful to Jiin Jung and various conference audiences for their incredibly helpful feedback on previous versions of this research.


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