In human cultural life, change often happens in a few notable ways. Some human institutions, like fashion and political opinions, seem to be in constant flux. Others, such as beliefs and scientific theories, change so slowly as to appear static, before suddenly and dramatically shifting course. A new paper in PLOS ONE by SFI’s David Krakauer and Jessica Flack with co-author Phillip Poon offers an underlying framework to describe these changes, both fast and slow.

The authors identify three major types of change: stasis, then rapid flip; persistent volatility; and slow change over time. Under the surface of all three types are hidden dynamics. For instance, in the U.S., it appeared for decades that there was little support for gay marriage; opposition seemed static. However, recent studies have revealed that many people supported gay marriage, but kept their opinions hidden because they believed they were in the minority. Understanding why change happens requires understanding “how individuals read and influence the collective view,” the authors write.

Read the paper at