Robert Axelrod

Paper #: 95-03-028

Despite tendencies toward convergence, differences between individuals and groups continue to exist in beliefs, attitudes, behavior and many other aspects of what can be termed “culture.” The proposed model represents culture as a set of features, each with a set of alternative traits. The actors are placed at fixed sites. The basic premise is that the more similar an actor is to a neighbor, the more likely that actor will adopt one of the neighbor's traits. Unlike previous models of social influence or cultural change that treat cultural features one at a time, the proposed model takes into account the interaction between different features of culture. The model illustrates how local convergence can generate global polarization in terms of stable regions of differing culture. Simulations show that the number of stable cultural regions decreases with the number of features in the culture, increases with the number of alternative traits per feature, decreases with the range of interaction, and (most surprisingly) decreases when the geographic territory grows beyond a certain size.