Abstract for: Modeling Information Processing within Social Networks: Understanding the Persistence of Contrarian Health Beliefs

In an effort to understand the persistence of contrarian health beliefs, this study develops an agent-based model to simulate opinion formation. The model simulates an information environment in which identity group sources disseminate information that supports positions in conflict with information disseminated by neutral sources. Whether an agent receives and accepts a message will depend on their trust in the source, which is a function of group identity, and the extent to which messages received from other, more trusted sources are in conflict. Social networks play an intermediary role in the communication and persistence of contrarian beliefs that are shaped by group identity. The model is applied to develop theoretical expectations for the substantive context of the dissemination of information and beliefs about oral health care in low-income, Chinese American communities in New York City.