Imagine a new neighbor has moved in next door. He drives a Prius, and you’ve seen him at the local Starbucks sipping a latte. Last night you heard jazz music drifting from his house. Given what you know so far, do you think he’s politically a liberal or a conservative? Now imagine he owns a Harley Davidson motorcycle, drinks Maxwell House coffee and listens to country music. Did you change your perception of his political leanings?
As this hypothetical situation illustrates, political polarization in the United States is strong, and that spills over to cultural divisions as well according to Michael W. Macy, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Arts and Sciences in Sociology and Director of the Social Dynamics Laboratory at Cornell. “Liberals and conservatives have different interests in everything from music to vehicles,” he says. Macy and his team at the Social Dynamics Lab explore social patterns using computational models, online laboratory experiments, and data from online networks. The lab studies a wide range of social behavior, everything from hate speech to hockey fights to the lifestyle preferences of liberals versus conservatives in the United States.
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