Large-scale social networks are thought to contribute to polarization by amplifying people’s biases. However, the complexity of these technologies makes it difficult to identify the mechanisms responsible and evaluate mitigation strategies. Here we show under controlled laboratory conditions that transmission through social networks amplifies motivational biases on a simple artificial decision-making task. Participants in a large behavioural experiment showed increased rates of biased decision-making when part of a social network relative to asocial participants in 40 independently evolving populations. Drawing on ideas from Bayesian statistics, we identify a simple adjustment to content-selection algorithms that is predicted to mitigate bias amplification by generating samples of perspectives from within an individual’s network that are more representative of the wider population. In two large experiments, this strategy was effective at reducing bias amplification while maintaining the benefits of information sharing. Simulations show that this algorithm can also be effective in more complex networks.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Social Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience