When will they ever make up their minds? The social structure of unstable decision making

Andreas Flache*, René Torenvlied

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


French (1977), Harary (1959), and Abelson (1964) initiated a prominent line of social influence models to explain social norms or collective decisions from the structure of influence networks. These models fail to generate unstable decision dynamics, a phenomenon that can be observed in collective decision-making. To capture instability, we assume that decision-makers raise their level of salience to reduce expected losses from decision-outcomes. Our model generates persistently unstable outcome patterns under conditions related to the social network and to intolerance for expected losses, A 6-actor example reveals stable out-comes for low intolerance, complex oscillations for intermediate levels of intolerance, and simple and regular oscillation for high intolerance. We discuss implications for the predictability of collective decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-196
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Mathematical Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Chaos theory
  • Collective decision-making
  • Non-linear behavior
  • Opinion formation
  • Social networks
  • n/a OA procedure


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