Homophily and acrophily as drivers of political segregation

Amit Goldenberg*, Joseph M. Abruzzo, Zi Huang, Jonas Schöne, David Bailey, Robb Willer, Eran Halperin, James J. Gross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Political segregation is an important social problem, increasing polarization and impeding effective governance. Previous work has viewed the central driver of segregation to be political homophily, the tendency to associate with others who have similar views. Here we propose that, in addition to homophily, people’s social tie decisions are driven by political acrophily, the tendency to associate with others who have more extreme political views (rather than more moderate). We examined this using a paradigm in which participants share emotions and attitudes on political policies, observe others’ responses and choose which others to affiliate with. In four studies (N = 1,235), both liberal and conservative participants’ social tie decisions reflected the presence of acrophily. We found that participants who viewed peers who expressed more extreme views as more prototypical of their political group also tended to engage in greater acrophily. These studies identify a previously overlooked tendency in tie formation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)219-230
Number of pages12
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


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