When social groups compete for members, the resulting dynamics may be understandable with mathematical models. We demonstrate that a simple ordinary differential equation (ODE) model is a good fit for religious shift by comparing it to a new international data set tracking religious nonaffiliation. We then generalize the model to include the possibility of nontrivial social interaction networks and examine the limiting case of a continuous system. Analytical and numerical predictions of this generalized system, which is robust to polarizing perturbations, match those of the original ODE model and justify its agreement with real-world data. The resulting predictions highlight possible causes of social shift and suggest future lines of research in both physics and sociology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)