Dynamics of social group competition: Modeling the decline of religious affiliation

Daniel M. Abrams*, Haley A. Yaple, Richard J. Wiener

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number088701
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 16 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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