The role of source reliability in belief polarisation

Synthese 199 (3-4):10253-10276 (2021)
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Abstract

Psychological studies show that the beliefs of two agents in a hypothesis can diverge even if both agents receive the same evidence. This phenomenon of belief polarisation is often explained by invoking biased assimilation of evidence, where the agents’ prior views about the hypothesis affect the way they process the evidence. We suggest, using a Bayesian model, that even if such influence is excluded, belief polarisation can still arise by another mechanism. This alternative mechanism involves differential weighting of the evidence arising when agents have different initial views about the reliability of their sources of evidence. We provide a systematic exploration of the conditions for belief polarisation in Bayesian models which incorporate opinions about source reliability, and we discuss some implications of our findings for the psychological literature.

Author Profiles

Alexander Gebharter
Marche Polytechnic University

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