Social structure and the effects of conformity

Synthese 172 (3):317 - 340 (2010)
Conformity is an often criticized feature of human belief formation. Although generally regarded as a negative influence on reliability, it has not been widely studied. This paper attempts to determine the epistemic effects of conformity by analyzing a mathematical model of this behavior. In addition to investigating the effect of conformity on the reliability of individuals and groups, this paper attempts to determine the optimal structure for conformity. That is, supposing that conformity is inevitable, what is the best way for conformity effects to occur? The paper finds that in some contexts conformity effects are reliability inducing and, more surprisingly even when it is counterproductive, not all methods for reducing its effect are helpful. These conclusions contribute to a larger discussion in social epistemology regarding the effect of social behavior on individual reliability.
Keywords Conformity  Social network  Social structure  Social epistemology  Agent based model
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Michael Fuerstein (2013). Epistemic Trust and Liberal Justification. Journal of Political Philosophy 21 (2):179-199.

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