Topics in Cognitive Science 8 (1):160-179 (2016)

Abstract
Belief polarization is said to occur when two people respond to the same evidence by updating their beliefs in opposite directions. This response is considered to be “irrational” because it involves contrary updating, a form of belief updating that appears to violate normatively optimal responding, as for example dictated by Bayes' theorem. In light of much evidence that people are capable of normatively optimal behavior, belief polarization presents a puzzling exception. We show that Bayesian networks, or Bayes nets, can simulate rational belief updating. When fit to experimental data, Bayes nets can help identify the factors that contribute to polarization. We present a study into belief updating concerning the reality of climate change in response to information about the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming. The study used representative samples of Australian and U.S. participants. Among Australians, consensus information partially neutralized the influence of worldview, with free-market supporters showing a greater increase in acceptance of human-caused global warming relative to free-market opponents. In contrast, while consensus information overall had a positive effect on perceived consensus among U.S. participants, there was a reduction in perceived consensus and acceptance of human-caused global warming for strong supporters of unregulated free markets. Fitting a Bayes net model to the data indicated that under a Bayesian framework, free-market support is a significant driver of beliefs about climate change and trust in climate scientists. Further, active distrust of climate scientists among a small number of U.S. conservatives drives contrary updating in response to consensus information among this particular group
Keywords Belief polarization  Climate change  Bayes' theorem  Bayesian updating
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DOI 10.1111/tops.12186
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References found in this work BETA

Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
On the Psychology of Prediction.Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky - 1973 - Psychological Review 80 (4):237-251.
Of Conspiracy Theories.Brian L. Keeley - 1999 - Journal of Philosophy 96 (3):109-126.
Are Creationists Rational?John S. Wilkins - 2011 - Synthese 178 (2):207-218.

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Citations of this work BETA

Scientific Polarization.Cailin O’Connor & James Owen Weatherall - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 8 (3):855-875.
Trust Me: News, Credibility Deficits, and Balance.Carrie Figdor - 2018 - In Joe Saunders & Carl Fox (eds.), Media Ethics, Free Speech, and the Requirements of Democracy. New York, USA and Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 69-86.
Why Bayesian Agents Polarize.Erik J. Olsson - forthcoming - In Fernando Broncano-Berrocal & Adam Carter (eds.), The Epistemology of Group Disagreement.

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