"Why should we care about having true beliefs? And why do demonstrably false beliefs persist and spread despite consequences for the people who hold them? Philosophers of science Cailin O’Connor and James Weatherall argue that social factors, rather than individual psychology, are what’s essential to understanding the spread and persistence of false belief. It might seem that there’s an obvious reason that true beliefs matter: false beliefs will hurt you. But if that’s right, then why is it irrelevant to many (...) people whether they believe true things or not? In an age riven by "fake news," "alternative facts," and disputes over the validity of everything from climate change to the size of inauguration crowds, the authors argue that social factors, not individual psychology, are what’s essential to understanding the persistence of false belief and that we must know how those social forces work in order to fight misinformation effectively."–Publisher’s description. (shrink)
In almost every human society some people get more and others get less. Why is inequity the rule in human societies? Philosopher Cailin O'Connor reveals how cultural evolution works on social categories such as race and gender to generate unfairness.
We show that previous results from epistemic network models showing the benefits of decreased connectivity in epistemic networks are not robust across changes in parameter values. Our findings motivate discussion about whether and how such models can inform real-world epistemic communities. As we argue, only robust results from epistemic network models should be used to generate advice for the real-world, and, in particular, decreasing connectivity is a robustly poor recommendation.
Vague predicates, those that exhibit borderline cases, pose a persistent problem for philosophers and logicians. Although they are ubiquitous in natural language, when used in a logical context, vague predicates lead to contradiction. This paper will address a question that is intimately related to this problem. Given their inherent imprecision, why do vague predicates arise in the first place? I discuss a variation of the signaling game where the state space is treated as contiguous, i.e., endowed with a metric that (...) captures a similarity relation over states. This added structure is manifested in payoffs that reward approximate coordination between sender and receiver as well as perfect coordination. I evolve these games using a variation of Herrnstein reinforcement learning that better reflects the generalizing learning strategies real-world actors use in situations where states of the world are similar. In these simulations, signaling can develop very quickly, and the signals are vague in much the way ordinary language predicates are vague—they each exclusively apply to certain items, but for some transition period both signals apply to varying degrees. Moreover, I show that under certain parameter values, in particular when state spaces are large and time is limited, learning generalization of this sort yields strategies with higher payoffs than standard Herrnstein reinforcement learning. These models may then help explain why the phenomenon of vagueness arises in natural language: the learning strategies that allow actors to quickly and effectively develop signaling conventions in contiguous state spaces make it unavoidable. (shrink)
This is an Element surveying the most important literature using game theory and evolutionary game theory to shed light on questions in the philosophy of biology. There are two branches of literature that the book focuses on. It begins with a short introduction to game theory and evolutionary game theory. It then turns to working using signaling games to explore questions related to communication, meaning, language, and reference. The second part of the book addresses prosociality - strategic behavior that contributes (...) to the successful functioning of social groups - using the prisoner's dilemma, stag hunt, and bargaining games. (shrink)
Why do minority groups tend to be discriminated against when it comes to situations of bargaining and resource division? In this paper, I explore an explanation for this disadvantage that appeals solely to the dynamics of social interaction between minority and majority groups---the cultural Red King effect. As I show, in agent-based models of bargaining between groups, the minority group will tend to get less as a direct result of the fact that they frequently interact with majority group members, while (...) majority group members meet them only rarely. This effect is strengthened by certain psychological phenomenon---risk aversion and in-group preference---is robust on network models, and is strengthened in cases where pre-existing norms are discriminatory. I will also discuss how this effect unifies previous results on the impacts of institutional memory on bargaining between groups. (shrink)
Collaboration is increasingly popular across academia. Collaborative work raises certain ethical questions, however. How will the fruits of collaboration be divided? How will the work for the collaborative project be split? In this paper, we consider the following question in particular. Are there ways in which these divisions systematically disadvantage certain groups? -/- We use evolutionary game theoretic models to address this question. First, we discuss results from O'Connor and Bruner (unpublished). In this paper, we show that underrepresented groups in (...) academia can be disadvantaged in such situations by dint of their small numbers. Second, we present novel results exploring how the hierarchical structure of academia can lead to bargaining disadvantage. We investigate models where one actor has a higher baseline of academic success, less to lose if collaboration goes south, or greater rewards for non-collaborative work. We show that in these situations, the less powerful partner is disadvantaged in bargaining over collaboration. (shrink)
Collaboration is increasingly popular across academia. Collaborative work raises certain ethical questions, however. How will the fruits of collaboration be divided? How will the work for the collaborative project be split? In this paper, we consider the following question in particular. Are there ways in which these divisions systematically disadvantage certain groups? We use evolutionary game theoretic models to address this question. First, we discuss results from O'Connor and Bruner showing that underrepresented groups in academia can be disadvantaged in collaboration (...) and bargaining by dint of their small numbers. Second, we present novel results exploring how the hierarchical structure of academia can lead to bargaining disadvantage. We investigate models where one actor has a higher baseline of academic success, less to lose if collaboration goes south, or greater rewards for non-collaborative work. We show that in these situations, the less powerful partner can be disadvantaged in bargaining over collaboration. (shrink)
We review several topics of philosophical interest connected to misleading online content. First we consider proposed definitions of different types of misleading content. Then we consider the epistemology of misinformation, focusing on approaches from virtue epistemology and social epistemology. Finally we discuss how misinformation is related to belief polarization, and argue that models of rational polarization present special challenges for conceptualizing fake news and misinformation.
This paper describes a class of idealized models that illuminate minimal conditions for inequity. Some such models will track the actual causal factors that generate real world inequity. Others may not. Whether or not these models do track these real-world factors is irrelevant to the epistemic role they play in showing that minimal commonplace factors are enough to generate inequity. In such cases, it is the fact that the model does not fit the world that makes it a particularly powerful (...) argumentative tool. As I will argue, this epistemic role is a particularly important one when it comes to modeling inequity, because such models are often also aimed at interventions to stop it. Given this, it is crucial to know if we intervene on the current causes of inequity, what other, common social factors might continue to contribute to it. (shrink)
The study of social justice asks: what sorts of social arrangements are equitable ones? But also: how do we derive the inequitable arrangements we often observe in human societies? In particular, in spite of explicitly stated equity norms, categorical inequity tends to be the rule rather than the exception. The cultural Red King hypothesis predicts that differentials in group size may lead to inequitable outcomes for minority groups even in the absence of explicit or implicit bias. We test this prediction (...) in an experimental context where subjects divided into groups engage in repeated play of a bargaining game. We ran 14 trials involving a total of 112 participants. The results of the experiments are statistically significant and suggestive: individuals in minority groups in these experiments end up receiving fewer resources than those in majority groups. Combined with previous theoretical findings, these results give some reason to think that the cultural Red King may occur in real human groups. (shrink)
We use tools from evolutionary game theory to examine how power might influence the cultural evolution of inequitable conventions between discernible groups (such as gender or racial groups) in a population of otherwise identical individuals. Similar extant models always assume that power is homogeneous across a social group. As such, these models fail to capture situations where individuals who are not themselves disempowered nonetheless end up disadvantaged in bargaining scenarios by dint of their social group membership. Our models show that (...) even when most individuals in two discernible sub-groups are relevantly identical, powerful individuals can affect the social outcomes for their entire group under a range of conditions; this results in power by association for their in-group and a bargaining disadvantage for their out-group. (shrink)
According to Grice's `Cooperative Principle', human communicators are involved in a cooperative endeavor. The speaker attempts to make herself understood and the listener, in turn, assumes that the speaker is trying to maximize the ease and effectiveness of communication. While pragmatists recognize that people do not always behave in such a way, the Cooperative Principle is generally assumed to hold. However, it is often the case that the interests of speakers and listeners diverge, at least to some degree. Communication can (...) arise in such situations when the cost of signaling is high enough that it aligns the interests of speaker and listener, but what happens when the cost of signaling is not sufficient to align the interests of those communicating? In these cases the theoretical prediction is that they will reach a partially informative system of communication. Using methods from experimental economics, we test whether theoretical predictions are borne out. We find that subjects do learn to communicate without the cooperative principle. (shrink)
Confirmation bias has been widely studied for its role in failures of reasoning. Individuals exhibiting confirmation bias fail to engage with information that contradicts their current beliefs, and, as a result, can fail to abandon inaccurate beliefs. But although most investigations of confirmation bias focus on individual learning, human knowledge is typically developed within a social structure. How does the presence of confirmation bias influence learning and the development of consensus within a group? In this paper, we use network models (...) to study this question. We find, perhaps surprisingly, that moderate confirmation bias often improves group learning. This is because confirmation bias leads the group to entertain a wider variety of theories for a longer time, and prevents them from prematurely settling on a suboptimal theory. There is a downside, however, which is that a stronger form of confirmation bias can cause persistent polarization, and hurt the knowledge producing capacity of the community. We discuss implications of these results for epistemic communities, including scientific ones. (shrink)
Scientific curation, where scientific evidence is selected and shared, is essential to public belief formation about science. Yet common curation practices can distort the body of evidence the public sees. Focusing on science journalism, we employ computational models to investigate how such distortions influence public belief. We consider these effects for agents with and without confirmation bias. We find that standard journalistic practices can lead to significant distortions in public belief; that pre-existing errors in public belief can drive further distortions (...) in re- porting; that practices that appear relatively unobjectionable can produce serious epistemic harm; and that, in some cases, common curation practices related to fairness and extreme reporting can lead to polarization. (shrink)
The COVID-19 pandemic created enormously difficult decisions for individuals trying to navigate both the risks of the pandemic and the demands of everyday life. Good decision making in such scenarios can have life and death consequences. For this reason, it is important to understand what drives risk assessments during a pandemic, and to investigate the ways that these assessments might deviate from ideal risk assessments. In a preregistered online study of U.S. residents (N = 841) using two blocks of vignettes (...) about potential COVID exposure scenarios, we investigated the effects of moral judgment, importance, and intentionality on COVID infection risk assessments. Results demonstrate that risk judgments are sensitive to factors unrelated to the objective risks of infection. Specifically, activities that are morally justified are perceived as safer while those that might subject people to blame or culpability, are seen as riskier, even when holding objective risk fixed. Similarly, unintentional COVID exposures are judged as safer than intentional COVID exposures. While the effect sizes are small, these findings may have implications for public health and risk communications, particularly if public health officials are themselves subject to these biases. (shrink)
In this paper we critically examine and seek to extend Philip Kitcher’s Ethical Project to weave together a distinctive naturalistic conception of how ethics came to occupy the place it does in our lives and how the existing ethical project should be revised and extended into the future. Although we endorse his insight that ethical progress is better conceived of as the improvement of an existing state than an incremental approach towards a fixed endpoint, we nonetheless go on to argue (...) that the metaethical apparatus Kitcher constructs around this creative metaethical proposal simply cannot do the work that he demands of it. The prospect of fundamental conflict between different functions of the ethical project requires Kitcher to appeal to a particular normative stance in order to judge specific changes in the ethical project to be genuinely progressive, and we argue that the virtues of continuity and coherence to which he appeals can only specify rather than justify the normative stance he favors. We conclude by suggesting an alternative approach for ethical naturalists that seems to us ultimately more promising than Kitcher’s own. (shrink)
Using results from evolutionary game theory, we analyze the conditions under which guilt can provide individual fitness benefits to actors, and so evolve. In particular, we focus on the individual benefits of guilty apology. We find that guilty apology is more likely to evolve in cases where actors interact repeatedly over long periods of time, where the costs of apology are low or moderate, and where guilt is hard to fake.
In this paper we use an experimental approach to investigate how linguistic conventions can emerge in a society without explicit agreement. As a starting point we consider the signaling game introduced by Lewis. We find that in experimental settings, small groups can quickly develop conventions of signal meaning in these games. We also investigate versions of the game where the theoretical literature indicates that meaning will be less likely to arise---when there are more than two states for actors to transfer (...) meaning about and when some states are more likely than others. In these cases, we find that actors are less likely to arrive at strategies where signals have clear conventional meaning. We conclude with a proposal for extending the use of the methodology of experimental economics in experimental philosophy. (shrink)
We use tools from evolutionary game theory to examine how power might influence the cultural evolution of inequitable norms between discernible groups in a population of otherwise identical individuals. Similar extant models always assume that power is homogeneous across a social group. As such, these models fail to capture situations where individuals who are not themselves disempowered nonetheless end up disadvantaged in bargaining scenarios by dint of their social group membership. Thus, we assume that there is heterogeneity in the groups (...) in that some individuals are more powerful than others. Our model shows that even when most individuals in two discernible sub-groups are relevantly identical, powerful individuals can affect the social outcomes for their entire group; this results in power by association for their in-group and a bargaining disadvantage for their out-group. In addition, we observe scenarios like those described where individuals who are more powerful will get less in a bargaining scenario because a convention has emerged disadvantaging their social group. (shrink)
Recently, game theory and evolutionary game theory - mathematical frameworks from economics and biology designed to model and explain interactive behavior - have proved fruitful tools for philosophers in areas such as ethics, philosophy of language, social epistemology, and political philosophy. This methodological osmosis is part of a trend where philosophers have blurred disciplinary lines to import the best epistemic tools available. In this vein, experimental philosophers have drawn on practices from the social sciences, and especially from psychology, to expand (...) philosophy's grasp on issues from morality to consciousness. We argue that the recent prevalence of formal work on human interaction in philosophy opens the door for new methods in experimental philosophy. In particular, we discuss methods from experimental economics, focusing on a small literature we have been developing investigating signaling and communication in humans. We describe results from a novel experiment showing how environmental structure can shape signaling behavior. (shrink)