PUBLICATIONS

Laputa is utilised by philosophers and social scientists studying agreement, polarization, trust, source reliability, information and argumentation. The following papers utilise Laputa to simulate knowledge attainment in social networks.

"A diachronic perspective on peer disagreement in veritistic social epistemology"

Erik J. Olsson

Abstract: The main issue in the epistemology of peer disagreement is whether known disagreement among those who are in symmetrical epistemic positions undermines the rationality of their maintaining their respective views. Douven and Kelp have argued convincingly that this problem is best understood as being about how to respond to peer disagreement repeatedly over time, and that this diachronic issue can be best approached through computer simulation. However, Douven and Kelp’s favored simulation framework cannot naturally handle Christensen’s famous Mental Math example. As a remedy, I introduce an alternative (Bayesian) simulation framework, Laputa, inspired by Alvin Goldman’s seminal work on veritistic social epistemology. I show that Christensen’s conciliatory response, reasonably reconstructed and supplemented, gives rise to an increase in epistemic (veritistic) value only if the peers continue to recheck their mental math; else the peers might as well be steadfast. On a meta-level, the study illustrates the power of Goldman’s approach when combined with simulation techniques for handling the computational issues involved.

"The Bi-directional Relationship between Source Characteristics and Message Content"

Peter J. Collins, Ulrike Hahn, Ylva von Gerber,

Erik J. Olsson

Abstract: While there has been long-standing evidence that people are sensitive to the characteristics of the sources of testimony, for example in the context of persuasion, researchers have only recently begun to explore the wider implications of source reliability considerations for the nature of our beliefs. Likewise, much remains to be established concerning what factors influence source reliability. In this paper, we examine, both theoretically and empirically, the implications of using message content as a cue to source reliability. We present a set of experiments examining the relationship between source information and message content in people's responses to simple communications. The results show that people spontaneously revise their beliefs in the reliability of the source on the basis of the expectedness of a source's claim and, conversely, adjust message impact by perceived reliability; hence source reliability and message content have a bi-directional relationship. The implications are discussed for a variety of psychological, philosophical and political issues such as belief polarization and dual-route models of persuasion.

"Truth tracking performance of social networks:
how connectivity and clustering can make groups less competent" 

Ulrike Hahn, Jens Ulrik Hansen, Erik J. Olsson

Abstract: We address via agent-based computer simulations the extent to which patterns of connectivity within our social networks affect the likelihood that initially undecided agents in a network converge on a true opinion following group deliberation. The model incorporates a fine-grained and realistic representation of belief (opinion) and trust, and it allows agents to consult outside information sources. We study a wide range of network structures and provide a detailed statistical analysis concerning the exact contribution of various network metrics to collective competence. Our results highlight and explain the collective risks involved in an overly networked or partitioned society. Specifically, we find that 96% of the variation in collective competence across networks can be attributed to differences in amount of connectivity (average degree) and clustering, which are negatively correlated with collective competence. Our work is interestingly related to Gerhard Schurz’s work on meta-induction and can be seen as broadly addressing a practical limitation of his approach.

"Trust and the value of overconfidence: a Bayesian perspective on social network communication"

Aron Vallinder, Erik J. Olsson

Abstract: The paper presents and defends a Bayesian theory of trust in social networks. In the first part of the paper, we provide justifications for the basic assumptions behind the model, and we give reasons for thinking that the model has plausible consequences for certain kinds of communication. In the second part of the paper we investigate the phenomenon of overconfidence. Many psychological studies have found that people think they are more reliable than they actually are. Using a simulation environment that has been developed in order to make our model computationally tractable we show that in our model inquirers are indeed sometimes better off from an epistemic perspective overestimating the reliability of their own inquiries. We also show, by contrast, that people are rarely better off overestimating the reliability of others. On the basis of these observations we formulate a novel hypothesis about the value of overconfidence.

"Norms of assertion and communication in social

networks"

Erik J. Olsson, Aron Vallinder

Abstract: Epistemologists can be divided into two camps: those who think that nothing short of certainty or (subjective) probability 1 can warrant assertion and those who disagree with this claim. This paper addressed this issue by inquiring into the problem of setting the probability threshold required for assertion in such a way that that the social epistemic good is maximized, where the latter is taken to be the veritistic value in the sense of Goldman (Knowledge in a social world, 1999). We provide a Bayesian model of a test case involving a community of inquirers in a social network engaged in group deliberation regarding the truth or falsity of a proposition 𝑝.p. Results obtained by means of computer simulation indicate that the certainty rule is optimal in the limit of inquiry and communication but that a lower threshold is preferable in less idealized cases.

"A Simulation Approach to

 Veritistic Social Epistemology"

Erik J. Olsson

Abstract: In a seminal book, Alvin I. Goldman outlines a theory for how to evaluate social practices with respect to their “veritistic value”, i.e., their tendency to promote the acquisition of true beliefs (and impede the acquisition of false beliefs) in society. In the same work, Goldman raises a number of serious worries for his account. Two of them concern the possibility of determining the veritistic value of a practice in a concrete case because (1) we often don't know what beliefs are actually true, and (2) even if we did, the task of determining the veritistic value would be computationally extremely difficult. Neither problem is specific to Goldman's theory and both can be expected to arise for just about any account of veritistic value. It is argued here that the first problem does not pose a serious threat to large classes of interesting practices. The bulk of the paper is devoted to the computational problem, which, it is submitted, can be addressed in promising terms by means of computer simulation. In an attempt to add vividness to this proposal, an up-and-running simulation environment (Laputa) is presented and put to some preliminary tests.