Published Web Locationhttps://arxiv.org/abs/1712.04561
Contemporary societies are often “polarized”, in the sense that sub-groups within these societies hold stably opposing beliefs, even when there is a fact of the matter. Extant models of polarization do not capture the idea that some beliefs are true and others false. Here we present a model, based on the network epistemology framework of Bala and Goyal (Learning from neighbors, Rev. Econ. Stud.65(3), 784–811 1998), in which polarization emerges even though agents gather evidence about their beliefs, and true belief yields a pay-off advantage. As we discuss, these results are especially relevant to polarization in scientific communities, for these reasons. The key mechanism that generates polarization involves treating evidence generated by other agents as uncertain when their beliefs are relatively different from one’s own.