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Conformity in scientific networks

  • Author(s): Weatherall, JO
  • O’Connor, C
  • et al.
Abstract

Scientists are generally subject to social pressures, including pressures to conform with others in their communities, that affect achievement of their epistemic goals. Here we analyze a network epistemology model in which agents, all else being equal, prefer to take actions that conform with those of their neighbors. This preference for conformity interacts with the agents’ beliefs about which of two (or more) possible actions yields the better result. We find a range of possible outcomes, including stable polarization in belief and action. The model results are sensitive to network structure. In general, though, conformity has a negative effect on a community’s ability to reach accurate consensus about the world.

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