Testing Mathematical Models of Social Processes

van der Does, Tamara, Mirta Galesic, Nina Fedoroff and Dan Stein. "Overcoming false beliefs about scientific issues: The case of GM foods" Research in Progress

It is very difficult to change false beliefs about scientific issues once they have become prevalentin society. A prominent example is provided by the false beliefs about genetically modified (GM) crops: while most scientists agree that GM crops are safe to eat, only a minority of the general public believes this to be so (37%, Pew 2014). Efforts to change negative public beliefs about GMOs by simply providing scientifically correct information have proven frustratingly ineffective. We investigate whether understanding the social and moral underpinnings of negative beliefs about GMOs can enable development of more effective approaches to helping people bring their beliefs into closer alignment with the scientific consensus. Our immediate objectives are to (i) develop a quantitative theoretical framework to model complex socialcognitive processes of belief change applied to the particular context of GM crops; (ii) use the framework to develop research hypotheses about different factors that can affect belief change, such as alignment of new beliefs with core moral values, perceived scientific consensus, trustworthiness of media sources, and homogeneity of social circles; and (iii) test these predictions in a longitudinal experimental study on a national sample. Our long-term goal is to identify educational interventions that maximize the probability of acceptance of scientifically accurate information about GMOs in order to help inform strategies for both increasing public acceptance of GMOs and preparing the public for new genetic technologies currently under development.

van der Does, Tamara, Mirta Galesic and Paul E. Smaldino. "Hiding Radical Speech in Plain Sight: Covert Identity Signaling on Social Media" Research in Progress

In the last few years, there has been a surge in both online political polarization and radicalization (Garimella & Weber 2017; Tucker et al. 2018, Bjork-James & Maskovsky 2017). Over the past ten years, there is evidence of an increase in political polarization online, as individuals start to use social media more and more for political news and community (Rama et al. 2017). This phenomenon within social media has happened alongside rapid materialization of protests and communication infrastructures, suggesting that the rise in radical political speech may at least in part reflect a shift in incentives and opportunities rather than in the opinions of individual actors. We propose that the theory of covert signaling can help explain how the propensity of radical speech is determined by changes in social costs within online and offline communities. We will test this broad hypothesis with a mix of experiments and analysis of existing data from Twitter.

Contact Information

Santa Fe Institute

1399 Hyde Park Road

Santa Fe, NM 87501

Email: tamara@santafe.edu

Copyright © 2019 Tamara van der Does. All rights reserved.