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    Knowledge through social networks: accuracy, error, and polarisation

    Hahn, Ulrike and Merdes, C. and von Sydow, M. (2024) Knowledge through social networks: accuracy, error, and polarisation. PLoS One 19 (1), e0294815. ISSN 1932-6203.

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    This paper examines the fundamental problem of testimony. Much of what we believe to know we know in good part, or even entirely, through the testimony of others. The problem with testimony is that we often have very little on which to base estimates of the accuracy of our sources. Simulations with otherwise optimal agents examine the impact of this for the accuracy of our beliefs about the world. It is demonstrated both where social networks of information dissemination help and where they hinder. Most importantly, it is shown that both social networks and a common strategy for gauging the accuracy of our sources give rise to polarisation even for entirely accuracy motivated agents. Crucially these two factors interact, amplifying one another’s negative consequences, and this side effect of communication in a social network increases with network size. This suggests a new causal mechanism by which social media may have fostered the increase in polarisation currently observed in many parts of the world.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Research Centres and Institutes: Cognition, Computation and Modelling, Centre for
    Depositing User: Ulrike Hahn
    Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2024 11:55
    Last Modified: 27 Feb 2024 15:30


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