Belief dynamics and the role of epistemic peership in identity construction

Mark Ohan Karatoprak

The drive for social inclusion has been observed to impact both individual beliefs and their corresponding behaviors. An individual’s uncertainty regarding their position within their affiliated groups has been identified as a factor contributing to the spread of conspiratorial ideation and extreme beliefs. The following paper introduces a model of belief dynamics adapted from predictive brain models which attempts to consolidate a broad range of existing psychology literature. It predicts that individuals will attempt to resolve perceived divergence from the beliefs of their affiliated groups by adjustments to their ideological positions. The model defines this as one strategy of uncertainty mitigation in social contexts. In three experiments, participants were asked to indicate their beliefs regarding a range of topics and the importance of those topics to their identities. Their responses were used to generate the illusion of a group of participants with similar beliefs. Participants were shown fabricated results indicating their divergence in opinion on one particular topic out of the range of topics and then given the opportunity to change their position on that topic. We found participants were more likely to change their endorsement of particular statements to reflect group opinion if they identified strongly with the beliefs used to generate the group. These results suggest that individual endorsements are influenced by others with whom they share a range of ideological positions.