On the emergence of consensus and misunderstanding

February 24-25, 2014, Rome, Italy


Understanding the origins and evolution of consensus and misunderstanding is one of the most stimulating areas of research in cognitive and social sciences. This challenging question touches on all aspects of cognition and social interaction, calling for creative thinking and casting fundamental issues in cognitive science in a new light.

This workshop aims to highlight issues surrounding consensus and misunderstanding by showcasing two core lines of research: theoretical modeling and experiments. Modelling is a crucial tool in the investigation of how consensus and dominant norms emerge in societies, or rather, how fragmentation and misunderstanding phenomena occur. This is relevant for the dynamics of language, opinions and other cultural traits,  and the processes of individual and collective decision making. From the level of the single individual, to pairs in interaction, to populations of heterogeneous agents, formal models are ubiquitously used to make systematic observations, uncover regularities, advance hypotheses, and test their predictions. However, while such “bare-bones” models can illuminate the skeletal dynamics at work, it is becoming more and more urgent to parallel computational investigations with carefully devised social experiments. Such experiments must aim to investigate specific aspects of how individuals make decisions and how these decisions affect large-scale dynamics at the population level. Increasingly, the opportunity to run large-scale web-based experiments makes the collection of data regarding actual social behaviour more feasible.

This workshop will focus around talks and discussion featuring ongoing empirical work relevant to emergent consensus and misunderstanding, from both modeling and experimental approaches.  Bringing together perspectives from psychology, physics, linguistics, and philosophy, the workshop will provide an interdisciplinary approach catered to the nature of the broad phenomena of consensus and misunderstanding.


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