Notice and Invitation
Oral Defense of Doctoral Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy in Computational Social Science
Department of Computational and Data Sciences
College of Science
George Mason University
John Bjorn Nelson
Bachelor of Science, University of Maryland, 2007
A Computational Model of Belief System Construction and
Expression with Applications to American Democracy
Friday, April 12, 2019, 1:30 p.m.
Research Hall, Room 162
All are invited to attend.
Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, Chair
William G. Kennedy
Jennifer N. Victor
This is a dissertation about people and their beliefs. It asks, how do beliefs form? Why do they change? How does the environment affect construction? What is the relationship between asocial experiences and the social exchange of information about them? And, how
do beliefs affect social structure? To interrogate these questions, I build an agent-based model with agent-to-nature and agent-to-agent interaction spaces. The payoff distributions associated with each context-action pair in nature are homogeneous. However, agent
exposure rates are heterogeneous. The agent-to-agent interactions allow for social information exchange, facilitating the discovery of best contexts and actions for selection. All agent expressions are sincere. However, to guard against error integration, agents sample
dynamic stereotypes over overt traits as proxies for experiential counterpart reliability. An expression is more receivable when aligned with social expectations than when it is not. This creates a recursive relationship whereby stereotypes affect belief and beliefs affect
stereotypes. I implement three stereotyping strategies and six different environments. The three stereotyping strategies — prosocial, informative, and discriminatory — operationalize different assumptions about social information processing. Five of the environments
progressively increase inherent structure. The sixth introduces broadcasts which synchronize contextual salience in social interactions.