Belief Polarization in a Complex World: A Learning Theory Perspective
26 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 20, 2020
We present two models of how people form beliefs that are based on machine learning theory.
We illustrate how these models shed new insight into observed human phenomena by showing how polarized beliefs can arise even when people are exposed to almost identical sources of information. In our first model, people form beliefs that are deterministic functions that best fit their past data (training sets). In that model, their inability to form probabilistic beliefs can lead people to have opposing views even if their data are drawn from distributions that only slightly disagree. In the second model, people pay a cost that is increasing in the complexity of the function that represents their beliefs. In this second model, even with large training sets drawn from exactly the same distribution, agents can disagree substantially because they simplify the world along different dimensions. We discuss what these models of belief formation suggest for improving people's accuracy and agreement.
Keywords: Learning Theory, Belief Formation, Polarization, Machine Learning
JEL Classification: D83, C44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation