Beliefs as self-sustaining networks: Drawing parallels between networks of ecosystems and adults' predictions

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© 2015 Castillo, Kloos, Richardson and Waltzer. In this paper, we argue that beliefs share common properties with the self-sustaining networks of complex systems. Matching experiences are said to couple with each other into a mutually reinforcing network. The goal of the current paper is to spell out and develop these ideas, using our understanding of ecosystems as a guide. In Part 1 of the paper, we provide theoretical considerations relevant to this new conceptualization of beliefs, including the theoretical overlap between energy and meaning. In Part 2, we discuss the implications of this new conceptualization on our understanding of belief emergence and belief change. Finally, in Part 3, we provide an analytical mapping between beliefs and the self-sustaining networks of ecosystems, namely by applying to behavioral data a measure developed for ecosystem networks. Specifically, average accuracies were subjected to analyses of uncertainty (H) and average mutual information. The ratio between these two values yields degree of order, a measure of how organized the self-sustained network is. Degree of order was tracked over time and compared to the amount of explained variance returned by a categorical non-linear principal components analysis. Finding high correspondence between the two measures of order, together with the theoretical groundwork discussed in Parts 1 and 2, lends preliminary validity to our theory that beliefs have important similarities to the structural characteristics of self-sustaining networks.




Castillo, R. D., Kloos, H., Richardson, M. J., & Waltzer, T. (2015). Beliefs as self-sustaining networks: Drawing parallels between networks of ecosystems and adults’ predictions. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(NOV).

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