Nina Poth and Krys Dolega will livestream “Believing Conspiracy Theories: A Bayesian Approach to Belief Protection” on March 25

Videos of prior talks can be found on the Neural Mechanisms YouTube channel.

Embodied simulation and its role in cognition

The next Neural Mechanisms Online webinar— “Believing Conspiracy Theories: A Bayesian Approach to Belief Protection”—will be delivered by Nina Poth & Krys Dolega on Friday the 25th. See below for details about the free talk and how to join.
Abstract. Despite the harmful impact of conspiracy theories on the public discourse, there is little agreement about their exact nature. Rather than define conspiracy theories as such, we focus on the notion of conspiracy belief. We analyse three recent proposals that identify belief in conspiracy theories as an effect of irrational reasoning. Although these views are sometimes presented as competing alternatives, they share the main commitment that conspiracy beliefs are epistemically flawed because they resist revision given disconfirming evidence. However, the three views currently lack the formal detail necessary for an adequate comparison. In this paper, we bring these views closer together by exploring the rationality of conspiracy belief under a probabilistic framework. By utilising Michael Strevens’ Bayesian treatment of auxiliary hypotheses, we question the claim that the irrationality associated with conspiracy belief is due to a failure of belief revision given disconfirming evidence. We argue that maintaining a core conspiracy belief can be perfectly Bayes-rational when such beliefs are embedded in networks of auxiliary beliefs, which can be sacrificed to protect the more central ones. We propose that the irrationality associated with conspiracy belief lies not in a flawed updating method according to subjective standards but in a failure to converge towards well-confirmed stable belief networks in the long run. We discuss a set of initial reasoning biases as a possible reason for such a failure. Our approach reconciles previously disjointed views, while at the same time offering a formal platform for their further development.
Join the meeting via Webex (the link will be activated 10 mins before the talk).
Practical information:

25 March 2022
h15-17 Greenwhich Mean Time / 16-18 CET
(check your local time here)
Join the meeting via Webex
Nina Poth & Krys Dolega (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
You can preview the paper here. (the link will be activated 10 mins before the talk.)