The Computational Social Philosophy Lab (CSPL) is an interdisciplinary group of researchers that investigates questions of social epistemology, philosophy of science, and political philosophy using agent-based computer models and an eye toward empirical results.
Our most recent research uses agent-based computer simulations to model group deliberation and how group polarization can be produced, maintained, and destroyed by various mechanisms. Our research has implications for measuring and understanding the mechanisms of polarization in societies and small groups, the dynamics and optimization of small group discussions, and the roles of diversity and expertise in groups. For more information, contact Prof. Daniel J. Singer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Patrick Grim.
Selected Current CSPL Projects
Group Deliberation Dynamics: Using a model of theoretical group deliberation where agents exchange reasons for beliefs and premises in arguments in a non-monotonic logic, we ask how rational deliberation effects epistemic properties of the group (like who knows what and when) and how different properties might be optimized (asking, for example, whether a devil’s advocate is helpful or whether certain social network structures are conducive to good outcomes).
Rational Group Polarization: In “Rational Social and Political Polarization” (Forthcoming in Philosophical Studies) we show that there is a way that epistemically rational groups of agents can polarize into subgroups that persistently disagree with each other even after sharing all of their reasons for their beliefs. We argue for this using a simple agent-based model of group discussions where agent must rationally manage memory limitations.
Aggregating Information in Democracies: In “Representation in Models of Epistemic Democracy” (under review), we use computational models to contrast the epistemic properties of voting-based group decision methods with those of Hong-and-Page-style ‘talking’ models of group problem solving when those models are supplemented with the representational systems that are characteristic of real democracies. We show that the Hong-and-Page model is resilient to representation in a way that the voting-based models are not. In “Diversity, Ability, and Expertise in Epistemic Communities” (forthcoming in Philosophy of Science), we show that the Hong-Page ‘diversity trumps ability’ result does not occur with a particular natural conception of what expertise amounts to. In that paper and an online supplement, we also explore a number of other variations of the Hong-Page model.
Selected Recent CSPL Publications
Daniel J. Singer, Aaron Bramson, Patrick Grim, Bennett Holman, Jiin Jung, Karen Kovaka, Anika Ranginani, and William J. Berger. (Forthcoming) “Rational Social and Political Polarization” Philosophical Studies
Daniel J. Singer. (Forthcoming) “Diversity, Not Randomness, Trumps Ability” Philosophy of Science
Patrick Grim, Daniel J. Singer, Aaron Bramson, Bennett Holman, Sean McGeehan, and William J. Berger. (Forthcoming) “Diversity, Ability, and Expertise in Epistemic Communities” Philosophy of Science
Aaron Bramson, Patrick Grim, Daniel J. Singer, William J. Berger, Steven Fisher, Graham Sack, and Carissa Flocken. (2017) “Understanding Polarization: Meanings, Measures, and Model Evaluation” Philosophy of Science
Aaron Bramson, Patrick Grim, Daniel J. Singer, Steven Fisher, William J. Berger, Graham Sack, and Carissa Flocken. (2016) “Disambiguation of Social Polarization Concepts and Measures” The Journal of Mathematical Sociology 40.02
Patrick Grim & Daniel J. Singer, Steven Fisher, Christopher Reade. (2015) “Germs, Genes, and Memes: Function and Fitness Dynamics on Information Networks” Philosophy of Science, Vol. 82, No. 2, p. 219-243
Patrick Grim & Daniel J. Singer, Steven Fisher, Aaron Bramson, William Berger, Christopher Reade, Carissa Flocken, and Adam Sales. (2013) “Scientific Networks on Data Landscapes: Question Difficulty, Epistemic Success, and Convergence” Episteme, Volume 10, Number 4, p. 441-464
Patrick Grim, Stephen B. Thomas, Steven Fisher, Christopher Reade, Daniel J. Singer, Mary A. Garza, Craig S. Fryer and Jamie Chatman. (2012) “Polarization and Belief Dynamics in the Black and White Communities: An Agent-Based Network Model from the Data” Artificial Life 13 p. 186-193
Prof. Daniel J. Singer is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. His primary research revolves around two questions in epistemology and metaethics, namely (1) how and why epistemic norms apply to us, and (2) how epistemic norms change when we look at groups rather than individuals. You can learn more about his research here and see his CV here.
Prof. Patrick Grim is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Stony Brook University and Philosopher in Residence with the Center for Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan. He is author of The Incomplete Universe and co-author of Beyond Sets, Reflexivity: From Paradox to Consciousness, and The Philosophical Computer. He is editor of Mind and Consciousness: 5 Questions, and founding co-editor of over 35 volumes of the Philosopher’s Annual. Grim has produced four lecture series with the Teaching Company: Questions of Value, Philosophy of Mind, The Philosopher’s Toolkit and Mind-Body Philosophy. He publishes widely in scholarly journals across several disciplines, and is soon to step in as editor of the American Philosophical Quarterly.
Dr. Aaron Bramson is a research scientist in the Lab for Symbolic Cognitive Development at the Riken Brain Science Institute in Japan and the Department of General Economics at the University of Gent in Belgium as well as an adjunct professor in the Dept of Software and Information Systems of UNCC in the US. He studies the foundations of complexity and specializes in the development of new methodologies and conceptual frameworks for the study of complexity itself and the systems that evoke it. Outside of research he is an avid cyclist, fashion designer, and musician.
Dr. William (Zev) Berger is a post-doctoral fellow with the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics program at the University of Pennsylvania. With a PhD in Political Science, his research looks at political epistemology in various forms, attending to matters like affective trust, democratic theory, and political inequality. He also spends a fair amount of time running and trying to stay up on indie music. Don’t try to get coffee with him, though. He’s annoying about coffee.
Prof. Bennett Holman is an Assistant Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Underwood International College (Yonsei University (Seoul, South Korea)). His work is at the intersection between medical and social epistemology. His current work is focused on articulating how scientific epistemology must be altered in areas of science that are heavily influenced by industry funding. His work brings the tools of history, philosophy, statistics, and formal modeling to bear on this question.
Karen Kovaka is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Virginia Tech. Her research areas are philosophy of biology, philosophy of science, and environmental ethics and policy. In the philosophy of biology, she is interested in the foundational concepts and processes of evolution, particularly in debates about the concepts of inheritance and biological individuality. She also studies the interface between science, science policy, and public understanding of science, including how public opinion about environmental issues such as climate change may be sensitive to widespread misconceptions about the nature of science. Learn more about Karen here.
Jiin Jung is a doctoral candidate in Social Psychology at the Claremont Graduate University. Her research focuses on uncertainty reduction as an epistemic motive of social identity and self-categorization processes. She is currently studying the impact of identity-uncertainty on group identification, intergroup perceptions, and group integration and schism. Some of her empirical research has been conducted in the context of Korean reunification and Scottish independence, with data collected in Seoul and Stirling. Jiin also examines computational models of social influence processes and uncertainty-related determinants of depersonalization and projection. Learn more about Jiin here.
Anika Ranginani is an undergraduate at University of Pennsylvania working towards her B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Statistics. Although she is new to academic research, she enjoys thinking about the way models can be used to represent different phenomena in the world. She is currently working on a fantasy novel to practice writing in her free time.
- Carissa Flocken
- Graham Sack
- Steven Fisher
- Christopher Reade