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Departmental Colloquium - Josh Rottman, Franklin & Marshall College

Josh Rottman
Wednesday, May 3, 2023, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Do children's and adults’ epistemic tendencies cultivate echo chambers?

Children are selective learners who prioritize testimony from ingroup members and who are prone to conform to group norms.  While these dispositions are generally adaptive, they have the potential to exacerbate closed epistemic systems in which preexisting beliefs are amplified while opposing beliefs are discredited.  Furthermore, these biases might be reflectively endorsed in some situations.  I will begin this talk with a short overview of how selective social learning tends to unfold, after which I will turn to focus on two new studies exploring children’s and adults’ evaluations of whether others ought to pursue accuracy motives or social motives in intergroup contexts.  My findings indicate that children value curiosity and belief updating even when these processes threaten to contravene ingroup identities, thus suggesting that echo chambers are not reflectively desired.  However, this clear valuation of truth-seeking becomes more nuanced as children mature into adults with strong allegiances to ideologically-defined ingroups.  I will conclude the talk by discussing implications for modern tendencies toward belief polarization.