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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Awardee:SANTA FE INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE
Doing Business As Name:Santa Fe Institute
PD/PI:
  • Henrik Olsson
  • (505) 984-8800
  • olsson@santafe.edu
Co-PD(s)/co-PI(s):
  • Mirta Galesic
Award Date:09/03/2019
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 321,253
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 321,253
  • FY 2019=$321,253
Start Date:08/15/2019
End Date:07/31/2021
Transaction Type:Grant
Agency:NSF
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.075
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:The Role of Individual and Social Networks in the Formation and Change of Beliefs
Federal Award ID Number:1918490
DUNS ID:178044996
Program:Social Psychology
Program Officer:
  • Steven J. Breckler
  • (703) 292-7369
  • sbreckle@nsf.gov

Awardee Location

Street:1399 HYDE PARK ROAD
City:SANTA FE
State:NM
ZIP:87501-8943
County:Santa Fe
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:03

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Santa Fe Institute
Street:1399 Hyde Park Road
City:Santa Fe
State:NM
ZIP:87501-8943
County:Santa Fe
Country:US
Cong. District:03

Abstract at Time of Award

One unique feature of human thought is the development and maintenance of beliefs. People carry with them an enduring sense of what is true or false, and whether or not things exist in the world. Beliefs are central to what it means to be human. The nature of human beliefs -- their structure, function, and change -- has been the subject of study across many fields of science over many decades. Past theories and research have approached the subject in two distinct ways. One, most common in the behavioral and cognitive sciences, is to understand how a single person's network of beliefs relate to one another. Another, most common in the social and economic sciences, is to understand how one person's beliefs are related to the beliefs of other people in one's social network. All of these efforts to understand the nature of beliefs are motivated by important broader impacts. For example, public health campaigns aim to change beliefs, and ultimately behaviors, in service of the health and welfare of society. The aim of this project is to develop a new theoretical framework that integrates understanding of belief networks at both the individual and social levels. One expected outcome is a better understanding of why some beliefs are resistant to change while others are not. This project adopts a network perspective to study why some beliefs are more resistant to change than others. Drawing from psychology, sociology, economics, computer science, and statistical physics, a unifying theoretical framework is developed. The premise of the model is that network dynamics of beliefs follow similar principles at the individual and at the social level -- that people are motivated to reduce dissonance (energy) both in their own belief network and in their social networks. The model provides novel predictions about how networks of beliefs on individual and social levels jointly affect belief's resistance to change. The model is tested in a longitudinal survey conducted in four waves, allowing an assessment of belief dynamics over time. An experimental manipulation is introduced before the third wave, allowing for the assessment of potential interventions. The data analyses rely on advanced statistical models including statistical physics modeling, network modeling, structural equation modeling, and multilevel modeling. The project will advance basic knowledge by integrating previously disconnected literatures on individual and social beliefs in a single theoretical framework, and developing and testing qualitative and quantitative predictions about the joint effects of individual and social network structures on belief change over time. The research will contribute to a foundation of knowledge that informs the design of educational interventions aimed at increasing scientific knowledge in the general population. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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