UE935 - COGSCI 304 - Communication and trust

Type d'UE
Séminaires DR/CR
Disciplines
Anthropologie sociale, ethnographie et ethnologie, Psychologie et sciences cognitives
Page web
https://cogmaster.ens.psl.eu/en/program/m2-program-13572 
Langues
anglais
Mots-clés
Anthropologie Sciences cognitives
Aires culturelles
-

The aim of this class is to give an overview of how people evaluate communicated information: How do we decide who knows best? How do we know who to trust? This class adopts an evolutionary and cognitive perspective. We will look at how evolution might have shaped the cognitive mechanisms with which we evaluate communicated information. The functioning of these mechanisms, in turn, shapes our culture: it helps explain which persuasion attempts are successful and which aren’t, which beliefs spread and which don’t, why we sometimes accept false beliefs and reject true ones. This class will look at different cognitive mechanisms—those that enable trust calibration, argumentation, emotional expressions—and how they develop in childhood. It will cover broad grounds in the types of communication events investigated, from everyday talk to propaganda, through rumors and fake news.

 

Class 1. Evolution of communication, epistemic vigilance

General principles of the evolution of communication: What is communication? How can it evolve? How can it remain stable?

Historical views on vigilance and credulity: Are people credulous? Who is more credulous? When are we most credulous? Why would we be credulous?

Epistemic vigilance: cognitive mechanisms aimed at evaluating communicated information. Why are they necessary? How are they organized?

Illustrations with the cases of subliminal influence and brainwashing.

Class 2. Emotional communication 

What are emotional signals? What do they express? How do they remain stable? How do we evaluate them? How do emotions affect crowds?

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapter 7; Dezecache, G., Jacob, P., & Grèzes, J. (2015). Emotional contagion: its scope and limits. Trends in cognitive sciences,

Class 3. Content evaluation

How do we decide what’s plausible? How do we integrate information that conflicts with our existing beliefs?

How the cognitive mechanisms that allow argumentation evolved. How these mechanisms work. Can argumentation allow us to make better decisions? When do people change their minds thanks to argumentation? What are the best conditions for argumentation to yield good outcomes? Why does polarization happen, in small groups and in societies?

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 1 to 4 (1 to 3 are simply to catch up on the first class), Mercier, H. (2016) The argumentative theory: Predictions and empirical evidence; To dig deeper: Wood et Porter 2016 The Elusive Backfire Effect Mass Attitudes' Steadfast Factual Adherence

Class 4. Trust: competence and benevolence

How do we know who knows best? How do we recognize that others are more competent than we are? How do we know when others have better informational access than we do?

How do we know who has our best interests at heart? How do we spot liars?

How do these mechanisms of trust calibration develop in childhood?

Normative theory of when we should trust the majority (Condorcet jury theorem). Factors to be taken into account (competence, honesty, independence).

How do we actually use majority information? How does this develop in childhood? When do we grant too much weight to the opinion of the majority?

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 5 and 6, to dig deeper: Harris et al 2017 Cognitive Foundations of Learning from Testimony

Class 5. Mass persuasion

Our mechanisms of epistemic vigilance should make attempts at large-scale persuasion difficult. Review of these attempts through the ages, and their outcomes—religious proselytizing, propaganda, advertising, political campaigns, etc.

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 8 and 9; DellaVigna et Gentzkow 2010 Persuasion- Empirical Evidence

Class 6. Rumors and reflective beliefs

Why are we interested in remote events, people, places that likely won’t affect us? Why does that provide impetus for the transmission of all sorts of inaccurate information? Why do we seem to accept all these inaccurate pieces of information? Why do we want to transmit them? What’s the cognitive status of many false beliefs? Why don’t we act as if we ‘really’ believed in them?

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 10 and 11; Dan Sperber, Intuitive and reflective beliefs.

Class 7. Absurd and extreme beliefs

Our mechanisms of epistemic vigilance evolved to function in environments that were vastly different from our current environments. This creates many opportunities for adaptive lags: situations in which our cognitive mechanisms have become potentially maladaptive due to rapid environmental change. These adaptive lags can explain why we sometimes develop extreme but false beliefs, make mistakes in who we believe to be our side, or in how competent we deem others to be.

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 12 and 13, Marquez 2013 A Model of Cults of Personality

Class 8. Communication and cultural transmission

Why do we sometimes defer to people who don’t know better? Why do we sometimes believe people are our allies when they aren’t?

Readings: Chapter 4 of Morin, How Traditions Live and Die

Class 9. Why communicate?

Why do we share information with others? 

Why type of information are we more likely to share?

Readings: Boyer ---- Deriving Features of Religions In The Wild How Communication and Threat-Detection Explain Spirits, Gods, Witches and Shamans; Bright 2016 The Social News Gap- How News Reading and News Sharing Diverge

Class 10. Communication in the digital age

How do new information technologies affect the information we believe and the information we communicate?

Readings: Chapter 7 of Acerbi Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age

 Class 11. Students’ presentations

  • Sciences cognitives – M2/S3
    Suivi et validation – semestriel hebdomadaire = 4 ECTS
    MCC – exposé oral, contrôle continu
  • Hugo Mercier [référent·e]   chargé de recherche, CNRS / Institut Jean-Nicod (IJN)
Contacts additionnels
cogmaster@psl.eu
Informations pratiques

The complete syllabus of the course is available on the Cogmaster's website. For any information, please contact the secretariat of the Cogmaster.

Registration procedure (external students) : https://cogmaster.ens.psl.eu/en/students/external-students-13501

Direction de travaux des étudiants
-
Réception des candidats
-
Pré-requis

This class will rely heavily on an evolutionary perspective, making it more natural to follow for students who’ve taken Introduction to Evolutionary Anthropology. However, those who have not can still take the class, but they should contact the instructor (and read at least this https://www.cep.ucsb.edu/primer.html).

  • Autre lieu Paris
    ENS 29 rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris (salle à préciser)
    1er semestre / hebdomadaire, mardi 17:00-19:00
    du 22 septembre 2020 au 19 janvier 2021


Intervenant·e·s


  • Hugo Mercier [référent·e]   chargé de recherche, CNRS / Institut Jean-Nicod (IJN)

Planning


  • Autre lieu Paris
    ENS 29 rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris (salle à préciser)
    1er semestre / hebdomadaire, mardi 17:00-19:00
    du 22 septembre 2020 au 19 janvier 2021


Description


Type d'UE
Séminaires DR/CR
Disciplines
Anthropologie sociale, ethnographie et ethnologie, Psychologie et sciences cognitives
Page web
https://cogmaster.ens.psl.eu/en/program/m2-program-13572 
Langues
anglais
Mots-clés
Anthropologie Sciences cognitives
Aires culturelles
-

The aim of this class is to give an overview of how people evaluate communicated information: How do we decide who knows best? How do we know who to trust? This class adopts an evolutionary and cognitive perspective. We will look at how evolution might have shaped the cognitive mechanisms with which we evaluate communicated information. The functioning of these mechanisms, in turn, shapes our culture: it helps explain which persuasion attempts are successful and which aren’t, which beliefs spread and which don’t, why we sometimes accept false beliefs and reject true ones. This class will look at different cognitive mechanisms—those that enable trust calibration, argumentation, emotional expressions—and how they develop in childhood. It will cover broad grounds in the types of communication events investigated, from everyday talk to propaganda, through rumors and fake news.

 

Class 1. Evolution of communication, epistemic vigilance

General principles of the evolution of communication: What is communication? How can it evolve? How can it remain stable?

Historical views on vigilance and credulity: Are people credulous? Who is more credulous? When are we most credulous? Why would we be credulous?

Epistemic vigilance: cognitive mechanisms aimed at evaluating communicated information. Why are they necessary? How are they organized?

Illustrations with the cases of subliminal influence and brainwashing.

Class 2. Emotional communication 

What are emotional signals? What do they express? How do they remain stable? How do we evaluate them? How do emotions affect crowds?

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapter 7; Dezecache, G., Jacob, P., & Grèzes, J. (2015). Emotional contagion: its scope and limits. Trends in cognitive sciences,

Class 3. Content evaluation

How do we decide what’s plausible? How do we integrate information that conflicts with our existing beliefs?

How the cognitive mechanisms that allow argumentation evolved. How these mechanisms work. Can argumentation allow us to make better decisions? When do people change their minds thanks to argumentation? What are the best conditions for argumentation to yield good outcomes? Why does polarization happen, in small groups and in societies?

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 1 to 4 (1 to 3 are simply to catch up on the first class), Mercier, H. (2016) The argumentative theory: Predictions and empirical evidence; To dig deeper: Wood et Porter 2016 The Elusive Backfire Effect Mass Attitudes' Steadfast Factual Adherence

Class 4. Trust: competence and benevolence

How do we know who knows best? How do we recognize that others are more competent than we are? How do we know when others have better informational access than we do?

How do we know who has our best interests at heart? How do we spot liars?

How do these mechanisms of trust calibration develop in childhood?

Normative theory of when we should trust the majority (Condorcet jury theorem). Factors to be taken into account (competence, honesty, independence).

How do we actually use majority information? How does this develop in childhood? When do we grant too much weight to the opinion of the majority?

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 5 and 6, to dig deeper: Harris et al 2017 Cognitive Foundations of Learning from Testimony

Class 5. Mass persuasion

Our mechanisms of epistemic vigilance should make attempts at large-scale persuasion difficult. Review of these attempts through the ages, and their outcomes—religious proselytizing, propaganda, advertising, political campaigns, etc.

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 8 and 9; DellaVigna et Gentzkow 2010 Persuasion- Empirical Evidence

Class 6. Rumors and reflective beliefs

Why are we interested in remote events, people, places that likely won’t affect us? Why does that provide impetus for the transmission of all sorts of inaccurate information? Why do we seem to accept all these inaccurate pieces of information? Why do we want to transmit them? What’s the cognitive status of many false beliefs? Why don’t we act as if we ‘really’ believed in them?

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 10 and 11; Dan Sperber, Intuitive and reflective beliefs.

Class 7. Absurd and extreme beliefs

Our mechanisms of epistemic vigilance evolved to function in environments that were vastly different from our current environments. This creates many opportunities for adaptive lags: situations in which our cognitive mechanisms have become potentially maladaptive due to rapid environmental change. These adaptive lags can explain why we sometimes develop extreme but false beliefs, make mistakes in who we believe to be our side, or in how competent we deem others to be.

Readings: Not Born Yesterday, chapters 12 and 13, Marquez 2013 A Model of Cults of Personality

Class 8. Communication and cultural transmission

Why do we sometimes defer to people who don’t know better? Why do we sometimes believe people are our allies when they aren’t?

Readings: Chapter 4 of Morin, How Traditions Live and Die

Class 9. Why communicate?

Why do we share information with others? 

Why type of information are we more likely to share?

Readings: Boyer ---- Deriving Features of Religions In The Wild How Communication and Threat-Detection Explain Spirits, Gods, Witches and Shamans; Bright 2016 The Social News Gap- How News Reading and News Sharing Diverge

Class 10. Communication in the digital age

How do new information technologies affect the information we believe and the information we communicate?

Readings: Chapter 7 of Acerbi Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age

 Class 11. Students’ presentations


Master


  • Sciences cognitives – M2/S3
    Suivi et validation – semestriel hebdomadaire = 4 ECTS
    MCC – exposé oral, contrôle continu

Renseignements


Contacts additionnels
cogmaster@psl.eu
Informations pratiques

The complete syllabus of the course is available on the Cogmaster's website. For any information, please contact the secretariat of the Cogmaster.

Registration procedure (external students) : https://cogmaster.ens.psl.eu/en/students/external-students-13501

Direction de travaux des étudiants
-
Réception des candidats
-
Pré-requis

This class will rely heavily on an evolutionary perspective, making it more natural to follow for students who’ve taken Introduction to Evolutionary Anthropology. However, those who have not can still take the class, but they should contact the instructor (and read at least this https://www.cep.ucsb.edu/primer.html).