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Costly Updating, Cognitive Closure, and Democratic Institutions

Fri, September 1, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Parc 55, Divisadero


We develop a formal model of costly updating that captures factors identified by psychologists that bias an agent’s cognitive calculus in the direction of closure and away from epistemic sophistication. We then apply this model to popular assemblies, one of the primary institutional systems through which modern states attempt to collectively solve their complex social problems. We find that this institutional structure strongly biases the cognitive calculus of legislators in favor of closure and against epistemic sophistication, tending to encourage hasty, dogmatic, and conformist reasoning. We use the model to inform suggestions about how to incentivize and facilitate rigorous, open-minded, and innovative information processing.