Bayesian Belief Polarization

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 (NIPS 2009)

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Alan Jern, Kai-min Chang, Charles Kemp


Situations in which people with opposing prior beliefs observe the same evidence and then strengthen those existing beliefs are frequently offered as evidence of human irrationality. This phenomenon, termed belief polarization, is typically assumed to be non-normative. We demonstrate, however, that a variety of cases of belief polarization are consistent with a Bayesian approach to belief revision. Simulation results indicate that belief polarization is not only possible but relatively common within the class of Bayesian models that we consider.