Belief Change in Interdisciplinary Research: Comparing Mental Models & Discussion Networks of SESYNC Research Teams

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Award Year: 
2013
Principal Investigator: 
Lorien Jasny, SESYNC

  
Beliefs are not held in a vacuum—individuals create mental models that structure their beliefs. Belief networks are a common key to understanding:

  • how the public responds to new scientific information;
  • why people engage in environmental behaviors ranging from recycling to protest; and
  • what structures underlie successful collective governance programs.

This project will study the belief networks among participants in the transdisciplinary project teams hosted by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) and measure how these structures change over the period of collaboration. This process will simultaneously work to understand how differences in belief structures are negotiated to develop group synthesis, and give the participants a concrete tool to show what they have achieved jointly through exposure to different viewpoints.

This project pushes the boundaries of traditional social network analysis both in data collection and analysis. One network is made up of the comments individuals make either directed at another participant or to the group at large during their discussion. A second network will result from semantic data where the links between participants result from similarities in how they conceive of the project and problems set before their team.  We can then observe how individuals’ mental models change after the group discussion, and which positions in the discussion network are correlated with belief change.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
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