•  470
    In the latter half of the twentieth century, philosophers of science have argued (implicitly and explicitly) that epistemically rational individuals might compose epistemically irrational groups and that, conversely, epistemically rational groups might be composed of epistemically irrational individuals. We call the conjunction of these two claims the Independence Thesis, as they together imply that methodological prescriptions for scientific communities and those for individual scientists might…Read more
  •  428
    Wisdom of the Crowds vs. Groupthink: Learning in Groups and in Isolation
    International Journal of Game Theory 42 (3): 695-723. 2013.
    We evaluate the asymptotic performance of boundedly-rational strategies in multi-armed bandit problems, where performance is measured in terms of the tendency (in the limit) to play optimal actions in either (i) isolation or (ii) networks of other learners. We show that, for many strategies commonly employed in economics, psychology, and machine learning, performance in isolation and performance in networks are essentially unrelated. Our results suggest that the appropriateness of various, commo…Read more
  •  201
    Network Epistemology: Communication in Epistemic Communities
    Philosophy Compass 8 (1): 15-27. 2013.
    Much of contemporary knowledge is generated by groups not single individuals. A natural question to ask is, what features make groups better or worse at generating knowledge? This paper surveys research that spans several disciplines which focuses on one aspect of epistemic communities: the way they communicate internally. This research has revealed that a wide number of different communication structures are best, but what is best in a given situation depends on particular details of the proble…Read more
  •  175
    The Epistemic Benefit of Transient Diversity
    Erkenntnis 72 (1): 17-35. 2010.
    There is growing interest in understanding and eliciting division of labor within groups of scientists. This paper illustrates the need for this division of labor through a historical example, and a formal model is presented to better analyze situations of this type. Analysis of this model reveals that a division of labor can be maintained in two different ways: by limiting information or by endowing the scientists with extreme beliefs. If both features are present however, cognitive diversity i…Read more
  •  156
    The communication structure of epistemic communities
    Philosophy of Science 74 (5): 574-587. 2007.
    Increasingly, epistemologists are becoming interested in social structures and their effect on epistemic enterprises, but little attention has been paid to the proper distribution of experimental results among scientists. This paper will analyze a model first suggested by two economists, which nicely captures one type of learning situation faced by scientists. The results of a computer simulation study of this model provide two interesting conclusions. First, in some contexts, a community of sci…Read more
  •  150
    Transfer of information between senders and receivers, of one kind or another, is essential to all life. David Lewis introduced a game theoretic model of the simplest case, where one sender and one receiver have pure common interest. How hard or easy is it for evolution to achieve information transfer in Lewis signaling?. The answers involve surprising subtleties. We discuss some if these in terms of evolutionary dynamics in both finite and infinite populations, with and without mutation
  •  126
    Methodology in Biological Game Theory
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (3): 637-658. 2013.
    Game theory has a prominent role in evolutionary biology, in particular in the ecological study of various phenomena ranging from conflict behaviour to altruism to signalling and beyond. The two central methodological tools in biological game theory are the concepts of Nash equilibrium and evolutionarily stable strategy. While both were inspired by a dynamic conception of evolution, these concepts are essentially static—they only show that a population is uninvadable, but not that a population i…Read more
  •  106
    Social structure and the effects of conformity
    Synthese 172 (3): 317-340. 2010.
    Conformity is an often criticized feature of human belief formation. Although generally regarded as a negative influence on reliability, it has not been widely studied. This paper attempts to determine the epistemic effects of conformity by analyzing a mathematical model of this behavior. In addition to investigating the effect of conformity on the reliability of individuals and groups, this paper attempts to determine the optimal structure for conformity. That is, supposing that conformity is i…Read more
  •  87
    Finding Alternatives to Handicap Theory
    Biological Theory 8 (2): 127-132. 2013.
    The Handicap Principle represents a central theory in the biological understanding of signaling. This paper presents a number of alternative theories to the Handicap Principle and argues that some of these theories may provide a better explanation for the evolution and stability of honest communication
  •  73
    Separating Directives and Assertions Using Simple Signaling Games
    Journal of Philosophy 108 (3): 158-169. 2011.
  •  60
    Talking to neighbors: The evolution of regional meaning
    Philosophy of Science 72 (1): 69-85. 2005.
    In seeking to explain the evolution of social cooperation, many scholars are using increasingly complex game-theoretic models. These complexities often model readily observable features of human and animal populations. In the case of previous games analyzed in the literature, these modifications have had radical effects on the stability and efficiency properties of the models. We will analyze the effect of adding spatial structure to two communication games: the Lewis Sender-Receiver game and a …Read more
  •  56
    The Credit Economy and the Economic Rationality of Science
    Journal of Philosophy 115 (1): 5-33. 2018.
    Theories of scientific rationality typically pertain to belief. In this paper, the author argues that we should expand our focus to include motivations as well as belief. An economic model is used to evaluate whether science is best served by scientists motivated only by truth, only by credit, or by both truth and credit. In many, but not all, situations, scientists motivated by both truth and credit should be judged as the most rational scientists.
  •  47
    Optimal Publishing Strategies
    Episteme 6 (2): 185-199. 2009.
    Journals regulate a significant portion of the communication between scientists. This paper devises an agent-based model of scientific practice and uses it to compare various strategies for selecting publications by journals. Surprisingly, it appears that the best selection method for journals is to publish relatively few papers and to select those papers it publishes at random from the available “above threshold” papers it receives. This strategy is most effective at maintaining an appropriate …Read more
  •  45
    Natural Conventions and Indirect Speech Arts
    Philosophers' Imprint 19. 2019.
    In this paper, we develop the notion of a natural convention, and illustrate its usefulness in a detailed examination of indirect requests in English. Our treatment of convention is grounded in Lewis’s seminal account; we do not here redefine convention, but rather explore the space of possibilities within Lewis’s definition, highlighting certain types of variation that Lewis de-emphasized. Applied to the case of indirect requests, which we view through a Searlean lens, the notion of natural con…Read more
  •  45
    We study a low-rationality learning dynamics called probe and adjust. Our emphasis is on its properties in games of information transfer such as the Lewis signaling game or the Bala-Goyal network game. These games fall into the class of weakly better reply games, in which, starting from any action profile, there is a weakly better reply path to a strict Nash equilibrium. We prove that probe and adjust will be close to strict Nash equilibria in this class of games with arbitrarily high probabilit…Read more
  •  43
    Evolutionary considerations in the framing of social norms
    with B. Skyrms
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9 (3): 265-273. 2010.
    In this article, we aim to illustrate evolutionary explanations for the emergence of framing effects, discussed in detail in Cristina Bicchieri’s The Grammar of Society . We show how framing effects might evolve which coalesce two economically distinct interactions into a single one, leading to apparently irrational behavior in each individual interaction. Here we consider the now well-known example of the ultimatum game, and show how this ‘irrational’ behavior might result from a single norm wh…Read more
  •  43
    Modeling the social consequences of testimonial norms
    Philosophical Studies 172 (9): 2371-2383. 2015.
    This paper approaches the problem of testimony from a new direction. Rather than focusing on the epistemic grounds for testimony, it considers the problem from the perspective of an individual who must choose whom to trust from a population of many would-be testifiers. A computer simulation is presented which illustrates that in many plausible situations, those who trust without attempting to judge the reliability of testifiers outperform those who attempt to seek out the more reliable members o…Read more
  •  43
    Explaining fairness in complex environments
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 7 (1): 81-97. 2008.
    This article presents the evolutionary dynamics of three games: the Nash bargaining game, the ultimatum game, and a hybrid of the two. One might expect that the probability that some behavior evolves in an environment with two games would be near the probability that the same behavior evolves in either game alone. This is not the case for the ultimatum and Nash bargaining games. Fair behavior is more likely to evolve in a combined game than in either game taken individually. This result confirms…Read more
  •  43
    Recent research into the evolution of higher cognition has piqued an interest in the effect of natural selection on the ability of creatures to respond to their environment (behavioral plasticity). It is believed that environmental variation is required for plasticity to evolve in cases where the ability to be plastic is costly. We investigate one form of environmental variation: frequency dependent selection. Using tools in game theory, we investigate a few models of plasticity and outline the c…Read more
  •  40
    Plasticity and language: an example of the Baldwin effect?
    with Rory Smead
    Philosophical Studies 147 (1): 7-21. 2010.
    In recent years, many scholars have suggested that the Baldwin effect may play an important role in the evolution of language. However, the Baldwin effect is a multifaceted and controversial process and the assessment of its connection with language is difficult without a formal model. This paper provides a first step in this direction. We examine a game-theoretic model of the interaction between plasticity and evolution in the context of a simple language game. Additionally, we describe three d…Read more
  •  31
    We study the handicap principle in terms of the Sir Philip Sidney game. The handicap principle asserts that cost is required to allow for honest signalling in the face of conflicts of interest. We show that the significance of the handicap principle can be challenged from two new directions. Firstly, both the costly signalling equilibrium and certain states of no communication are stable under the replicator dynamics ; however, the latter states are more likely in cases where honest signalling s…Read more
  •  28
    Kantian Decision Making Under Uncertainty: Dignity, Price, and Consistency
    with Adam Bjorndahl and Alex John London
    Philosophers' Imprint 17. 2017.
    The idea that there is a fundamental difference in value between persons and things, and that respecting this difference is an important moral requirement, has strong intuitive appeal. Kantian ethics is unique in placing this requirement at the center of a moral system and in explicating the conditions for complying with it. Unlike challenges to Kantian ethics that focus on tragic cases that pit respect for one person against respect for another, this paper focuses on the question of how we can …Read more
  •  25
    Conservatism and the Scientific State of Nature
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (4): 1057-1076. 2016.
    Those who comment on modern scientific institutions are often quick to praise institutional structures that leave scientists to their own devices. These comments reveal an underlying presumption that scientists do best when left alone—when they operate in what we call the ‘scientific state of nature’. Through computer simulation, we challenge this presumption by illustrating an inefficiency that arises in the scientific state of nature. This inefficiency suggests that one cannot simply presume t…Read more
  •  20
    Social network structure and the achievement of consensus
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 11 (1): 26-44. 2012.
    It is widely believed that bringing parties with differing opinions together to discuss their differences will help both in securing consensus and also in ensuring that this consensus closely approximates the truth. This paper investigates this presumption using two mathematical and computer simulation models. Ultimately, these models show that increased contact can be useful in securing both consensus and truth, but it is not always beneficial in this way. This suggests one should not, without …Read more
  •  20
    Recent research into the evolution of higher cognition has piqued an interest in the effect of natural selection on the ability of creatures to respond to their environment. It is believed that environmental variation is required for plasticity to evolve in cases where the ability to be plastic is costly. We investigate one form of environmental variation: frequency dependent selection. Using tools in game theory, we investigate a few models of plasticity and outline the cases where selection wo…Read more
  •  20
    The theory of games as a tool for the social epistemologist
    Philosophical Studies 1-21. forthcoming.
    Traditionally, epistemologists have distinguished between epistemic and pragmatic goals. In so doing, they presume that much of game theory is irrelevant to epistemic enterprises. I will show that this is a mistake. Even if we restrict attention to purely epistemic motivations, members of epistemic groups will face a multitude of strategic choices. I illustrate several contexts where individuals who are concerned solely with the discovery of truth will nonetheless face difficult game theoretic p…Read more
  •  20
    Fraud and misleading research represent serious impediments to scientific progress. We must uncover the causes of fraud in order to understand how science functions and in order to develop strategies for combating epistemically detrimental behavior. This paper investigates how the incentive to commit fraud is enhanced by the structure of the scientific reward system. Science is an "accumulation process:" success begets resources which begets more success. Through a simplified mathematical model,…Read more
  •  15
    The handicap principle has come under significant challenge both from empirical studies and from theoretical work. As a result, a number of alternative explanations for honest signaling have been proposed. This paper compares the evolutionary plausibility of one such alternative, the "hybrid equilibrium," to the handicap principle. We utilize computer simulations to compare these two theories as they are instantiated in Maynard Smith's Sir Philip Sidney game. We conclude that, when both types of…Read more
  •  8
    Signals without teleology
    with Carl T. Bergstrom and Simon M. Huttegger
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 101310. forthcoming.