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April 8, 2021 47 min

Human relationships are often described in the language of “chemistry” — does that make the beliefs and attitudes of individuals a kind of “physics”? It is, at least, a fascinating avenue of inquiry. In particular, the field of statistical mechanics offers potent tools for understanding how exactly people form their views and change their minds. From this perspective, everyone is a dynamic network of opinions and values, in a tense and ever-changing balance both with others and ourselves. The “chemistry” of social life, then, arises from multilevel interactions in our noisy minds and how they influence each other.

Welcome to Complexity, the official podcast of the Santa Fe Institute. I’m your host, Michael Garfield, and every other week we’ll bring you with us for far-ranging conversations with our worldwide network of rigorous researchers developing new frameworks to explain the deepest mysteries of the universe.

In this conversation, we speak with SFI Postdoc Jonas Dalege about how his research uses physics models to understand the emergence of higher-level behaviors from lower-level behaviors, both within and between people. We discuss the role of entropy in the formation of individual beliefs; statistical approaches to the study of ambivalence and cognitive dissonance; the wisdom (and challenge) of tolerating ambiguity; and the social consequences when we try to minimize internal conflict…

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Podcast theme music by Mitch Mignano.

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Key Links:

Jonas’s Website | Google Scholar Page

Related Papers, Talks, and Complexity Podcast Episodes:

[Video] Explosive Proofs of Mathematical Truths by Simon DeDeo

Falling through the cracks: Modeling the formation of social category boundaries by Vicky Chuqiao Yang, Tamara van der Does, and Henrik Olsson

Conflicts of interest improve collective computation of adaptive social structures by Eleanor Brush, David Krakauer, and Jessica Flack

Integrating social and cognitive aspects of belief dynamics: Towards a unifying framework by Mirta Galesic, Henrik Olsson, Jonas Dalege, Tamara van der Does, Daniel L. Stein

Coarse-graining as a downward causation mechanism by Jessica Flack

9 - Mirta Galesic on Social Learning & Decision-making

29 - On Coronavirus, Crisis, and Creative Opportunity with David Krakauer (Transmission Series Ep. 3)

33 - The Future of the Human Climate Niche with Tim Kohler & Marten Scheffer

42 - Carl Bergstrom & Jevin West on Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World

43 - Vicky Yang & Henrik Olsson on Political Polling & Polarization: How We Make Decisions & Identities

55 - James Evans on Social Computing and Diversity by Design

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