Thursday, 22 March 2018

Belief System Networks

Lecture within the MAD Colloquium series by Mark Brandt

What is the basic structure of belief systems? Clear answers to this fundamental question are not forthcoming. This is because we typically treat a belief system as a theoretical latent variable that causes people’s responses on attitudes and identities relevant to the belief system. This approach cannot assess a system of beliefs because it cannot assess the network of connections between the beliefs that make up the system; it collapses across them and the interrelationships are lost. In this talk, I will present new work where I conceptualize and analyze attitudes and identities as interactive nodes in a network. With this approach and representative survey data, I examine several important questions in research on political belief systems: (Q1) What is central to belief systems (A1: identities)? (Q2) How many dimensions do belief systems have (A2: substantially more than 2)? (Q3) Are belief systems stable over time (A3: more or less)? (Q5) Does the structure of belief systems differ from people with more or less political interest or education (A5: not really)? (Q6) How do belief systems predict behavior (A6: it depends)? These questions (and preliminary answers) are an initial step towards taking seriously the idea that belief systems are in fact systems.

Mark J. Brandt is Associate Professor at Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Social Psychology at the Tilburg University. The overarching goal of his research program is to understand how ideological and moral beliefs, political ideology, religious fundamentalism, and moral conviction, structuring attitudes and behaviors. He has been awarded a Starting Grant for his research on belief systems by the European Research Council (ERC).

Further information on his research can be found via
Tilburg Belief Systems Lab.