Thompson Rivers University

Professor Eaton talks about the co-evolution of beliefs and the formation of networks under cognitive dissonance

April 8, 2014

Dr. Curtis Eaton

University Professor and Professor of Economics

University of Calgary

 “The Coevolution of Beliefs and Networks”

Cognitive dissonance is a deeply rooted human psychological trait. We experience dissonance when our beliefs are not the same as those of our associates.  What do we do when this happens? We either change our beliefs and/or we avoid the associates and the source of information. Professor Curtis Eaton and his collaborators Jasmina Arifovic and Greme Walker develop a theory of social learning in networks. They want to understand how peoples’ beliefs co-evolve and how networks are formed around these beliefs. According to Professor Eaton we form our initial beliefs about a phenomenon based on noise and private or other information. Furthermore, we humans dislike dissonance. Thus we attempt to minimize this from occurring. Under such conditions, Professor Eaton and his partners are able to show that in equilibrium the mean aggregate belief about a phenomenon is biased and that beliefs vary across the population. When they simulate the model they find the most inefficient learning produce a fractionalized network structure. Their policy recommendation to improve the efficiency of social learning is to increase the availability of objective information and inter-connect people.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
2:30 – 3:30 pm

Speaker Bio Professor Curtis Eaton is a University Professor and Professor of Economics at the University of Calgary. In 2010 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2010 he was the Haydn Williams Fellow at Curtin University in Perth. This Fellowship is Curtin University’s most prestigious award. Professor Eaton gave the President’s address to the CEA at the University of Toronto in 2004 and has many other academic achievements.

He is an applied economic theorist with particular areas of economics such as industrial organization, labour economics, economic geography, and organizational theory. He has contributed to four books including the well-established intermediate Microeconomics textbook now on its 7th edition with Allen, Douglas and Eaton, Diane by Prentice Hall, as well as numerous publications in top Economic journals. Professor Eaton got his formal training in economics at the University of Colorado, receiving a B.A. in 1965 and a Ph.D. in 1969. He joined the Economics Department at the University of Calgary on July 1, 1999. Prior to joining this department, he worked at three other Canadian universities: The University of British Columbia (1969 to 1980), The University of Toronto (1981 to 1987), and Simon Fraser University (1987 to 1999).

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