The Spontaneous Emergence of Consensus: From Social Conventions to Shared Categories
Speaker : Professor
City University London, United Kingdom
Chair : Professor Stephan Thurner
How does consensus emerge in complex decentralised social systems? This question engages fields as diverse as sociology, linguistics, cognitive science and network science. Various attempts to solve this puzzle presuppose that formal or informal institutions, such as incentives for global agreement, coordinated leadership, or aggregated information about the population, are needed to facilitate a solution. The complex systems approach, by contrast, hypothesises that such institutions are not necessary in order for social consensus to form. Adopting this perspective, I will start by presenting experimental results that demonstrate the spontaneous creation of universally adopted social conventions. In doing so, I will show also how a population’s network structure controls the dynamics of norm formation, as captured by the simple naming game model. Then, I will discuss the case of category systems. Here, individuals can coordinate their language in order to attain common goals, but they remain unable to access the internal representations of their peers, thus leaving space for an intrinsic (and ideally small) possibility of misunderstanding. I will show that a simple multi-agent model reproduces quantitatively many statistical properties of the empirical data.
Short Bio: I am a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at City University London. My main interest is to understand and model the emerging global properties of social and cognitive systems. The methods I have employed so far include mathematical modelling, numerical simulations, big-data analysis and experiments with human subjects. My current research includes the spontaneous emergence of social consensus, human exploration of physical and mental spaces, and collective dynamics in online and offline social networks. At a more fundamental level, I investigate the properties of complex networks and the way in which they affect the dynamical processes taking place upon them.