Meeting Summary: Max Planck once said “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” To what extent is this “progress by funeral” (known as cohort replacement) theory true for opinion change? Not only in the scientific practices, but also in social issues such as in civil rights, feminist movements, and gay marriage? Did these changes happen because the opposers eventually die or did people actually change their minds? Social science researchers have examined these questions for a few issues. For example, one study (Baunach 2011) found that for gay marriage, approximately two-thirds of the change was due to people changing their mind, while one-third was due to later cohorts replacing the earlier ones. However, it remains unclear what are universalities and differences in opinion change over various issues and practices, and how can we predict the opinions of future cohorts. In this working group, we will contribute to filling this gap by creating new dynamical models and validating them with longitudinal datasets. These approaches will allow us to relate how opinions change over time as a function of beliefs adaptation during lifespan and through the opinion of young people entering society. With these findings, we may inform a number of further questions: What makes some issues change faster than others? Why do some social issues never reach a consensus? How can we predict the positioning of young people entering society?
Participant List Vicky Chuqiao Yang, Santa Fe Institute Laura Maiorino, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Fernando Santos, Princeton University Tamara van der Does, Santa Fe Institute Felix Wong, Harvard University