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Signatures of the neurocognitive basis of culture wars found in moral psychology data

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Document pages: 8 pages

Abstract: Moral Foundation Theory (MFT) states that groups of different observers may rely on partially dissimilar sets of moral foundations, thereby reaching different moral valuations on a subset of issues. With the introduction of functional imaging techniques, a wealth of new data on neurocognitive processes has rapidly mounted and it hasbecome increasingly more evident that this type of data should provide an adequate basis for modeling social systems. In particular, it has been shown that there is a spectrum of cognitive styles with respect to the differential handling of novel or corroborating information.Furthermore this spectrum is correlated to political affiliation. Here we use methods of statistical mechanics to characterize the collective behavior of an agent-based model society whose interindividual interactions due to information exchange in the form of opinions, are in qualitative agreement with neurocognitive and psychological data. The main conclusion derived from the model isthat the existence of diversity in the cognitive strategies yields different statistics for the sets of moral foundations and that these arise from the cognitive interactions of the agents. Thus a simple interacting agent model, whose interactions are in accord with empirical data about moral dynamics, presents statistical signaturesconsistent with those that characterize opinions of conservatives and liberals. The higher the difference in the treatment of novel and corroborating information the more agents correlate to liberals.

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