Beliefs as self-sustaining networks: drawing parallels between networks of ecosystems and adults’ predictions

Ramon D. Castillo, Heidi Kloos, Michael J. Richardson, Talia Waltzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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In this paper, we argue that beliefs share common properties with the self-sustaining networks of complex systems. Matching experiences are said to couple with each other into a mutually reinforcing network. The goal of the current paper is to spell out and develop these ideas, using our understanding of ecosystems as a guide. In Part 1 of the paper, we provide theoretical considerations relevant to this new conceptualization of beliefs, including the theoretical overlap between energy and meaning. In Part 2, we discuss the implications of this new conceptualization on our understanding of belief emergence and belief change. Finally, in Part 3, we provide an analytical mapping between beliefs and the self-sustaining networks of ecosystems, namely by applying to behavioral data a measure developed for ecosystem networks. Specifically, average accuracies were subjected to analyses of uncertainty (H) and average mutual information. The ratio between these two values yields degree of order, a measure of how organized the self-sustained network is. Degree of order was tracked over time and compared to the amount of explained variance returned by a categorical non-linear principal components analysis. Finding high correspondence between the two measures of order, together with the theoretical groundwork discussed in Parts 1 and 2, lends preliminary validity to our theory that beliefs have important similarities to the structural characteristics of self-sustaining networks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1723
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberNOV
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • information theory
  • average mutual information
  • uncertainty
  • degree of order
  • predictive learning


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