Research Article

Deliberative Exchange, Truth, and Cognitive Division of Labour: A Low-Resolution Modeling Approach

Rainer Hegselmann and Ulrich Krause


This paper develops a formal framework to model a process in which the formation of individual opinions is embedded in a deliberative exchange with others. The paper opts for a low-resolution modeling approach and abstracts away from most of the details of the social-epistemic process. Taking a bird's eye view allows us to analyze the chances for the truth to be found and broadly accepted under conditions of cognitive division of labour combined with a social exchange process. Cognitive division of labour means that only some individuals are active truth seekers, possibly with different capacities. Both mathematical tools and computer simulations are used to investigate the model. As an analytical result, the Funnel Theorem states that under rather weak conditions on the social process, a consensus on the truth will be reached if all individuals possess an arbitrarily small capacity to go for the truth. The Leading the pack Theorem states that under certain conditions even a single truth seeker may lead all individuals to the truth. Systematic simulations analyze how close agents can get to the truth depending upon the frequency of truth seekers, their capacities as truth seekers, the position of the truth (more to the extreme or more in the centre of an opinion space), and the willingness to take into account the opinions of others when exchanging and updating opinions.

Rainer Hegselmann is professor of philosophy at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. He is chiefly working on problems of modeling and simulating complex social dynamics. Currently his main projects are modeling of opinion dynamics and a reconstruction of Hume's moral and political theory by means of computer simulations.

Ulrich Krause is professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Bremen, Germany. He holds doctoral degrees in mathematics and economics. He published a few books and many articles in the fields of positive discrete dynamical systems and commutative algebra as well as in the fields of economics of production and social welfare theory.