Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 9, pp 2243–2267 | Cite as

Rational social and political polarization

  • Daniel J. SingerEmail author
  • Aaron Bramson
  • Patrick Grim
  • Bennett Holman
  • Jiin Jung
  • Karen Kovaka
  • Anika Ranginani
  • William J. Berger


Public discussions of political and social issues are often characterized by deep and persistent polarization. In social psychology, it’s standard to treat belief polarization as the product of epistemic irrationality. In contrast, we argue that the persistent disagreement that grounds political and social polarization can be produced by epistemically rational agents, when those agents have limited cognitive resources. Using an agent-based model of group deliberation, we show that groups of deliberating agents using coherence-based strategies for managing their limited resources tend to polarize into different subgroups. We argue that using that strategy is epistemically rational for limited agents. So even though group polarization looks like it must be the product of human irrationality, polarization can be the result of fully rational deliberation with natural human limitations.


Polarization Epistemic rationality Group deliberation Social epistemology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel J. Singer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aaron Bramson
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Patrick Grim
    • 5
    • 6
  • Bennett Holman
    • 7
  • Jiin Jung
    • 8
  • Karen Kovaka
    • 9
  • Anika Ranginani
    • 1
  • William J. Berger
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Riken Brain Science InstituteWakoshiJapan
  3. 3.Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium
  4. 4.University of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteUSA
  5. 5.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  6. 6.Stony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  7. 7.Underwood International CollegeYonsei UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  8. 8.Claremont Graduate UniversityClaremontUSA
  9. 9.Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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