Kerem Oktar

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PhD Candidate,
Princeton University

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The Science of

  • Disagreement.
  • Opinion.
  • Belief.
  • Decision-making.

The Science of Disagreement

My research aims to clarify the psychological and computational basis of disagreement—across scales, domains, and agents—from definition to intervention.

Currently, I am developing and testing a model of how we both persist in our views amid societal controversy, yet maintain sufficient flexibility to learn from others (Oktar & Lombrozo, 2022).

(Details)

We disagree---collectively, forcefully, and frequently. We disagree in business meetings and violent protests; about scientific issues and moral questions; with loved ones and with millions of strangers.

Despite much research, our understanding of disagreement is quite limited (see, e.g., Klofstad, 2013). My work brings together insights from social and cognitive psychology, epistemology, and probability theory to shed light on this important phenomenon.

I suggest that there are four distinct dimensions of disagreement that determine our responses to it, and that effective interventions aimed towards changing beliefs need to be tailored to these dimensions.

What drives our beliefs and decisions?

I also study when deeply important beliefs—such as whether abortion is moral—can be changed (Oktar et al., 2023); and am interested in how people decide how to decide (Oktar & Lombrozo, 2022).

Who am I?

I was born and raised in Istanbul (Turkey); studied economics and cognitive science at Pomona College (CA); and am currently at Princeton (NJ), advancing research alongside a fantastic community of collaborators.

(Details)

Like many, my research is motivated by my past. I left Turkey to study in the U.S because I thought it was collapsing economically and losing its democratic, secular values (this turned out to be true). Participating in the Gezi Park protests made me acutely aware of the importance of dissent---and our remarkable capacity for it. Since then, I have been trying to understand how and when others' beliefs influence ours.

Resources.

I want science to be more inclusive and rigorous. Here are some resources that can help with that:

Contact.

Feel free to contact me at oktar[at]princeton[dot]edu with regards to research / collaboration / mentorship /… - I love talking about science. If you would like to send me anonymous feedback, click here.