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My mission as a researcher is to develop, test, present my best ideas about complexity and emergence in political systems.

As in other departments of science, so in politics, the compound should always be resolved into the simple elements or at least parts of the whole.
Aristotle. The Politics. Book 1, Section 1.

Reductionism has long been a hallmark of science because of the hope that we can observe the parts that make up the system we are interested in. But, reductionism can only take us part of the way on the journey of understanding. A much more difficult problem is faced when we try to see what happens as the parts interact. Occasionally, we find that very simple parts, interacting in very simple ways, give rise to very complex behaviors. Complexity theory is a broad movement in science trying to develop systematic ways to approach problems from both the top-down and from the bottom-up. Because computers can implement rules again and again while keeping track of the results, they are ideal tools for the kinds of thinking that complexity theory is based on.

My broad ambition is to develop a theory of the emergence of ideology that draws from multiple levels of analyses:

My work in neuropolitics aims to study the neural substrates of differences in political behavior between people who know a lot about politics and those who do not. My contention is that the transition from novice to expert in politics is like the transition from novice to expert in other domains and involves similar shifts from controlled to automatic cognitive processes.

I am currently developing a computational model of political cognition as a further test of my theory of neuropolitics. I am applying recent work in artificial intelligence to the context of political decision making. The framework I am using is a hybrid symbolic/neural network model, designed to unify two camps of research in the artificial intelligence community as well as reflecting the notion of dual processes (controlled and automatic) from psychology.

Once I have thoroughly evaluated these models of individual political cognition, I plan on embedding them into my macro-scale model of political party dynamics. The current version of my party dynamics model uses very simplistic "sub-rational" agents who mindlessly obey a small set of rules. However, they still manage to demonstrate a number of classic behaviors from American politics. They usually form a two-party system, their parties tend toward the center of the political spectrum, the winning party tends to just barely win, and the introduction of new political issues can cause the parties to realign.

The plan is to show that ideology is emergent phenomena. Ideology is created neither by the individual voters nor by the political elites, rather it emerges as a consequence of their interaction. Understanding the neural underpinnings of political cognition improves our comprehension of the limitations that individuals face in processing a complex political environment. And, understanding the ways in which elites and masses interact should enable us to understand that ideology is both created and constrains elites and masses.

Note, that I am not claiming that all politics reduces down to neurons. In fact, I would make the opposite claim. I believe that Aristotle was right and that "man is by nature a political animal." Evolutionary psychology suggests that the reason we have such a big and capable brain is to solve the complex problems posed by being a political animal. If neuroscience is really interested in understanding the human brain, I would argue that we need to develop an understanding of the human brain in the context that necessitated it, politics.

When I was a graduate student at UCLA, there was an article about me in GQ (Graduate Quarterly, not the chic men's magazine). It will give you a good idea of what I am working on. Another good place to look for the big picture of my research interests is in this statement on my research background.

Other projects: Housing Segregation, Model Evaluation, Race Perception, Cocktail Party Model

Office: Department of Politics, Amory B216, Rennes Drive, Exeter, Devon, EX4 4RJ, United Kingdom
E-mail: darren.schreiber@gmail.com
Twitter: @polneuro