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Study Presents Evidence for Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus

14 September 2010

The “cultural cognition of risk” refers to the tendency of individuals to form risk perceptions that are congenial to their values. A new NSF-funded study by authors from Yale Law School, the University of Oklahoma and George Washington Law School presents correlational and experimental evidence showing that cultural cognition also shapes individuals’ beliefs about the existence of scientific consensus.

In a paper on the study published online in the Journal of Risk Research, Dan M. Kahan, Hank Jenkins-Smith and Donald Braman discuss the implications of this dynamic for science communication and public policy-making.

We know from previous research that people with individualistic values, who have a strong attachment to commerce and industry, tend to be skeptical of claimed environmental risks, while people with egalitarian values, who resent economic inequality, tend to believe that commerce and industry harms the environment.

—Dan Kahan

In the study, subjects with individualistic values were more than 70 percentage points less likely than ones with egalitarian values to identify the scientist as an expert if he was depicted as describing climate change as an established risk. Likewise, egalitarian subjects were more than 50 percentage points less likely than individualistic ones to see the scientist as an expert if he was described as believing evidence on climate change is unsettled.

Study results were similar when subjects were shown information and queried about other matters that acknowledge “scientific consensus.” Subjects were much more likely to see a scientist with elite credentials as an “expert” when he or she took a position that matched the subjects’ own cultural values on risks of nuclear waste disposal and laws permitting citizens to carry concealed guns in public. All of these are matters on which the National Academy of Sciences has issued expert consensus report.

No cultural group in our study was more likely than any other to be “getting it right” i.e. correctly identifying scientific consensus on these issues. They were all just as likely to report that most scientists favor the position rejected by the National Academy of Sciences expert consensus report if the report reached a conclusion contrary to their own cultural predispositions.

—Dan Kahan

In a separate survey component, the study also found that the American public in general is culturally divided on what scientific consensus is on climate change, nuclear waste disposal, and concealed-handgun laws.

Kahan said that the problem isn’t that one side “believes” science and another side “distrusts”, referring to an alternate theory of why there is political conflict on matters that have been extensively researched by scientists. He said the more likely reason for the disparity, as supported by the research results, “is that people tend to keep a biased score of what experts believe, counting a scientist as an ‘expert’ only when that scientist agrees with the position they find culturally congenial.

Understanding this, the researchers then could draw some conclusions about why scientific consensus seems to fail to settle public policy debates when the subject is relevant to cultural positions.

It is a mistake to think scientific consensus, of its own force, will dispel cultural polarization on issues that admit scientific investigation. The same psychological dynamics that incline people to form a particular position on climate change, nuclear power and gun control also shape their perceptions of what scientific consensus is.

—Dan Kahan

The problem won’t be fixed by simply trying to increase trust in scientists or awareness of what scientists believe. To make sure people form unbiased perceptions of what scientists are discovering, it is necessary to use communication strategies that reduce the likelihood that citizens of diverse values will find scientific findings threatening to their cultural commitments.

—Donald Braman

Resources

  • Dan M. Kahan; Hank Jenkins-Smith; Donald Braman (2010) Cultural cognition of scientific consensus. Journal of Risk Research doi: 10.1080/13669877.2010.511246

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This new NSF-funded study (taxpayer funded study) is a bunch of psycho-babble and a colossal waste of our money. Next will come even more pyscho-babble as agenda pushers attempt to frame non-believers as psychologically ill; new DSM IV psychological conditions will be created for "deniers" or climate-change "agnostics".

The bottom line is "scientific consensus" is NOT scientific fact or scientific law and everyone can see right through it. We don't need this garbarge now or in the future.

Texas School Board Chairman Don McLeroy: "Somebody has to stand up to the experts."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_McLeroy

Odd, this already has a Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_cognition

What do we do with those who have a strong attachment to commerce and industry who also have strong egalitarian values?

"To make sure people form unbiased perceptions of what scientists are discovering, it is necessary to use communication strategies that reduce the likelihood that citizens of diverse values will find scientific findings threatening to their cultural commitments."

Corollary: If we only put more lipstick on the pig, people won't see the pig anymore. The fact the pig exists doesn't matter - as long as enough of our "experts" form a "consensus" that the pig is actually a beautiful woman, that should be enough to convince the masses who have inferior intellects. We don't have to use real science and the scientific method, we just need communication & spin to take freedom away and raise taxes.

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At one time the "scientific consensus" was that Earth was flat. No discussion was allowed. The "science" was settled. Dissenters were often times jailed or killed. We are back to the same, tired, "scientific consensus." Although this time funded entirely by governments.

As recent as the 1970's we were headed into a devastating ice age. People were going to suffer horrendous tragedies because of the Global Cooling that was heading our way. "Scientists" wanted to cover the Arctic with black soot to help warm the Earth. They wanted to set off nuclear explosions in the Arctic to help warm the planet.

Now, given the record of dishonesty, hiding data, and outright lies, we are to believe everything that the government funded "scientists" claim.

The solution to Earth's naturally changing climate is not massively higher taxes, an ever expanding, incompetent government, and/or drastic losses of freedom.

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Churchill's famous dictum: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)

Likewise, scientific consensus isn't perfect but it's better than anything else we've tried. The main problem with scientific consensus is the reporting of it, too often we get news of it through third parties with either too little understanding or a bias of their own.

At one time the "scientific consensus" was that Earth was flat. No discussion was allowed. The "science" was settled. Dissenters were often times jailed or killed.
People at that time were ruled by religion, not science. The Bible said the world was flat and most "scientists" had to conform their ideas to that or be jailed or killed.
http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptic_arguments/flat_earth.html

As recent as the 1970's we were headed into a devastating ice age.
This again? 1970s ice age predictions were predominantly media based. The majority of peer reviewed research at the time predicted warming due to increasing CO2.
http://www.skepticalscience.com/ice-age-predictions-in-1970s-intermediate.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB3S0fnOr0M

Some of it may be interpretation. The "rocket scientists" on Wall Street showed a way that risk could be reduced. The MBA investors heard what they wanted to hear and the sub prime CDO/CDS disaster was created.

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"The Bible said the world was flat..."

Being the religious scholar that you are, please site the book, chapter, and verse.

Then, yes, go back to your government funded, Globalwarmist religion. REPENT of your exhalations!!! (CO2) REPENT I SAY!!!

Youtube "evidence." :)

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Study in a nutshell:
Sheeple believe in global warming. Non-sheeple (those able to think for themselves) are skeptics (scientists).

It's very easy to see who here believes scientists are liars.

On the other hand, the best and the brightest are not cowed by attacks from anti-science thugs;

STRONG EVIDENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE UNDERSCORES NEED FOR ACTIONS TO REDUCE EMISSIONS AND BEGIN ADAPTING TO IMPACTS, National Academy of Sciences, May 2010

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It's very easy to see who here believes scientists are liars.

Yes, the Globalwarmists religious fanatics claim that MIT PhD's are liars for accurately stating that human caused Global Warming® (since rebranded Climate Change®, since rebranded CO2 Pollution®) is false. The Globalwarmists hate the fact that many actual scientists dispute the "models" that, when fed with the "proper" numbers, show disastrous warming in our future.

Oh, and the EAU emails that the whistle-blower released to the pubilc: OK, the "scientists" stated that they would lie, "hide the decline," withhold date, etc. SO, the "scientists" have made it known that they fine with telling lies.

Oh, yeah, the infamous "hockey stick." The shocking rise in temperatures that "scientist" Mann revealed, and Globalwarmist high priest Algore proclaimed - OK, the "hockey stick" was made up with false numbers as proved by actual intellectuals - but it's the thought that counts, right? WE MUST SAVE THE PLANET - REPENT!!!

Scientists must claim that trees have genetically altered themselves in the past few decades because their rings no longer correlate with "measured" temperatures (who cares that the measured temperatures have been shown to have been taken near heat islands, skewing their readings upward, etc.).

And dullards actually wonder why the "science" is questioned!

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@Goracle
You're right, Biblical Verses don't claim that the Earth is flat, but there are verses that say it has Edges, has Four Corners, has Pillars, and has Foundations. These suggest a flat Earth to those who are trained NOT to think.

"Study in a nutshell:
Sheeple believe in global warming. Non-sheeple (those able to think for themselves) are skeptics (scientists)."

Personally I find this shocking:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eScDfYzMEEw

All this sounds like - Damned if you Do, Damned if you Don't.
Now, where's my damn beer?

shecky,

that should be "where's my DAMNED beer?"

There may be a few Tea Party members around this post. Will they become the answer to Al-Quaida?

Speaking of the Tea Party: Have you heard? Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell appeared in 2007 on The O'Reilly Factor and said "American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains."

Where's my DAMNED cheese?

I love how the comments confirm the data!

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