No, I don't think "cultural cognition is a bad thing"; I think a *polluted science communication environment* is & we should be using genuine evidence-based field communication to address the problem
Stenton Benjamin Danielson has a characteristically thoughtful post, 95% of which I agree with, on cultural cognition, "public opinion," and promoting constructive public engagement with climate science. But of course the 5%-- which has to do with whether I think "cultural cognition" is a "bad thing" that is to be overcome rather than a dynamic to be deployed to promote such engagement -- sticks in my craw! Maybe this response will get us closer to 100% agreement--if not by moving him a full 5% in my direction, then maybe by provoking him to elaborate & thereby move me some fraction of the remainder toward his point of view.
So read what he says. Then read this:
Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that I'm an imperfect communicator.
Another is the infeasibility of saying everything one believes every time one says anything.
But it is simply not the case that I view
cultural cognition as unreservedly bad -- a sort of disease or pollution in our debate about an issue, something to be prevented or neutralized whenever possible so that we can make rational assessments of the evidence.
On the contrary, I view it is an indispensable element of rational thought, one that contributes in a fundamental way to the capacity of individuals to participate in, and thus extend, collective knowledge. See generally:
- Nullius in verba? Surely you are joking, Mr. Hooke! (or Why cultural cognition is not a bias, part 1)
- The cultural certification of truth in the Liberal Republic of Science (or part 2 of why cultural cognition is not a bias)
Cultural cognition conduces to persistent states of public controversy over what's known only in a polluted science communication environment: one in which antagonistic cultural meanings become attached to positions on risk and policy-relevant facts, and transform them into badges of membership in opposing cultural groups.
- The Liberal Republic of Science, part 4: "A new political science ..."
- Democracy and the science communication environment (lecture synopsis and slides)
I also agree, by the way, that "messaging" campaigns aimed at influencing "public opinion" generally are an absurd waste of time, not to mention waste of the money of those eager to support climate-science communication efforts. This approach to "science communication" not only reflects a psychologically unrealistic account of how people come to know what's known by science but betrays an elementary-school level of comprehension of basic principles of political economy.
Don't "message" people with "struggle for the soul of America" appeals.
Show them that engaging climate science is "normal" by enabling them to see that people they recognize as competent and informed are using it to guide their practical decisions. That is how ordinary people -- very rationally -- recognize how to orient themselves appropriately with the best available evidence on all manner of issues.
Understanding the contribution that cultural cognition makes to individuals' rational apprehension of what is known is, I believe, is indispensable to that strategy for promoting constructive public engagement with climate science. I'm glad to see that you agree with me on that -- even if you hadn't discerned that I agree with you!
Those "risk experts" who want to contribute, moreover, should stop telling just-so stories-- give up the facile "take-'biases'-&-'heuristics'-literature-add-water-&-stir" form of "instant decision science"-- and go to the places where real people are trying to figure out how to use climate science to make their lives better.
Go there and genuinely help them by systematically testing their experience-informed hypotheses about how to reproduce in the world the sorts of things that experimental methods using cultural cognition and other theories suggest will improve public engagement with climate science.
We don't need more stylized lab experiments that try to convince us that things that real-world evidence manifestly show won't work actually will if we just keep doing them (followed when they don't by whinging about "the forces of evil" who--as was perfectly foreseeable--told members of the public whom you were targetting not to believe your "message").
Climate scientists update their models to reflect ten years of data. Climate advocates should too.