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Thursday
Apr242014

Still more evidence of my preternatural ability to change people's minds: my refutation of Krugman's critique of Klein's article convinces Klein that Krugman's critique was right

That's not Harmon Killebrew, is it?! Nah...Huh.

Well, I actually agree 70% w/ what Klein says; once I explain why, I predict Klein will thoughtfully disagree -- and end up more-or-less where I was in my post on Krugman's "symmetry proof."

But I don't have time to go into this now (am busy w/ field experiments aimed at counteracting the motivated reasoning of cultural anti-cat zealots).  Will write something on this "tomorrow." 

In meantime, maybe someone else will explain why I was 100% right (everyone who commented on the Krugman post definitely felt that way).

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Reader Comments (8)

This sounds like highbrow woo woo to me: "Political reasoning doesn't take place inside our heads. It takes place inside our parties" - Ezra Klein

I don't believe that assertion is supported either by the discipline of Social Anthropology and certainly not by cognitive science, or psychology. Hard to know where to begin with this one. Parsed carefully, Klein might be saying human reasoning takes place in our heads, with the exception of political reasoning. Well, that doesn't work. So if he's not pleading a special case of exception for political reasoning, than I think he's up against a familiar problem: many would like to assert that brain functions occur in some special place outside the brain. They don't of course. Moreover, there is nothing special about the interaction between social reality and individuals that would lead us to plead a special case for "political reasoning." Indeed, we could go the other way and assert all human reasoning takes into account social risk and reward, as humans are always swimming in society.

I'm pretty confident Ezra has no idea what he's saying, but thinks he does. He is claiming to know something he simply does not know.

April 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGregor Macdonald

I don't know if Klein is arguing that Krugman is right, but he is saying Krugman at least had a point in asking his question: ""Can anyone point to a liberal equivalent of conservative denial of climate change, or ...?" It's a point that still really needs answering.

I agree. I pointed it out myself. While it's true that it's not whether one gets the answer right or wrong but how one reasons that counts, and it's possible that liberals could just get lucky while still being symmetrically biased, it's a lot less likely that they could get 'lucky' on every single battleground issue. There's an unwelcome implication here that liberals are studiously avoiding.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

I think the point is that work such as Kahan's does a good job of demonstrating what weak reeds individuals are, but there's still a hope of building stronger social structures out of those weak reeds. E.g. no one expects any individual scientist to be a flawless reasoning machine, but we expect that the scientific enterprise as a whole will converge on the truth in spite of this.

There's at least a possibility that liberals have better error-correction mechanisms in play than conservatives, and if so that can explain Krugman's perception that "lived experience" shows bigger problems on the right than left, even if it's true that liberal individuals show roughly equivalent bias.

On the other hand, Krugman is a little too quick to shrug off any attempt at pointing out areas where many on the left have no trouble rejecting expert opinion (e.g. vaccination, GM food, and nuclear power). He apparently regards these as minor examples representative only of minority factions.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Brenner

There's also at least a possibility that conservatives have better error-correction mechanisms in play than liberals, but is there any evidence for it?

The entire point about observations on cognitive bias is that the people who are biased don't themselves realise that they're wrong. So you can't use the fact that liberals can't think of any major topic on which they're wrong as evidence that they're not wrong on any major topic. If you ask a conservative, he'll tell you exactly the same thing. If the sides are supposedly symmetrical, why is it only the liberals who keep on getting things so horribly, catastrophically wrong, while remaining so utterly oblivious to their errors and firmly convinced of their own elite infallibility? This characteristic of liberals is quite often mentioned, over on the right.

I can certainly understand why Dan doesn't want to emphasise it - it's a classic example of something liable to make people defensive about their cultural identities. But at the same time, not mentioning it isn't helping either. It's one of the more important implications of the research, and essential to recognise if you want to do anything about it.

So for that example of a major scientific issue that liberals get all wrong that Krugman wanted, I offer up Krugman's own post. Everyone is fallible and the people who follow an erroneous belief system generally don't realise it - in fact they're always firmly convinced it's correct. If you think the word "Everyone" doesn't include you, then you're ignoring the scientific evidence.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

I think you're getting lost in relativism here. Right/wrong evaluations are difficult, but evaluating a propensity to ignore expert opinion is easier. You need some definition of "expert", and there's some difficulty in assessing the expert consensus (e.g. there's no explicit majority voting involved in the scientific method), but you really can do things like, say, compare survey results among technical experts to those of the general public.

Unlike Krugman, I can think of examples that I think are of some significance where Team Blue does indeed diverge from expert opinion-- but it may be the problem with Team Blue is not as bad as it is with Team Red, which is Krugman's real claim.

Kahan's reply that what actually matters is how you got the result, not whether the answer is correct is interesting, but not entirely satisfactory. If the right has been wronger for years, is that a mere historical accident? If it isn't a historical accident, then what has the left been doing right? And if the perception that the right is so wrong is all just an illusion, why is it so hard to answer Krugman's question and say "look, here's the left-wing equivalent of those climate change denialists"?

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Brenner

You are quite correct that you need some definition of 'expert', which is half the problem, since the two sides disagree on who the experts are. (Dan's got experiments to show this.) The other half of the problem is that the experts are not immune! The more scientifically and technically literate you are, the more polarised and biased your thinking is (again, experimentally demonstrated) - and since there are few people more scientifically literate than scientists, one would expect it to affect them badly. Dan hasn't done that test, but I've seen plenty of individual examples, and indeed could stand as an example myself.

And also, as you say, there's no voting in the scientific method. A lot of people are well aware of the majority expert opinion, and that they are in the minority, but believe they have scientific and technical reasons to think the majority is wrong. If all the experts in the world told you that 2 + 2 = 5, and yet you could count it out on your fingers and see that they were wrong, what would you believe? "In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual," as Galileo said, or "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts" as Feynman put it. Many other scientists have said the same in other famous phrases, but they all come down to the same message: trusting the opinions of experts is fundamentally unscientific, and telling other people to ignore their own knowledge and reasoning in favour of the opinions of experts is anti-scientific. How can it possibly be right to measure the public's respect for science by requiring them to trust authority over their own reasoning and observations?

No, if you want to assess how people follow scientific method (as opposed to conclusions) then you need to ask people why they believe what they do. Do they cite experimental evidence and statistics and principles of physics? Or do they quote an 'expert' saying something that they don't themselves understand and certainly haven't checked? Which of these would you count as the more 'scientific' approach?

"And if the perception that the right is so wrong is all just an illusion, why is it so hard to answer Krugman's question and say "look, here's the left-wing equivalent of those climate change denialists"?"

It isn't hard at all. The left-wing equivalent of the "those climate change denialists" is of course "those climate change believers". The problem is not answering the question, but one of getting people to see that the answer is a correct one - or at least, that it could be correct since neither side can really tell yet.

Krugman can't validly tell if climate change is an example for or against him, because it's a liberal position and he's a liberal. He hasn't compared liberal beliefs against the truth - he's compared liberal beliefs against what a particular liberal (himself) believes to be the truth. He's gone down the list of classic battleground issues on which liberals and conservatives disagree, and found in each case that he, a liberal, believes the liberal belief to be correct. He asks: "Where are the battleground issues where conservatives are correct?" Well, if you believe the science, they're about half the items on his own list!

But of course, I'm well aware that I couldn't use "climate change believers" as an answer to Krugman's question - not only because he wouldn't believe it was true, but also because it could be counter-claimed that I was doing the same thing I accuse Krugman of. However, by pointing out the possibility, I hope at least to demonstrate to you that Krugman's logic is faulty, and you can't use a liberal's agreement with liberal positions as evidence that liberals are always right.

Dan's science predicts that a majority of liberals will reject science that challenges liberal preconceptions, and that Dan's science is itself such a piece of science. Krugman has rejected it, precisely because of its disagreement with liberal infallibility, and as he slowly realises its implications Klein is increasingly leaning that way, too. Prediction confirmed!

April 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV, I agree with you.

If you want to show liberals and Krugman are wrong, you should use Nuttecellli and Man http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2013/04/12/3735095.htm.

Liberals and Krugman state we have to do something about climate change now. But the science supports a whole range of responses. The point is that the liberal claim of economic harm cannot be supported for the next 100 years as used by the liberals. It supports both economic views.

So, once again the science is hijacked for politics. Both sides do it.

April 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

Liberal equivalent of climate change denial? How about:

1) Refusal to understand the mechanism, the theory, of a free market. Liberals cannot seem to even acknowledge much less accept the theory of a free market, forever conflating it with crony capitalism, corporate lobbying, and other forms of right-wing corruptions of the free market. Sure, a fully "free market" is a practical impossibility, just as a lone electron is an impossibility, yet the knowledge gained by analyzing these ideal situations is indispensable, if you have society's interest foremost, rather than the interests of the left. Pretending otherwise flies in the face of economic science.

2) Refusal to understand the theory of evolution. Most liberals pay lip service to the theory of evolution because it skewers the right wing religious fundamentalists, but when it comes to understanding and application, they are MIA. Intelligence, success, accomplishment, and their opposites have a genetic component. Nurture is not everything, Nature has a say. No matter how much you train a randomly chosen child to play basketball, the chances are a billion to one that they will not come even close to being Michael Jordan. Pretending otherwise flies in the face of evolutionary science, and the slippery slope argument must be stopped in its tracks. Natural differences in people cannot be allowed to translate into differences in their rights or opportunities to access material or informational goods, but denying the differences is not the solution, it is a head-in-the sand move.

I don't mean to ascribe these POV's to all liberals, any more than I would ascribe climate change denial to all conservatives. I see where insurance companies are paying attention to climate change implications in setting their rates, putting their money where everybody else's mouth is, and to me, THAT carries more weight than any political partisan cheering for their team. See how the free market helps separate the s**t from the shinola?

April 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

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