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Back in the US ... back in the US ... back in the US of Societal Risk conflict

Back from week in UK where among the many comic misadventure (including seagulls who humiliated me by stealing my sandwich on a crowded rail platform; in the U.S. no rational seagull would do that because: he'd be shot dead!) was forgetting computer power pack which made keeping track of events at home & sending reports of my experiences challenging.

Will try to fill in to some extent this weekend. 

In particular, will post "tomorrow" a reconstructed account I staked out in my "debate" with Steven Lewandowsky in Bristol on the the utility of "97% consensus" messaging for promoting constructive public engagement with climate change science (I was knocked unconscious in the 33nd round and have had to get the assistance of others to piece together what transpired before that).

But here is list of talks I gave (including the "debate"; I'm not a fan of this format-- it is fun, but it is exudes misunderstanding of what the nature of scientific evidence consists in & the nature of the mindset with which serious people should be addressing it).

1. "The Science Communication Measurement Problem," Cardiff Univ., June 1.  Presented major findings from The Measurement Problem study, which used a validated climate-science assessment instrument designed to unconfound the measurement of cultural identity expressed by "beliefs in" climate change (human caused or otherwise) from knowledge of the best available evidence on causes and consequences of climate change. The former ("beliefs in ...") has zero correlation with the latter ("knowledge").  On the contrary, those with the most knowledge are the most polarized on whether "climate change" (human-caused or otherwise) is happening.  Those who don't know much--the vast majority on both sides--do agree, however, that climate science suggests humans are causing climate change and we are in deep shit.  

In sum, "believe in" climate meausures "who you are, whose side you are on," not "what do you know, what do you worry about ..."  Sadly, politics measures former and not latter question.

What can we do to fix that-- and to stop making this problem worse?

Also introduced the ever-popular Pakistani Dr and Kentucky Farmer!

Slides here.

2. "Debating 'consensus messaging,' " Bristol University, June 2.  As you might guess, the Measurement Problem data was very central to my argument that the continuation of a "social marketing campaign" featuring "consensus messaging" completely misses the point. Obviously, the U.S. public has "gotten the memo" on what scientists believe -- that humans are causing climate change and we are in deep deep shit -- even if they haven't gotten the details straight.  The conflict over "believe in climate change" is a cultural status competition, pure and simple. More "tomorrow."

Slides here.

3. "Motivated system 2 reasoning: rationality in a polluted science communication environment," Bristol University, June 3. Summary of CCP studies that pit the "bounded rationaity thesis" against the "cultural cognition thesis" as explanations for persistent public controversy over a variety of societal risks, including but not limited to climate change.  Observational evidence showing that critical reasoning click me... resistance is futile ...proficiency--measured in various ways--magnifies rather than dissipates cultural polarization is strong evidence in favor of latter.  The problem is not too little rationality but rather too much: when risks or other facts that admit of empirical study become entangled in antagonistic meanings, transforming them into badges of membership in competing cultural groups, it is individually rational for individuals to use their reason to form identity-congruent rather than truth-congruent beliefs.  When they all do this all at once, of course, the result is collectively disasterous-- since under these circumstances members of a pluralistic democratic society as less likely to converge on scientific evidence relevant to their common well-being.  This is the tragedy of the science communications commons. 

Slides here.

4.  What do U.S. farmers believe about human-caused climate change and the risks thereof? Cultural cognition and the Cultural Theory of Risk "Moblility hypothesis," University of College London, June 4. Offered conjectural account to explain how U.S. farmers can simultaneously be most skpetical sector of U.S. population (if characterized in some manner distinct from partisan self-identification) yet also the sector that is making the greatest self-conscious use of climate science (yes, the type that treats humans as cause) in everyday practical decisionmaking.  The account was "cognitive dualism," which I presented as a "cultural cognition mechanism" for the so-called Cultural Theory of Risk "mobility hypothesis," which asserts that it is a mistake to see risk perceptions as fixed attributes of individuals, who should be expected instead to change their risk perceptions as they migrate from one institutional setting to another in patterns that enable them to behave in a manner that is conducive to the successful prorogation of their group norms.  I offered provisional supporting evidence in the form of the success of the Southeast Florida Climate Compact in promoting engagement with climate science among ordinary citizens who are polarized on whether climate change (human-caused or otherwise!) is "happening," and discussed the need for a more systematic research program.  My collaborators Hank-Jenkins Smith & Carol Silva in fact described an ongoing project to collect data on how weather, cultural outlooks, and climate change risk perceptions relate to one another in Oklahoma, which of course has the highest per capita concentration of Kentucky Farmers in the US, right after SE Florida.  

I got great feedback from Steve Rayner, whose previously expressed disatisfaction with cultural cognition for neglecting the "mobility hypothesis" I learned the hard & interesting way is quite well founded.

Slides here.


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Reader Comments (2)

Hi Dan, thanks for the summary of your UK trip and talks. I was very interested in #4, but was dismayed to see that the "Slides here" link only pointed to one slide. Would it be possible to get the full set from that talk posted? Thanks!

I was particularly interested in the idea that people's risk beliefs might be institutionally mobile, that is, they might change their risk perceptions as they migrate from one institutional setting to another.This idea makes a lot of sense to me because we know that people are in general much more influenced by situations than dispositions, so why should their risk perceptions be an exception?

Have you done any studies on this phenomenon, or was this talk an initial foray into the topic?

The specific institutional setting I'm interested in is participation on a jury. For example, a hierarchical-individualist would likely join a jury with a flurry of beliefs inimical to the evidence that might be presented by a plaintiff against a corporation in a personal injury claim. Can that juror be expected (or "helped") to reason and decide differently in this institutional context, as compared to, say, sitting around drinking beer with his buddies? And ... paralleling your work on how to present science communication in a way that will be accepted by people on different cultural "teams" ... has your CCT project or any other researchers you know of looked at this issue of whether and how evidence might be made more digestible in a culturally diverse or homogeneous jury setting?

Thanks Dan! I really enjoy your blog and have learned a tremendous amount from all the CCT publications. Thanks for making them so easily accessible to us non-academics.

June 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Genco


Sorry about that. Fixed slides.

MOre later! Giving a talk to judges here in few mins...

June 10, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

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