What happens to politically diverse citizens’ perceptions of the risk of fracking as those individuals' scores on an "Actively Open-minded Thinking" (AOT) battery increase?
Why, their perceptions become more polarized, of course!
Actually, this is a weird result. It's another reason why “Fracking freaks me out!”
To be sure, fracking is not the only putative risk that twists, distorts, eviscerates reason in this way.
Climate change does, too, something that Jonathan Corbin & I demonstrate in connection with AOT in our forthcoming Research & Politics paper, & that I & collaborators have observed in connection to various other measures of critical thinking as well.
But not every putative risk exerts this effect; indeed, most don’t.
Consider nuclear power: citizens are politically polarized over the risks it poses in general, but as they score higher on AOT their perceptions converge.
That fracking is part of the toxic family of risk sources that generate more disagreement as reasoning proficiency increases might be not be so amazing but for its relative youth. The basic technology is in fact quite old, but fracking really didn’t assume a large profile in U.S. energy production and certainly not in public consciousness until at least 2010, when large-scale operations started to ramp up in the massive Marcellus formation.
In that short interval, fracking has catapulted from “huh?” to “whaaaaa!,” leaping over blue-chip polarizers like nuclear, not to mention long-standing pseudo-polarizing junk bonds like GM foods.
Anyone who thinks he or she can “easily” explain this development for sure earns a low score on actively open-minded thinking and science-of-science communication curiosity.