Using science curiosity ... a fragment
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 2:15AM
Dan Kahan

From something I'm working on . . . 

. . . Taken together, these studies suggest that science curiosity ought to be viewed as a signal virtue of democratic citizenship in a culturally diverse society.  The information-processing style of these citizens ought to be propagated and extended as an antidote to the enfeebling impact of group rivalries on citizens’ capacity to identify valid science....

a. [A program to employ science curiosity for purposes of enlightened self-government must answer three questions.] First, how can the stock of citizens who are curious about science be enlarged? Presumably, this disposition forms at a relatively young age.  We thus anticipate that this part of the research program will focus on the development of primary-, middle-, and high-school education materials suited to instill curiosity in students.  To date, efforts to develop such materials have met with little success, primarily because educators have not been equipped with reliable and valid measures to test the impact of various pedagogical strategies aimed at cultivating science curiosity (Blalock et al. 2008).  The APPC/CCP Science Curiosity Scale does furnish a valid and reliable measure for adults, and we are currently engaged in exploratory work to develop a version of the scale that can be used for middle-school students.

b. Second, how can the dispositions of the most science-curious citizens be leveraged to promote more productive engagement with decision-relevant science in our political discourse? Field studies conducted by CCP suggests that members of culturally diverse groups display greater open-mindedness when they observe trusted group members evincing confidence in the validity of decision-relevant science by their actions and words.  To multiply the number of such interactions, it makes sense for communicators to seed culturally diverse groups with members who have already formed positive views of decision-relevant science (Kahan 2015). . . .

c. Third, how can the “frontier” of science curiosity be moved back when communicators engage with ordinary citizens?  Individuals  tend to spontaneously and aggressively resist information that challenges positions associated with their group.  The appetite for surprise and wonder associated with science curiosity, in contrast, effectively stifles that form of defensive information processing.  Science curiosity varies across people; but even modestly and weakly curious individuals possess some level of this disposition, which can be elicited with appropriately constructed materials. Thus, the same tools that can be used to propagate and leverage science curiosity can also be used to determine which forms of communication are most likely to excite science curiosity—and preempt defensive resistance—among a larger fraction of society.

Article originally appeared on cultural cognition project (
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