The cultural cognition of risk grows out of the "cultural theory of risk" associated with Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildvasky. This paper identifies the conceptual, methodological, and practical features of cultural cognition that distinguish it from other approaches for testing Douglas and Wildavsky's influential claims about risk perception.
Liberalism obliges the state to refrain from endorsement of a cultural orthodoxy and instead to base law on secular interests like harm prevention. But is this possible if lawmakers' perceptions of harm derive from their cultural values? (published in the Stanford Law Review)
Oupatient commitment laws (OCLs) are highly controversial provisions that permit courts to order persons who are mentally ill to comply with specified outpatient-treatment regimens or face involuntary confinement. A CCP study, forthcoming in Law and Human Behavior , found that political conflict over OCLs reflects the influence of cultural values on citizens' perceptions of the impact of these laws on public health and safety.
How will Americans react as they learn more about this novel science? Will popular attitudes be guided by the best available scientific evidence? Or will other influences affect public perceptions of nanotechnology risks This paper reports the result of an experimental investigation of these questions.
How individuals process information on nanotechnology risks is critically dependent on the perceived cultural values of the information source. The impact of this "cultural credibility heuristic," experimental data show, can either accentuate or mitigate cultural polarization with respect to nanotechnology risk perceptions.
A national study conducted by CCP researchers finds that synthetic biology risk perceptions have a distinctive profile, one that turns cultural, political, and religious commitments nearly upside down.
How do legal actors know what the relevant facts and law are in any given case? The answer, we argue, is that they know in the same way that ordinary citizens know. When deliberating about what dangers are real and which are specious, and about which policies are efficacious and which are futile or even self-defeating, ordinary folk will rarely have direct access to the answers themselves. Instead, they must make decisions about what information and which sources warrant their trust. They must judge whether the stories in which the information is embedded are plausible and consistent with one another. They must consider which norms are relevant, given the facts as they know them. And all the empirical evidence we have suggests they will do all of this through interlocking social and cognitive mechanisms that cause them to rely on a culturally contingent situation sense, an implicit knowledge of how the material and social world works and who can be trusted to report it accurately.
An experiment conducted by CCP researchers and published in Nature Nanotechnology shows that individuals' cultural predispositions guide their search for, and interpretation of, information on the risks and benefits of nanotechnology.
An experimental study conducted by the Cultural Cognition Project identifies how individuals' values shape their views of the facts in cases involving battered women and other persons whose resort to lethal self-defense provokes public controversy (published in the American Criminal Law Review).
Individuals' initial limpressions of nanotechnology are affect driven. As they learn more, their positions polaraize along cultural lines. This is what the Cultural Cognition Project found in an experimental study, the results of which are reported and analyzed in this paper.
Like other accounts that rest on the "irrational weigher model" of risk perception, the position advanced by Cass Sunstein, Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (2005), ignores the impact of cultural worldviews. Based on the results of the National Risk & Culture Survey, this paper (published in the Harvard Law Review<) presents an alternative "cultural evaluator" model that better explains disagreements over risk and that generates more defensible prescriptions for how to reconcile rational risk regulation with democratic deliberation.
Differences in cultural outlooks divide Americans politically not because culture endows Americans with different ends but because culture influences how Americans evaluate the efficacy of alternative means for achieving collective prosperity and security. Moreover, the tendency of culture to interfere with common apprehension of mutually advantageous policies can be neutralized through various devices, including deliberation.
Should regulators view risk perceptions that derive from cultural cognition as manifestations of cognitive bias or instead as expressions of value? Kahan & Slovic take up this question in response to Sunstein's critique of cultural cognition.
Cultural worldviews determine political attitudes, not because ordinary citizens are moral zealots but because they are cognitive misers who naturally rely on cultural cues to orient their policy positions.
Can the emergence of scientific consensus be expected to quiet disagreement about the efficacy of gun control laws? Not necessarily. This paper shows why, using computer simulations of knowledge transmission that incorporate the phenomenon of cultural cognition.