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The blog of the Cultural Cognition Project

Dan Kahan and colleagues write:

The Cultural Cognition Project is a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities. Project members are using the methods of various disciplines — including social psychology, anthropology, communications, and political science — to chart the impact of this phenomenon and to identify the mechanisms through which it operates. The Project also has an explicit normative objective: to identify processes of democratic decisionmaking by which society can resolve culturally grounded differences in belief in a manner that is both congenial to persons of diverse cultural outlooks and consistent with sound public policymaking.

This is interesting, important, and (to me) fun research, and now they have a blog. Cool!

P.S. Law professors doing research—what an amazing idea. Laurence Tribe and Alan Dershowitz (or whoever’s writing their material these days) must be spinning in their graves.


  1. MAYO says:

    How will these scholars conduct this research without imputing their own culturally conditioned beliefs (into the design and interpretation of any studies).

    • K? O'Rourke says:

      Mayo: Is this not more like the story of two people being chased by a bear?

      1st person – “We can’t outrun a bear!”
      2nd person – “I only have to outrun you!”

      That is continually attempting to do less cultural imputing (in order to get a less wrong as opposed to true model)?

  2. dmk38 says:

    1. one has to have median score on both of the worldview measures to be allowed to join research team.

    2. the theory doesn’t imply that there are no “facts” or all beliefs are culturally conditioned or any other crazy thing like that. so there’s no reason why people *can’t* figure out what truth is independently of their cultural outlooks.

    3. the idea that this dynamic is there & distorts judgment is not uniquely associated with a cultural outlook; everyone pretty much knows that this happens — they just have a hard time saying *when* it is happening to them. But since the basic claim — *this* sort of motivated reasoning exists — is compatible w/ all cultural outlooks, it’s not like, say, “climate change is happening,” or “concealed carry laws reduce crime!” etc — empirical claims that have cultural valences & thus generate cultural variance.

    4. We look mainly at nonexperts. I’d conjecture that there are professional & expert habits of mind that constrain this in domains in which people use professional expert judgment (after all, we know econometricians, e.g., aren’t influenced by their priors & are always surprising themselves with their findings… alright, forget this point). Actually, we are hoping to test this conjecture (with judges, e.g.).

    5. Pretty much *every* study is designed to show that the impact of cultural cognition is uniform across the cultural types; we never find that “it’s the other guys who are dopes” or that “supporters of *our* position” are right, etc.

    6. It’s fun to show that people who share your worldview don’t know as much as they think, especially if they are obnoxious relatives or members of one’s faculty.

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