Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cultural Cognition of Risk

Also known as the Conservative White Male effect...

The debate surrounding certain risks which mark the boundaries of the Culture War - abortion, tobacco, free trade, gun control, global warming, war on drugs, fundamentalist religion, global war on terror, debt limits, NASCAR - are highly polarized. Cultural Cognition of Risk helps explain why.

Chris Mooney has reposted a couple very interesting articles at his Discover magazine Intersection blog.  They lead us to posts from his Desmogblog.

From there we are led into the world of familiar terms like, "Denialism," "Alarmism," "Confirmation Bias," "Cognitive Dissonance," and then on to less familiar terms such as "Motivated Reasoning," "Cultural Cognition of Risk," "Identity Protective Cognition," "Social Dominance Orientation," "System Justification," "Biased Assimilation," "Belief Perseverance," "Attitude Polarization," and "Covariation Detection."  Whew!  It'll take me a while to unpack this all but so far the explanatory power of the theory seems compelling.

One of the eminent scholars in the field is Dan Kahan of the Yale Law School where he runs the Cultural Cognition Project.  Another was the late Mary Douglas.

Of course there are blogs about this field; The Situationist, Four CulturesBig Think, even Bruce Schneier wrote on it last fall.  There are instruments that assess how cultural cognition of risk affects you.

I keep thinking there ought to be an undegrad, if not high school, course on "Critical Thinking, Scientific Method, and the Psychology of Belief," but where to begin?