Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2319992
 
 

References (58)



 


 



Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government


Dan M. Kahan


Yale University - Law School; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Ellen Peters


Ohio State University - Psychology Department; Decision Research; University of Oregon

Erica Cantrell Dawson


Cornell University

Paul Slovic


Decision Research; University of Oregon - Department of Psychology

September 3, 2013

Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 307

Abstract:     
Why does public conflict over societal risks persist in the face of compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence? We conducted an experiment to probe two alternative answers: the “Science Comprehension Thesis” (SCT), which identifies defects in the public’s knowledge and reasoning capacities as the source of such controversies; and the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT) which treats cultural conflict as disabling the faculties that members of the public use to make sense of decision-relevant science. In our experiment, we presented subjects with a difficult problem that turned on their ability to draw valid causal inferences from empirical data. As expected, subjects highest in Numeracy — a measure of the ability and disposition to make use of quantitative information — did substantially better than less numerate ones when the data were presented as results from a study of a new skin-rash treatment. Also as expected, subjects’ responses became politically polarized — and even less accurate — when the same data were presented as results from the study of a gun-control ban. But contrary to the prediction of SCT, such polarization did not abate among subjects highest in Numeracy; instead, it increased. This outcome supported ICT, which predicted that more Numerate subjects would use their quantitative-reasoning capacity selectively to conform their interpretation of the data to the result most consistent with their political outlooks. We discuss the theoretical and practical significance of these findings.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

working papers series


Download This Paper

Date posted: September 8, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Kahan, Dan M. and Peters, Ellen and Dawson, Erica Cantrell and Slovic, Paul, Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government (September 3, 2013). Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 307. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2319992 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2319992

Contact Information

Dan M. Kahan (Contact Author)
Yale University - Law School ( email )
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/kahan
Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )
124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Ellen Peters
Ohio State University - Psychology Department ( email )
Blankenship Hall-2010
901 Woody Hayes Drive
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States
Decision Research ( email )
1201 Oak Street, Suite 200
Eugene, OR 97401
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.decisionresearch.org
University of Oregon ( email )
1280 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States
Erica Cantrell Dawson
Cornell University ( email )
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
Paul Slovic
Decision Research ( email )
1201 Oak Street, Suite 200
Eugene, OR 97401
United States
541-485-2400 (Phone)
541-485-2403 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.decisionresearch.org
University of Oregon - Department of Psychology ( email )
Eugene, OR 97403
United States
541-485-2400 (Phone)
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 48,108
Downloads: 10,598
Download Rank: 164
References:  58
Paper comments
No comments have been made on this paper

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo3 in 0.859 seconds