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http://ssrn.com/abstract=995634
 
 

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Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition: Explaining the White Male Effect in Risk Perception


Dan M. Kahan


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

Donald Braman


George Washington University - Law School; Cultural Cognition Project

John Gastil


Pennsylvania State University

Paul Slovic


Decision Research; University of Oregon - Department of Psychology

C. K. Mertz


Decision Research


Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 465-505, November 2007
Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 152

Abstract:     
Why do white men fear various risks less than women and minorities? Known as the white male effect, this pattern is well documented but poorly understood. This paper proposes a new explanation: identity-protective cognition. Putting work on the cultural theory of risk together with work on motivated cognition in social psychology suggests that individuals selectively credit and dismiss asserted dangers in a manner supportive of their preferred form of social organization. This dynamic, it is hypothesized, drives the white male effect, which reflects the risk skepticism that hierarchical and individualistic white males display when activities integral to their cultural identities are challenged as harmful. The article presents the results of an 1,800-person study that confirmed that cultural worldviews interact with the impact of gender and race on risk perception in patterns that suggest cultural-identity-protective cognition. It also discusses the implication of these findings for risk regulation and communication.

Note: Substantially Revised Version of "Gender, Race, and Risk Perception: The Influence of Cultural Status Anxiety", SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=723762

Number of Pages in PDF File: 48

Keywords: white male effect, risk, risk perception, cultural cognition

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Date posted: June 28, 2007 ; Last revised: April 16, 2013

Suggested Citation

Kahan, Dan M. and Braman, Donald and Gastil, John and Slovic, Paul and Mertz, C. K., Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition: Explaining the White Male Effect in Risk Perception. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 465-505, November 2007; Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 152. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=995634

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

Donald Braman
George Washington University - Law School ( email )
2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
Cultural Cognition Project ( email )
2000 H St NW
2000 H Street
Washington, DC 20052 20052
United States
202-491-8843 (Phone)
202 491-8843 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/braman
John Gastil
Pennsylvania State University ( email )
University Park, PA 16802
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)
C. K. Mertz
Decision Research ( email )
1201 Oak Street, Suite 200
Eugene, OR 97401
United States
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