Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk

47 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2008 Last revised: 16 Apr 2013

Date Written: April 21, 2008


Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to form beliefs about societal dangers that reflect and reinforce their commitments to particular visions of the ideal society. Cultural cognition is one of a variety of approaches designed to empirically test the cultural theory of risk associated with Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky. This commentary discusses the distinctive features of cultural cognition as a conception of cultural theory, including its cultural worldview measures; its emphasis on social psychological mechanisms that connect individuals' risk perceptions to their cultural outlooks; and its practical goal of enabling self-conscious management of popular risk perceptions in the interest of promoting scientifically sound public policies that are congenial to persons of diverse outlooks.

Keywords: cultural cognition, risk perception, culture theory

Suggested Citation

Kahan, Dan M., Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk (April 21, 2008). HANDBOOK OF RISK THEORY, S. Roeser, ed., Forthcoming, Harvard Law School Program on Risk Regulation Research Paper No. 08-20, Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 222, Available at SSRN:

Dan M. Kahan (Contact Author)

Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States


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