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Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn't, and Why? An Experimental Study of the Mechanisms of Cultural Cognition

49 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2008 Last revised: 16 Apr 2013

Dan M. Kahan

Yale University - Law School

Donald Braman

George Washington University - Law School; Cultural Cognition Project

Geoffrey L. Cohen

University of Colorado - Department of Psychology

Paul Slovic

Decision Research; University of Oregon - Department of Psychology

John Gastil

Pennsylvania State University

Date Written: July 15, 2008

Abstract

The cultural cognition hypothesis holds that individuals are disposed to form risk perceptions that reflect and reinforce their commitments to contested views of the good society. This paper reports the results of a study that used the controversy over mandatory HPV vaccination to test the cultural cognition hypothesis. Although public health officials have recommended that all girls aged 11 or 12 be vaccinated for HPV - a virus that causes cervical cancer and that is transmitted by sexual contact - political controversy has blocked adoption of mandatory school-enrollment vaccination programs in all but one state. A multi-stage experimental study of a large and diverse sample of American adults (N = 1,500) found evidence that cultural cognition generates disagreement about the risks and benefits of the HPV vaccine. It does so, the experiment determined, through two mechanisms: biased assimilation, and the credibility heuristic. In addition to describing the study, the paper discusses the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

Suggested Citation

Kahan, Dan M. and Braman, Donald and Cohen, Geoffrey L. and Slovic, Paul and Gastil, John, Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn't, and Why? An Experimental Study of the Mechanisms of Cultural Cognition (July 15, 2008). Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 34, pp. 501-16, 2010; Cultural Cognition Project Working Paper No. 38; Harvard Law School Program on Risk Regulation Research Paper No. 08-19; Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 163. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1160654

Dan 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

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

Geoffrey Cohen

University of Colorado - Department of Psychology ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

HOME PAGE: http://psych.colorado.edu/~social/faculty.html

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)

John Gastil

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park, PA 16802
United States

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