Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus

Journal of Risk Research, Vol. 14, pp. 147-74, 2011

Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 205

40 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2010 Last revised: 16 Apr 2013

Dan M. Kahan

Yale University - Law School

Hank Jenkins-Smith

University of Oklahoma

Donald Braman

George Washington University - Law School; Cultural Cognition Project

Date Written: February 7, 2010

Abstract

Why do members of the public disagree - sharply and persistently - about facts on which expert scientists largely agree? We designed a study to test a distinctive explanation: the cultural cognition of scientific consensus. The "cultural cognition of risk" refers to the tendency of individuals to form risk perceptions that are congenial to their values. The study presents both correlational and experimental evidence confirming that cultural cognition shapes individuals' beliefs about the existence of scientific consensus, and the process by which they form such beliefs, relating to climate change, the disposal of nuclear wastes, and the effect of permitting concealed possession of handguns. The implications of this dynamic for science communication and public policy-making are discussed.

Keywords: Cultural Cognition, Climate Change, Gun Control, Nuclear Power, Risk, Public Opinion

Suggested Citation

Kahan, Dan M. and Jenkins-Smith, Hank and Braman, Donald, Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus (February 7, 2010). Journal of Risk Research, Vol. 14, pp. 147-74, 2011; Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 205. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1549444 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1549444

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

Hank Jenkins-Smith

University of Oklahoma ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
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

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