Cultural Evaluations of Risk: 'Values' or 'Blunders'?
10 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2006
Date Written: March 14, 2006
The phenomenon of cultural cognition refers to the disposition of individuals to adopt factual beliefs about risk that express their cultural evaluations of putatively dangerous activities. In a previous review essay (119 Harv. L. Rev. 1071 (2006)), we suggested that this phenomenon makes it inappropriate to treat public risk perceptions that differ from those of expert regulators as simple mistakes, which should be denied weight in lawmaking, as opposed to values, which presumably should guide regulatory policy in a democratic society. Cass Sunstein wrote a critical response (119 Harv. L. Rev. 1110 (2006)). Sunstein's basic thesis is that cultural cognition is largely a result of bounded rationality, not an alternative to it, and as such generates beliefs no more entitled to normative respect than those associated with other types of cognitive biases. We offer a (brief) reply, distinguishing the question of whether cultural cognition can be explained by biases and heuristics attributable to bounded rationality (we say, no) from the question of whether beliefs founded on cultural cognition should be normative for law (we say, sometimes).
Keywords: ultural cognition, risk perception
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