Cultural Cognition refers to the disposition to conform one's beliefs about societal risks to one's preferences for how society should be organized. Based on surveys and experiments involving some 5,000 Americans, the Second National Risk and Culture Study presents empirical evidence of the effect of this dynamic in generating conflict about global warming, school shootings, domestic terrorism, nanotechnology, and the mandatory vaccination of school-age girls against HPV, among other issues. The Study also presents evidence of risk-communication strategies that counteract cultural cognition. Because nuclear power affirms rather than threatens the identity of persons who hold individualist values, for example, proposing it as a solution to global warming makes persons who hold such values more willing to consider evidence that climate change is a serious risk. Because people tend to impute credibility to people who share their values, persons who hold hierarchical and egalitarian values are less likely to polarize when they observe people who hold their values advocating unexpected positions on the vaccination of young girls against HPV. Such techniques can help society to create a deliberative climate in which citizens converge on policies that are both instrumentally sound and expressively congenial to persons of diverse values.
GW Paper Series
GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 370; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 370
Braman, Donald; Kahan, Dan M.; Slovic, Paul; Gastil, John; and Cohen, Geoffrey L., "The Second National Risk and Culture Study: Making Sense of - and Making Progress In - The American Culture War of Fact" (2007). GW Law Faculty Publications & Other Works. 211.