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Not very reflective tea-party/Republicans 

These federally funded studies were not on the "cognitive skills of Tea Party members" (they are nowhere mentioned in them):


This blog post is not a federally funded study (it's neither federally funded nor a study):


These tea party/republicans are apparently not very bright (but don't draw any inferences; it's a biased sample!):


But all of this is pretty amazing. Someone should do a study of how so many genuinely reflective people (Rs, Ds, TPs, ECs, HIs, whatever) could become so confused.  NSF could fund it.



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Reader Comments (18)

The way Greta works around the details of the story is frustrating. She doesn't name the "federally funded study", or reveal the fact that Kahan was doing independent data mining. Her viewers may or may not decide to read further, but such obfuscation disrespects the intelligence she and her guest brag about.
The utility of "federally funded research" is in the ability of anyone to view the data, analize the data, and make a conclusion that can be debated publicly.

December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDon


On viewing data, have at it. That's the data file. Here is a codebook & replication guide.

That's the data for
"Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reflection, Judgment & Decisionmaking 8, 407-24 (2013)

As I said, nothing about the tea party in it!

But does present evidence that undermines the "asymmetry thesis," which does assert that conflict over decision-relevant science (e.g., on climate change) is a consequence of "cognitive style" of conservatives.

I've always been skeptical of that; I think seeing "the other side" as stupid is usually the wrong answer to why someone isn't agreeing with one's own.

The federally unfunded tea party post made the same point, ironically! Of course, you are right that one has to read it to figure that out.

December 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Beautiful! I love Fock Snooze!

December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

The study was to scrutinize in part, the "cognitive-style correlates of political conservativism," NOT the "cognitive-style correlates of political liberalism"

Kahan, Dan M. (2013) “Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reasoning,” Judgment and Decision Making, 8(4): 407-424

There is no doubt that the study exists. What is at issue is whether it was federally funded.

According to the Wastebook: "NSF funds for the study came from a $398,990 grant intended for much different biology-related purpose: to analyze how the public perceives the risks of synthetic biology, “an emerging technology that permits scientists to design living organisms unlike any found in nature.” The Wastebook cites NSF Grant Award #0922714.

That same grant is mentioned on Kahan's CV:

So, if the study based on funds from NSF Grant Award #0922714, how was that award money used?

December 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRenee Nal

ok, I admit that I knee jerked a bit. The work in question was to scrutinize in part, the "cognitive-style correlates of political conservativism," NOT the "cognitive-style correlates of political liberalism," at least in this case.

Was this work federally funded? Dr. Kahan says no, and I am inclined to believe him, but I wonder why the Wastebook would have said, "NSF funds for the study came from a $398,990 grant intended for much different biology-related purpose: to analyze how the public perceives the risks of synthetic biology, an emerging technology that permits scientists to design living organisms unlike any found in nature.” The Wastebook cites NSF Grant Award #0922714.

But according to Kahan, the funds were used here (all of the funds?):

The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Culture Conflict, Rationality Conflict, and Climate Change

As someone who also attended an Ivy League school, as well - I observed a disturbing obsession with obtaining grants funded by the taxpayer, as well as by big corporations. For research to be pure and objective, I believe there should be a separation of universities and government, particularly for research that is used to support an ideology.

Will funding for scientific research be denied if, for example, the study goes against the “scientific consensus” of climate change (or, is it “global warming”)?

Consider this article from James Taylor at Forbes:

“We now have meteorologists, geoscientists and engineers all reporting that they are skeptics of an asserted global warming crisis, yet the bureaucrats of these organizations frequently suck up to the media and suck up to government grant providers by trying to tell us the opposite of what their scientist members actually believe.”

Or, from Global Research:

“Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.”

How about this local news story? Bill Gray, a climatologist at Colorado State University, said,

“I’ve been told I’m no longer a credible scientist and I’ve lost grants … I’ve had trouble getting papers published.”

How about this story, which discusses Philip Stott, emeritus professor of biogeography at the University of London, who said,

“There are many more scientists who think the way I do…But they don’t want to stick their heads above the parapet. They don’t want to lose their jobs.”

Does that sound scientific to you?

The links for those quotes are here:

December 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRenee


This is quite simple-- studies, grants & completely independent blog posts on exploratory data & the tea party are being conflated in a manner that reflects a tangle of plainly incorrect factual assertions.

Your story-- "Taxpayers Spend $400K to Study the Cognitive Abilities of Tea Party Members," which picked up from fox news, refers to a blog post on the tea party.

That blog post used data wholly unrelated to any grant from the NSF.

The study you refer to was funded by NSF. But it doesn't have anyting to do w/ the tea party!

All super clear matters of fact.

The "wastebook" author who couldn't figure this out is exactly the sort of incompetent, lazy federal bureaucrat who I thought TP party members complain about. His or her salary is a waste of tax dollars.

Neither you, the Fox news team, nor the Wastebook author read the Ideology, Motivated REasoning, & Cognitive REflection" paper. That's very very clear.

Indeed, if any of you had, you would have seen not only that it isn't about the tea party but that the paper was designed to present damning data (which didn't cost $400,000; there are a series of studies in the grant) against the popular claim that disputes over policy-relevant science, like on climate change, are due to "conservative closed mindedness."

That is a very very very common claim advanced in all kinds of psychology literature.

I strongly disagree with it & think that the claim itself is interfering both with understanding how deliberation works and with improving it.

To test it, one has to examine "correlates of conservativism" -- but one can't do that without looking at "correlates of liberalism"; that's how correlation works.

A *lot* of people don't get that, in fact! But I'm confident that tea party members, on average, are as likely to understand that as anyone else. That was the point of the post that you and others are describing as "insulting" to tea party members. (The irony is amazing.)

The actual NSF grant combined two proposals: one on synthetic biology & the other on science comprehension & cultural cognition -- the Wastebook conveniently mischaracterizes that too. The NSF made the grant even though the proposal's main hypothesis was that there is no basis for attributing conflicts over decision-relevant science to differences in science comprehension among people w/ different political outlooks.

Fox News, btw, has reported on studies coming out of the actual federal grant (which again, had zero to do w/ the tea party data everyone is screaming like idiots about). It didn't view the study results--showing that dispute over climate change is not related to science literacy -- a "waste" then.

So have many major media outlets w/ liberal leanings -- the ones that West says won't report results like these. They even reported on the stupid blog post that in his convoluted reasoning their failure to report on reflects my "nefarious intent"!

I hope our research is making the "the other side is dumb" trope die out. It's ignorant & unhelpful.

But this sort of factually inaccurate reporting, crafted in a way to make people think that my research reflects the assumption the tea party members are stupid, is also ignorant & unhelful.

I might be naive. But I think odinary, free, reasoning people of all ideological outlooks are going to see that they are being mis-served, on both sides, by those they have trusted to help keep them informed but who are in fact self-interested, dishonest conflict-creators who constantly msrepresent the other sides' beliefs and outlooks. (I fully get why people who've been misled in this way send me hate mail & leave threatening phone messages! Their anger would be very understandable if I were anything like what idiots like Greta Van Sustern & Allen West et al.

At that point, they'll form common league to rid our deliberative environment of this sort of toxic pollution.

Then, in the cleaner, healthier environment that emerges, they will get down to the business of figuring out how people reasoning, reasonable people who disagree w/ each other on *hugely* consequentialy & important matters of value can figure out what to do consistent with democracy & freedom.

You were taken in, obviously. If I were you, I'd be pissed off (as I often am when I discover I've relied on people I trust who mislead & used me).


December 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Thank you for your thoughtful response. Please note, I do not at all think your work is somehow insulting to the Tea Party - (what did I say that leads you to believe that?) and I also don't think Greta Van Susteren & Allen West are "idiots" because they took the Waste book at face value, as did many other outlets. I hope I helped to set the record straight here - please let me know if I did not represent your concerns properly.

December 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRenee



You didn't imply my work is insulting to tea party-- West, Van Sustern, Limbauh & Beck did.

And you are right-- that Van Sustern & West were misled by Coburn. But I wouldn't go on national tv & heap ridicule & scorn on NSF or individual researchers w/o checking the facts myself. I wouldn't want to mistakenly impugn others *or* mislead those who trust me.

Do you think that Van Sustern & West will aknowledge that they were misled by Wastebook? I'd bet, oh, $10,000, that they won't!

But anyway, you are proof of how big a reasoning error (!) it is to draw inferences from the "other side's" pol. talking heads about either character or reasoning abilities of those who hold political commitemtns different from one's own. Getting corroboration of that more than compensates for the irritation I've experienced as result of this weird event (I do feel like I've fallen into one of my own studies & can't get out!)

Using our reason, we -- citizens who've used our freedom and our reason to form diverse understandings of the best life and of justice (all descendants of Hobbes, Locke & Adam Smith!)-- will solve the distinctive challenge that faces the Liberal Republic of Science. Then we will avail ourselves of the full benefits of the knowledge that our free institutions enable us to acquire as we deliberate with passion, honesty, and intelligence on the matters of genuine consequence on which we disagree about how to live within the political regime that we all agree is the greatest achievement of humanity.

December 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

Damn, I love this blog (not confined to this DMK post)!

“[O]ne really can't draw inferences about the critical reasoning abilities or moral character…from those who…speak for them.” I generally make this same point re religion rather than politics.

I am a Tea Party member, and conservative. My uncle (microbiologist) is a leftie academic, and anti-religious. Example dialog: “Why don’t you believe in religion?” Paraphrase: “When I was growing up, my priest was an idiot.” “Do you know any idiots who are scientists?” “Plenty of ‘em.” “So, if an idiot believes the same thing you do, does that mean that you are incorrect or an idiot, too?”

More broadly, if a religion holds “Thou shalt not kill” (most do, I think), and folks who purport to be acting in the name of that religion mount an inquisition or a jihad, then is the religion hypocritical or is it masking its genocidal bent with the proscription?

Re taking insult: I don’t. Anyone can try to get me to take insult, but no one can succeed if I reject it. I do, because, if the insult was intentional, I don’t want to give the moron the satisfaction of winding me up, and if unintentional, no point to taking offense.

I believe the main value of free speech is to identify the ignorant among us and help them toward enlightenment. I particularly believe that if I am the one who needs help. If freedom of speech is abridged, we won’t know who needs help or what help they need.

The notion that society should make folks who hold ignorant views comfortable in their dysfunction undermines the value of the freedom. If their lack of comfort causes them to self-censor, oh well, hopefully their timidity will limit their propensity to proselytize.

Don’t take offense from Tom, Greta or Alan, Dan. This is of the unintentional variety. I’m willing to bet, say, $10,000, that not one of the three could care less about you (not that they’d be right).

December 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

I agree with you Terry. Though I express it different. I like freedom of speech because it allows people to advertise their ignorance/stupidity. A reverse indication of where to shop in the marketplace of ideas.

I also like to read their comments/thoughts. Sometimes such provide enlightenment, sometimes unintentional, sometimes not.

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

@Terry, "Damn, I love this blog" - you and me both. Dan, in one of your earlier posts, you mentioned that you didn't know any Tea Party members. Well, you know a few now, although I lean decidedly more Burkean.

Over the Christmas holiday, your name and work came up in discussion. I was lamenting the irrational response of those on my side of the political aisle that take Rush Limbaugh at face value and accept his perspective that climate change is nothing more than a mere hoax. I'm a "healthy skeptic" on the topic myself, given the propensity of climate alarmists to play fast and lose with the science, but believe those who reject any possibility that humans are contributing to climate change have blinders on. One argument that I hadn't really appreciated was that such response by the average "Joe six pack" denier was less irrational behavior, but rather "rational ignorance." Given the complexity of science, including climate science, 99.9 percent of the public neither has the time nor capacity to read and comprehend these studies. So in our fast pace life, its rational for them to think and behave similarly to their tribe (as your scholarship reinforces). That is why scientific credibility and objectivity are so critical. Once scientists resort to political or scientific bullying (using a term of the left) - or are unwilling to honestly deal with and communicate about scientific uncertainty - those with a different political perspective will reflexively tune out the scientist, regardless of the veracity of the scientific work. I blame science for not doing a better job of self-policing against this type of intolerance.

Good stuff.

December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterB. Fewell

@ B. Fewell. Hear, hear!

Please see my 2nd post under “What is a ‘cultural style’…?” reacting to Dan’s paper in Nature. I worry that if, in an effort to avoid polarization on societal risk perceptions, we encourage scientists abandon their communication “style” of impartiality in favor of advocacy, we will only undercut the scientists’ credibility.

Re climate: The American Museum of Natural History in NYC has been studying carbon release at least since the 1970’s, with an article entitled: Where is the Carbon Sink? Answer: we don’t know, but it’s going somewhere, because the quantity of carbon in the atmosphere is nowhere near the quantity we have released. In an attempt to find the cite for this (too old), I found a 2010 article, continuing the research:“Schuur's current estimates predict that at least initially, plant growth in northern latitudes will be an effective sink for the excess carbon emissions from permafrost. After a few decades, however, a greener Arctic won't be able to take up slack….’Models have nothing in regard to permafrost carbon,’ says Schuur. ‘They also do not currently account for forest feedbacks. The outcome of our field measurements is that we improve our ability to make models better, and then we trust their future predictions more. Everyone wants to predict the future, which we know is impossible, but we use our scientific analysis and computer models to make our best guess.’"

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTerry


Am curious: Do you think I'm an advocate?

I view myself as one -- not for any particular position but for a state or condition in which people can have as much confidence as possible that they can trust their own reaoning faculties.

That could bias me, I'm sure. But the risk is no bigger for me, I think, than it is for anyone who feels passionately about his or her hypotheses-- and good luck to anyone trying to learn anything w/o that sort of excitement to motivte him or her!

If I get carried away, I am sure others will show me -- & I'll be grateful to them, since there's no value in believing you know something when you don't

December 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38


I agree that figuring out who knows what about what is integral to participating in collective knowlege -- since it is useful and even essential to accept as known by science many more things than any individual has the capacity to comprehend (much less to verify for him- or herself).

But then all the more reason to view it as a major moral wrong when those who have been entrusted to play a meaningful role in orienting us abuse that trust.

All the more reason for them to be clear, too, about their errors when they discover they have made them. Errors are inevitable --& for that reason often excusable, so long as they are acknowledged!

December 30, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan


"But then all the more reason to view it as a major moral wrong when those who have been entrusted to play a meaningful role in orienting us abuse that trust."

Couldn't agree more. Both Rush Limbaugh and Michael Mann are entrusted to play a "meaningful role" in the climate change debate, and both seem to abuse their trust and be unwilling to orient the rest of us to a rational debate on the topic. But to be rational, one has to be willing to go where the facts lead, notwithstanding the consequences or policy implications. As we know, not everyone is willing to do that. Nor are most people willing to acknowledge their errors when discovered - that takes a significant amount of moral courage that unfortunately many within society don't value or promote.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterB. Fewell


Well stated position on "cultural style." And in agreement with your comments above about carbon. We humans are putting a lot into the atmosphere, and our understanding of what that means in terms of the future, as you point out, is fairly limited. What is dangerous in terms of eroding the ability to have a rational debate are the "absolutists" on both sides of that issue who seem to think they can predict and know the future with great certainty. It is extremely disappointing to those like me, who acknowledge that AGW may be happening, and may question and reject the apocalyptic alarmism of climate change advocates, like Hansen and Mann, are called science deniers and irrational.


December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterB. Fewell

@ Dan
“[N]o value in believing you know something when you don’t.” Take heart—you know you’re an advocate! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being an advocate. I merely propose that when identified as such, resistance to one’s views is generated.

I don’t want to appear to be an idiot.

I don’t mind being an idiot, but I hate looking like an idiot.

Feeling passionately about hypotheses is no cause for alarm. It is the reason for that passion that might be problematic. I am passionate for my hypotheses to come to the attention of my intellectual superiors (e.g., Dan Kahan) for vetting, and not nearly as passionate for success in advocating them. I want a hearing even more than a victory, precisely because there is: ”no value in believing you know something when you don’t.”

Your comments are further proof of your humility, which is the friend of learning. Arrogance is the enemy. This makes you a different critter than the majority of your academic peers, who are arrogant in the possession of a little knowledge—a dangerous thing.

Their logic goes like this: “I am more intelligent [capacity to learn] than all but a few people. I had a better education [opportunity to learn] than all but a few people. Therefore, if they disagree with me, it is unlikely they are correct [arrogance, stifles learning].” The missing component is: Did you learn anything?

This is the genesis of “conservatives are stupid”. Were you educated or indoctrinated?

It is also an indictment of facility with logic and reasoning as an indicator of knowledge. Logic and reasoning are employed to obtain knowledge, which means they are employed in the absence of knowledge. The facts often confound the logic used to obtain them.

I am sure that Einstein, an icon of great intelligence, wore diapers for a while. He did this, not through a lack of intelligence, but because he had some learning ahead of him.

Being wrong is a necessary, but not sufficient, prerequisite to learning. It is necessary because someone who is right about everything has no opportunity to learn. It is not sufficient because learning necessitates changing one’s opinions from wrong to right.

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

@ B. Fewell
Thank you, too many reasons to enumerate. I feel we are in the same camp, so I have not much to add to your insightful comments, but I will second my concurrence (perhaps putting words in your mouth, feel free to correct) that we are both attracted by the Dan’s moral courage. Aaah, so needed, a breath of fresh air!

The most important of your words were “absolutists” and “alarmist”. What makes me conservative (keeping what we have) is a belief that natural law governs both the economic and environmental spheres, and they are both robust in resisting human mistakes. Conversely, the greatest threat is adopting gross (in excess of understanding) policy interventions.

The economy will be fine if its self-correcting mechanisms are allowed to function. But there is peril in frustrating corrections because the medicine is viewed as unacceptable.

Likewise, the environment has been robust in correcting man-made mistakes. Example: the BP gulf oil spill. I remember Johns Hopkins scientists taking heat for their assertion that bacteria would “eat” the spill within 5 years. They based their projection on naturally-occurring leaks of petroleum deposits, and posited that the main difference was the size of the leak. With 20-20 hindsight the period was 2 years (helped by human clean-up) and gulf fisheries are now advertising the cleanliness of the gulf waters as the reason their seafood tastes better. Absolutists and alarmists have gone elsewhere.

An example of gross policy intervention (based upon empirical observation) gone wrong was the 1970s Chinese bounty on birds. Birds were observed eating grain, so the government instituted a large bounty for dead birds. The bounty was so high that it was initially more rewarding for farmers to kill birds than it was to grow grain. After a while, birds became scarce, so the farmers went back to raising grain. The grain was devoured by insects that had formerly been a higher percentage of the (now gone) birds’ diet than was the grain. It took many years for the grain yields to recover.

Reason is a poor substitute for facts, and the arrogance that human behavior trumps natural law is a recipe for unanticipated consequences.

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

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