This is from correspondence with @Joshua, who says:
I"m having difficulty understanding [your claim that "in a polluted science communication environment, there will be the equivalent of a psychic incentive to form group-congruent beliefs. People who are higher in science comprehesnion will be even better at doing that."]
When you say "better at doing that," doesn't it mean, essentially, better at being polarized and hence, more polarized? If someone is driven to acquire more data by virtue of a system 2 orientation, and accordingly is better at filtering those increased data to confirm bias, doesn't that necessarily translate into being more polarized?
That doesn't quite fit with my non-empirical assessment of human nature. My guess is that scientific literacy probably has little effect on one's tendency towards polarization (not zero effect - I assume that "literacy" as a general characteristic on a macro-scale is associated with less antagonistic behavior) , but someone who is more unequivocal in their viewpoint is more likely to seek out information to confirm their bias (because their identity is more closely associated with that viewpoint and they have more to lose if they're wrong) - and even more so if they happen to have a system 2 orientation.
I think you've got it -- "it" being my claim: (1) that in an environment in which positions on risk or facts of policy-significance become suffused with identity-signifying meanings, there will be cultural polarization b/c of the pressure members of diverse communities experience to protect their standing in the group; and (2) such polarization will be greater among individuals who are most disposed and able to engage in conscious, effortful information processing (system 2), because people who are better in general at making use of information to advance their interests will, in this polluted envirionment, use those abilities to attain a tighter fit between their beliefs and their identities (through motivated search for information, through closer scrutiny of messages that might contain meanings threatening to or affirming of group identity, & through formulation of innovative counterarguments).
You say you have trouble with this claim b/c it doesn’t fit your own observation & sense of human nature?
My guess would be that this position both fits many impressions most people have about how things work, and is at odds with many impressions they have formed that suggest something else could be going on. I certainly feel this way.
This is the situation we are in usually -- possessed of more plausible conjectures about what is going on than can really be (helpfully) true. That's why we should hypothesize, measure, observe, & report; it is why we shouldn't tell stories, that is, confidently present what is imaginative conjecture embroidered w/ bits of psychological research as "scientifically established" accounts that disguise uncertainty and stifle continued investigation.
So I don't offer my account as any sort of "conclusively proven!" show stopper. I offer it as my hypothesis.
And I offer both the "science comprehension & polarization" study and the "cognitive reflection, motivated reasoning, and ideology" experiment as evidence that I think gives us reason to treat this hypothesis as more likely true (or closer to useful truth) than alternatives. Then I wait for others to produce more evidence that we can use to adjust further. But if I have to act in the meantime, I do what seems sensible based on my best current understanding of what's true.
So I am content if people start with the idea, "this expressive rationality thesis (ERT) you keep talking about-sure, it's plausible, but what's the evidence that that rather than [9 other plausible conjectures] is the source of the problem?"
If someone says, "ERT is not plausible," I'm puzzled; most of us have enough common material in our registers of casual observation to be able to recognize how people could believe one or another of the things that any one of us finds plausible.
But if that person finds ERT implausible, I will simply say to her, "well, still consider my evidence, please. I imagine after you do you will still not be convinced ERT is the source of disputes over climate change & nuclear power & the like, since you are starting w/ prior odds so long against this being so. But my hope is that you'll conclude that the evidence I have collected is sound and supplies a likelihood ratio > 1 in support of ERT, and that you will then at least have posterior odds that are less long against it."
If the person then accepts the invitation, considers the evidence open-mindedly, and gives it the weight that it is due under appropriate criteria for judging the validity of empirical proof, that will make me happy, too.
As long as we both keep iterating & updating, we'll converge eventually.