follow CCP

Recent blog entries
popular papers

Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing

What Is the "Science of Science Communication"?

Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem

Ideology, Motivated Cognition, and Cognitive Reflection: An Experimental Study

'Ideology' or 'Situation Sense'? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment

A Risky Science Communication Environment for Vaccines

Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government

Making Climate Science Communication Evidence-based—All the Way Down 

Neutral Principles, Motivated Cognition, and Some Problems for Constitutional Law 

Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus

The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Science Literacy and Climate Change

"They Saw a Protest": Cognitive Illiberalism and the Speech-Conduct Distinction 

Geoengineering and the Science Communication Environment: a Cross-Cultural Experiment

Fixing the Communications Failure

Why We Are Poles Apart on Climate Change

The Cognitively Illiberal State 

Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn't, and Why? An Experimental Study

Cultural Cognition of the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology

Whose Eyes Are You Going to Believe? An Empirical Examination of Scott v. Harris

Cultural Cognition and Public Policy

Culture, Cognition, and Consent: Who Perceives What, and Why, in "Acquaintance Rape" Cases

Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition: Explaining the White Male Effect

Fear of Democracy: A Cultural Evaluation of Sunstein on Risk

Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk

« Coin toss reveals that 56% (+/- 3%, 0.95 LC) of quarters support NSA's "metadata" monitoring policy! Or why it is absurd to assign significance to survey findings that "x% of American public" thinks y about policy z | Main | Five theses on science communication: the public and decision-relevant science, part 2 »

What are fearless white hierarchical individualist males afraid of? Lots of stuff!

I haven't posted any data recently. And I haven't explored/exploded the "white male effect" (WME) in risk perception in a while either.  So lets pack some new data around WME & blow her to smithereens!

Actually, the "white male effect" is one of the most important phenomena -- one of the coolest findings ever -- in the study of public risk perceptions.

WME refers to the tendency of white males to express less concern with (seemingly) all manner of risk than do minorities and women. The finding was first observed by Flynn, Slovic & Mertz (1994) and thereafter systematically charted by Finucane, Slovic, Mertz, Flynn, & Satterfield (2000).

Lots of scholars have looked at it since, trying to figure out what explains it.  Does it reflect some sort of "hard wired" or "genetic" disposition on the part of women to be more concerned about the welfare of others (obvious question: if so, why are minority males more concerned?) Are men evolutionarily programmed to be more "risk seeking" (same obvious question.) Are white males less concerned because they are politically less vulnerable themselves than minorities and women? Or maybe white males are just "getting it right" -- because they are more educated, less vulnerable to cognitive biases?

None of the above is probably the best answer. 

What makes those explanations weak is that there really isn't a "white male effect."  Rather there's a white male hierarch individualist effect

In a study in which I collaborated with Slovic, Braman, Gastil & Mertz (2007), we used the cultural cognition worldview scales as a magnifier to inspect more closely cultural influences observed in Finucane et al. (2000).

What we found, in effect, was that white hierarchical and individualistic males are so extremely skeptical of risks involving, say, the environment or (another thing we looked at) guns that they create the appearance of a  sample-wide "white male" effect.  That effect "disappears" once the extreme skepticism of these individuals (less than 1/6 of the population) is taken into account.  There isn't any WME among individuals who are egalitarian and communitarian, hierarchical communitarian or (in the case of environmental risks) egalitarian and individualistic in their outlooks.

This finding fit the hypothesis that "identity protective cognition" was driving WME.  Identity protective cognition is a form of motivated reasoning.  It describes the tendency of people to fit their perceptions of risk (and related facts) to ones that reflect and reinforce their connection to important affinity groups, membership in which confers psychic, emotional, and material benefits.  The study of cultural cognition reflects the premise that the latent group affinities measured with the "cultural worldview scales" we employ in our studies are the ones motivating risk perceptions in conflicts that polarize the U.S. public.

The sorts of things white hierarchical individualistic males are "unafraid of" are activities essential to the the cultural roles they tend to occupy.  Among people who subscribe to that outlook, men attain status by occupying positions of authority in commerce and industry.  Gun possession plays an important role for men in such groups too--enabling hierarchical roles like father, protector, and provider and symbolizing individualistic (male) virtues like honor and courage and self-reliance.

Because the assertion that such activities are "dangerous" would justify restriction of them by the state -- and invite resentment and stigmatization of those individuals conspicuously identified with them -- hierarchical and individualistic white males have an especially powerful psychological incentive to resist such claims.

That was our conjecture-- one founded generally on Mary Douglas's and Aaron Wildavksy's "cultural theory of risk" -- and the evidence was more consistent with that than with other explanations, we suggested.  Other researchers have corroborated this hypothesis with related but distinct methods (that's a good thing; being able to verify a hypothesis with multiple methods furnishes assurance that the effect is really "there" and not an artifact of a particular way of trying to test for it).

But here's another thing-- or some more evidence, really.  If identity-protective cognition is at work, there's no reason to believe that white hierarchical individualist males will be uniformly more "risk dismissive" than other people.  

They'll be that way only with regard to private activities the regulation which poses a threat to activities essential to their cultural status.  Where regulation itself poses such a threat, they should worry about the risks that such regulation poses.  Moreover, if we can find private activities that threaten their cultural identities, their stake in securing regulation of them should motivate them to be risk sensitive in regard to those activities!

And we see exactly that! I'll show you in brand new data, collected in April and May of this year.

But first let's use these fresh data (mmmm mmmm--don't you love the aroma of freshly regressed data?!) to observe the "classic" white male effect.

This figure illustrates the "effect" with regard to climate change:

Using the "industrial strength risk perception measure," we can see that white males are a lot less worried about climate change than "everyone else."

But consider this figure:

Click on me! Or I'll turn you into a white male hierarch individualist!This graphic, which uses a Monte Carlo simulation to illustrate the results of a multivariate regression analysis, shows that the "white male effect" is being driven by the extreme climate change skepticism of of white hierarchical individualistic males (who are, again, about 1/6 of the population).  There's no meaningful gender or race variance in the rest of the subjects in this nationally representative sample.

Now consider a larger collection of risks:

Holy smokes!

These are the mean scores for white male hierarchical individualists and "everyone else" on a range of risks, the perceptions of which are all measured with the "industrial strength" measure.

What do we see?  Lots of cool things!

For one, we see that those "fearless" white hierarchical individualistic males aren't so brave after all.  Sure climate change doesn't scare them, but the potential impact of restrictions on handguns on the "health, safety, and prosperity" of members of our society sends chills up their spine.

Environmental and government regulations are, of course, scary to them too. Those can wreck the economy. Ask any hierarchical individualistic white male for evidence & he'll have no trouble supplying it -- just look at the financial collapse of 2008.

And let's hope that Obama -- who in the eyes of a hierarchical white male individualist likely can't be counted on to do much of anything good -- will hold firm on marijuana criminalization.  Most people don't think so, but the white male hierarchical individualist knows that the dangers to society from decriminalization would be devastating. 

And what do you know: guns certainly aren't dangerous ("people kill people" etc); but privately owned drones-- yow! Terrifying! (Mystery -- who is disgusted, and why, by drones -- half-solved.)

Hey there are some other cool things here too, don't you think?  Look at childhood vaccines. No one -- not white hierarchical individualistic males nor everyone else -- is concerned.  A surprise only to those who believe what they read in the papers, where the ravings of a small sect regularly transmute into a "growing crisis of public confidence" in vaccines. (To anticipate comments: Yes, the small sect is an unreasoning, noxious health menace and should be opposed; but no, that doesn't mean that it's a sensible risk-communication strategy  to miselad the public about the facts, which show no slippage in the last decade in childhood vaccination rates from their historic levels of well over 90%, and no meaningful increase in the "exemption" rate, which has remained < 1%.)

And here's something I wasn't expecting at all: Look at genetically modified foods.  No cultural dissensus--that's not new. But the apparent consensus that GM foods are risky-- more certainly, than global warming, and more too than anything except terrorism -- that's a change relative to what I've observed in various surveys like this that I've done over the yrs.  

Is that evidence that the effort to protect the science communication environment from being polluted on this issue is failing? Could be; although I still think that the most important thing is to avoid cultural polarization, since that's the form of pollution, I'm convinced, most toxic to the reasoning faculty that ordinary members of the public-- of all cultural outlooks -- use to discern what's known to science.

Okay-- that was fun, wasn't it?

And don't forget about the wildly popular Cultural Cognition Site game show "WSMD?, JA!"  Been a long time since we played that!


Douglas, M. & Wildavsky, A.B. Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technical and Environmental Dangers. (University of California Press, Berkeley; 1982).

 Finucane, M., Slovic, P., Mertz, C.K., Flynn, J. & Satterfield, T.A. Gender, Race, and Perceived Risk: The "White Male" Effect. Health, Risk, & Soc'y 3, 159-172 (2000).

Flynn, J., Slovic, P. & Mertz, C.K. Gender, Race, and Perception of Environmental Health Risk.Risk Analysis 14, 1101-1108 (1994).

Kahan, D.M., Braman, D., Gastil, J., Slovic, P. & Mertz, C.K. Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition: Explaining the White-Male Effect in Risk Perception. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 4, 465-505 (2007).

McCright, A.M. & Dunlap, R.E. Bringing ideology in: the conservative white male effect on worry about environmental problems in the USA. J Risk Res, doi:   (2012).

McCright, A.M. & Dunlap, R.E. Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States. Global Environmental Change 21, 1163-1172 (2011).

Nelson, Julie.  Are Women Really More Risk-Averse than Men?, INET Researcn Note (Sept., 2012)

Nelson, Julie.  Is Dismissing the Precautionary Principle the Manly Thing to Do? Gender and the Economics of Climate Change, INET Research Note (Sept. 2012)

Finucane, M., Slovic, P., Mertz, C.K., Flynn, J. & Satterfield, T.A. Gender, Race, and Perceived Risk: The "White Male" Effect. Health, Risk, & Soc'y 3, 159-172 (2000).

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (16)

This would be clearer if you broke out the hierarchical individualists from all four groups, rather than just the one. I gather that this type is more common among white males than other groups. But the analysis you have presented is consistent with a White Male Effect, and a totally unrelated Hierarchical Individualist Effect, getting muddled by improper statistical procedure. Either you control on a variable or you don't; controlling on it for a subgroup requires extraordinary justification. If your point is weakened by controlling completely,then you have overstated your point.

Almost unrelated: I'd be interested to learn how you folks deal with the complex, likely cyclic causal relations. For example, suppose some of us (especially white males) grew comfortable with guns as kids; it influenced the social groups into which we chose to enter later, and thus the jobs we took and other social roles we play, and whatever you use directly to measure us as Hierarchical Individualist. You would read the resulting correlation between belief that guns are safe and Hierarchical Individualism as a case of Identity Protective Cognition, and if the story I just told is the whole truth you would be completely wrong.

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAn igyt

@An igyt

1. On the "subgroup issue," I'm not following. Maybe that's because, as a result of my own failure to explain what I did as clearly as I should have, you didn't follow me. So I'll explain why I did what I did, rather than what you propose, & see if this helps us to reach agreement.

I agree it would be informative to see "white males" in all 4 groups. But that information is more than one needs to see that the "white male effect" doesn't exist.

That it doesn't can be inferred from the analyses I have reported. They show that the sample-wide "white male effect" is an artifact of the extreme risk skepticism of white male HIs.

The regression analysis demonstrates that when the interaction of cultural worldveiws (measured with the CW scales), on the one hand, and race and gender, on the other, are taken into account (or "controlled for," as you would put it), neither race nor gender has any meaningful impact on perception of global warming risks (the coefficients for "white" and "male" are trivially different from 0 and are nonsignificant).

The second graph shows the "remaining" white male effect once white hierarch individualist males are removed: there isn't any. If there were a "white male effect" among people with non-HI values, then "non-hi white male" (white males who have cultural outlooks that aren't "hierarch individualist") would be noticeably to the left of "white female," "minority female," and "minority male." It isn't.

Or in any case, that's the story with "global warming." I could do the same thing for various other risks, in which case I'd expect to see the same thing -- b/c that's what the 2007 study I describe found.

This is my logic. It is logic, nothing more. Tell me how you see it going wrong & I will re-evaluate.

Or tell me, too, what alternative hypothesis -- one involving something other than "identity protective cognition" -- explains WME, and how you would test it, and we'll play WSMD? JA! My logic & analysis could be fine & yet I could still be wrong! Finding support for a hypothesis that fits the data better and that is inconsistent w/ "identity protective cognition" would be the way to show that. If you did show it, I'd be astonished-- and immensely grateful!

2. The possibility that HI white males are less concerned about risk because they have more information -- say, experience with guns that shows them they are less dangerous than people without such experience realize -- is a hypothesis that can't be ruled out by these data. But one would have to believe that the informational advantage applies across all the various risks where we see a HI WME. Do you think that is plausible? I think it is plausible, actually, just not very likely.

But the way to chase down any plausible hypothesis -- to determine whether it is true or not -- is to figure out appropriate empirical observations one could make that supply reason for viewing the hypothesis as less likely to be true or more than one would otherwise have reason to believe. As I say, these data don't allow those observations to be made.

But you realize that, which is why you asked what we "folks" -- the "cultural cognition" folks, who (as discussed in various previous posts) have been shown by fMRI to be among the 1% of the population who are genetically immune from identity protective cognition or any other form of motivated reasoning --do to explore this possibility. The answer is that we do other studies that do make it possible to make observations of the sort I described.

Here are two (there are more, though):

a. Kahan, D.M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L.L., Braman, D. & Mandel, G. The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change 2, 732-735 (2012).. In this one, we find that the most science literate (& numerate) members of the US population are the most polarized on climate change risks. Do you agree that this finding is not what one would expect if the reason hierarch individualist males -- the most climate-change skeptical group of all -- were simply "better informed" than those who are the most climate-change concerned (equally science literate, & numerate, hiearchical egalitarian men & women). (BTW, this analysis "controls for" any correlation between science comprehension & cultural worldviews; they are trivial & point in opposing directions w/r/t "hierarchy" & "individualism.")

b. Kahan, D.M., Jenkins-Smith, H. & Braman, D. Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus. J. Risk Res. 14, 147-174 (2011). This study presents an experiment. In it, we show that study subjects of diverse cultural outlooks are substantially more likely to recognize the "expertise" of scientists trained in disciplines that bear on the risks of climate change, gun control, and nuclear power when those scientists take positions consistent with the ones that prevail in those subjects' cultural groups than when the scientsts take positions inconsistent with the ones that prevail in the subjects' groups. Do you agree that if one sees the positions of "experts" as relevant evidence of the extent of risks like these, then treating someone as an "expert" only when he takes the position you agree with (or that people with your cultural outlooks agree with) is not a good way to figure out what the truth is about those risks? Hierarch individualist (male & females) do this. So do egalitarian communitarians. And egalitarian individualists. And hierarch communitarians. They are all likely to be making mistakes as a result.

My guess is that the prospect of this bothers them. But since I don't have a cultural outlook -- an fMRI has shown that I'm among the 1% of the population who doesn't -- I am only guessing on that.

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38


I think this article sums up why my perception of reported "risks" as a WM differs from other groups.

The Economist
Forecasters of scarcity and doom are not only invariably wrong, they think that being wrong proves them right
Dec 18th 1997

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

The regression coefficients, which I had not looked at before, do justify your claim (with the usual huge caveats). The problem is with the graphical summary. In those Monte Carlo based densities, it would be easier to see you are not snowing us if you showed the HI and non-HI females and minorities separately, as you do for the white men. From the graph as shown, I can't tell whether doing so might give us non-HI women and minorities with scores in the neighborhood of six (say) in which case there would still be a White Man effect.

Or to put the point more generally, that graph invites us to compare a non-random subset of White Men with the whole population of White Women and Minorities. What can we learn from that comparison?

Or put another way, here is where I think your logic is wrong. You write:

If there were a "white male effect" among people with non-HI values, then "non-hi white male" ... would be noticeably to the left of "white female," "minority female," and "minority male."

But this is not so unless there are no HI females and minorities. What is generally true is that non-hi white male would be to the left of the non-hi subsets of those other populations.

Regarding the second point, I did not mean to imply anything about one group being better informed, although I can see why my example was quite ill-chosen with that notion kicking around in the background discussion. The point is, prima facie causal interpretation of the regression coefficients is conditional on assumptions such as "beliefs about risk do not cause group membership", which are not self-evident. In my field -- economics -- we face this all the time, and there is often nothing for it but to form careful qualitative judgments about just how uncomfortable to be with those maintained assumptions. Ergo -- thanks for the links, which I shall now check out.

And yes, I do agree with both the propositions about which you asked.

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAn igyt

@An igyt:

I wouldn't snow you, mate!

You can see point I was making -- by inspecting the regression coefficients.

I'll see if I can figure out a way to convey the information you are interested in on race/gender variance within each "cultural group." In a way that doesn't strain vision & comprehension (as, say, 8 different colored & entangled probability-density distributions would).

And in way sensitive to to your surmise -- which is true -- that gender & race are correlated w/ cultural outlooks.

The regression model I used in this post should be valid, for the purpose intended, despite that. Because "male" and "white" are both dummy variables, the values they take on in the model, given the cross-product interactions, reflect the impact of gender and race when hierarchy & individualism are both 0 -- which happens to be the mean for both scales (they are centered). So the impact of gender and race is essentially "0" (the coefficient estimates) once the interactions between race, gender and culture are taken into account. Accordingly, the white male effect, on net, is *zero* once the interactions that reflect the larger impact of "hierarchy" & "individualism" on climate-change risk skepticism among males & whites (information also "visible" in the regression coefficients to those willing to pore over it!) is "controlled for."

But if I used that same model to estimate & graph the impact of varying combinations of cultural outlooks and demographics within each group, I'd likely be conveying a misleading impression of what the world looks like (indeed, I could easily "model" some very exotic creatures, ones who for all practical purposes are "out of sample"; I don't know for sure, but I doubt Justice Thomas is one of the survey respondents). I will figure out a way to show you what race & gender variance look like that uses a model that doesn't obtusely fail to recognize that people come in packages of attributes that aren't themselves randomly & independently distributed (maybe I can do it w/ simple scatter plots).

But I don't think that would really make for a good WSMD? JA! episode. Those are for alternative hypotheses. Do you have one for the "white male effect"? One that might admit of some testing -- even if not super definitive testing; just anything w/ a Likelihood Ratio ≠ 1 -- that could be done w/ a dataset consisting of the risk-perception outcome measure I specified & loads of demographic variables?

(Oh-- did you check out my 0.55 R^2 in that model?! Needless to say, I'm very proud of the size of it.

June 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

The article would suggest WHIM are wrong too about the risk of scarcity & doom if we use Keynsian fiscal policy to address the lingering effects of the recession. I think that is a weak hypothesis -- doesn't fit the data. Doesn't accept the point, actually, that WHIM are not unworried about all manner of scarcity & doom. We need a hypothesis that explains selectivity of risk perception -- once we see that it is selective.

June 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

I'd like to see a 'validity and competency of science' survey across demographic groups, with NASA among science sources in the questionnaire...with the aim of finding out which organizations people are likely to trust.

The NASA judgment -- of validity and competence -- would be broken into two types of work the organization does: away from Earth (Mars rover mission, Hubble telescope, manned spaceflight), and towards Earth (climate research, Earth surveys).

Anecdotally, I'd say that the WHM demo you've identified reacts negatively only when NASA's science is pointed down at Earth, rather than straight up. Up, the science is OK. Down, not OK. Up, it's OK again!

I could be wrong of course. I'm curious how much skepticism and dismissal of the science there is around the [easily defined as self-interested grant-sucking aims of the JPL] Mars rover mission, though.

Another interesting twist is that the WHM demo really built NASA in the 60's, and the manned space program in particular represented the apogee of can-do spirit, as seen in "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13."

Harrison Schmitt is a NASA icon from that era who is a noted skeptic on climate, but I think within the current organization, work aimed at space and aimed terrestrially is taken at equivalent value, and people move from one to the other.

I'd summarize this quirk (same source, different response) as the 'don't aim your science at me!' reaction. Maybe that's another way to describe what happens around the GMO issue, as well -- and I suppose it's just another way to describe cultural cognition as a phenomenon in general.

June 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Reiss


The WHIMs definitely like science pointed up-- e.g., they are quite intrigued w/ geoengineering. And they even like science when pointed down -- very very very very down, to the level of atoms. Tell them about nanotechnology & they'll really light up (assuming they aren't among the 10% who've actually heard about it already; they are more likely to be than ECs).

If you ask them whether they have a positive view of science & scientists, they'll overwhelmingly say yes, just like everyone else (no not literally everyone; but the counterexamples people are provoked to think of when I say something like this always turn out to be groups at the fringe -- not anywhere close to the core of society where climate change, say, is contested), even if one or another question relating to confidence" in those who "run" science is picking up a meaningful signal of resentment.

That said -- and saying all of that is meant to convey concurrence with what I take to be the conjecture motivating your comment -- I want to second your point about the need for surveys that help us to form a better understanding of public attitudes toward science & scientists. ">There are measures out there. But beyond telling us that people in the US -- all of them (same proviso as above on "everyone else") -- genuinely loves science and scientists (they really do!), they don't tell us very much, even though there is really a lot that we need to know in order to avoid the sorts of disasters we see when there is cultural polarization over decision-relevant science.

The science literacy measures now in use -- the ones in the NSF Science Indicators -- are also not nearly good enough to help us figure out who has acquired the habits of mind that making the best use of decision-relevant science requires or how to promote their acquisition on an even wider basis.

June 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

The way the phenomenon of the hierarchical individualist's worldview is described here is a function of the worldview of the describer just the same. What matters is the agenda. This is the simple explanation. The agenda shapes the worldview but let's just talk directly about agenda because that is everything in a nutshell. Everyone's agenda is to build and maintain the system that works for him/her. So worldviews are twisted to make that system look like the only feasible system, or the far superior system for everybody. The system being advocated may involve an ivy-league university system, or a not-so-ivy league university system, or a maybe a heavy industry, or a legal, medical or financial system or a civic institution, or a genre of music, etc. Such a system must replace nature as the source of life so the ego that thrives (goes insane) in that system can continue thriving (going insane) as the planet melts. This is part of the general strategy to get people to spin rat wheels that is known as the "Merkan Way". The more rat wheels spinning, the more powerful is the "invisible hand" playing the "great games" on the global playing board that was once covered in trees, but now bare. Please keep spinning them at all cost or we'll all die. This is the "bottom line".

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrtdrury


What matters is the agenda. This is the simple explanation... Everyone's agenda is to build and maintain the system that works for him/her

Yes, that is the explanation.

But it is too simple. Too simple to generate any predictions.

I can give you a million agendas that fit a million different types of roles & relations with respect to which people might define their stake in climate change.

the whole point of "cultural cognition" is to try to come up w/ a robust understanding of what sorts of roles or idenities people are adopting and what particular agenda that one generates w/r/t various risks.

If you leave that part out, your explanation remains true of course. It just doesn't give us an "explanatoin" of what we want -- why these particularpatterns of risk perception?

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

@An Igyt:

Here you go -- your picture. Just plotted density distributions on raw data. Like it?

The WHIMs are pretty decidedly less concerned than anyone else. But of course you are right that white female HIs (and the minority HIs) are less concerned -- for most part -- than other people too.

But there's no "white male effect" across the cultural groups, that's clear!

June 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Why did you choose to connect the lines in the last graph?

The line creates the opportunity to read the slope "jump" as a significant thing, when it's an artifact of the ordering of the entries.

A simple two points with error bars per line would demonstrate your point more clearly.

July 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvelyn


I think I did it (it was sort an instinct thing, and also a while ago) to creat vivid visual impression of variance. The order of the items is from "least perceived' to "most perceived" risk in the "everyone else" subpopulation & the solid black line helps to keep that in focus once I've superimosed White HI males, whose "sometimes more concerned," "sometimes less" likewise becomes more vivid by the erratic trajectory of the red line relative to black--something that shows that there isn't a generic "more" or "less" effect for white males; it all depends, etc. Compare this -- where the goal was to use the tangle of lines to emphasize variance in subgroups relative to general population.

Are you saying it would be bettert just to have the point estimates -- black w/ error bars (there are error bars; they are tiny b/c the sample size is very large) for "everyone else", & red w/ error bars for WHIMs -- but w/o connecting lines in that graphic? Maybe that would be better.

One thing I imagine wouldn't work is a bar graph akin to one in first graphic. Generally, bar graphs suck, in my view. But they get worse & worse as one add increasing numbers of bars after 2: it is way way too much work to figure out what is being compared to what across the bars & the visual effect is very weak.

But I admit that I really struggle w/ graphic presentation. I try to learn from Gelman, King & Tufte -- but my intuitions are poor & unreliable. So advice much appreciated!

July 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

I find this field of thought/explanation very interesting, but I am new to it and apologize if my comment sounds naive. I am trying to figure out the worth of all this information, beyond the mere fascinating. As I read your post and the comments, I can't help but wonder if the specific factors an individual considers in evaluating the risk of a given activity impacts this/her assessment of its risk. In other words, how can you tell if these data merely reflect the variance in what different groups of individuals consider to be the risks at stake and the different weight they place on those risks? What is the value of identifying THAT a certain subset of people thinks a certain way, or WHAT that subset of people thinks, if that process does not explain WHY they think that way? The other thought that comes to mind is that this field could be usefully informed by the work of Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who studies and offers an interesting explanation for why different groups of people think reliably differently on issues similar to those examined in this post. My questions here are sincere, and I will appreciate any enlightenment you can provide.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAWR

white hierarchical and individualistic males are so extremely skeptical of risks involving, say, the environment or (another thing we looked at) guns....There isn't any WME among individuals who are egalitarian and communitarian, hierarchical communitarian
I suspect your defined scope of the 'dangers of guns' differs from the WH&IM's. Other groups are more likely to limit the scope to danger to themselves, those they know, and other individuals. WH&IMs include the (sometimes hypothetical) long-term dangers to, and from, a society that is less tolerant of private gun ownership. They also seem less likely to fall for things like Kellermann's '42x' nonsense.

Are men evolutionarily programmed to be more "risk seeking"
I wasn't aware this was a matter under debate. Eggs are expensive; sperm is cheap.

April 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterASDF

Very interesting analysis, thanks for sharing.

As for the science communication environment... well, NSF gave a $700K "science" grant to produce a play about global warming.

Finis proxima est, one way or the other.


April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTallDave

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>