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Monday
Mar172014

Science comprehension ("OSI") is a culturally random variable -- and don't let anyone experiencing motivated reasoning tell you otherwise!

Here I've simply plotted "science comprehension" -score histograms for the four segments of a general population sample whose members have been divided in relation to their scores on the means of the "hierarchy-egalitarian" & "individualism-communitarianism" cultural worldview scales.

I suppose the figure could itself be used to measure motivated reasoning: If you perceive that one of these groups varies meaningfully in the disposition or apptitude that this particular scale measures, you might well be experiencing it!

But that won't make you any different from anyone else.  Rather than being embarrassed,  if you manage to catch yourself displaying this tendency, then you should be proud of yourself, for you'll be demonstrating a very unusual form of self-reflection--one much rarer than a "high" level of science comprehension.

The experience of catching yourself in this way will also likely fill you with apprehension over the number of times that you've no doubt experienced this pattern of thinking and did not catch yourself. Cultivating that sort of anxiety can't hurt either if you are trying to sharpen your powers or self-reflection -- or just trying to avoid becoming a boorish cultural sectarian whose interest in promoting public engagement with science is just a mask you don as you gear up for illiberal forms of status competition... 

BTW, this figure features the same "ordinary science intelligence" measure (I prefer that phrasing to "science literacy," which to me connotes an inventory of substantive bits of knowledge divorced from comprehension of & facility with the form of inferential reasoning needed to recognize valid science) that I've been futzing with for a while (despite its propensity to lead me into Alice-in-Wonderland style misadventures).

It combines the 11-item NSF indicator battery plus a 10-item "long cognitive reflection test."  It has the qualities that one would expect in/demand of a valid science comprehension measure, & has been productive of some pretty interesting insights into when people who have opposing cultural identities but who share a demonstrable proficiency in critical reasoning are more likely to converge or instead more likely to disagree than are less "science comprehending" members of their groups about a fact that admits of scientific investigation (e.g., the natural history of human beings or the reality and causes of climate change or GM foods or fracking or childhood vaccines). 

Maybe I'll write more "tomorrow" about the interesting psychometric properties of this OSI measure....

 

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