Dan KahanPosted on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 8:37AM
From something that collaborators and I are working on . . . .
We propose a multi-stage research program to investigate "cognitive dualism." This dynamic is marked by simultaneous states of apparent belief and disbelief of empirically derived facts. Conspicuous examples include scientists or doctors who reject evolution yet use evolutionary science in their research or professional decision-making, and farmers who dismiss evidence of climate change while using it to guide their commercial activities. Dominant psychological accounts attribute cognitive dualism to one or another reasoning deficit such as dissonance avoidance. Our project, in contrast, builds on work that links cognitive dualism to rational information processing. People use their reason for a plurality of ends enabled by distinct clusters of intentional states (emotions, desires, moral appraisals, and the like). The opposing beliefs characteristic of cognitive dualism, we surmise, exist only within these clusters; where the ends that they enable—such as belonging to a cultural community and occupying a professional role—are practically compatible, the characterization of the beliefs as “contradictory” reflects a psychologically arbitrary criterion of identity. The proposed program will test this hypothesis in relation to rival accounts of cognitive dualism and identify prescriptions for communicating science geared to accommodating rather than antagonizing this dynamic.
Research of the Cultural Cognition Project is or has been supported by the National Science Foundation; by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania; by the Skoll Global Threats Fund; by the Putnam Foundation; by the Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars; by the Arcus Foundation; by the Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School; by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University; and by GWU, Temple, and NYU Law Schools. You can contact us here.