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« Dewey on curiosity & science comprehension | Main | Weekend update: paradox of scientific knowledge dissemination in the liberal state »
Sunday
Nov262017

Clarendon Law Lectures 2017: what happened

When I was an infant academic, one of my senior colleagues advised me that if I used my first summer mapping out all the classes for my upcoming fall course, I’d find out that I spent three months preparing for the first one. Each class thereafter, from the second until the last, would have to be planned the night before.

 He was right.                                                               

Now, if any future Clarendon Lecture invitee should happen to consult me, I’d advise her (or him) that if she attempts to use the entire interval between the invitation and the start of the series mapping out each of the three lectures,  she will discover that she spent 18 months preparing to deliver the first one. The remaining two lectures, she (or he)  will find out, will have to be prepared the night before.

 Or in any case, such was my experience.

After my first lecture, I realized that I had better abandon my plan for the second and prepare a new one to address in depth a theme persistently pursued by the audience questioners. Did I really have sufficient basis, they wanted to know, to infer that the difference between the culturally polarized responses of the general public and the unpolarized ones of judges in the “ ‘Ideology’ or ‘Situation Sense?’ ” (aka “They saw a statutory ambiguity) study was attributable to the professionalization of the latter?  Maybe judges were more disposed to use “System 2” information processing (conscious, effortful, “slow”) rather than rely on “System 1” (intuitive, automatic, “fast”). Or perhaps judges had an advantagever ordinary members of the public differed in some other form of critical reasoning.

So in the 22-hr interval that separated the first lecture from the second, I fashioned a new presentation addressing this issue.  It featured MS2R (“motivated system 2 reasoning”), a cognitive dynamic that rebuts the conjecture that differences in cognitive proficiency accounted for judges’ domain-specific immunity from identity-protective information processing. Indeed, if anything, before the study was conducted, this line of research might have led one to believe that judges, lawyers, and law students—to the extent that they do score higher on critical reasoning assessments—would actually display more, not less, bias in the “saw a statutory ambiguity” experiment.

I also introduced the audience to the Science Curiosity Scale. High scores on it, research suggests, do constrain polarization on societal risks and related policy-relevant facts.  But there was little reason, it seemed to me, to believe members of the legal profession are more science curious than members of the public generally.

Having made this change in focus for lecture 2, I had to revise the content of final lecture as well.  For that one, I knit together compressed versions of the planned lecture 2 & lecture 3.  Accordingly, the audience was exposed to modest amounts of the “evidence rules impossibility theorem” and the “(real) realist program for the science of judging and adjudication.”

Audience questions and insights persisted. But the series had drawn to a close.

So you’ll have to watch for more engagement with the Clarendon Lecture audience here “tomorrow.”™

Lecture slides: No. 1, No. 2, No. 3.

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Reader Comments (47)

"I also introduced the audience to the Science Curiosity Scale. High scores on it, research suggests, do constrain polarization on societal risks and related policy-relevant facts."

But your linked research does not suggest this. It says that high SC scores do not amplify polarization in the same way that high OSI scores do. After the charts depicting this, the paper says by way of preparing a conclusion:

'All other elements of science comprehension—[etc. etc. types / references]—have all previously been observed to magnify political polarization.'

But Science Curiosity is not a reasoning disposition, as you later agreed, and so cannot be an element of science comprehension either. It is likely an enabler or motivator of future science comprehension, but this is a very different thing. So the conclusion is not supported, as presumably by 'constrains polarization' in this context, you mean constrains at higher science comprehensions levels (as for instance measured by OSI, but not by SC).

This leaves you not knowing, or at least not having shown, the relationship between OSI and SC, hence also what constraints one may or may not have on the other at particular scores of each.

November 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

@Andy-- the paper presents the relevant data, including (1) the OSI-SCS interaction, which indicates that OSI polarization is substantially reduced among those who score highest on SCS; and (2) the experimental finding of negation of polarization in information search

November 26, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Dan

Apologies, I have misremembered the latter half of this and didn't drill down, especially to Figure 10. Can you say what the average delta M is on this Figure?

November 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Color me skeptical that SCOTUS justices are less motivated in their reasoning about the constitution than Joe Blow is about whether Ben Simmons will be the next Lebron James...but...this is kind of interesting:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/is-chief-justice-roberts-a-secret-liberal/

November 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

I wonder about the population of all judges vs. that trend. Becoming a judge, especially a Supreme (and certainly chief Supreme) is a very safe job in terms of employment threats (including never again having to worry about promotions in the case of chief Supreme). There's some research that suggests that making people feel safe about their own predicaments can make them more socially liberal, just as making them afraid makes them more socially conservative.

I've wondered similarly about tenured profs. Also about the hyper-wealthy (Buffet, Gates).

November 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

Of course, it could be that the whole court is moving right against a stable Roberts in the background. It could be that Thomas is convincing everyone that libruls are evildoers trying to undermine the constitution.

November 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

NO! I can't imagine the Notorious R.B.G. moving right!

And how would Thomas be convincing anyone? Through silent stares?

November 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Maybe people are polarizing more because they're reading (instead of listening) more:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/11/27/people-may-seem-more-reasonable-when-you-hear-them-rather-than-read-their-words

non-paywall paper is here

I wonder how this would impact backfire cases. Are people more prone to backfire when reading than when listening/watching?

November 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@AndyWest--

Delta M for 2 SDs of OSI (the span between brackets in Figure) when Science Curiosity is at its mean is about 1.05 for Global Warming & 0.80 for Fracking

November 28, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Dan, thanks. I wondered whether this was a linear effect, i.e. roughly symmetrical about the mean.

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

are judges complicit with employee harassment/discrimination?:
https://phys.org/news/2017-11-role-employment-cases.html

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@AndyWest-- welcome. How does that affect your inferences?

November 28, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Jonathan -- that may be an example of the disanalogy of chick sexing and judicial decisionmaking. Also consider the "internval" vs. "external" conceptions of "ideological decisionmaking" in law.

November 28, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Dan,

It doesn't yet, in that I am collecting thoughts about the step ahead, i.e. about what would happen in a real society if you try to significantly increase SC, for your advocated goal of good citizenship and improved democracy. My question was to provide more input to this. I've noticed that in some of the stronger dependancies on OSI your charts are non-linear, i.e. most of the effect comes from the early part of the scale. It 's occurred to me in the past (without any formal justification!) that despite your factor analysis this could be due to the composite nature of the OSI scale; i.e. the knowledge component is much more important than the cognitive skills components in these cases. That's a whole other story, yet I wanted to know whether anything similar was going on here so that the grey matter would have the best context, it might be an important factor.

More generally, despite my error above in forgetting half of what I'd already read (sorry), I still have great difficulty with your promotion of SC as a fix at such a tentative state of understanding. We surely don't know the fuller relationship between SC and knowledge and cognitive skills (which due to above I separate out from your OSI scale), in that your Fig 10 represents a snapshot in time. For instance school-teachers have always encouraged just the kind of curiosity that you depict because it leads to knowledge acquisition. So if measures are taken for some ambitious increase in SC across society (and btw I've always regarded encouraging curiosity as a good thing), say a 50% rise, what will the new equilibrium be once it is reached? If more curiosity leads proportionally to more knowledge for instance, there may be as much further increase in polarization as there is mitigation, so net result zero. And at earlier ages, increased curiosity may also lead to increased cognitive skills, due to the flexing / training of these as part of deploying the extra knowledge acquired. While it seems to me a great thing to have a more knowledgeable and capable society, this may nevertheless not achieve your end in the particular respect of polarization reduction of conflicted domains.

And for completeness repeating previous comment, another issue is that reduction of polarization within conflicted domains is only part of the story. What happens in the bigger picture, i.e. across all the conflicted domains? If each domain is more harmonized, yet *towards* correctness in some cases and *away* from correctness in others, randomly so, the net gain will again be zero. Only the nature of the wider contest will have changed. If one takes the scientific consensus as a gold standard, then your chart for only 2 domains nevertheless shows exactly this. SC is not a reasoning disposition, so despite its lack of polarization amplification at high scores cannot ever weight towards the 'correct' answer. Not only that, but curiosity is generally considered an emotion, so promoting an emotive state (the culture 'polluting' the science communication environment in the first place is ultimately emotive) is intuitively not advisable. It may not make the situation worse, but by displacing one emotive state with another it will make it different, which means that we may have less grip on understanding it again.

None of my above thoughts would have much import (and they may not prove correct anyhow) if you were only doing your most excellent investigative work and producing what I consider to be incredibly useful data, especially with shared process such that folks can engage. But I have pushed a bit because what does bother me is your advocacy of SC as a fix and the implied (or even explicit) demotion of knowledge and cognitive skills as good citizen characteristics (these folks may well be holding up all the good science and technology that has so liberated our societies, despite their polarization). Language like 'Are smart people ruining our democracy?' (your headline of Oct 18th post) could be dramatically misused if it went viral in the wild without the full context of all your related work, and even with this could still go badly wrong. And despite phrased as a question. A blog with 14.5 billion readers should surely take a lot more care? The state of knowledge on SC seems pretty tentative even of itself, yet leveraging it to denigrate smarts when the net sum of their contribution to society (and harder calculation still for democracy) is not known even wrt these effects, let alone the wider contributions of smarts, is surely a highly emotive pollution of the science communication environment, is it not? And one that it seems to me that practically begs for some culture or other to hi-jack as part of its memetic ammunition.

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Dan,

About chick sexing vs. judicial summary judgments - there's a third difference: male chicks aren't lawyers. In other words, male chicks have no chance to learn how to present their, um, case such that it games the workings of the sexers pattern recognition situation sense. Oh - and a fourth difference: the psycosociopolitical circumstances of chicks vs. those of chick sexers are unlikely to be intertwined in any way that might promote certain biases and/or conscious motivations in certain circumstances to overwhelm their situation sense. To say nothing about the epistemic complexity of the patterns in question (fuzzy chick privates notwithstanding).

About 'Ideology' or 'Situation Sense'?: isn't there some question about the ecological validity of such test cases vs. real world cases? Undoubtedly, judges and lawyers have developed a skill, but this says nothing about how and when they apply that skill (or not) in real world circumstances. Obviously, the motivations for performing well in a test situation are very different from performing well (or not) in a real world case.

Suppose you taught a course to science students that conveyed to them a situation sense about the validity of experimental results. Would you then trust experimental results from such practitioners (formerly your students) that didn't bother to measure validity, or even use some peer-review de-biasing mechanism? Even worse - just let them promote hypotheses directly to theories without experiment based on their situation sense of the hypotheses. Hmm... sounds a lot like continental philosophy...

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

link drop - more on epistemic rationality - cognitive ability + motivation to use it:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886917306323

(bummer - no non-paywall version)

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

...but a popsci review is here:
https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/11/to-think-critically-you-have-to-be-both-analytical-and-motivated

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

link drop: Pauli Murray and free speech at Yale:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/opinion/free-speech-yale-civil-rights.html

an interesting way for Salovey to make his point using virtue ethics, I guess.

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Joshua,

A rare longitudinal study I found that might interest you:
http://www.conservativecriminology.com/uploads/5/6/1/7/56173731/block_and_block.pdf

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

From your link above:

This showed that analytical ability was associated with lower levels of belief in conspiracies and the paranormal.

[...]

But if it holds up, the finding could go a long way toward explaining why conspiracy theories persist in a world where most measures of cognitive ability have gone up over time.

IMO, looking at the interaction between critical thinking "ability" and a tendency towards conspiratorial ideation in a generic or non-polarized framework (and for now setting aside my skepticism of how people measure "analytical ability") probably doesn't generalize very well to considering that interaction across all contexts, or more specifically those contexts which are polarized. For example, look at the abundant conspiracy ideation in the climate wars among people with strong analytical skills. Ironically, while discussing the importance of motivation (of a particular type) as a factor in enhancing the quality of skeptical thinking, the authors seem to overlook motivation (of another type) also playing a role in degrading the quality of skepticism.

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Jonathan -

That's not fair - linking an article that puts into opposition my favoritism towards longitudinal analysis and my dismissive attitudes towards studies that find personality asymmetries across political dividing lines. Cognitive dissonance can be quite painful. 🙁

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

And to boot, in examining the role of development, it addresses what I consider to be a major flaw in so many of the articles I see regarding associations between politics and personality/psychology/cognition - a lack of a theory of causal mechanism for the associations.

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Disappointing that they control for SES, and talk about genetics, but don't seem to even try to control for political orientation of the participants' parents and communities (and, of course, the politics of those assessing the children and young adults - one has to wonder what the findings of a parallel study conducted in Alabama might look like).

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

Sorry. How about another:
https://genepi.qimr.edu.au/contents/publications/staff/Smith_etal_AmerJrnlPolSc2017_424-437.pdf

in which political orientations are stable and heritable, but moral foundations not so much (hence not really foundations)?

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

This article got me thinking about potential fundament conceptual problems with the whole nature vs. nurture frame... not to mention other frames that seek to generalize from individual cognitive or psychological attributes in controlled or specific frames across different domains.

“The impossibility of intelligence explosion” https://medium.com/@francois.chollet/the-impossibility-of-intelligence-explosion-5be4a9eda6ec

November 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan gets a shout out in "The Upshot."

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/29/upshot/sexual-harassment-response-legal-system-guidelines.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

November 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

self-censorship in climate research appears to be happening:
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/29/564043596/climate-scientists-watch-their-words-hoping-to-stave-off-funding-cuts

November 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Dan -

I wonder if the intervening 17 years, and in particular the recent string of public exposure of sexual harassment, might lead to a reexamination of the following from your article linked in the Times?:

Indeed, the use of civil rather than criminal enforcement might help to explain why American sexual harassment law has proven relatively more effective than have rape law and domestic violence law reforms.

Does a comparative lack of resistance among decision-makers to sexual harassment laws during those 17 years, concurrent with (what is now apparent) ongoing pervasive sexual harassment, weaken an argument in favor of the benefits of "gentle nudges?"

Also, have you changed at all in your advocacy for public shaming as a recommended means to establish social norms, given the recently oft' expressed concerns about the role of social media in magnifying a deleterious effect from shaming? (Notably Haidt, in specific, seems very concerned about the impact of what he sees as a large-scale transformation into a shame-based culture - with librul college students at the vanguard of that menacing transformation, doncha know).

Would you suggest that during those intervening 17 years, sexual harassment has reduced in prevalence in comparison to rapes or domestic violence (of course, there could be a lot of influencing factors to complicate a direct comparison. In the article you mention lower court limiting principles, politics, and resistance in the workplace - feedback that you consider as a signature of hard shoves....but then I get confused because you seem to be describing the arc of changes in norms regarding sexual harassment as both an example of the advantages of gentle nudges and the disadvantages of hard shoves? Have you seen evidence that in Europe, a mediation-oriented approach has returned greater changes in norms than in the US)?

You say:

"[Mediation programs] would also reduce the stockpile of unusual or anomalous cases that conservative activists exploit to tar sexual harassment law with the image of cultural extremism."

That is also quite interesting given that the behavior of Franken and Weinstein and Lauer hitting the media may have well done more to reduce that stockpile in a period of weeks more than decades of mediation programs would ever have done.

I also wonder if in light of your work since 2000, you might change your counsel on the issue of harnessing moral resentment?

November 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

more climate news links:
https://phys.org/news/2017-11-republicans-climate-doubters.html
https://phys.org/news/2017-11-polar-blogs-reveal-dangerous-gap.html

November 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

excellent piece from Tooby:
https://www.edge.org/conversation/john_tooby-coalitional-instincts

November 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan,

"self-censorship in climate research appears to be happening:"

Not a surprise. Sceptical climate scientists complained for years about having to remove sceptical language from grant proposals and papers. If politicians pay the bills, grant proposals are more likely to be successful if they follow the dominant political fashions. Does anyone imagine that hasn't already been happening in climate science?

"more climate news links"

The first one - I'm just surprised they didn't already know that. The second one I found hilarious!

They got Michael Mann, of all people, to help them write a paper on how sceptics are kept out of the journals by the enviro-activist gatekeepers? Funny!

The Soon & Baliunas paper couldn't have cleared a 'legitimate' peer review process anywhere. That leaves only one possibility--that the peer-review process at Climate Research has been hijacked by a few skeptics on the editorial board. [...] This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the "peer-reviewed literature". Obviously, they found a solution to that--take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering "Climate Research" as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board...

So if journals know that publishing sceptical papers gets them boycotted by the rest of the scientific community, what's going to happen?

Tooby's essay was interesting. "This raises a problem for scientists: Coalition-mindedness makes everyone, including scientists, far stupider in coalitional collectivities than as individuals." I think Dan's argued with that position, in the past.

Thanks for the links.

November 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Joshua--

<<, have you changed at all in your advocacy for public shaming . . .>

Yes.

<<Would you suggest that during those intervening 17 years, sexual harassment has reduced in prevalence in comparison to rapes or domestic violence>>
Not sure. There seems to be general agreement among commentators that incidence of rape has not gone down despite reforms aimed at making conviction easier. Incidence of sexual harassment likely has gone down, but if it hasn’t, that’s likely because in 17 or so years leading *up* to 2000 it had declined substantially (unlike incidence of rape).

<< I also wonder if in light of your work since 2000, you might change your counsel on the issue of harnessing moral resentment?>>

At that level of generality, no. W/o moral resentment, criminal enforcement would likely be ineffective or else effective only w/ much more severe penalties (ones that would start to make it difficult to maintain marginal deterrence in relation to wrongs of varying severity).

<< Does a comparative lack of resistance among decision-makers to sexual harassment laws during those 17 years, concurrent with (what is now apparent) ongoing pervasive sexual harassment, weaken an argument in favor of the benefits of "gentle nudges?">>

Are you suggesting that political climate would be more amenable to “hard shove” of criminal enforcement of sexual harassment? My hunch is no—that that would strike people as overkill. Maybe that is reason to question article’s model of evolution of public opinion when prodded with “gentle nudges.”

November 30, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Joshua,

In advance of tonight's game, with a shout-out to Iggle and Penn State fans:
http://nautil.us/issue/54/the-unspoken/sports-hooliganism-comes-down-to-a-fear-of-death-rp

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Dan -

Are you suggesting that political climate would be more amenable to “hard shove” of criminal enforcement of sexual harassment? My hunch is no—that that would strike people as overkill. Maybe that is reason to question article’s model of evolution of public opinion when prodded with “gentle nudges.”

I see two basic constructs - that perhaps parallel a tension between the role of a strict parent versus a nurturing parent in shaping behavior. A kind of yin/yang if you will.

One the side of the strict parent - I see a possible model where "overkill" is more of an immediate dynamic interplay that spells out as an over-reach and over-reaction in response, which eventually settles down into an overall trajectory of movement more in the same direction of in which the "overkill" was aimed. I might apply a signal versus noise analogy, where an "That's overkill" reaction is more the noise that smoothes out over a longer time period - to be subsumed in the longer-term signal. Sometimes, with students, I present them with a harsh reality, with the goal of addressing a complacency or static state, and knowing that there will be a strong countereffect and blowback, but believing that in time, after all the dust has cleared, might settle down into a new state that is in advance of where it was more my intervention. (Always, with the knowledge that my model could be in error, and that it is possible that after all the dust has cleared, the situation will settle into a new state that is behind where we were before my intervention).

So I don't doubt an "That's overkill" negative feedback, and that there might be an "opportunity cost" that wouldn't be manifest through a more deliberate and consistent process resulting from "gentle nudges." Indeed, a process of deliberate "gentle nudges" is more my style. But I'm somewhat agnostic as to whether in a general model, the yin or the yang wins out as a more effective driver of social change over time. My guess is that the "gentle nudge" approach is more effective on average; it has a logic that I find compelling. But I would also guess that there is the complicating factor of context (isn't there always?), where the relative impact (in a given direction) of the two approaches might vary because of contextual specifics.

In the context of sexual harassment, it does seem that the time might be more ripe for a "hard shove" kind of "enforcement."

But even that gets tricky as context can affect perspective on what is a "hard shove" versus a "gentle nudge." What might have seemed in the past to be more of a "hard shove," might be seen now as, relatively speaking, a "gentle nudge." There is a dynamic, the conditions aren't static, perspectives change. For example, maybe 20 years ago the idea of eliminating confidentiality agreements would have been much more on the "hard shove" end of the spectrum than it is now. So is the way to measure a "hard shove" versus a "gentle nudge" always a factor of the degree to which an idea represents a magnitude of movement from the status quo? Wouldn't that, necessarily, be depending on perspective? One woman's "hard shove" might be another woman's "gentle nudge." How is some objective baseline established?

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Jonthan -

It's always interesting to hear Philly fans talk about the image of Philly fans. They are quite convinced that the whole "They threw snowballs at Santa" outrage and the "They booed a prone Michael Irvin, lying on the filed with a career threatening injury." concern, and the "They actually had a judge and courtroom at the stadium" ridicule are overblown and prejudicial. Just as they are convinced that national broadcasters (not to mention referees and umps) are out to get Philly teams. I happen to think that sports fandom is a great real world window into the mechanics of motivated reasoning - and that's part of the reason why I'm skeptical about an approach which burrows into "science communication" context as a way to understand the larger phenomenon.

As for the game tonight...too bad that Embiid won't be playing, not to mention the absence of the surprising McConnell (and of course, Hayward). Anyway, I'm afraid it won't be much of a contest tonight - Celtics in a blowout. (Are you familiar with the concept of the "reverse jinx?" It is a tool utilized widely by Philly fans - probably more so than most other fans, and I happen to have perfected it to an art form.).

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Speaking of which, a related phenomenon: On Philly sports talk radio right now, a major topic of conversation is whether or not fans will "jinx" the Eagles by being too positive in their prospects for the Super Bowl. It's fascinating and hilarious from a psychology vs. cognition dynamic. It's like when I turn off a tight game because I'm convinced that by watching I will negatively affect the outcome (or perhaps it will just be more painful to watch a losing effort than to read about it afterwards). It's all fascinating and hilarious stuff, and I think very close to the questions related to how humans approach risk on other, more traditionally investigated contexts.

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Not sure. There seems to be general agreement among commentators that incidence of rape has not gone down despite reforms aimed at making conviction easier."

If that was what you wanted to do, there are easier ways.

But I'm not surprised that dropping standards of evidence doesn't have much effect on incidence. If you took it to the extreme and simply prosecuted everyone in the world for theft, no evidence required, do you think the number of thefts actually happening would go up, or down? If you know you're going to get prosecuted anyway, what have you got to lose? When people hear about the increased number of false alarms, it degrades trust in the results, which reduces the reputational cost of conviction. And by making it harder for socially awkward men (some of them with mild-to-serious personality disorders) to start normal relationships, through making any unintended errors in frequently-misunderstood human courtship rituals a criminal matter, it makes it more likely they'll turn to 'alternatives'. And respond to the lowering of standards of evidence by simply taking greater precautions not to get identified. Such effects are going to tend to partially or totally cancel the disincentive effect.

But such measures are not really about reducing rape. It's about power over people.

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

link drop - maybe "news media literacy" matters more than science literacy?:
https://phys.org/news/2017-11-conspiracy-greater-news-media-literacy.html

standard MTurk caveats apply...

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

But Science Curiosity is not a reasoning disposition, as you later agreed, and so cannot be an element of science comprehension either. It is likely an enabler or motivator of future science comprehension, but this is a very different thing. So the conclusion is not supported, as presumably by 'constrains polarization' in this context, you mean constrains at higher science comprehensions levels (as for instance measured by OSI, but not by SC).

Huh? If science curiosity isn't a reasoning disposition, what is? Isn't SC just a measure of what you're interested in thinking about?

It's been so long; do I have my wires crossed?

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdypoon

essentialist link:
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320204.php

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@dypoon

Yes, curiosity is a measure of what topic (in this case science) people are interested in thinking about. But in isolation (i.e. the measure has to be accomplished appropriately), this is neither a reflection of their current level of knowledge on the topic, or the cognitive skills they are able to deploy on the topic (btw Dan's OSI scale incorporates both these elements). To take a boundary case, a young child very interested in science topics, like say the stars or recreating dinosuars from DNA, has no significant knowledge regarding these topics. And likewise their cognitive skills, being thus far untrained, will also be modest. Yet they nevertheless have very high science curiosity. This curiosity is pretty likely to be a motivator that *leads* to knowledge one day, and sharpened cognitive skills which may also be steered towards the discipline of interest. But for any particular moment in time, no amount of curiosity helps reason an answer to a topic domain question, whereas knowledge and cognitive skills do. Obviously in adults there is more of a mix of curiosity and acquired skills; some adults never have the opportunity to satisfy certain curiousness, and some may lose some of their curiosity having gained knowledge. But it remains the case as with the child, that their curiosity of itself is not a reasoning disposition. Beyond this I have never delved into the topic of curiosity, but I recall from peripheral reading in the past that curiosity is generally considered a kind of motivating emotion, and one associated with both positive and negative states; for instance anxiety can stoke curiosity (presumably to motivate the search for a solution to whatever is causing the anxiety), yet as far I recall hope and desire too (presumably to motivate an obtaining of the desire). But in this regard please don't rely on my memory, there is plenty of literature about it :) I need to do some reading myself to catch up wrt context for Dan's work, but time is not my friend.

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

"Isn't SC just a measure of what you're interested in thinking about?"

I have a hypothesis that it's just about how much you like and trust science documentaries. It would explain why high-SC subjects converge on whatever position the science documentaries happen to be pushing (e.g. on fracking), whether valid science or not, true or not.

The name we give to the metric is just a convenient label. We don't know what it's really measuring.

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV,

"why high-SC subjects converge on whatever position the science documentaries happen to be pushing (e.g. on fracking)"

Not looking good for fracking (actually, wastewater injection) in the popsci press lately:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/drilling-reawakens-sleeping-faults-in-texas-leads-to-earthquakes/

Maybe the SC folks are on to something?

November 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"Not looking good for fracking (actually, wastewater injection) in the popsci press lately"

:-) Exactly my point. It never does!

"Maybe the SC folks are on to something?"

Maybe they are. So let's apply some "Science Curiosity" and have a look, shall we?

The core claim of the article is the following:

Oklahoma’s rate increased from one or two per year to more than 800. Texas has seen a sixfold spike. Most have been small, but Oklahoma has seen several damaging quakes stronger than magnitude 5.

So what do we know about earthquake magnitudes? Let's look it up.

1.0–1.9
Microearthquakes, not felt, or felt rarely. Recorded by seismographs.
Continual/several million per year

2.0–2.9
Felt slightly by some people. No damage to buildings.
Over one million per year

3.0–3.9
Often felt by people, but very rarely causes damage. Shaking of indoor objects can be noticeable.
Over 100,000 per year

4.0–4.9
Noticeable shaking of indoor objects and rattling noises. Felt by most people in the affected area. Slightly felt outside. Generally causes none to minimal damage. Moderate to significant damage very unlikely. Some objects may fall off shelves or be knocked over.
10,000 to 15,000 per year

5.0–5.9
Can cause damage of varying severity to poorly constructed buildings. At most, none to slight damage to all other buildings. Felt by everyone.
1,000 to 1,500 per year

So the number of 'small' earthquakes may have gone up from 100,000 to 100,800, or something like that. A 0.8% increase in something that causes no damage and that most people don't even notice. The number of magnitude 5 earthquakes has done something on the order of increasing 1,000 to 1,005, assuming 5 would count as 'several'.

So. The fracking industry claim that fracking *does* cause minor "earthquakes", but these are not the large-scale disasters the public generally associate with the word that you see on the news. The bigger ones are the equivalent of the ground-shaking rumble of a heavy lorry passing your house, and the vast majority of them are so small you'd not even sense them. Also, releasing the stress in the faults actually reduces the number of earthquakes happening subsequently, so it all averages out in the long run. Technically, if you walk across the room, your footsteps cause 'earthquakes' that a sensitive enough vibration detector can pick up. The technical scientific definition of "earthquake" we're using here is more about the limits of detection technology than their practical effects. The 'everyday' meaning of the term, and the one the authors of articles like this clearly want to evoke, is the 'disaster newsreel' definition.

Campaigners routinely leave out the context - highlighting artificial, trivial or highly uncertain risks, and downplaying how that compares to the background risk level, natural risks, or the risks of the opposite policy position - in order to raise alarm against whatever it is they're objecting to. It's a very recognisable tactic once you know to look out for it.

Does the article say anything to counter this position? Does it demonstrate that the fracking industry downplaying the risks? Once you ask the right question you can see the ambiguities in the article that leave the question slightly open (like: What does "small" mean? What does "stronger than magnitude 5" really mean? How much more?), but it doesn't obviously disagree with it, either. More information is required. Is it strong evidence of a problem? Probably not.

--
That's what I mean by "scientific curiosity". If someone sees a surprising claim, will they actively do some research to check it out? What do the opponents of the position say? What do the technical terms mean? Can you look at this from a different perspective, that changes how you would judge the conclusion? And would you still do that extra work even if the claim is surprising but supportive of your other cultural beliefs?

But what Dan was measuring (IIRC) was whether a person would watch a science documentary, even for a position that disagreed with their cultural group's beliefs. That might be because they saw the title, and watching the clip was part of their research to check out the claims, out of genuine scientific curiosity. Or it might be because they trust and believe science documentaries, and were looking for "interesting" new information to learn about. That's more like "open mindedness", but not quite, because while they're being open-minded about their cultural group's beliefs, they're not being open-minded about what science documentaries tell them.

Do they seek out counter-cultural information to learn from it, or to better refute it, or to check it, or simply for the novelty? Do they take any additional steps to check what they're being told? Or is it simply that instead of taking co-cultural experts as their source of unquestioned authority, they trust TV pop-science documentaries and magazines instead?

I don't think the metric distinguishes, and that high-SC people converge on mistrusting fracking suggests to me it's not what I would consider scientific curiosity. Of course, everyone has their own definition, and they don't have to agree with mine. It's just a convenient label, for whatever it is the survey test measures.

December 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

To take a boundary case, a young child very interested in science topics, like say the stars or recreating dinosuars from DNA, has no significant knowledge regarding these topics. And likewise their cognitive skills, being thus far untrained, will also be modest. Yet they nevertheless have very high science curiosity. This curiosity is pretty likely to be a motivator that *leads* to knowledge one day, and sharpened cognitive skills which may also be steered towards the discipline of interest. But for any particular moment in time, no amount of curiosity helps reason an answer to a topic domain question, whereas knowledge and cognitive skills do. Obviously in adults there is more of a mix of curiosity and acquired skills; some adults never have the opportunity to satisfy certain curiousness, and some may lose some of their curiosity having gained knowledge. But it remains the case as with the child, that their curiosity of itself is not a reasoning disposition. [...]

I'm sorry, Andy, I really don't understand what you were trying to say. What do you think a reasoning disposition is, if the young child's curiosity doesn't count? You just outlined the argument why the kid would be my archetypical example; someone who knows little to nothing about most everything, but is interested in something anyway.

I agree that a kid's ability to draw a particular conclusion about, say, exponential growth in bacteria, is in all probability hampered by never having heard of exponential growth at all. It seems to me that you're trying to argue that measures of a reasoning disposition should measure what you know, rather than controlling for it and being as orthogonal as possible to it. If so, we have a genuine disagreement, and I need to read more closely into why you and Dan were arguing about reasoning dispositions in the first place to form an opinion about which conception is more suited to the task at hand.

The name we give to the metric is just a convenient label. We don't know what it's really measuring.

...except for what was -actually- measured: a person's propensity to choose something science-y to look at over otherwise marked stimulus. To say this isn't a reasoning disposition perhaps misses a telling point; it's most certainly a cognitive and reflective disposition.

The question is not what was measured, but what the generalization is. We could try measuring other things and seeing what it coheres with. Also, remember that Dan's claim is that science curiosity mitigates polarization about science; it would be interesting to see whether science curiosity mitigates polarization about other things, and whether other forms of curiosity mitigate polarization about science. I think Dan referenced some studies earlier on this blog that suggested that people who were curious in one way were more likely to be curious in others, which leads me to talk of curiosity in general terms.

Honestly, what you describe as "scientific curiosity" sounds to me like a very familiar pattern of "critical thinking" I often consider an aberration, wherein the criticality comes before the thinking. My conception of curiosity is more cognitively aligned with acceptance than with rejection. I would characterize curiosity as being willing to ask, "How might they be right?" before looking for ways in which "they are probably wrong". I've always found the first question harder to answer than the second, which makes it worth asking first.

Forget "scientific curiosity" for a moment. How do you conceive of other forms of curiosity? If you don't have to be scientific about it, what do you do when you feel curious?

December 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdypoon

@Dypoon

"I'm sorry, Andy, I really don't understand what you were trying to say. What do you think a reasoning disposition is, if the young child's curiosity doesn't count? You just outlined the argument why the kid would be my archetypical example; someone who knows little to nothing about most everything, but is interested in something anyway."

And I can't grasp where you're coming from either. A reasoning disposition is one that allows a plausible answer to a (domain related) question, to be reasoned. No amount of curiosity generated interest in a domain, on its own, will enable this, despite such interest may *at some later date* result in domain related reasoning capability.

"I agree that a kid's ability to draw a particular conclusion about, say, exponential growth in bacteria, is in all probability hampered by never having heard of exponential growth at all."

Exactly, a young child will not have enough to reason any plausible conclusions about such an example.

"It seems to me that you're trying to argue that measures of a reasoning disposition should measure what you know, rather than controlling for it and being as orthogonal as possible to it."

In part, yes. Knowledge does seriously contribute to one's ability to reason an answer, although it is not the only component. Part of the OSI scale Dan developed is exactly measuring science knowledge. But this is not the only component, others are made up of cognitive skills, which are also important if the question involves anything more than a simple repetition of knowledge from memory. So the measure of these skills is indeed separated from knowledge. This is perhaps the element you are thinking about. In the boundary case of a young child however, their cognitive skills will also be unflexed, untrained, so they are hampered here too (part of schooling is not just to learn subjects, but to learn how to think). However, though they may be brimming with curiosity about biology, this doesn't help them to reason an answer to your bacteria question, as both knowledge and cognitive skills would.

December 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

<I>"I would characterize curiosity as being willing to ask, "How might they be right?" before looking for ways in which "they are probably wrong"."

The real question is "is this true?" How might they be right and how might they be wrong are both part of that.

"Forget "scientific curiosity" for a moment. How do you conceive of other forms of curiosity?"

Curiosity is wanting to know (enough to go to some effort to find out). Scientific curiosity is wanting to know with more like a scientific level of quality/confidence. Curiosity about science is wanting to know about the results of scientific enquiry without necessarily taking a truly scientific approach to finding out, and includes people who take the word of 'experts', whether of their cultural group or on the Discovery Channel.

December 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

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