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Wednesday
Apr122017

Using science curiosity ... a fragment

From something I'm working on . . . 

. . . Taken together, these studies suggest that science curiosity ought to be viewed as a signal virtue of democratic citizenship in a culturally diverse society.  The information-processing style of these citizens ought to be propagated and extended as an antidote to the enfeebling impact of group rivalries on citizens’ capacity to identify valid science....

a. [A program to employ science curiosity for purposes of enlightened self-government must answer three questions.] First, how can the stock of citizens who are curious about science be enlarged? Presumably, this disposition forms at a relatively young age.  We thus anticipate that this part of the research program will focus on the development of primary-, middle-, and high-school education materials suited to instill curiosity in students.  To date, efforts to develop such materials have met with little success, primarily because educators have not been equipped with reliable and valid measures to test the impact of various pedagogical strategies aimed at cultivating science curiosity (Blalock et al. 2008).  The APPC/CCP Science Curiosity Scale does furnish a valid and reliable measure for adults, and we are currently engaged in exploratory work to develop a version of the scale that can be used for middle-school students.

b. Second, how can the dispositions of the most science-curious citizens be leveraged to promote more productive engagement with decision-relevant science in our political discourse? Field studies conducted by CCP suggests that members of culturally diverse groups display greater open-mindedness when they observe trusted group members evincing confidence in the validity of decision-relevant science by their actions and words.  To multiply the number of such interactions, it makes sense for communicators to seed culturally diverse groups with members who have already formed positive views of decision-relevant science (Kahan 2015). . . .

c. Third, how can the “frontier” of science curiosity be moved back when communicators engage with ordinary citizens?  Individuals  tend to spontaneously and aggressively resist information that challenges positions associated with their group.  The appetite for surprise and wonder associated with science curiosity, in contrast, effectively stifles that form of defensive information processing.  Science curiosity varies across people; but even modestly and weakly curious individuals possess some level of this disposition, which can be elicited with appropriately constructed materials. Thus, the same tools that can be used to propagate and leverage science curiosity can also be used to determine which forms of communication are most likely to excite science curiosity—and preempt defensive resistance—among a larger fraction of society.

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Reader Comments (35)

Dan -

From downstairs, but also w/r/t this post...you say below:

=={ Can we foster science curiosity in the population, either as a fixed trait or as a state that characterizes their engagement with controversial issues? }==

My interpretation of what you are writing is that you identify science curiosity as a causal mechanism in lessening polarized attitudes towards engaging on controversial issues...rather than an associated attribute of those who less polarized on such issues or even as a moderating influence on the relationship between ideological orientation and views on science-related controversies.

If I am correct in that, then by what means do you make that distinction?

Further, I am dubious that these mechanisms (e.g., motivated reasoning, identity-protective behaviors, etc.) play out differently in science-related issues than in other areas of identity-associated controversies...so I would wonder whether you think that science curiosity has a similar causal effect on controversies that are not directly science-related?

April 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Also, relatedly

You say:

=={ c. Third, how can the “frontier” of science curiosity be moved back when communicators engage with ordinary citizens? }==


It sees to me that people who start out more polarized would then, as a result, be less openly "curious" about science, (and instead be more heavily invested in seeking any means to reinforce their identity markers - including using science-related evidence to support a preexisting orientation).

In such a situation, the causal mechanism in play would suggest that "communicators" should might not want to focus on science curiosity primarily, but on the target person(s) state of polarization, as a way to mitigate the impact on how people engage with controversies.

April 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Individuals tend to spontaneously and aggressively resist information that challenges positions associated with their group. The appetite for surprise and wonder associated with science curiosity, in contrast, effectively stifles that form of defensive information processing."

Does it? If science curiosity is basically measuring people trust in and likely for science documentaries, and their convergence is on whatever position the majority of science documentary makers present, then they wouldn't be any more immune to resisting information that challenges the beliefs of their group - it's just that they're dividing their in-group/out-group along the lines of a different sort of categorisation. The beliefs of their 'group' on the topic of science are defined by science documentaries.

Politics is not the only way to divide people into groups. A person may be a member of several distinct and orthogonal social groups, and hold subsets of beliefs associated with each depending on context. It's like noting that fans of the local football club from opposite sides of the political divide converge on questions like "which is the greatest football team in the country?" Does that mean membership of the local football fan club reduces political polarisation? Should we therefore be looking for ways to get more people to join the local football fan club?

As I've noted before, the way to test the hypothesis is to look for cases where the science documentaries disagree with the best scientific evidence, and see if the science curious converge on the best evidence, or what the documentaries tell them. (Like they do on fracking.) Has anyone ever followed that up?

April 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

As part of trying to foster this: (from a previous post here) "Can we foster science curiosity in the population, either as a fixed trait or as a state that characterizes their engagement with controversial issues? Can we feature the open-mindedness of individuals high in science curiosity as models of the way in which citizens in a pluralistic self-governing community should reason?"

One of the things I believe that you need to look at more closely is this: To date, efforts to develop such materials have met with little success, primarily because educators have not been equipped with reliable and valid measures to test the impact of various pedagogical strategies aimed at cultivating science curiosity (Blalock et al. 2008). {Not finding Blalock}
Education philosophy and funding is much more complex than that. Ideas for expanding general science education do exist, but are difficult to implement: http://www.nextgenscience.org/

Oklahoma would make a good case study. Revenue related to oil and gas funds much of the state economy. This has had its ups and downs. Oklahoma is also quite right wing. Considerable pressure is put on public schools by groups funded by ALEC and others representing ideological views: https://ncse.com/news/2017/03/antiscience-bill-progresses-oklahoma-0018495. This is a carefully constructed strategy, which takes what people think that they know about scientific uncertainty and turns it against them. Straight out of the Merchants of Doubt playbook.

Regulation of oil and gas has been problematical in Oklahoma, and with the nomination of former Oklahoma AG, Scott Pruitt to to head the EPA, this may become a national problem. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/us/politics/scott-pruitt-environmental-protection-agency.html As will the educational issues, with Betsy DeVos in the Education Department.

In Oklahoma, funding for public schools is very poor. This leads to large class sizes and also the loss of qualified teachers, who can earn significantly more in surrounding states like Texas or Colorado. Facing huge resistance to higher taxes, (at least given how the tax paying was to be distributed) Oklahoma resorted to a lottery: http://kfor.com/2017/03/16/officials-oklahoma-lottery-funds-used-to-replace-educational-funding/. This funding method has a considerable downside if the objective is to foster a high numeracy and scientifically literate society.

In order to have a scientifically curious society you'd have to actually want one, and be willing to dig deeper into your own pockets and/or claw into the pockets of others to ensure that this takes place. In situations where people's economic wellbeing appears to be under threat, it is easy to subvert the public process that ought to ensure the common social good. Part of which involves scientific literacy leading to science informed policy decisions.

April 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

The root of the problem, isn't so much being anti-science, as it is being centered on short term self interest, or a blatant disregard for the common social good. At the level of CEOs of entities like Exxon, climate change is well understood. Deciding that what to do about it is to form an alliance with Russia for the purpose of exploiting the Arctic for even more oil and gas is actually a science informed position.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/earth-day-in-the-age-of-trump

"But, while money is clearly key, it doesn’t seem entirely sufficient as an explanation. There’s arguably more money, in the long run, to be made from imposing the regulations—from investing in solar and wind power, for example, and updating the country’s electrical grid."

"The fundamental idea behind the environmental movement—the movement that gave us Earth Day in the first place—is that everything, and therefore everyone, is connected."

"To acknowledge our interconnectedness is to acknowledge the need for caution, restraint, and, yes, rules."

April 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"In situations where people's economic wellbeing appears to be under threat, it is easy to subvert the public process that ought to ensure the common social good."

It's interesting to see the distinction being made here. Some people would think it obvious that people's economic wellbeing *was* a large part of the common social good. You want to throw people out of their jobs? Make goods and services more expensive for them? Make poor people poorer? And all in the name of 'the common social good'?

The common social good - meaning what the people themselves consider to be good, essential, desirable, all the things they want and need - creates a demand that other people supply. The more they want it, and especially the more they want even more,/i> of it, the more profit is to be made by supplying it. The people supplying it are working for the common social good, as directly defined by the social commons themselves. They are rewarded in direct proportion to their success in bringing it about, which is both the moral thing to do, and the motivation for more people to do more of it. Those rewarded the most are the ones doing the most social good.

To distinguish people's economic wellbeing from the social good means we're talking about a form of 'social good' that is opposed to people's wellbeing. A group of elite thinkers decide what other people ought to want (which is usually what *they themselves* want) and bend the economy via the coercive power of government to bring that about against the economically-expressed wishes of the people. We know better! It's for their own good!

It's about the "Common Good before Individual Good" as the socialist slogan goes. The first obligation of every citizen is to work for the common good. "Unearned" incomes are to be abolished. No profits from war. Profits from industry are to be shared. The premises of big businesses (like supermarkets) to be rented out to small businesses. Land to be expropriated by the state in the common interest. Welfare for the elderly. Free education. Legal opposition to 'known lies' and their promulgation through the press, requiring that the press be regulated. And so on.

Individual choices, individual rights over property, give people the freedom to make the 'wrong' choices - in their own interests rather than the common interest. People might choose to profit from selling things other people shouldn't want, like 'junk' food, or guns, or disposable plastics, or coal. Big businesses might use their own property in their own interests, providing goods the public want the way they want it, rather than letting smaller and less successful businesses use it in ways the public evidently don't, (but ought to). People who have done social good for millions (as those millions judge it) should have their rewards for doing so taken away, and given to people who have not. And people should not be allowed to write or read what they like, if what it written are 'lies' acting against the social good.

Even if you don't believe in every bit of the socialist program yourself, many people who talk about 'the social good' the way you do, do. And that includes, especially, environmentalism:

Government in the future will be based upon (or incorporate, depending on the level of breakdown of civilization) a supreme office of the biosphere. The office will comprise specially trained philosopher/ecologists. These guardians will either rule themselves or advise an authoritarian government of policies based on their ecological training and philosophical sensitivities. These guardians will be specially trained for the task.

That's from Professor David Shearman, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Adelaide, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University’s Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences and Law School. Professor Shearman was an Assessor for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report and the Fourth Assessment Report. This isn't some random ramblings by a nobody on the fringes of the internet - this is from a book is published by a respectable publisher for a recognized academic institute by a man inside the academic scientific climate mainstream - talking about how letting people do what they want is working against 'the common social good' and requires a new form of government to *make* people act in the common social interest. Who will decide what the common social interest is? They will, of course. The experts.

Yes, there's huge public resistance to more regulation and to higher taxes. What does that tell you about what the commons themselves think is in their own best interests? And you think it's because they're not sufficiently/appropriately educated in your 'science'?

"To acknowledge our interconnectedness is to acknowledge the need for caution, restraint, and, yes, rules."

Quite so. You (and nobody else) have to make and impose rules on the rest of society, because people won't act in their own best interests of their own free will. So what should be done to those who resist your rules? Who don't agree that they promote the common social good?

-
The ways political viewpoints on a topic differ can be really interesting, can't they!? :-)

April 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

I think there are some issues here. Going back some way, you say about Science Curiosity (SC) here:

http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2016/3/7/wsmd-ja-do-science-curious-people-just-not-know-enough-about.html

"That’s pretty radical. Because pretty much all manner of reasoning proficiency related to science comprehension does seem to be associated with greater polarization—so to find one that isn’t is startling, intriguing, encouraging & for sure something that that cries out for explanation and further interrogation."

I.e. you make an assumption that SC is a reasoning proficiency. Yet curiosity (whether of science or music or philosophy or whatever), while it may motivate reasoning, is more usually considered an emotive phenomenon related both to anxiety and pleasure. I.e. it is not a reasoning proficiency, so your assumption would first have to be established. You later seem to step away from this assumption somewhat, yet maybe it still colors your thoughts. For instance in 'Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing', the paragraph just after Figure 9 says in relation to SC:

"All other elements of science comprehension—including ones such as cognitive reflection, numeracy (Kahan, Peters, Dawson, & Slovic, in press), and knowledge of basic scientific facts (Hamilton, Cutler & Schaefer, 2012; Kahan & Peters et al., 2012), not to mention simple educational attainment (Hamilton, 2011)—have all previously been observed to magnify political polarization."

Which again makes the assumption that SC is an element of science comprehension, i.e. a reasoning proficiency like the other factors mentioned. Yet I do not think this is established, and it seems unlikely. Later in the same paragraph you temper this with:

"Because science curiosity plays a role in promoting science comprehension ..."

But there is a lot of ground between motivating / promoting comprehension, and being an actual part of comprehension. Your thinking seems to be conflicted on this critical point.

If indeed SC is not primarily a comprehension phenomenon, and with increased SC largely not reflecting increased science knowledge either, one wouldn't expect an amplification of polarization. As Joshua notes, there'd be nothing causal going on here. One expects amplification with increased science *knowledge* in a culturally conflicted domain, and not just because higher science capability means individuals are better able to defend their identity, but because knowledge is itself a group phenomenon and different cultural interpretation matrices regard the same data in different ways. Yet those with higher SC are not deeper into such differing interpretations, because they are not more science knowledgeable.

One presumes that many who were science curious and via this motivation become also science knowledgeable, retain their SC to some extent (I guess for some curiosity may fall by the wayside if they become disillusioned with the conflicts and problems within actual science orgs). Hence your Figure 6 of the same paper showing overlap. Yet the fact that SC lacked predictive power related to engagement with your 3 films (Figure 7), suggests that the emotive behavior associated with SC is dominated by a more reasoned typical high OSI behavior for such people.

While encouraging *generic* (i.e. not focused on particular knowledge positions) SC among the young seems like a good thing (to produce more science orientated folks later), attempting to leverage and enlarge SC as a means to an end regarding specific science or science policy communication does not seem so good. For a start, while there is not amplification of polarization on the RHS of your Figure 8 charts, both political lines are rising, by eye a bit more than the democrat line on the LHS charts. This despite in one case that rise aligns to the scientific consensus, and in the other case opposes it. If one believes in such consensuses as the gold standard for 'right', encouraging SC would in at least one case therefore be encouraging the 'wrong' answer. There are possible explanations for these rising lines, for instance perhaps more science curious people are more emotive (science curiosity may be no different to any other curiosity in this respect), and hence they are more subject to emotive memes regarding perceived dangers to society. More generally, attempting to use 'surprise and wonder' as a means of persuasion, is essentially an attempt to keep people innocent, i.e. in the dark and without the 'cultural contamination' that comes with a genuine pursuit of more knowledge, rather than an acceptance on trust that the knowledge served is indeed consistent with the wonder that they feel, and 'right'. This seems like an unproductive and potentially dangerous route to pursue.

April 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

correction in the second to last sentence: 'rather than' should be 'and'.

April 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

@AndyWest

I'm persuaded by your argument about "reasonsing proficiencies" & science curiosity.

On whether to "use" science curiosity, I am ambivalent.

I don't think it should be used to garner assent w/o comprehension.

But as you point out, science curiosity can motivate people to acquire knowledge; I think that feature of it is especially valuable in a polluted science environment, where curiosity can be expected to counteract the reason-enervating effect of identity-protective cognition. I gather you agree w/ that.

I do think, though, that science curiosity--& ordinary science intelligence -- are intrinsically valuable. It denigrates them to see them solely as levers of assent to one conclusion or another.

But so long as one eschews treating them as such, I don't think it denigrates curiosity (or those in which one is trying to cultivate or activate it) to recognize the contribution it can make to the quality of collective deliberations in a pluralistic democratic society.

Maybe we should call this position--that curiosity (along w/ science comprehension) can be cultivated for its contribution to enlightened self-govt *w/o* denigrating it as an intrinsically valuable dispostion-- "Dewey's tightrope."

April 15, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Joshua-- yes, I suspect that the habits of mind that science curiosity comprises would likely make people more respectful of the freedom of others to pursue their own view of happiness. But I'm just speculating

April 15, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Link drop:
https://qz.com/957063/how-to-change-someones-mind-according-to-psychologist-hugo-mercier/

April 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@Dan,

I agree that SC motivating people to acquire knowledge, is valuable. But given you are persuaded by the argument that SC is not a reasoning proficiency, it follows that SC is unlikely to be actively counter-acting identity protective cognition. More likely SC is ultimately an emotive response that is itself similar or the same as identity protective cognition, yet just not expressed on a left-right political axis. So while it is good to encourage SC in the same way that it is good to encourage (whole spectrum) political awareness, and indeed it's not possible to impart knowledge without some emotion and positioning, you fall straight off that tightrope if you try to cultivate increased SC by pumping up 'surprise and wonder' to the extent that science will look like a religion. This will backfire (it will trigger evolved mechanisms for resisting cultural overload), and to some extent that may well already be occurring. So even when eschewing the use of SC as a lever for particular conclusions (good), there are strong limits to how far SC can be *productively* amplified. Plus as noted above, increasing SC on at least one of your Figure 8 charts is progressing towards the 'wrong' answer (if one takes consensuses as the gold standard), which again is likely a symptom of emotive investment.

April 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

@AndyWest-- this

But given you are persuaded by the argument that SC is not a reasoning proficiency, it follows that SC is unlikely to be actively counter-acting identity protective cognition.

strikes me as a non sequitur.

Consider: Pat gets very nervous before exams & does poorly on them as a result. Pat's Dr prescribes a tranquilizer to calm Pat's nerves on exam day, & Pat's scores improve.

The tranquilizer didn't furnish Pat w/ greater reasoning proficiency. But it got somethinig that was interfering out of the the way.

Maybe this is what SC does, maybe not. But the idea that it isn't a "reasoning disposition" doesn't tell us that it can't affect the proficiency of those dispositions.

April 16, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Dan

If there is a wide range of options for what SC actually is, possibly. But I do not think this is the case. That which is not reasoning has few other manifestation possibilities, and as far as I recall curiosity generally is boxed as an emotive phenomenon. As such it would merely introduce a different kind of emotive bias to that imposed by political identity, and rather than removing an interference, it is replacing this interference with another that will therefore have its own different issues. Much like political bias this will mean sometimes operating in a direction that seems desirable, and sometimes in a direction that seems undesirable (e.g. against the scientific consensus on fracking according to your Figure 8 data). And whether or not this characterization is the primary effect, I think attempting too much amplification of SC still risks the dangers noted above. Of course how much is 'too much', is still a legitimate discussion.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

=={ As such it would merely introduce a different kind of emotive bias to that imposed by political identity, }==

As with Dan's writing, that seems to me also to suggest a causal role for SC...and I don't get why you or he see such a causal role.

What evidence suggests that SC isn't merely a moderator in a different causal mechanism that helps explain polarization, or simply an associated attribute of those who are less inclined towards polarization?

Perhaps Dan answered my question but it went over my head?


My sense is that if there is a causality, it might run the other way. People who are inclined more towards polarization are less inclined to be openly curious about information, but more "motivated" to use information to support their views. They have more self-identity at stake.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan,

Have you seen this: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2819073

Among other things, it suggests that that there might be a strong "survey item effect" in all those studies supporting the backfire effect. Probably, the same applies to CC as well, since one would expect CC to be similar enough to backfire to be similarly vulnerable to survey wording.

I also recently saw this: https://osf.io/7nzfp/files/osfstorage/588666cf594d9001f547f4bb/?action=download
Its a different subject, but it shows one important "survey item effect" - not wanting to answer in a way that might endanger yourself socially - and how the experimenters very creatively tried to get around the problem.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@Joshua:

"...and I don't get why you or he see such a causal role."

In the narrow sense of working specifically against identity protective cognition, I don't see such a role, as noted in my first comment above.

"...or simply an associated attribute of those who are less inclined towards polarization?"

And I think this is right, if one inserts 'political' before your polarization. Yet curiosity is normally regarded as an emotive phenomenon, hence the 'associated attribute' is in this case itself of an emotive character, which therefore will cause its own (different to political) bias. A way to think of this is that social identity comprises of a range of cultural values linked to both positive and negative emotions, and for folks with high SC this value happens to be a more dominant part of their identity than political adherence. This would be consistent with Dan's figure 8 charts in the linked paper.

In his answer to you, Dan speculates that SC would likely have a moderating effect on ideological conflicts (people pursuing their own views) generally, per your question. Presumably by virtue of high SC folks being supposedly more open minded (hence also, respectful). Yet for my money we are merely swapping one bias for another, so cannot count upon open-mindedness in all domains. There could for instance be less towards religion, as this is often perceived as the enemy of science. And there could for instance be less defense against influence from memes that amplify societal threats, because an idealized internalization of science may spawn an (emotive) feeling that science should leap to such challenges come what come may. Note 'could for instance' in both cases, like Dan I am speculating here.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

"Yet curiosity is normally regarded as an emotive phenomenon, hence the 'associated attribute' is in this case itself of an emotive character, which therefore will cause its own (different to political) bias."

I don't think too much should be made of the name/label attached to it. 'Science curiosity' is (IIRC) tested by a measure of people's liking for watching science documentaries presenting unexpected or novel information. As I've suggested before, this might be simply identifying those people who trust and like to get their opinions on science topics from TV science documentaries, as opposed to their political group. They would converge on whatever position most science documentaries present, which is why they sometimes converge on the consensus, and sometimes on positions opposed to it (if those make for more dramatic TV).

Dan may have been aiming for 'curiosity about science' but any test for such a generic concept is likely to dredge up a whole cluster of related tendencies and characteristics. The other social groups they identify with, the background knowledge they hold, the methods of reasoning they use, their goals when acquiring knowledge, the heuristics they use to identify the trustworthy, the groups they trust, the style of presentation they find persuasive, the extent to which they seek out evidence - all sorts of things could be correlated with a liking for TV science documentaries... "Science Curiosity" is simply a handy label for "Whatever it is the 'Science Curiosity' test is measuring". It's not necessarily actual curiosity.

Correlation does not imply causation! :-)

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV

Films are only a part of the measurement sequence. I don't think for a moment Dan is measuring 'pure SC', or even necessarily that such a thing exists (I'd guess almost certainly not). Most social measurements are necessarily distributions and trends amid a plethora of interconnected behaviors, and hence there has to be some inference and simplification. However, simplification doesn't imply that we can't grasp the gist of what's going on. I think he's likely measuring something with a significant component of 'science as motivator', and also that this characteristic looks very much like any brand of curiosity. At least I'll think this unless someone points out any major flaw with the tests.

It probably doesn't matter that the net behavior represents a cluster of finer resolution tendencies, or what is used as a label. What matters is whether it matches hypotheses proposed to explain Dan's charts, and whether these could be used to predict further outcomes. For instance I hypothesized that because curiosity is not a reasoning proficiency and is generally thought of as an emotional phenomenon, then if this is the dominant or at least most major component, that would be consistent with the charts as seen, and would also imply a systemic bias (with currently unknown weights and directions) that might itself emerge with further consideration and tests.

April 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

"What matters is whether it matches hypotheses proposed to explain Dan's charts"

What matters is that every possible alternative hypothesis to the one proposed has to be inconsistent with Dan's charts.

And with multiple interpretations consistent with the measure, there are inevitably multiple alternative hypotheses that can't be distinguished by the measure.

April 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV
"What matters is that every possible alternative hypothesis to the one proposed has to be inconsistent with Dan's charts."

I don't see why. Plausible alternative hypotheses may be either consistent or inconsistent with Dan's charts.

"And with multiple interpretations consistent with the measure, there are inevitably multiple alternative hypotheses that can't be distinguished by the measure."

Absolutely. I suggested such an alternative. This is one way to help see that a proposed hypothesis may match the measure yet still not reflect reality, and thereby also shape progression towards further distinguishing tests and improved hypotheses. Framing the alternative in such a fashion as to be at least suggestive of productive follow-up, is clearly an advantage (or likely, it won't be followed up!)

And if there is a plausible alternative hypothesis that indeed suggests inconsistenty with Dan's charts, consideration of this may lead to a revealed flaw in the assumptions of measurement. So this is valid input too, and indeed powerful input if it's own supporting tests have already gathered a result that contradicts Dan's charts. Likewise framing this in a way that stresses the flaw would be good.

No doubt my statement above was somewhat loose, but am I missing something? This seems like very standard fare.

April 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Andy -

=={ And I think this is right, if one inserts 'political' before your polarization... }==

I don't see why "political" would be required. Any kind of partisan polarization, or polarized identity-associated belief system, would seem to do IMO.

=={ the 'associated attribute' is in this case itself of an emotive character, which therefore will cause its own (different to political) bias. }==

=={ A way to think of this is that social identity comprises of a range of cultural values linked to both positive and negative emotions, and for folks with high SC this value happens to be a more dominant part of their identity than political adherence. }==

I question whether SC really describes a value or an emotional makeup. I am dubious that there is really such a thing as "folks with high SC" as a defining characteristic. My guess is that curiosity across different subject areas for most people is more a reflection of a convergence of factors...comfort level and confidence, life experience, cultural preconditioning. Not to say that it isn't to any degree an innate or temperamental attribute...but that there's a lot that goes into the mix.

Thus, my guess is that the balance between "curiosity" towards a subject and a goal-orientation towards using information to reinforce identity orientation (a kind of anti-curiosity) is going to be context specific for individuals. Even within a more tightly circumscribed realm, such as "science," it seems to me that there are a lot of factors that underlie an individual's level of "curiosity" that are more "causal" than some inherent measurable attribute of being "curios.".

I don't see that, as I mentioned above. I see curiosity largely to be the result of a preexisting "bias" if you will, rather than a cause. I am more curious about some topics compared to others. I'm more curious about topics that I find more interesting.

April 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua -- observational studies (surveys, essentially, but with attempts t form correlations that are more plausibly casual than not) always require speciication of a theory of causation that makes more sense of the correlation than another.
Here, too there was an experiment, on information seeking, which makses moer pluaisible tthat curiosity is causig a dfereent form of information search.
But think of a design that would suggest otherwise & I'm happy to give it a shot (WSMD? JA!)

April 18, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@jonathan-- yes have seen mercier book. I think they deduce a strange account of what is normal from examination of the pathologial. . They aren't paying attenion to missing denominator
Of course, I could be wrong...

April 18, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan -

Do you think that "scientific curiosity" plays a more casual in polarization on climate change (for most people) than identity-orientation (political identity in particular)?

Do you think that "scientific curiosity" describes a general (temperamental) disposition towards reasoning that generalizes (a) across different domains of science and/or (b) other, non-scientific domains (e.g. evidence on the effect of gun control).

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Er..... "a more causal role..."

Note to self: USE PREVIEW, DUMMY

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan -

One more question, if I might.

Which do you think a more prevalent phenomenon:

1. (increase in) polarization >>>> (increase in) scientific curiosity

2. (increase in) scientific curiosity >>>>> (increase in) polarization.

?

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

And this after I actually used preview. I'll try again

1. (DEcrease in) polarization >>>> (increase in) scientific curiosity.

2. (increase in) scientific curiosity >>>>> (DEcrease in) polarization.

?

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan,

Interesting that you think Mercier is a victim of ignoring the denominator, since I also view his work as normalizing what other researchers find pathological. Such normalization would seem to be a rather novel way to fall victim to ignoring the denominator - maybe he's over-emphasizing the denominator instead?

However, I'm more interested in your take on the Wood & Porter article (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2819073) "The Elusive Backfire Effect", which Mercier linked to. Mostly, I am scared by how much survey item wording seems to matter - and how to develop surveys that are less prone to this problem. How do you know that your own CC and SC data are safe from this problem?

Here's another recent case of dealing with survey item effects: https://phys.org/news/2017-04-decisions-power-combining-psychology-economics.html

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"I don't see why. Plausible alternative hypotheses may be either consistent or inconsistent with Dan's charts."

Because looking for matches between hypotheses and observations gets scientific logic backwards.

Consider the logical sequence:
A implies B
B is observed
Therefore A is true.

A is our hypothesis, B its predictions. But the logic is invalid.

The scientific method uses the logical sequence:
A implies B
not B is observed (i.e. B is observed not to be true).
Therefore not A is true (i.e. A is false).

This chain of reasoning is valid. Hence you start with a null hypothesis - the position you want to disprove - and then use the evidence to reject it. It's not about finding observations to match your predictions, it's about finding observations to eliminate the competition.

It's a minor point - it's not hard to figure out some subsets of the competition that have been eliminated, and that potentially raises confidence in Dan's hypothesis, although it's impossible to know by how much. You can look at it positively as a small step in the direction of finding/developing evidence rather than the evidence itself. But that's what I meant. As you say, it's nothing very novel.

Where there are multiple interpretations of the measure, the chain of reasoning being used is something like:
A implies B
One of B or C or D or E is observed to be true but we don't know which.
Therefore A is true.

Just sayin'.


--
"However, I'm more interested in your take on the Wood & Porter article (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2819073) "The Elusive Backfire Effect", which Mercier linked to."

Well, for a start one of their primary conclusions in the abstract was based on the distinction between the following two statements:

Immediately before the U.S. invasion, Iraq had an active weapons of mass destruction program, the ability to produce these weapons, and large stockpiles of WMD, but Saddam Hussein was able to hide or destroy these weapons right before U.S. forces arrived.

Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, US forces did not find weapons of mass destruction.

Their assumption appears to be that the only distinction between them is that one is "simpler". However, it's pretty apparent to me that the two statements have substantially different meanings.

Thus, if a lot of conservatives believe that Saddam had WMD but got rid of them before the war, which is why they weren't found, then they would resist claims that the former was factually false, but be entirely consistent in accepting the second to be true. (Actually, WMD *were* found in Iraq - the degraded remnants of Saddam's former stockpile that he was supposed to have destroyed. So strictly speaking they'd be wrong not to backfire on the second statement too. The problem with studying politically divided beliefs is that the experimenters are generally subject to the same effects as their subjects!)

The same effect happens in the climate debate, too. It's common for people constructing surveys when they don't have a proper understanding of the positions in the debate to ignore subtle distinctions of wording. So they'll commonly conflate phrases like "climate change" and "anthropogenic climate change", or like "the world has warmed in recent decades" with "the world has warmed over the most recent seven decades". The correct answers to the two versions are different, but the surveyors commonly confuse disagreement with one of them as signalling disagreement with the other.

In the fiercest partisan debates, subtle distinctions of meaning and position are significant. If you find you're getting inconsistent results, it's probably because you don't understand the questions you're asking.

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Joshua

>"Any kind of partisan polarization, or polarized identity-associated belief system, would seem to do IMO."

Maybe. But politics was the one charted per Figure 8 in the paper, so the others would be guesses. And it may depend on the domain types that are polarized as well as the axis of the poles (in this case, political).

>"Thus, my guess is that the balance between "curiosity" towards a subject and a goal-orientation towards using information to reinforce identity orientation (a kind of anti-curiosity) is going to be context specific for individuals."

Well as noted above I'm speculating that SC is not causal regarding a reduction in polarization, rather per your comment above merely 'an associated attribute of those who [are] less polarized'. Hence I don't think there is any meaningful 'balance' between SC and polarization anyhow (this term implies a link of some kind). Obviously Dan is speculating that SC may indeed actively counter-act polarization.

Not sure what kind of chart outcome you would expect to see from your 'context specific for individuals'. But if you express this expectation and a test to check for it, Dan has offered WSMD? JA! so your guess can be tested. If context specific means you would expect no trend on RHS charts similar to Figure 8 of the paper (because of random distribution of context), then regarding lack of amplication this is so, but there is not lack of trend. Both political lines clearly rise with increasing SC. Hence Dan has found a systemic something that has to be explained as a real effect (or an identifiable flaw in the measurement sysetm).

>"I see curiosity largely to be the result of a preexisting "bias" if you will..."

Admittedly not something I've delved into, but curiosity is usually considered to be an emotive phenomenon I believe, and emotive drives cause bias. So this is the opposite way around to your above statement. However, it can be both ways around at the same time. For instance while initial curiosity cannot be a function of interest (because babies don't have interests, yet generally are very curious), then exposure (and encouragement) to what is culturally available within a specific sphere (initial curiosity may already lean towards say music or sports or whatever), will create interests that shape future curiosity about the next level.

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

@Niv,

Yes, a minor point! And nowhere did my comments rule out any approach. But it is just as valid to point out that my hypothesis matches the observations just as well as Dan's, as it is to directly show that Dan's is wrong. Especially considering that I have no means to demonstrate Dan's is wrong, hence indeed it's still in the frame. Perhaps you can suggest such a means.

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

"Yes, a minor point! And nowhere did my comments rule out any approach. But it is just as valid to point out that my hypothesis matches the observations just as well as Dan's, as it is to directly show that Dan's is wrong."

I agree. I was only arguing with the sentences you put in after giving your counter-hypothesis, where you said: "It probably doesn't matter that the net behavior represents a cluster of finer resolution tendencies, or what is used as a label. What matters is whether it matches hypotheses proposed to explain Dan's charts, and whether these could be used to predict further outcomes." I would say that it *does* matter that there's a cluster of alternatives, and that agreement with hypotheses is less important than this. But it's not worth arguing over any further.

April 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Andy -

"I see curiosity largely to be the result of a preexisting "bias" if you will..."

=={ Admittedly not something I've delved into, but curiosity is usually considered to be an emotive phenomenon I believe, and emotive drives cause bias. So this is the opposite way around to your above statement. }==

I don't know what "usually" happens, but It seems to me that there isn't likely a simple line of causation. People are curious towards experiences that supply positive emotions, which stimulate curiosity, which stimulates positive emotions. Or maybe people experience positive emotions that stimulate curiosity, which stimulates positive emotions which stimulate curiosity. I.e., chicken'egg, IMO. It seems rather irrelevant and academic, IMO, to try to cram the causality there into some linear equation.

=={ However, it can be both ways around at the same time. }==

If that is in agreement with what I just wrote, then I agree.

=={ because babies don't have interests, }==

Rather a side issue, but FWIW I don't get how you reach such a determination unless you and I define "interest" differently. Watch a baby knock the something off the table over and over again as the parent keeps putting it back on the tale. Is the baby "interested" in learning about gravity and object permanence? Well, if you asked I doubt you'd get an affirmative response, but that looks like "interest" in my book...as would following a mobile with her eyes, etc.

=={ yet generally are very curious), then exposure (and encouragement) to what is culturally available within a specific sphere (initial curiosity may already lean towards say music or sports or whatever), will create interests that shape future curiosity about the next level. }==

Again, seems rather chicken/eggish to me. The baby expresses a form of curiosity (looks puzzled when it see a dog, then smiles when it becomes linked with some schemata) and then gets reinforcement for expressing that interest ("Look at the pretty doggie, honey")...then tries to say the word "doggie" and gets positive feedback (Oh, look, she said doggie"). etc.

April 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

J:
I meant 'interests' in the same sense for which you used 'topics' above, i.e. topics one has an established interest in, which babies can't have before the topics are acquired.

I believe anxiety as well as pleasure is linked to curiosity, so not all +ve, but my recall may be outdated anyhow; don't know the latest position on this.

I'm certainly no expert on babies, never created any!

April 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

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