UMass SES program: a new science of science communication for a world itself quite new (lecture summary & slides)
Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 7:33AM
Dan Kahan

Did lecture yesterday at UMass Amherst to remark the launch of the University’s School of Earth & Sustainability program.  Members of the audience asked fantastic questions, leaving me once again regretful that I had not spoken for a shorter period of time in order to make room for more audience reactions.

My message was that the SES program is a model—one of many, but many are needed to build a knowledge base—of how to combine the study of decision-relevant science with the study of science communication. Doing so is essential to assure that the value of the  former is recognized by the public and, in particular, not annihilated by knowledge-enervating forms of group status competition

What causes conflict over decision-relevant science, I argued, is a polluted science communication environment. Devising means of protecting that environment and repairing it when protective measures fail should be one of the primary goals of the science of science communication. 

UMass’s  School of Earth and Sustainability is commendably modeling that understanding, and we can all learn a lot from—and be inspired by--what they are doing.

The expositional strategy I used to guide the audience into critical engagement with this thesis consisted in setting up & knocking down popular misconceptions about the source of public conflict over science, including deficits in public science comprehension;  creeping anti-science attitudes in American society; and orchestrated misinformation.  

Throughout the presentation I also  took aim at the asymmetry thesis, which posits that the incidence of identity-protective cognition is disproportionately concentrated on the right in American society.  I’ll have more to say about that “tomorrow,”™  when I give me reactions to a new pair of newly released opposing meta-analyses on this topic, one by Jon Jost & another by Peter Ditto & collaborators.

Slides here.

Article originally appeared on cultural cognition project (
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