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Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing

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Culture, Cognition, and Consent: Who Perceives What, and Why, in "Acquaintance Rape" Cases

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« Bookends in the study of individual differences in politically biased comprehension of science | Main | Science of Science Communication seminar: Session 8 reading list (climate change 2) »

*Now* where am I? Oklahoma City!

Am heading out early (today) to see what cool things the researchers at OU Center for Risk and Crisis Management are up to!

Will send postcards.

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Reader Comments (14)

My newest favorite illustration of cultural cognition:

Economics has a foundation in hard numbers — employment, inflation, spending — that has largely allowed it to sidestep the competing partisan narratives that have afflicted American politics and culture.

But not anymore. Since Donald J. Trump’s victory in November, consumer sentiment has diverged in an unprecedented way, with Republicans convinced that a boom is at hand, and Democrats foreseeing an imminent recession.

Seems to me that there is a logic that a topic or risk as abstract as 2 degrees of warmth per century would result in a higher cultural cognition quotient, relative to topics or risks that have a more meaningful impact on everyday life. There should be, it seems to me, a kind of pragmatism that would incline people to focus more directly on outcomes w/r/t some issues, where they can't waste time and energy with identity-protective behaviors.

But maybe there is no such meaningful inverse relationship between CC and direct everyday impact.
Or maybe there is a shift over time going on, where a kind of pragmatism is being undermined by an increasing societal polarization - and that (my invented/theoretical) inverse relationship is leveling out.

I am very wary of a "kids today" mentality, whereby people identity large-scale societal trends that distinguish current society from what was "back in the day." My suspicion is that humans are extrapolation-from-unrepresentative-sampling machines, and that "kids today" has been a universal human lament since we were living in caves....

But I do wonder if there is something to the idea that technology/social media makes it easier to live in informational silos today, and technology/social media is effectively a communication channel that enhances and facilitates pejorative forms of communication, that feeds back to increasing partisanship and polarization, that can be expressed through social media and technology, that further enhances partisanship and polarization, etc.

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Oh, wait. I take that back.

This is actually my latest most favorite example of cultural cognition.

I'm actually rather stunned by how the Syria situation demonstrates the power, depth, and breadth of motivated reasoning.

It's really quite breathtaking - even for someone who thinks that motivated reasoning is more or less a hardwired norm for our psychological and cognitive processing of information.

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua


I find the consumer sentiment case stranger, as we've seen such hypocritical about-faces in foreign policy (and other policy) before.

Here's a contrarian view: maybe the notion that the economy is almost completely divorced from which party has power has finally caught on. In which case, people are expressing more CC because they finally realize the consequences of doing so are small.

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Forget that contrarian view - it's obviously broken. It would only work if people have come to believe that their own economic choices have little to do with their own economic outcomes. Oh - but - maybe that has happened?

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Data on the 2013 sarin attack in Syria are to be found inter alia here: (see also very interesting ballistic data in Ted Postol's letter).
Chemicals have precursors, and in that case the precursors were conclusively traced to Turkish laboratories.

In the latest case, the attack came before any chemical analysis had even commenced, so before anyone had a chance to confirm whether the Russians (tops at both ballistics and nerve agents) might be right after all. Nothing to do with cultural cognition, plenty to do with altering perception of the military reality - while leaving the reality itself completely unchanged. A masterful demonstration of alternative facts!

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

The previous link was to "Whose Sarin?", an LRB classic. But from a lesser publication than the London Review of Books we now have Rolling Stone upending what I understood to be the standard model of cultural cognition used on this website - on a political topic, "Putin Derangement Syndrome", but analysis could be extended to climate change.
…One way we recognize a mass hysteria movement is that everyone who doesn't believe is accused of being in on the plot. This has been going on virtually unrestrained in both political and media circles in recent weeks. […..]Last week saw Donna Brazile and Dick Cheney both declare Russia's apparent hack of DNC emails an "act of war." This coupling seemed at first like political end times.. […..]But when it comes to Trump-Putin collusion, we're still waiting for the confirmation. As Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters put it, the proof is increasingly understood to be the thing we find later, as in, "If we do the investigations, we will find the connections."

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage


Trump demonstrates that subsequent presidential candidates need to embrace conspiracy theories fully in order to get elected. So, why not start the next campaign early?

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"Trump demonstrates that subsequent presidential candidates need to embrace conspiracy theories fully in order to get elected."

What, you mean Hillary lost because she didn't *fully* embrace the (rather McCarthyite) "Russians conspired with Trump to hack the election" conspiracy theory? Do you think she should have done?


April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV


HRC's problem was it was too-little-too-late. Trump had years with birtherism, HRC only a few short months with election hacking. Maybe HRC should have gone back to the old "vast right-wing conspiracy" from Bill's days - but that might have been too boringly normal by today's standards. The other party wants to smear your reputation ... snore....

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

=={ as we've seen such hypocritical about-faces in foreign policy (and other policy) before.... }==

Yes, we have; and like I said, I am reflexively dubious about pronouncements that there has been some kind of change of state.

But on the other hand, I just can't shake this feeling that something is different.

Have we really seen hypocrisy on the scale and regularity which we're (I think) seeing now? I mean a few days before the bombing, the rhetoric from the Trump administration was 180 from what was enacted subsequently. Yes, Trump has never actually had an ideology...but the long list of Trump tweets berating Obama for even considering what he, himself eventually did is a magnificent site, IMO. And it isn't just's pretty much the majority of the entire Republican Party.

Not that I think it is unique to Pubs (although in this particular case there's probably more consistency among Dems)...but the complete lack of concern that there will be a political price to pay for sacrificing ideological consistency (on essentially any scale) for the sake of political expediency seems somehow different to me.

But I'm obviously biased. I have to take that as a starting point. So then how do I find some kind of measured and scientific control, carefully collected and evaluated evidence, to see if what feels different (to me) really is different? (I will say, also, that for me it is new for it to feel\ different)

I mean it is basically inconceivable to me that in my wildest imagination I would have been able to accept a prediction that someone who bragged on tape about grabbing pussies would be elected president, let alone elected president as the representative of the Republican Party.

The article I linked suggests an unprecedented shift. But while I'm dubious that they have actually identified one, then there is also the question as to whether an unprecedented shift in that one area is really reflective of some kind of larger change.

It seems that Haidt is endeavoring to make some serious measurements.

And I'm open to the possibility that the change in technology and communicative environment is different than what we've seen before. Then again, no doubt similar claims were made about state-changing impact of the printing press, ratio and television, etc.

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Ecoute -

Thanks for the Hersh link. Dude is always a good read.

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua


I'm reading some choice blindness literature, inspired by the discussion about Monty Hall, self deception, etc.. One very thoughtful piece is doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045457. Trigger warning: this stuff is not for the meek - you may lose any shred of faith you have left in human rationality.

Hypocrisy might be a similar phenomenon - choice blindness where one changes their own choice without noticing.

"Have we really seen hypocrisy on the scale and regularity which we're (I think) seeing now?" - Jon Stewart built a career on it. H. L. Mencken did, too.

There's also the famous criticisms of caring about hypocrisy too much - such as Emerson's foolish consistency line, or Keynes' when-the-facts-change line.

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

Thanks for the link. Looks like an interesting paper.

it isn't really that I "care" about hypocrisy. I take it as a given that we all apply a situational convenience to our construction of "morality" or ideology. And of course, rigidity and inflexibility are not positive traits. And of course, situationally convenient application of standards is nothing new. Of course, partisanship is nothing new either.

I think that what I'm asking is whether there is an increase in how those traits are manifest in our intra-societal context. Yes, identifying the "other" is a fundamental component of our psychological and cognitive DNA - as is defining ourselves by distinguishing ourselves from, and raising ourselves above, the "other."

But none of that proves that there isn't an increase in how partisanship corrodes (or perhaps just "alters" if corrodes is too value-laden) some largely shared societal frames. Of course, there too the picture is complicated. What were, exactly, the societal norms that slave-owners shared with their slaves? What were the societal norms that heterosexuals shared with the homosexuals they discriminated against? What were the 'Judeo-Christian values" that sweat shop owners shared with their child workforce (methinks perhaps not the Protestant work ethic)?

But I still wonder. It's just a question. it's based on a feeling. It's as fallacious, perhaps, as asking to prove a negative (prove to me something isn't different). But in my experience, it feels like there has been a shift towards open, and in a sense deliberate, disregard for maintaining consistent standards for the sake of ideological reinforcement. We see claims that increases in partisanship has been measured.

I think there is in the least a case to be made that by virtue of gerrymandering, the manifestation of political partisanship has been on a rise. There is an decrease in bipartisan electoral districts.

There is a cultural divide between rural and urban that is perhaps on a different scale.

it doesn't mean that we're changing as a species, or that how we reason is changing fundamentally. But it could mean that CC is playing a more dominant role, and that along with that there are some associated behaviors where the specifics of ideological (or moral) identification is increasingly (relatively) backgrounded against group identification.

April 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

This is interesting:

A new Washington Post-ABC poll on President Trump's missile strike in Syria has an interesting partisan breakdown when compared to hypothetical support for strikes by President Obama in 2013:

Democratic support: 38% support in 2013, 37% support in 2017
Republican support: 22% support in 2013, 86% support in 2017

It would be interesting if we could compare after - the - fact polling if Obama had decided to bomb without congressional approval. Would support from Pubs have even been higher than they showed for a hypothetical bombing? Or higher from Dems?

April 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

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