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Reader Comments (5)

"Why does public conflict over societal risks persist in the face of compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence?"

Obviously, because the public never looks at the scientific evidence, and therefore never discovers that it isn't actually either "widely accessible" or "compelling". They take the assurances of trusted experts instead.

And here's what the trusted experts themselves say about making that scientific evidence "widely accessible"...


"We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it. There is IPR to consider."

“I wouldn’t worry about the code. If FOIA does ever get used by anyone, there is also IPR to consider as well. Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them.”

“Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.”

“I have been of the opinion right from the start of these FOI requests, that our private ,
inter-collegial discussion is just that – PRIVATE .”

“One of the problems is that I’m caught in a real Catch-22 situation. At present, I’m damned and publicly vilified because I refused to provide McIntyre with the data he requested.”

“It would be odious requirement to have scientists document every line of code so outsiders could then just apply them instantly.”

“In my considered opinion, a very dangerous precedent is set if any derived quantity that we have calculated from primary data is subject to FOIA requests.”

“Yes, we’ve learned out lesson about FTP. We’re going to be very careful in the future what gets put there. Scott really screwed up big time when he established that directory so that Tim could access the data.”

“p.s. I know I probably don’t need to mention this, but just to insure absolutely clarify on this, I’m providing these for your own personal use, since you’re a trusted colleague. So please don’t pass this along to others without checking w/ me first. This is the sort of “dirty laundry” one doesn’t want to fall into the hands of those who might potentially try to distort things…”

“The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”

And from the official report on the aftermath of Climategate ...

"The IPCC uncertainty guidance provides a good starting point for characterizing uncertainty in the assessment reports. However, the guidance was not consistently followed in the fourth assessment, leading to unnecessary errors. For example, authors reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence, such as the widely-quoted statement that agricultural yields in Africa might decline by up to 50 percent by 2020. Moreover, the guidance was often applied to statements that are so vague they cannot be falsified. In these cases the impression was often left, quite incorrectly, that a substantive finding was being presented."

"The IPCC uncertainty guidance urges authors to provide a traceable account of how authors determined what ratings to use to describe the level of scientific understanding (Table 3.1) and the likelihood that a particular outcome will occur (Table 3.3). However, it is unclear exactly whose judgments are reflected in the ratings that appear in the Fourth Assessment Report or how the judgments were determined. How, exactly, a consensus was reached regarding subjective probability distributions needs to be documented. The uncertainty guidance for the Third Assessment Report required authors to indicate the basis for assigning a probability to an outcome or event (Moss and Schneider, 2000), and this requirement is consistent with the guidance for the Fourth Assessment Report."

"The Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers in the Fourth Assessment Report contains many vague statements of “high confidence” that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or are difficult to refute. The Committee believes that it is not appropriate to assign probabilities to such statements. There is, moreover, a danger that the confidence scale may be misinterpreted as indicating a statistical level of confidence in an outcome. Subjective probabilities may be assigned legitimately to well-defined outcomes using the likelihood scale. The presentation of results in the Fifth Assessment Report would be strengthened by assigning subjective probabilities only to well-defined conclusions."

"Data are the bedrock on which the progress of science rests. The extraordinary development of new measuring techniques and new digital technologies has enabled climate scientists to assemble vast quantities of data. However, the large size and complex nature of these databases can make them difficult to access and use. Moreover, for various reasons many of these scientific databases as well as significant unpublished and non-peer-reviewed literature are not in the public domain. An unwillingness to share data with critics and enquirers and poor procedures to respond to freedom-of-information requests were the main problems uncovered in some of the controversies surrounding the IPCC (Muir Russell et al., 2010; PBL, 2010). Poor access to data inhibits users’ ability to check the quality of the data used and to verify the conclusions drawn. Consequently, it is important for the IPCC to aspire toward ensuring that the main conclusions in its assessment reports are underpinned by appropriately referenced peer-reviewed sources or, to the greatest extent practical, by openly accessible databases."


It's obvious that public conflict persists because a lot of people don't know/believe/care about all the above. But why not? It's not exactly been kept a secret - people have been shouting about it for the past 8 years. It's widely accessible, compelling, and its authenticity has not been denied. We can't blame ignorance. So why do so many people still believe in this "scientific evidence" they've never actually seen for themselves? (And wouldn't understand if they did.) Why are the experts still trusted without question? And why do science-literate people high in numeracy do so as much or more than people who are not as smart?

You tell me. Did you use your quantitative-reasoning capacity selectively to conform your interpretation of the data to the result most consistent with your political outlook? Is that what it felt like, to you? That's a serious question, by the way.


June 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

"Motivated numeracy" is only possible when a motive is allowed to interfere with the scientific process - or any other decision process, which is why Justice always appears blindfolded. It's been the practice among mathematical modelers (going at least as far back as Metropolis, the mathematician in charge of all data processing at the Manhattan project and main inventor of the Monte Carlo technique) to generate a second set of data from the set produced experimentally (by adding random deltas to the experimental data) and provide BOTH sets to scientists for analysis without informing them which is which.

The climate scientists quoted by NiV not only knew where their data is coming from, they also knew much of what was wrong with it - they were definitely acting unethically if not illegally. But data fudging has been observed elsewhere >

"..................witness the “pentaquark” saga. Quarks are normally seen only two or three at a time, but in the mid-2000s various labs found evidence of bizarre five-quark composites. The analyses met the five-sigma test. But the data were not “blinded” properly; the analysts knew a lot about where the numbers were coming from. When an experiment is not blinded, the chances that the experimenters will see what they “should” see rise. ................."

> and the only solution is the one introduced by Metropolis back in the 1940s. Obviously if in addition to scientific motives there are commercial ones - that Paris accord provided for some charade known as the UN Climate Fund to shake down wealthier nations for $100 billion annually - the "cultural" numeracy estimate stops being cultural and reverts to pure arithmetic.

June 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Wow! I see this was published in Volume 1, Issue 1 of a new journal.

Looks like it still has the same problems with the skin treatment vs gun ban comparison it had several years ago. Here is a link to a previous post when this was a working paper. My comment is below.

June 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBob Koss

Bob Koss highlights another point. Academic social science has a severe publishing gap in an era in which social media analytics can proceed at the speed of Facebok and Twitter.

In that regard (although not entirely seriously) I propose leapfrogging ahead to new cultural cognitive issues. From Futurist David Brin:

{Bots gone wild}

"“Within three to five years we will have entities either in the physical world or online who demand human empathy, who claim to be fully intelligent, and claim to be enslaved beings, enslaved artificial intelligences, and who sob and demand their rights.”"

"“If they fool 40 percent of people but 60 percent of people aren’t fooled, all they have to do is use the data on those 60 percent of people and their reactions to find out why they weren’t fooled. It’s going to be a trivial problem to solve and we are going to be extremely vulnerable to it,” he said."

In the meantime, all I am asking for is the antidote to Cambridge Analytics.

June 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

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