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« Weekend update: who has more items for "Cultural Cognition Dictionary/Glossary/whatever"? | Main | Comment function restored! »

Latest entries to CCP glossary thing: Science of #Scicomm; Rope-a-dope; and "From mouth of scientist. . . ."

Here are some more. At some point, I'll post the entire document & invite nominations for additional terms worthy of definition of explicatioin therein.

Science of science communication. A research program that uses science’s own signature methods of disciplined observation and valid causal inference to understand and manage the processes by which citizens come to know what is known by science. [Source: Oxford Hand of the Science of Science Communication, eds. K.H. Jamieson, D.M. Kahan & D.Scheufele, passim ;Kahan, J. Sci. Comm., 14(3) (2015). Added Jan. 19, 2018.]

From mouth of the scientist to ear of the citizen. A fallacious view that treats the words scientists utter as a causal influence on formation and reform of public opinion on controversial forms of science. The better view recognizes that what science knows is transmitted from scientists to the public via the influence of dense, overlapping networks of intermediaries, which include not just the media but (more decisively) individuals' peers, whose words & actions vouch for the science (or not) through their own use (or non-use) of scientific insights.  Where there is a science communication problem, then, the source of it is the corruption of these intermediary networks, not any problem with how scienitsts themselves talk. [Source: Kahan, Oxford Hand of the Science of Science Communication, eds. K.H. Jamieson, D.M. Kahan & D.Scheufele. Added: Jan. 19, 2018.]

Rope-a-dope. A tactic of science miscommunication whereby a conflict entrepreneur baits the communicators into fighting him or her in a conspicuous forum. The strength of the arguments advanced by the antagonists, the conflict entrepreneur realizes, are largely irrelevant. What matters is the appearance of of a social controversy, which cues onlookers to connect the competing positions with membership in and loyalty to members of their cultural group. Falling for this gambit marks science communicators as the miscommunicators’ “dope.” [Source: Cultural Cognition Project blog here & here. Added: Jan. 19, 2018.]


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Reader Comments (10)

I'd like to see some data demonstrating that "not just the media but (more decisively) individuals' peers" is a valid statement. It is my impression that Trump/Fox and Friends/Mercer (at least formerly including Bannon)/Koch Bros et al are doing an amazingly effective media domination effort effectively dominating the meme of the day in the public eye. I think that you may be overestimating the amount of time people spend talking about such issues to actual other people.

This is directly where effective online and other media exploitation of the rope-a-dope strategy becomes so effective.

I also strongly believe that it is a mistake to frame the divide as simply identity driven or by "membership in and loyalty to members of their cultural group".

We live in a time of disruptive change. There is a huge economic divide between those who are benefiting and those who are suffering the most. The separation is cultural, but also geographic.

I think that Amazon makes a good case study.

There are those in locations best poised to benefit or at least not lose catastrophically by the coming changes:

Amazon is also a big part of the Gentrification of downtown Seattle. This creates winners, but also losers who drift off in to less economically central locations, thus further inhibiting the ability of future success.

There are other, distant, places that are subsidizing Amazon, specifically Jeff Bezos, but barely scraping by: An Amazon warehouse is a poor substitute for the unionized industrial jobs that used to dominate Ohio's economy. It is no wonder that some people want to look at a hypothetical future as if it can be done through a rear view mirror.

And what are those workers supposed to think when they read that billionaire Bezos is donating millions to scholarships for DACA students? Where are their scholarship opportunities?

Politically, it is easier to figure out how to exploit the socio-economic and cultural divide than it is to cross it and work to knit the country back together again.

I think that the academic study of cultural cognition has a key role to play in creating the sorts of understandings needed for real progress overall, but I'm concerned that it is operating with too constricted a field of view.

If we want to understand communication and social change, I think that Chamath Palihapitiy is a good resource. He is the former Facebook VP for social growth and currently a venture capitalist as CEO of Social Capital. See: and

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

For Dan and fellow p-haters:

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@Jonathan-- nice

January 19, 2018 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"Baits", not "bates".

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPMJ

@PMJ-- many thanks!

January 19, 2018 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan


Is it a coincidence that two of the three examples picked (gun rights, vaccination, and evolution) are examples of conservatives using the tactic, and none with liberals using the tactic? What reaction would you expect that to trigger among conservatives, according to the SOSC Rope-a-dope hypothesis?

My first reaction was to argue with the examples you'd picked, and then I realised what I was doing, and why.

Granted, it's only a 7.4% chance of such a one-sided choice happening by accident (assuming equal chances of left/right/neutral), which is not statistically significant, but I had the reaction anyway. Presumably that's not desired or intended. I thought you might be interested to know about it.

January 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Oh, and you've still got "baites".

January 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Re rope-a-dope: the terms 'tactic' and 'bait' imply a high level of objectively reasoned game-planning for behavior that within culturally conflicted domains (i.e. where culture is in action on both sides) is more often emergent, as part of the wider conflict. After all in such domains the many individuals fighting the original communication in this way, because it is culturally challenging to them, believe (typically passionately) that they are right. Whereas for them to be in full consciousness of actually playing a strategy involving deliberately laid 'bait' for an inflammatory outcome, implies really that they knew they were wrong, at least to a significant degree (otherwise they'd use stronger reasoning and not cultural hand-grenades). Presumably, they believe they are simply getting some attention for principles that 'must' be well-founded and true. Nor, incidentally, does detection of this behavior (on its own) tell you who is right in such conflicts (as determined by the retrospective view of far future history), generically speaking. This behavior can occur whether the original communication is a truth that challenges pre-existing culture, or is itself a cultural communication that likewise challenges pre-existing culture. And with culture on both sides by definition in a culturally conflicted domain (potentially also with more cultural groups than sides), other data is needed to untangle who is who. While various behaviors of this kind do indeed amplify polarization, they are nevertheless also a part of that same polarization too, i.e. they did not spring from properly reasoned planning. In this context the NRA are no more 'evil' than many others who heavily 'pollute the SC environment' because of their own cultural bias, no matter how distasteful and downright damaging the NRA 'pollution' seems to us. For instance the raft of western leaders who have for many years transmitted the certainly of imminent (decades) climate catastrophe in the most urgent and emotive terms, despite this narrative is not supported by mainstream science (no skeptics needed), and opened the door to damaging policies (e.g. the diesel and bio-fuel debacles) that serve emotion and not science. Both groups are just adherents of particular cultural narratives; they are not 'evil'. So while they do indeed deploy their intelligence, this serves those narratives hence does not constitute objective reasoning. And they are only culpable in some fashion if they step beyond the law. The term 'evil' is itself a mystic emotive descriptor, which when used (you use at first link) as an explanation only helps to obscure from us what is actually going on. Many on the 'right' side of a culturally conflicted domain are right for the wrong reason of course, i.e. they are cultural adherents too, hence they are no more 'dopes' than the other side are 'evil'; they culturally engage. I think a better way to express this is that emergent conflict arises via particular pathways, one of which is an inherent morphing of science points into the nearest translatable and emotive cultural inflamation.

link2: '...and where there is such a need how to present corrective information in a manner that is free of resonances that convey cultural partisanship.'

There is always a need for all science information to be as free of all cultural resonances as is possible.

@NiV the effect should be the same no matter whether executed by left or right or any other cultural group. I don't follow the frakking domain very closely but possibly left-side behavior of this kind amplifies polarization to produce the level of controversy we actually see in that domain, raising a profile in the public mind of dangers that are not currently backed by majority science.

January 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

"@NiV the effect should be the same no matter whether executed by left or right or any other cultural group."

Agreed, but there is a perception I've come across when Dan's work has been discussed elsewhere that all this cognitive bias science is a thinly disguised political attack by predominantly liberal social scientists against conservatives. Presenting the science here using examples that have anti-conservative cultural markers all over them, without making a conscious effort to be even-handed and impartial, is liable to pollute the science communication environment and lead to a partisan split in who accepts or rejects it. It also encourages belief in the asymmetry thesis.

If you see someone presenting examples from both sides, one might still grumble and argue with the ones you disagree with, but it identifies the author as making an attempt to be neutral and non-partisan, and people will give the idea more consideration. If you make yourself look like a partisan using the science as a political attack, you're a lot less likely to get a fair hearing.

Dan *knows* this - it's the conclusion from a lot of his work. And I know from previous instances he doesn't intend it as a political attack. It's one of the reasons I respect him so much. I can only assume he either absent-mindedly forgot, or assumed the sample was small enough for it not to matter. It's no big deal. I'm just noting that this stuff happens if we're not constantly vigilant.

January 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV


Agreed, always better to maintain a balance regarding example cases.

January 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

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