follow CCP

Recent blog entries
popular papers

Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing

What Is the "Science of Science Communication"?

Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem

Ideology, Motivated Cognition, and Cognitive Reflection: An Experimental Study

'Ideology' or 'Situation Sense'? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment

A Risky Science Communication Environment for Vaccines

Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government

Making Climate Science Communication Evidence-based—All the Way Down 

Neutral Principles, Motivated Cognition, and Some Problems for Constitutional Law 

Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus

The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Science Literacy and Climate Change

"They Saw a Protest": Cognitive Illiberalism and the Speech-Conduct Distinction 

Geoengineering and the Science Communication Environment: a Cross-Cultural Experiment

Fixing the Communications Failure

Why We Are Poles Apart on Climate Change

The Cognitively Illiberal State 

Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn't, and Why? An Experimental Study

Cultural Cognition of the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology

Whose Eyes Are You Going to Believe? An Empirical Examination of Scott v. Harris

Cultural Cognition and Public Policy

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

Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition: Explaining the White Male Effect

Fear of Democracy: A Cultural Evaluation of Sunstein on Risk

Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk

« Piling on: still more studies rejecting "gateway belief" model | Main | Civic-epistemic virtues in the Risk Regulation Republic »

Help wanted--to identify cognitive bias at work in peoples' preferences for where plastic should be extracted from the ocean

There’s an interesting puzzle being debated over on the blog of  former Freud expert & current stats legend Andrew Gelman.  The question (posed by guest blogger Phil) is why people who are concerned about plastic deposits in the ocean seem to prefer removal schemes that operate remote from the source, notwithstanding the greater efficiency of source-based removal. 

Presumably one cognitive bias or another is at work—but what exactly is the nature of this mental miscue?

It struck me that the 13 billion readers of this blog would be well situated to help answer this question.

So have at it.

But note this one proviso: in addition to identifying the responsible bias and explaining how it works, suggest (in broad outline form) an empirical test one could perform to verify the posited account.

The problem of fish choking on plastic in the ocean is bad enough. We don’t need to make things worse by drowning reflective people in a sea of just-so stories.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (59)

Instead of Just So stories, I've started calling them Just So What stories, to emphasize that I don't really care about these stories, even if they're true.

September 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Gelman

I don't really see why there is a cognitive bias at work. Presumably, people have heard about the Pacific garbage patch , but haven't given much thought about the most effective mitigation strategy. They hear about the patch, and think the best way to deal with the patch is to clean it up, and to use less plastic or keep plastic from getting dumped into the ocean.

Is there some evidence that when informed of the technical issues and relative benefits of different mitigation strategies, people hold on to advocating for a relatively inefficient method to address the problem?

September 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Maybe if you have a bias towards finding biases (apophenia?) you could consider it a kind of availability bias (the notion of the garbage patch is available, the most available solution is to go out and clean it up).

In which case the test for the bias would be to give more information about the relative merits of different strategies to people who think the best way to clean the patch up is to go to the area of the patch and pick up the plastic - and then see if they change their minds.

September 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua-- Phil's anecdotal evidence --of the sort of resistance people have to his argument when pressed on this issue --rings true. But your point suggests that it would be useful to design an experiment that determines whether & which people react this way & why

September 21, 2018 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan


Now *that's* science communication, baby! Keep it up & in addition to stats legend & former Freud expert, you'll soon be known as the Dave Kingman of #scicomm.

September 21, 2018 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

I think that the first place to start would be with the science.

Where is the source for the Pacific garbage patch anyway? As pointed out by Phil in a comment down the thread from his post, much of the plastic in the Pacific gyre is commercial fishing waste. Lost or discarded "ghost" nets are actually most harmful under the surface, and are damaging en-route from where they were lost during whatever processes eventually might bring them or floats that were connected to them, to the gyre garbage patches.

So is there a connection between the people supporting the garbage patch cleanup and the actual sources?

Next, is the pacific garbage patch the source of ecological harm?

It is probably true that other waste becomes a problem well before it gets collected in the gyre. The ecologically richest parts of the oceans are estuaries and continental shelves. On land, it is riparian zones. Lots of harmful things can happen before the plastic gets swept out to and collected and concentrated in the gyre. Sea life nibbling on what they thought was tasty bits of actual food can do so well before the material reaches the gyre. Most sea life never comes near the gyre (although certainly plastics from there can spread back out again through the food chain).

And then, what about the cleanup itself. What ecological effects would it have?

Even non plastic filled ocean surface water is an ecosystem that harbors various life forms. Once the plastic is out there, it is inhabited. Life forms now on the surface and intermingled or entangled with the plastic would be gathered up. Whether or not that's now a good thing is a complex matter. As is how much would be collected and how much simply driven to greater depths, Also there are issues involving the ship doing the collecting and the hauling of the stuff off to one of those magical "someplace else" places.

What would a true evaluation take?

For a complete evaluation we'd need an overall analysis of the resource, energy and environmental costs of various options. This is part of a much bigger problem with our short term profit oriented capitalistic system. Rarely is the total social and environmental cost of an action contemplated in advance. But plenty of case studies of what happens are available. Action follows concern follows noticeable harm. We are a "progress" oriented culture, into remediation not first do no harm.

For some consumers it may be comforting to think that they can continue their convenient habits, the use of say. disposable plastic water bottles, if they thing that the plastic involved, even if it escapes the recycling bin and ends up in the ocean, can be simply gathered up there.

Guilt about plastic waste could lead to thoughts about alternatives, and even regulation. Corporations may adopt small cosmetic changes as a way of avoiding the possibility of bigger structural change.

A study is underway right now, conducted by Starbucks, et al. Non recyclable plastic straws have led to some very disturbing pictures of sea turtles with straws stuck in their noses. This has caused an uproar. Starbucks and others have promised to eliminate said straws in favor of paper ones. This generated pushback from the autistic community who felt that the more fragile paper ones. I have direct experience with the pushback that can occur if one points out that it is possible to purchase sturdy reusable straws designed, with no thought of saving sea turtles, but rather with specific disabilities in mind. Those online seemed to interpret this as an attack on their community, why should they be singled out. But it is true that plastic cups, while theoretically recyclable, may not really be recyclable in any overall ecological sense. And the idea that all people ought to bring their own coffee mug to a coffee shop if they want coffee to go seems to be a bridge to far into inconvenience for almost everyone.

And why is it that we have so much plastic, and also introduced recycling?

Going back in time, as corporations introduced plastics, and encouraged use of disposables that needed to be repeatedly re-purchased, waste management became a serious issue. Enter recycling. It seemed to be a fix that enabled the sales and use patterns to continue and to expand. Even though, for many items, it makes very little sense to send recycling trucks through every neighborhood to gather things up and send them away, sometimes as far away as places like China. To be "recycled" in sometimes ecologically harmful ways. Additionally, China recently banned the importation of US recycling goods, something we've yet to wrap our minds around and figure out alternative steps.

I think Starbucks customers are taking comfort in the idea that plastic straws will be eliminated (over time) and that the cups are recyclable. This allows them to feel that they are not "bad" people, without actually having to change their lifestyle in ways that might even slightly inconvenience themselves.

Pacific Garbage Patch trash removal is a cosmetic action, aimed at people who want an easy fix that does not directly involve themselves that much. I think plenty of existing case studies could be composed showing that this sort of attitude is widely prevalent.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

But your point suggests that it would be useful to design an experiment that determines whether & which people react this way & why

It seems to me that an important consideration is, obviously, exactly how people view the question they're being asked, and whether it is framed unambiguously.Are they being asked about the best way to deal with the current state of garbage in the world's oceans, the best way to prevent the garbage patch from getting worse, the best way to prevent the total amount of garbage in the oceans from getting worse, or some combination thereof?

How far out from the center of the garbage patch do you go to measure the concentration level? People are aware of the large garbage patch in the Pacific, they aren't aware of just how concentrated that patch is, and how that would compare to the ratio of garbage to water at 1,000, or 10,000 individual locations where rivers run to the sea. They aren't aware of what % of the plastic in the ocean winds up in the patch, as compared to how much gets dispersed.

How many resources do you have? How would you measure the impact (amount of plastic removed) of a limited amount of resources if you focus them on a patch of a specific size at it's most concentrated point, versus picking 10,000 river outlets into oceans (strategically picked, randomly picked?).

I imagine it could be a bit like a conservation of matter kind of deal. If you showed me a picture of a 100 gallon tank of water and then showed me a picture of 12,800 one ounce cups of water, and asked me which picture showed more water, the "availability" of the notion of the "large" size might be more apparent to me with the 100 gallon tank, and thus I might be more inclined to say that the 100 gallon tank held more water. The task of estimating the amount contained in 12,800 one ounce cups feels overwhelming.

Repeat that experiment with a lot of people and see if you get more than 50% to pick the 100 gallon tank. Or ask a lot of people similar questions with the number of cups starting at a number well below 12,800, and gradually increasing until there were well more than 12,800. Would there be a "bias" reflected in their guesses as to whether there was more water in the large tank vs. multiple cups? I wouldn't be at all surprised to find of that there were.

I just think it's way too speculative to assume there's a bias in play here - except to the extent of people's awareness of the parameters of the problem. Way too many uncontrolled variables in play to make such an assumption.

If you want to see a clear process of bias in play, introduce the problem and then tell people which policy choice Trump favors...and watch people's reasoning do 180s.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Gaythea -

This allows them to feel that they are not "bad" people, without actually having to change their lifestyle in ways that might even slightly inconvenience themselves....Pacific Garbage Patch trash removal is a cosmetic action, aimed at people who want an easy fix that does not directly involve themselves that much.

I think that might be unnecessarily uncharitable. Unless you know people's awareness of the problems, and their understanding of the relative merits of different policies, relative to their costs, isolating the "motivation" of not being directly involved and avoiding inconvenience, and the use of those rationales for determining the easiness> of the fix, seems a bit reductive.

People's willingness to sacrifice depends on their perception of the magnitude of the problem, the efficacy of the sacrifice for solving the problem, etc.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Gaythea -

This generated pushback from the autistic community who felt that the more fragile paper ones.

Did you mean for there to be another part to that sentence?

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

link drop - the WEIRD keep getting weirder:
Cross-national variation in determinants of climate change concern:

The United States does not provide a generalizable model for understanding the determinants of climate change concern. Although US patterns resemble those in the English-speaking Western democracies and are somewhat similar to those in western Europe, they differ widely from those in most countries. Members of left/liberal parties worry more about the effects of climate change than members of conservative parties in Western democracies, but not in the rest of the world. Women, young people, and the less religious express more concern about climate change in the English-speaking Western democracies, but in most of the world gender differences are small, and older and more religious people express more concern.

Dan: "...Dave Kingman of #scicomm" Hey! Sky King was ahead of his time! These days, pure HR-or-K hitters are de rigeur.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

Cool stuff. Evidence, of course, I will use to confirm my bias that (1) political ideology is not a driver of motivated reasoning about climate change, but that it is a modetator (not mediator) between identity-protective cognition and views on climate change (to the extent that an individual believes views on climate change to be identity-relevant), (2) that it is one of various moderators, and that different moderators have more or less influence depending on context (cultural variables such as nationality, family of origin [e. g. did someone grow up in a highly politicized family]), and (3) that habitual cognitive style (i.e., what is reflected in performance on cognitive reasoning tests) is not a super-moderator (i.e., one that has uniformly more influence across various contexts).but one moderator among a variety, with its explanatory power as a moderator dependent on context.

Is there cross-nsyional evidence on the explanatory power of cognitive reasoning style?

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

This is interesting :

The biggest surprise in this study is the strength of the Pew measure of commitment to democratic principles as a predictor of climate change opinions. Its coefficient is statistically significant in all but a handful of countries, and it is the strongest predictor in half the countries and in all regions except the English-speaking Western democracies.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua


"The biggest surprise..." - doesn't that sound like mediator to you?

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

." - doesn't that sound like mediator to you?

From the evidence as presented, I guess so... but I'm biased against that conclusion.

Too bad that despite referencing Dan's work, they didn't seem to take cognitive reasoning style (or" smartness" as Dan might say) into their analysis.

September 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"The question (posed by guest blogger Phil) is why people who are concerned about plastic deposits in the ocean seem to prefer removal schemes that operate remote from the source, notwithstanding the greater efficiency of source-based removal."

Simple. Because that's what they've been told.

The public media presentations on the issue have told them that huge rafts of plastic are accumulating in the ocean gyres. It's a vivid mental picture that stirs up environmental outrage and support for the cause more effectively, which is why you see it so often, but it's also given them the impression that this is where the densest accumulation of plastic is. It therefore makes perfect sense for them to support machinery to clear it up here, on exactly the basis Phil argues. The reason they get the engineering wrong is that the popular image presented in the media is wrong, but that's not the fault of the public.

When people talk to me about it, I sometimes try to explore their reasoning processes by introducing them to a related issue - toxic mineral erosion.

We mine metals and other chemicals from rocks - ores containing subtances like Lead, Arsenic, Antimony, Cadmium, Uranium, Mercury, Thallium and so on. But these rocks are distributed randomly within the Earth, some of them are exposed at or near the surface, where rivers can run over them, or on eroding shoreline cliffs. These toxic rocks get eroded, and washed down into the sea. Tiny fragments of these rocks can be ingested by marine animals, and salts leached out of them can pollute seawater, ingested by animals and plants both. While few studies have been done and there is therefore no definitive evidence that these rock fragments are causing harm, it cannot be ruled out, and a precautionary approach dictates that we should not dismiss the possibility that ingesting fragments of Mercury or Arsenic ores, (or radioactive Uranium and Potassium ores,) might possibly do fish and sea mammals harm.

What efforts should we therefore make to clean the oceans of these toxic mineral pollutants? What factors should we consider when deciding on policy? Do we concentrate on areas where toxic minerals are currently eroding (sealing them in or pre-emptively collecting them before they can further erode), or do we start by collecting and processing the huge amount of mineral fragments that have already accumulated in the sea, piled up in huge drifts along our shorelines?

I've usually found people's reaction to this story to be enlightening, and it often leads on to discussion of the Naturalistic Fallacy, and the various fallacies of selective attention. Most people seem unaware that 'the world is made of chemicals', which I'd rank ahead of more common scientific literacy items like the Earth orbiting the sun for its policy relevance.

September 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Jonathan -

Interesting take (IMO) on the race vs. class deconstruction of 2016 election.

Speaks to the more general discussion of psychological roots to tribalism.

September 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua, yes I left off the sentence in mid thought: "This generated push-back from the autistic community who felt that the more fragile paper ones." That has to do with the complexity I see in fully explaining why it is that the highly organized autism community, representing a broad spectrum of actual disabilities, has been the most vocal on this subject. I left in the middle and didn't circle back to completing this. My experience had to do with pointing out online on twitter that there actually reusable straws available that are specifically designed with specific needs in mind. This led to a big response from people representing autism groups. Most problems have to do with difficulties in holding ones mouth around a straw, or clamping down excessively once there. My direct experience with such had to do with a family member with Parkinson's. For which specific purpose designed reusable straws were a help.

But the attitude, "Why shouldn't this group be able do do a spontaneous spur of the moment thing like everyone else?" actually applies to everyone else too. Why shouldn't we be able to get a plastic bag at the grocery story when we forgot to bring our reusable cloth ones? Why shouldn't we be able to purchase water in a plastic bottle when we decide to go on a hike at Grand Canyon National Park and didn't bring our own water bottles? It is part of not seeing small actions as part of a collective whole with long term consequences.

Very few people have seen the Pacific garbage patch. The only reason for knowing that it exists, and that it is a problem, is publicity driven by environmental groups. Similar efforts can be directed at more local targets, to positive effect. Retail store plastic bag bans have been shown to have positive effects on said plastics in the environment in Puget Sound, and in California. Despite substantial pushback by retail stores. On the other hand, attempts to ban the sale of single use plastic water bottles at national parks was shot down by the Trump administration as pushed for by the private vendors at the Parks. Still, water fountains specifically designed to accommodate personal reusable water bottle refilling are becoming more prevalent in public venues. There is no corporate entity with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of the Pacific garbage patch, at least as long as it doesn't involve a tax on their operations to "do something about it". Thus doing something about it does not have as much pushback.

NiV, toxic mineral erosion is a known problem in certain areas. Although dilution effects in the ocean at large are significant, bioconcentration, can lead to significant concentrations. Mercury for example, is of concern for some top of the food chain species, notably humans, but also including others such as swordfish, orca whales and tuna.

On the positive side, filter feeders, like shrimp and oysters, are known to produce cleaner water. Re-establishment of oyster reefs is an important part of enabling cleaner aquatic environments. This attribute is something that humans ought to keep in mind should they be inclined to be large consumers of said species.

And yes, sometimes we do need to concentrate on where the minerals in question are eroding:

And rocks, and the minerals and elements within them, are not distributed randomly.

September 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Hmmm. That link didn't quite work out as I thought - I guess it depends on your podcast player. If interested, you might try this


September 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Plastic as a shoreline, near shore issue. Often, the ocean has been used as a garbage dumpsite. Like many coastal cities, New York City is built on trash:

September 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

"But the attitude, "Why shouldn't this group be able do do a spontaneous spur of the moment thing like everyone else?" actually applies to everyone else too. [...] It is part of not seeing small actions as part of a collective whole with long term consequences."

Agreed. It's a case of "the common good before individual good" - which is a slogan with a much longer history, and not specific to any one case. Society periodically acquires a new set of beliefs, which it imposes on individual members to their individual cost. Maybe society decides we all need to make sacrifices to the Gods for a good harvest. Individuals pay the price, some more than others, but society decides that's a small price to pay for the long term gain.

Is there a role for *choice* in such matters? If you give people the choice, and they choose not to pay, what does that mean morally? What if some people don't believe in the same Gods? Do the collective ends justify the individual means?

"Very few people have seen the Pacific garbage patch."

There's a very good reason for that. That's because it mostly looks a lot like any other stretch of water! The density in the centre is about 10-100 kilograms per square kilometer, or 0.01-0.1 grams per square metre. (A plastic bag weighs about 5 grams, so that's between 0.2% and 2% of a bag.) You have to look closely to see it.

"The only reason for knowing that it exists, and that it is a problem, is publicity driven by environmental groups."

Right. And so the reason that the public support schemes to collect it in the ocean gyres rather than asian rivers is that that's what the environmental campaigns have emphasised.

"Retail store plastic bag bans have been shown to have positive effects on said plastics in the environment in Puget Sound, and in California."

When I see those studies, I always wonder if people fully realise what it implies. The popular story is that the plastic lasts for centuries, so if you stopped adding more then you would expect to see the levels stop rising, but you wouldn't expect them to actually drop. Given that drops in level are seen within a few years of reducing use, what does that imply for the rate at which it is being broken down and removed from the system? Curious.

"NiV, toxic mineral erosion is a known problem in certain areas."

Of course. The question is, what do we do about it? Why isn't there a global campaign to deal with sand as there is with other types of pollution?

September 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

link drop: a conspiratorial belief profile:

non-paywall paper:


Thanks for that Dig podcast. I listened once, but will need to replay it. I think I agree with their conclusion, but they seemed to justify it in ways that I didn't agree with. For instance, I doubt any serious social scientist (or true Scotsman) believes in a single factor mediator like racism -> Trump. Consider how they jump for joy when getting correlations above 0.3. Also, that podcast derides evidential studies at one point, then later applauds some (like those finding correlations between Trump support and rising addiction & suicide rates).

September 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

Pretty much my reaction, also. I was sympathetic to some of their larger arguments (e.g. the Trump won = white resentment argument is misleadingly reductionist), but felt they were axe grinding in unfortunate (strawmanish) ways (e.g., I doubt anyone thinks the explanation isn't multifactoral). But I found it interesting nonetheless.

September 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua


...I doubt any serious social scientist (or true Scotsman) believes in a single factor mediator like racism -> Trump. Although:

September 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

They saw a tax cut?:

Even the objective reality of the number in your paycheck each week is viewed through a partisan lens. And if that spurs Trump fans to overstate positive effects or Trump opponents to understate them, it becomes much harder to determine whether the decisions you have made are ones the country actually supports.

September 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Prior to reading this article I had no idea about -what- the garbage patches were made of. I thought it was mostly packaging. The harm that most people have seen is plastic garbage washing up on beaches when the gyre happens to contact land, so people naively support cleaning up the garbage where it collects. It's just the most proximate cause of the harmful effect. The idea that a waste problem with distributed origins can actually be easier to reduce by targeting the many point sources instead of cleaning the ocean where it's dirty can be counterintuitive, and I think is by no means obvious, nor necessarily true.

September 25, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterdypoon

The thinking is that if we put plastic removal devices in the ocean, one theoretically (but not actually) could remove all the plastic. If we put plastic removal devices at the mouths of rivers, we are admitting from the outset that we will never get all the plastic that has already gone out, plus we know we will never get around to putting them at all of the sources. So, it feels like we are not trying to completely solve the problem, whereas putting them in the ocean feels like we are trying to solve the problem entirely.

Way to test:
Make a spreadsheet or web app to simulate the process, where the user can decide where to place their plastic removal devices, and see how much plastic remains in the oceans afterwards. If the hypothesis is correct, then seeing the numerical feedback that putting them in the middle of the ocean results in less total plastic removed, will push them in the direction of putting them near the sources.

September 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoss Hartshorn

Although, again. More detailed evidence of racism as overwhelming partisan-sorting factor, at least in 60's South:

September 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

Wait? You don't believe that all the racists in the South remained loyal to the Democrat Party, which explains why racists predominate in the current Democratic Party? Say it ain't so!

s, no clear consensus has emerged as to why the Democrats “lost” white Southerners, despite fifty years of scholarship.

More seriously, I wasn't aware that there was any real "scholarly" debate about that - so thanks for providing that link.

My current thinking is that context is particularly important to explain why, in various contexts, different "identity"-related triggers gain or decrease in explanatory power, relative to other identity-triggers.

I've been thinking about the Obama --->>> Trump voters (I'm still not sure how that # gets quantified: without detailed breakdown, when viewed from a distance... A block of voters that switched from Obama to Trump would look exactly the same as a a block where Obama voters didn't come out for Clinton and people who previously hadn't voted came out for Trump).

(a subset of) white voters might have been triggered by "white resentment" to vote for Trump even if they had previously voted for Obama. In voting for Obama, an important motivation could have been to protect their view of themselves as non-racist. When voting for Trump, an important motivation could have been to protect their cultural identity from the threat of fereners and outsiders and people who are threat to our greatness (and have led to us no longer being great) because they are lazy and unintelligent and who are more likely to be black and/or Hispanic and/or Sharia-loving Muzlums. I don't really think those views have to be mutually exclusive at all. It's just situational thinking...just as the farmer who thinks the AGW is a hoax even as he/she thinks that he/she needs to work proactively to address unprecedented changes in the climate, or the Muslim doctor who doesn't believe in evolution even if basic principles of evolution are elemental to his/her work.

To think that white Obama voters couldn't have been motivated by white resentment to vote for Trump, it seems to me, assumes a brand of "rationality" in behavior that, IMO, effectively ignores the potential for any variety of variables to influence reasoning. It's the same as assuming that there must be something in need of a particular explanation to explain why a Muslim doctor wouldn't accept evolutionary theory. To me, it could just be a very commonplace attribute of human reasoning - that we can easily believe in contradictory concepts in order to maintain a desired self-impression.

Back to the article, and your comment, I will be looking when reading further to see if they offer an explanation for why, what happened in the South in the 60's, is generalizable to today's context. Or is the real explanation merely that context-relevant factors dominate in each setting?

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Btw -

Yay for the use of longitudinal data in that analysis!

An interesting related question might be whether slavery was rooted in racism or economics, or to what extent trying to answer that question is a product of apophenia and a natural human tendency to find single-factor answers to multi-factorial dynamics

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua


"...Say it ain't so!" Yeah, well.... never saw data on this before - it was always just received wisdom, hence quite more easily doubted.

"...just as the farmer who thinks the AGW is a hoax..." They should listen to Trump admin NHTSA:

Thankfully, the cons have saved us all from the bother of things like carbon tax etc. until deciding it's too late. So, everyone, kick your nuisance grandkids and hug your humongous SUVs instead!

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Let this serve as notice that I'm effen scared of the Celtics. Their 2nd 5 off the bench would be a playoff caliber starting five. I'm thinking they could have a good shot at beating the Dubs.

My nephew (Boston native) is accusing me of preemptive reverse jinx. Don't know how he might have come up with that idea. 😒

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua


Just proof of two things: 1. we should all listen to the younger generation and, 2. go green.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

" They should listen to Trump admin NHTSA"

Amusing article! Some would say it's more evidence of the Deep State!

Although it might just mean that the Trump administration is (officially, at least) continuing with the bipartisan Byrd-Hagel policy that every US administration (including Obama's) has followed since 1997. To the extent the US government as a whole has a democratically-accountable, official policy on the matter (as opposed to Trump's personal opinion), the Byrd-Hagel Resolution probably counts as it. And the block to taking action was never that they said they didn't believe in global warming.

September 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

I completely fail to see any inconsistency between the NHTSA forecast of a 7 degrees Fahrenheit rise in global temperatures by 2100 and the US policy of refusing to take measures to control its own emissions.

We have learned from Australia, responsible for some fraction of 1% of global emissions, which passed a carbon tax some years ago. The government that passed the tax promptly collapsed. With well over 96% of anticipated additional emissions originating outside Western nations, the only rationale for passing carbon taxes and related restrictions in the West consists of feeling better about ourselves at vast cost to our economy and national welfare.

How anyone here can suggest that feelgood is a sufficient basis for policy is unfortunately beyond my understanding.

October 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Dan - instead of looking for evidence based on cultural cognition, an inherently fuzzy metric, you might run a test for the benefits of "diversity is our strength" proposition on genetic markers::

"In order to measure the extent of diversity in genetic material across individuals in a
given population (e.g., an ethnic group), population geneticists employ an index called expected
heterozygosity, which can be interpreted simply as the probability that two individuals, selected
at random from the relevant population, are genetically different from one another with respect to
a given spectrum of traits"

I might as well add that as far as the right wing is concerned we already have anticipated the results:

October 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Gaythia and NiV - the only people I have met actually panicking about heavy metals in the oceans are Russians. Due to oceanic currents, poisons dumped by gold miners in the Amazon, cobalt miners in the Congo, Chinese factories directly into the Pacific, and of course their own terrifying pollutants from Norilsk, all end up in Northern waters. Bioconcentration is already visible in orcas, they said. "We're looking at a potential Minamata on a global scale" told me one.

If US, Canadian, Scandinavians and other scientists living near the same waters were not so foolishly focused on CO2, CH4, etc, they might look into what really constitutes the greatest danger - but no! Political correctness blinds them. Or potential loss of funding.

October 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

It is correct to identify Russia as a serious source of concern as a source of heavy metal pollutants. Not only from mining like Norilsk, but also industries, and direct disposal into the Arctic Sea, as of some nuclear wastes.

Status of Russian and some East European coutries pollution control technologies is way behind that of most western Northern European countries or Canada.

Up until very recently, the EPA, under the Clean Water Act, had worked to substantially reduce US heavy metal pollution in rivers, estuaries and oceans. This has aided the recovery of some fish species on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and streams.. The Puget Sound Orca whale population is still under severe threat. This seems to be due to dispersed pollutants contained in urban roadway runoff.

It is wrong to think that concerns over atmospheric carbon somehow negate other concerns. Scientists, as well as concerned members of the public are capable of multiple areas of focus. Many of which are intertwined anyway. For example, paper and lumber mills in the Pacific Northwest usually along waterways, were historically not only sources of atmospheric carbon from the burning of waste forest materials, but also sources of mercury, sulfur, and wood preservative compounds.

October 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Nobody questions that we all have the ability to keep several items in our heads simultaneously. But policy has to be based on a model. Why we need a model? Explanation by Samuel Huntington:

"... in the back of our minds are hidden assumptions, biases, and prejudices that determine how we perceive reality, what facts we look at, and how we judge their importance and merits. We need explicit or implicit models so as to be able to:
1. order and generalize about reality;
2. understand causal relationships among phenomena;
3. anticipate and, if we are lucky, predict future developments;
4. distinguish what is important from what is unimportant; and
5. show us what paths we should take to achieve our goals."

A more useless argument than autistics and plastic straws is impossible to imagine - what is the model involved, other than PC?

October 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

source of quote

October 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

For Dan:

October 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

link drop: The Role of (Scientific) Experts in a Democracy:

October 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Ecoute -

An article about your buds that you might find interesting:

What is your thinking on those Charlottesville charges? Can you believe they charged those poor innocents rather than focusing on the real criminality in the situation: That the woman who died was fat?

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

In case anybody wondered why the median voter theorem doesn't seem to be working very well lately:

non-paywall version:

In this paper, we have developed a theory of electoral competition in a world where majority party legislators collaboratively influence policy and voters therefore rationally care about candidates’ party labels. This model yields results that are fundamentally different from the standard
In our model, a candidate’s association with candidates of the same party that run in other districts generates an incentive for voters to focus less on the candidates’ own position when deciding whom to vote for — local candidates are “contaminated” by their party association. This leads to less competitive local elections, providing the ideologically favored party with the leeway to nominate more extreme candidates who are nevertheless elected.

October 3, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Diligent readers of Dan's forum here will recall I have, more than once, written about notorious hoaxers, jokers, satirists, botmasters, and hackers, including my friend Microchip. All others can find references to Microchip via the search function on top right of this page.

WIRED magazine is only the latest publication to fall for one of those hoaxes - evidently they don't read this blog, or they would have been warned. It's remarkable that even one of Dan's habitual readers should fall for it in spite of the warnings, but since incontrovertible proof of his gullibility appears on this page there can be no arguing about it.

Fat people have always been a target of satirists. The latest victim of this particular hoax is a publication called "Fat Studies", but that has been a small skirmish of an ongoing attack on the entire PC, SJW, Grievance Industry:

"....One of the trio’s hoax papers, published in April by the journal Fat Studies, claims bodybuilding is “fat-exclusionary” and proposes “a new classification . . . termed fat bodybuilding, as a fat-inclusive politicized performance.” Editor Esther Rothblum said the paper had gone through peer review, and the author signed a copyright form verifying authorship of the article. “This author put a lot of work into this topic,” she said. “It is an interesting topic, looking at weight and bodybuilding. So I am surprised that, of all things, they’d write this as a hoax. As you can imagine, this is a very serious charge.” She plans to remove the paper from the Fat Studies website.

A hoax paper for the Journal of Poetry Therapy describes monthly feminist spirituality meetings, complete with a “womb room,” and discusses six poems, which Mr. Lindsay generated by algorithm and lightly edited. Founding editor Nicholas Mazza said the article went through blind peer review and revisions before its acceptance in July, but he regrets not doing more to verify the author’s identity. He added that it took years to build credibility and get the Journal of Poetry Therapy listed in major scholarly databases. “You work so hard, and you get something like this,” he said. Still, “I can see how editors like me and journals can be duped.”....."
"....Mr. Boghossian doesn’t have tenure and expects the university will fire or otherwise punish him. Ms. Pluckrose predicts she’ll have a hard time getting accepted to a doctoral program. Mr. Lindsay said he expects to become “an academic pariah,” barred from professorships or publications.

Yet Mr. Lindsay says the project is worth it: “For us, the risk of letting biased research continue to influence education, media, policy and culture is far greater than anything that will happen to us for having done this.”

Got to say Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian, are braver than either me or Microchip, who write under pseudonyms, but hardly need add I unequivocally support their efforts.

October 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Ecoute -

Fat people have always been a target of satirists.

Indeed. What better justification to continue doing it, than to point out that it has been done before?

Unassailable logic.

October 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

More on the Grievance Industry, from Quillette

Pity none of the spoof papers related to obesity, but wonder whether blaming obesity on plastics might drastically curtail usage at the source:

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

Clarification / correction
One spoof paper was published in "Fat Studies", and one of the 3 Grievance Studies authors is fat herself, which doesn't seem to have made her PC, fortunately.

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEcoute Sauvage

That latest spoof is being reported widely:

I wish that more would be said on the separation between an area of scholarship and its journals. Of course, my primary grievance is with journals, highly regarded or not, using their supposed social purpose as curators and bullshit filters to justify paywalls when they instead just take the money and run, or charge exorbitant rates and make enormous profits, some or all of which are undeserved. Hence, I appreciate such spoofing attacks so long as the journals are seen as getting their well deserved comeuppance. Unfortunately for my agenda, the taint isn't remaining with the journals. Note how the Aero piece moves rather seamlessly from the successful attack on journals to claiming a victory against the underlying areas of scholarship, merely because those journals are "highly regarded" in their field. They say:

Based on our data, there is a problem occurring with knowledge production within fields that have been corrupted by grievance studies arising from critical constructivism and radical skepticism.

But, that's not quite right. Based on their data, there is a problem occurring with the journal-based filtration and curation of certain fields. It might also be the case that, because of this, the fields themselves suffer, or are themselves at least partially to blame. However, the Aero authors didn't show this.

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Oops: Aero -> Areo.

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan -

Of course, my primary grievance is with journals, highly regarded or not, using their supposed social purpose as curators and bullshit filters to justify paywalls when they instead just take the money and run, or charge exorbitant rates and make enormous profits..

Not as a defense against your criticism... but what sets your targets up for that criticism as phenomena that are different from the other entities in the private sector, or really even the political sector, which take the money and run and charge exorbitant rates and make enormous profits?

October 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>