MAPKIA! episode 2: what do alpha, beta, gamma & delta think about childhood vaccine risks? And where's the tea party?!
Time for another episode of ...:"Make a prediction, know it all!," or "MAPKIA!"!
I'm sure all 14 billion readers of this blog (a slight exaggeration; but one day there were 25,000 -- that was a 200 sigma event! I'm sure you can guess which post I'm talking about) remember the rules but here they are for any newcomers:
I, the host, will identify an empirical question -- or perhaps a set of related questions -- that can be answered with CCP data. Then, you, the players, will make predictions and explain the basis for them. The answer will then be posted the next day. The first contestant who makes the right prediction will win a really cool CCP prize (like maybe this or possibly something other equally cool thing), so long as the prediction rests on a cogent theoretical foundation. (Cogency will be judged, of course, by a panel of experts.)
Today's question builds on yesterday's (or whenever it was) on measuring cultural predispositions. In it, I discussed an "interpretive communities" (IC) alternative to the conventional "cultural cognition worldview" (CCW) scales.
The CCW scales use attitudinal items as indicators of latent moral orientations or outlooks thought to be associated with one or another of the affinity groups through which ordinary members of the public come to know what's known to science. Those outlooks are then used to test hypotheses about who believes what and why about disputed risks and other contested facts relevant to individual or collective decisionmaking.
Well, in the IC alternative, perceptions of risk are used as indicators of latent risk-perception dispositions. These dispositions are posited to be associated with those same affinity groups. One can then use measures formed in psychometrically valid ways from these risk-perception indicators to test hypotheses, etc.
Working with a large, nationally representative sample I used factor analysis to extract two orthogonal latent dispositions, which I labeled "public safety" and "social deviancy." I then divided the sample into four risk-disposition interpretive communities or ICs--IC-α (“high public-safety” concern, “low social-deviancy”); IC-β (“high public-safety,” “high social-deviancy); IC-γ (“low public-safety,” “low public-safety”); and IC-δ (“low public-safety,” “high social-deviancy”).
I also identified various of the characteristics -- demographic, political, cultural-- of the four IC groups. I'll even toss in other, attitudinal one now: belief/disbelief in evolution:
The characteristics, btw, are identified in a purely descriptive fashion. They aren't parameters in a model used to identify members of the groups (although I'm sure one could fit such a model to the groups once identified with reference to their risk preferences with Latent Class Modeling) or the strength of the dispositions the intersection of which creates the the underlying grid with which the distinctive risk-perception profiles of the groups can be discerned.
What's this sort of IC scheme good for? As I mentioned last time, I think it is of exceedingly limited value in helping to make sense of variance in the very risk perceptions used to identify the continuous risk-perception dispositions or membership in the various IC groups. Any model in which group membership or variance in the dispositions used to identify them is used to "explain" or "predict" variance in the indicator risk perceptions used to define the groups or dispositions would be circular!
That's the main advantage of the CCW scales: the attitudinal indicators (e.g., "The government should do more to advance society's goals, even if that means limiting the freedom and choices of individuals"; "Society as a whole has become too soft and feminine") used to form the scales are analytically independent, conceptually remote from the risk perceptions or factual beliefs (the earth is/isn't heating up; concealed carry laws increase/decrease homicide rates) that the scales are used to explain.
But I think the IC scheme can make a very useful contribution in a couple of circumstances.
One is when one is trying to test for and understand the structure of public attitudes on a perception of risk variance in which is uncertain or contested. By seeing whether that risk perception generates any variance at all and among which IC groups or along which IC dimensions, if any, one can improve one's understanding of public opinion toward it.
Consider "fracking." Not surprisingly, research suggests the public has little familiarity with this technology.
Yet it is clear that risk perceptions toward it already load very highly on the "public safety" dimension! Obviously, the issue is ripe for conflict because of how little information members of the public actually need to assimilate it to the "bundle" of risks positions coherence in which define that latent risk predisposition. As a result, they're also likely never to acquire much reliable information--those on both sides are likely just to fit all manner of evidence on fracking to what they are predisposed to believe, as they do on issues like climate change and gun control.
The other thing IC is useful for is to make sense of individual characteristics one is unsure are indicators of the sorts of group affinities that ultimately generate the coherence reflected in these dispositions. One can see, descriptively, where the characteristic in question "fits" on the grid, form hypotheses about whether it is genuinely of consequence in the formation of the relevant dispositions and which ones, and then test those hypotheses by seeing if the characteristics in question can be used to improve the more fundamental class of latent risk-predisposition measures that avoid the circularity of using their own risk perceptions as indicators.
Hence, today's MAPKIA questions:
(1) How do IC-αs, IC-βs, IC-γs and IC-δs feel about the risks of childhood vaccinations? Which risk-perception dimension--public-safety or social-deviancy--captures variation in perception of that risk? (2) Hey--where is the Tea Party?! Are its members IC-αs, IC-βs, IC-γs, or IC-δs?!
The answer will be posted "tomorrow"!
Mark, get set ... GO!