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Jun252009

Mechanisms of Cultural Cognition

Supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant SES 0621840) and the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School, Project members have been carrying out a series of experiments to identify the contributions that various psychological and social processes make to the phenomenon of cultural cognition.

Whereas the National Risk & Culture Survey uncovered the influence of cultural cognition on a broad scale, the aim of the Mechanisms of Cultural Cognition project is to identify the discrete social and cognitive processes through which values shape risk perceptions and other factual beliefs. The most likely candidate is affect, which Slovic et al. have shown plays a critical role in risk perception generally (Slovic, P., Finucane, M. L., Peters, E., & MacGregor, D. G., Risk as analysis and risk as feelings: Some thoughts about affect, reason, risk, and rationality. Risk Analysis, 24(2), 311-322 (2004), and which is likely shaped by cultural influences. Other mechanisms and processes include cognitive dissonance avoidance, which might incline individuals to resolve contested empirical claims in a manner compatible with their cultural identities, and biased assimilation, which would induce them to credit or discredit factual information in a manner supportive of their prior, culturally grounded views. Finally there are various in-group and out-group dynamics, such as naive realism, reactive devaluation, and group polarization, which could motivate individuals to trust those who share their cultural allegiances and distrust those who do not when cultural groups disagree about risk or other factual issues relevant to policy.  These hypotheses are most appropriately investigated through social-psychology experiments.

Papers:

Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus
Cultural Cognition of the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology

Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn't, and Why? An Experimental Study
The Self-Defensive Cognition of Self-Defense
Second National Risk and Culture Study
Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk

 

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