Synopses of upcoming talks

I usually don’t post these until day before or of, but it occurs to me that that’s wasting the opportunity to solicit feedback form the 14 billion subscribers to this site, who might well suggest something that improves my actual presentation.


For presentation this Saturday at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting in San Antonio:

Cognitive Dualism and Science Comprehension

I will present evidence of cognitive dualism: the use of one set of information-processing strategies to form beliefs (e.g., in divine creation; the nonexistence of climate change) essential to a cultural identity and another to form alternative beliefs (in evolution; or climate change) esential to instrumental ends (medical practice; adaptation).

Then these at the American Association for the Advancment of Science in Boston on Feb. 17 & 18:

America’s Two Climate Changes

There are two climate changes in America: the one people “believe” or “disbelieve” in order to express their cultural identities; and the one about which people acquire and use scientific knowledge in order to make decisions of consequence, individual and collective. I will present various forms of empirical evidence—including standardized science literacy tests, lab experiments, and real-world field studies in Southeast Florida—to support the “two climate changes” thesis.

Does “fake news” matter?

The advent of “fake news” disseminated by social media is a relatively novel phenomenon, the impact of which has not been extensively studied. Rather than purporting to give an authoritative account, then, I will describe two competing models that can be used to structure empirical investigation of the effect of “fake news” on public opinion.   The information aggregator account (IA) sees individuals’ beliefs as a register of the sum total of information sources to which they’ve been exposed.  The motivated processor account (MP), in contrast, treats individuals’ predispositions as driving both their search for information and the weight they assign any information they are exposed to. These theories generate different predictions about “fake news”: that it will significantly distort public opinion, in the view of IA;  or that it will be near irrelevant, in the view of MP.  In addition to discussing the provenance of these theories in the science of science communication, I will identify some of the key measurement challenges they pose for researchers and how those challenges can be surmounted.

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