From the Cultural Cognition Project

December 3rd, 2011

I just discovered Dan Kahan’s Cultural Cognition Project site at YLS. This work has strong implications for my research into social cost–specifically how people of different stripes perceive costs to liberty and costs of liberty.

This article, titledĀ More Statistics, Less Persuasion: A Cultural Theory of Gun-Risk Perceptions will definitely be cited on my work on the 2nd Amendment and social cost:

What motivates individuals to support or oppose the legal regulation of guns? What sorts of evidence or arguments are likely to promote a resolution of the gun control debate? Using the survey methods associated with the cultural theory of risk, we demonstrate that individuals’ positions on gun control derive from their cultural world views: individuals of an egalitarian or solidaristic orientation tend to support gun control, those of a hierarchical or individualist orientation to oppose it. Indeed, cultural orientations so defined are stronger predictors of individuals’ positions than is any other fact about them, including whether they are male or female, white or black, Southerners or Easterners, urbanites or country dwellers, conservatives or liberals. The role of culture in determining attitudes towards guns suggests that econometric analyses of the effect of gun control on violent crime are unlikely to have much impact. As they do when they are evaluating empirical evidence of environmental and other types of risks, individuals can be expected to credit or dismiss empirical evidence on “gun control risks” depending on whether it coheres or conflicts with their cultural values. Rather than focus on quantifying the impact of gun control laws on crime, then, academics and others who want to contribute to resolving the gun debate should dedicate themselves to constructing a new expressive idiom that will allow citizens to debate the cultural issues that divide them in an open and constructive way.

Plus some more follow-up research on this point inĀ Gender, Race, and Risk Perception: The Influence of Cultural Status Anxiety. Plus the SecondNational Risk and Culture Study found:

  • Individuals of diverse cultural outlooks–hierarchical and egalitarian, individualistic and communitarian–hold sharply opposed beliefs about a range of societal risks, including those associated with climate change, gun ownership, public health, and national security. Differences in these basic values exert substantially more influence over risk perceptions than does any other individual characteristic, including gender, race, socioeconomic status, education, and political ideology and party affiliation.
  • In the wake of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in April 2007, Americans were culturally polarized on whether stronger gun control measures at schools and universities would reduce the incidence of campus gun massacres or instead render it more difficult for students and teachers to defend themselves against such attacks. The tragedy did not change public views on gun control overall.