The Jacob Marschak Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Mathematics in the Behavioral Sciences at UCLA
"The Tragedy of the Science-Communication Commons" presented by Dan Kahan, Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Psychology, Yale University
Friday, March 08, 2013
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
2343 Public Affairs Building
Host: Susanne Lohmann, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, UCLA
Lunch 11:45 pm – 12:45 pm UCLA Faculty Center — RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Talk 1-‐3 pm 2343 Public Affairs Building (Luskin School) — no RSVP required
From climate change to the HPV vaccine to gun control, public controversy over the nature of policy-‐relevant science is today a conspicuous feature of democratic politics in America. A common view attributes this phenomenon to the public’s limited comprehension of science, and to their resulting vulnerability to manipulation by economically motivated purveyors of misinformation. In my talk, I will offer an alternative account. The problem, I will suggest, is not a deficit in rationality but a conflict between what’s rational at the individual and collective levels: ordinary members of the public face strong incentives—social, psychological, and economic—to conform their personal beliefs about societal risk to the positions that predominate within their cultural groups; yet when members of diverse cultural groups all form their perceptions of risk in this fashion, democratic institutions are less likely to converge on scientifically informed policies essential to the welfare of all. I will discuss empirical evidence that supports this analysis—and that suggests potential strategies for securing the collective good associated with a science communication environment free of the conflict between knowing what is known and being who we are.
Dan Kahan is a member of the Cultural Cognition Project, an interdisciplinary team of scholars who use empirical methods to examine the impact of group values on perceptions of risk and related facts. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Project has investigated public disagreement over climate change, public reactions to emerging technologies, and conflicting public impressions of scientific consensus. The Project’s research has been featured in Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, the Journal of Risk Research, Nature Nanotechnology, and Nature.
The Jacob Marschak Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Mathematics in the Behavioral Sciences was founded 50 years ago by Jacob Marschak, a pioneer in the economics of information. It is directed by Susanne Lohmann (Political Science and Public Policy) in collaboration with Sally Blower (Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences), Louis Gomez (Education), Martie Haselton (Communication Studies and Psychology), and Mark Kleiman (Public Policy). Michael Intriligator (Economics, Political Science, and Public Policy) is Honorary Lifetime Director.