Dan M. Kahan

Yale University

Yale Law School
P.O. BOX 208215/127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT
dan.kahan@yale.edu |  Visit Personal Website

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With collaborators, I am currently involved in the study of the impact "cultural cognition" and related forms of motivated reasoning on science communication, public policy, and law.

Kahan, D.M., H, Jenkins-Smith, and D. Braman. 2011. "Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus." Journal of Risk Research 14: 147-174.
Abstract: Why do members of the public disagree - sharply and persistently - about facts on which expert scientists largely agree? We designed a study to test a distinctive explanation: the cultural cognition of scientific consensus. The "cultural cognition of risk" refers to the tendency of individuals to form risk perceptions that are congenial to their values. The study presents both correlational and experimental evidence confirming that cultural cognition shapes individuals' beliefs about the existence of scientific consensus, and the process by which they form such beliefs, relating to climate change, the disposal of nuclear wastes, and the effect of permitting concealed possession of handguns. The implications of this dynamic for science communication and public policy-making are discussed.
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2010.511246
Kahan, D., D. Braman, G. Cohen, J. Gastil, and P. Slovic. 2010. "Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn’t, and Why? An Experimental Study of the Mechanisms of Cultural Cognition." Law Human Behavior 34: 501-516.
Abstract: The cultural cognition thesis holds that individuals form risk perceptions that reflect their commitments to contested views of the good society. We conducted a study that used the dispute over mandatory HPV vaccination to test the cultural cognition thesis. Although public health officials have recommended that all girls aged 11 or 12 be vaccinated for HPV?a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer?political controversy has blocked adoption of mandatory school-enrollment vaccination programs in all but one state. An experimental study of a large sample of American adults (N = 1,538) found that cultural cognition generates disagreement about the risks and benefits of the vaccine through two mechanisms: biased assimilation, and the credibility heuristic. We discuss theoretical and practical implications.
DOI: 10.1007/s10979-009-9201-0
Kahan, Dan, Donald Braman, Paul Slovic, John Gastil and Geoff Cohen. 2009. "Cultural Cognition of the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology." Nature Nanotechnology 4 (87).
Abstract: We conducted an experimental public opinion study of the effect of balanced information on nanotechnology risk-benefit perceptions. The study found that subjects did not react in a uniform, much less a uniformly positive manner, but rather polarized along lines consistent with cultural predispositions toward technological risk generally.
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2008.341

Substantive Focus:
Law and Policy
Science and Technology Policy

Theoretical Focus:
Public Opinion