« Guest Blogger: Dan Kahan | Main | Cultural Cognition: Theory, Sources, Methods, Results »

05 June 2006

Comments

vimax

Male Status is only men to increase penile size

vimax

Nice story this is really interesting

Dan Kahan

Hi, Jeff. This is a good point. I can tell you that demographic variables and other individual characteristics on which we collected information explained only a modest amount of the variation -- 11%-- in cultural worldviews in our sample. But I'm guessing structural equation modeling could usefully explore the issue whether a model that posits demographic variables > culture > risk perception fits better than one that treats culture and demographic variables as independent infuences (although ones that do interact in some cases) on risk perception. John Gastil, another of our team members, has more experience w/ structural equation modeling; I'll ask him what he thinks. Thanks again!

Jeff Yates

Dan, thanks for your wonderful post. I think that the basic theory that you posit is both cogent and very useful; I was primarily interested in the origins of culture type as a possible extension of the theory. One aspect of origins that might be of interest regarding your theory is the idea that demographic factors and environment might have both direct effects (which you demonstrate are less powerful explanations than culture type) *and* indirect effects in that they may influence culture type.

********************
Jeff Yates
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Georgia
http://www.uga.edu/pol-sci/people/yates.htm
SSRN: http://ssrn.com/author=454290
*********************

Dan Kahan

Hi, Jeff. I discuss the culture categories, which we adapted from Mary Douglas, a bit more in today's post. But I admit to be embarrassingly perplexed about the origins of the categories. And at 2 levels, as it were: (a) societal: why are these remarkably spare categories the right ones? and (b) individual: how do individuals acquire their orientations?
The most systematic attempt to work out Culture Theory of the Douglas sort is Michael Thompson, Richard Ellis & Aaron Wildavsky, Cultural Theory (1990), but it fails, in my view, to offer very good answers to either of these questions. They take a functional view, arguing that the culture types are necessary for society's to flourish, and that individuals essentially take on the worldviews in question *b/c* that conduces to the flourishing of the types.... I don't buy it!
I lean toward these answers:
(a) Douglas' group-grid scheme is just a very parsimonious way to capture what are likely to be the most important distinctions in modes of social organization. Indeed, the 2X2 that she uses (see more in my post from today) is shared by many many shemes in the social sciences. They are gross simplifications-- but they are still useful for explaining, testing, and possibly policy design.
(b) Individuals likely acquire the cultural orientations through socialization, although it is possible, I suppose, that there is some genetic contribution to the group-grid outlooks. But I think it's fair to take individuals' orientations as exogenous methodologically, given that they are reliable and explantory (when measured with our cultural worldview scales), and morally, given how problematic it would be for government to make shaping orientations an object of policy.
But if you think the origins of the culture type does important implications for the cogency or usefulness of the basic theory, I'm all ears!

Jeff Yates

Dan, thanks for your thoughtful answer to my question. Given that the cultural worldview (e.g. egalitarian vs. hierarchy) seems to be the touchstone modifier variable, I suppose the follow up question would be - what explains the egalitarian/hierarchy distinction?

I assume that this measure is derived from survey responses, but if it is the most powerful explanation of risk behavior, then it seems appropriate to ask - what are its determinants? Certainly this might be a compelling extension of the original question if not already answered. Is egal/hierarchy an inate characteristic, or is it primarily environmentally driven? If the latter, then what environmental factors influence a person to be at one end or the other of this cultural worldview spectrum?

Just some thoughts on this intriguing topic.

BTW, Woody Allen called and said that he wouldnt want to be part of any survey that would have him as a respondent ;-)

********************
Jeff Yates
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Georgia
http://www.uga.edu/pol-sci/people/yates.htm
SSRN page: http://ssrn.com/author=454290
*********************

Dan Kahan

Hi, Jeff. One of the takeaways of this particular application of cultural cognition is that it is indeed misleading to aggregate all white males when trying to explain variation in risk perception. Being a white male, we found, matters only if (and to the extent) one holds hierarchical and individualist worldviews.

Indeed, the "white male effect" has always been understood as a puzzle waiting to be solved. No one really thought that that demographic characteristic could be causing variation in risk perception; everyone thought it correlated with some other factor that did. In fact, the solution to the puzzle is even more complicated, since it isn't the *correlation* between white maleness and anything else that explains the "white male effect"; rather, it's the *interaction* of white maleness with cultural worldviews that does.

As for other individual characteristics: we found that the influence of cultural worldviews on gun risks was much larger than any other factor, including where one lives (rural vs. urban, south vs. north, etc.), income, political ideology, personality type, gender, race, etc. You can find the data (and download a mean-ass regression table) here: http://research.yale.edu/culturalcognition/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=98
The same was true about the relative impact of culture and other influences on various other types of risk perceptions.

I'm not sure where Woody Allen would fit in our research, but if you have his email, I'll send him a written version of our survey!

Jeff Yates

Dan,

I find this line of research very interesting. I'm wondering though, if there may be factors that need to be considered that are not addressed in your post. I haven't read all of the underlying work, so there may be an easy answer to my question, but here goes:

Is it the case that all white males are appropriately aggregated? (Or African American males, for that matter); Is it possible that there may be additional considerations at work here?

With regard to the gun control issue, might it be the case that other demographic distinctions, such as Rural vs. Urban, or Socio-economic status, yield important insights concerning this general theory?

I could be wrong, but I just don't see Woody Allen (very urban and high s/e status) getting all worked up over somebody regulating his collection of guns.

On the other hand, he did make a pretty convincing gun-toting dictator in "Bananas". ;-)

********************
Jeff Yates
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Georgia
http://www.uga.edu/pol-sci/people/yates.htm
SSRN page: http://ssrn.com/author=454290
*********************

Dan Kahan

I agree that:
a. cultural cognition is driving persons on *both sides* of the gun debate and various other risk-regulation issues;
b. there is nothing distinctively "white male" about it (indeed, our results show there's no "white male effect" per se in risk perception);
c. that one side or the other is likely "right" as an empirical matter; and
d. that it's unlikely that any of the cultural groups is right about everything.

I *almost* agree with your point that "it come[s] down to who is more correct." I agree with the basic thrust of your point that it doesn't discredit a position to show that those who hold it do so as a result of culturally grounded status anxiety. But I don't accept, necessarily, that what's normative here is who is "correct" on the empirics in the various debates where cultural cognition is in play. Part of what's going on is that individuals are perceiving that empirical claims that fit withing a utilitiarn or economic calculus support support states of affairs that they value on non-utilitiarian, cultural grounds. They might be *wrong* about the empirics but still right, morally speaking, to prefer the state of affairs that they value for cultural reasons.... More on this in a forthcoming post on the prescriptive/normative implications of cultural cognition!

frank cross

I understand and your theory is surely a plausible one. But I suspect you could come up with a comparably plausible theory to explain the egalitarians. I suspect both have truth.

Ultimately, doesn't it come down to who is more correct? E.g., if gun control is a good idea that will save lives, you might criticize the white male perspective, but if it is a bad idea, not.

I can think of a lot of environmental issues where the white male perception was the more correct one (though certainly not all environmental issues). This doesn't refute the possibility that the position is attributable to status anxiety but it suggests to me that the contrary position is also driven by psychological characteristics rather than a logical assessment. I bet the underlying syndrome is more of a "human" effect than a "white male" effect.

Dan Kahan

Good question. My first instinct is to concede the point completely. Our theory is that individuals of all cultural orientations form risk perceptions (and related beliefs) in a manner that avoids the sort of psychological cost associated with being at odds with other members of their in-group and with having to believe that the others within their in-group are ignorant or evil. So the disposition of egalitarians and solidarists to perceive guns, say, as risky is just as much a status-anxiety effect as the disposition of hierarchs and individualists to see them as safe. (Of course, one group still might be right and the other wrong; correctness of the view isn't the baseline, that's for certain.)

But the only reason I won't happily concede everything is that the "white male" findings have to do w/ interesting gender (and race) differences within groups of persons who share a cultural worldview. You might talk me out of it--indeed, I almost hope you do--but I feel it is more natural (in the sanse, of more useful for explantory purposes) to assign greater or lesser amounts of "status anxiety" to one or the other to explain that. On guns, for example, hierarchical and individualist worldviews predict the view that guns are "safe" among both men *and* women; however, the effect of those worldviews on men is much much larger. That fits our theory insofar as we say hierarchical and individualist men have a bigger investment in access to guns to perform roles that are status-enhancing for them. But insofar as inividualist and hierarchist women still are more disposed to see guns as "safe" than are solidarist and egalitarian ones, it seems strange to say they are holding back on status-anxiety grounds; female hierarchs and individualists are motivated by status-anxiety relative to egalitarians and solidarists, but not nearly *as much* as male hierarchs and individualists. Or at least I find myself drawn to that way of talking for explanatory purposes.

frank cross

Interesting findings, but I wonder about your benchmark. While we have differences among groups, how do you know it is the white males, or hierarchists, who have the status anxieties, as opposed to other groups?

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