Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chris Mooney Was Right

In the Republican Brain, Chris Mooney describes how conservative Republicans have lost their mooring to reality, from cupidity or stupidity or just desire for life on another planet.  Whether you believe this or not, depends to some extent on you position about reality.  As Dan Kahan put it

As it turns out, I don’t feel persuaded of the central thesis of The Republican Brain. That is, I’m not convinced that the mass of studies that it draws on supports the inference that Republicans/conservatives reason in a manner that is different from and less reasoned than Democrats/liberals.
And Kahan and colleagues (Peters, Slovic and Cantrell Dawson) set out to do an experiment that shows that Mooney got it right, of course, without setting out to do an experiment that showed that Mooney got it right, but that is what they did.

Now Kahan is of the school that you might as well save your breath, that no amount of knowledge will budge cultural orientation, what he calls the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT).  This is opposed by a more loosely defined Deficit Model, that providing some factual material helps.  In the paper, ICT is contrasted to the SCT
“Science Comprehension Thesis” (SCT), which identifies defects in the public’s knowledge and reasoning capacities as the source of such controversies; and the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT), which treats cultural conflict as disabling the faculties that members of the public use to make sense of decision-relevant science.
If you read Huffington Post, the claims are all or nothing, but if you back bunnies into a corner you get an it depends on how committed people are to their ideology, and certainly education, information, etc. has an effect, which is why the pushback on anything that shows how strongly those who study climate believe that people are having a major negative effect on climate

Briefly put Kahan, et al's subjects were classified as Conservative Republican or Liberal Democrat, and within each group those who could divide (the numerate) were separated from those who could not (the innumerate).  Selected members from each group were given ~ninth grade ratio problems of moderate difficulty

One was about a new skin rash treatment



Rash Got Better
Rash Got Worse
Patients who did use the new skin cream
223
75
Patients who did not use the new skin cream
107
21


and the other was about



Increase in Crime
Decrease in Crime
Cities that did ban carrying concealed handguns in public
223
75
Cities that did not ban carrying concealed handguns in public
107
21


They also flipped the outcomes, for example



Decrease in Crime
Increase in Crime
Cities that did ban carrying concealed handguns in public
223
75
Cities that did not ban carrying concealed handguns in public
107
21


and the questions were, was the skin cream effective or not, or were concealed carry laws effective or not.  (UPDATE:  Since readers are picking exactitude the actual questions were People who used the skin cream were more likely to get better/get worse than those who didn't.  Eli also changed the titles on the columns to the ones used which he had shortened to save space)

For the purposes of this post, let's look at their predicted probability of getting the right answers and discuss the various takes.

Kahan, et al's take on this is
also strongly disconfirms the second, SCT hypothesis. A low-Numeracy Liberal Democrat is more likely to correctly identify the outcome supported by the data than is a low-Numeracy Conservative Republican when the data, in fact, supports the conclusion that a gun ban decreases crime, but is less likely to correctly identify the outcome when the data supports the conclusion that a gun ban increases crime. This pattern of polarization, contrary to the SCT hypothesis, does not abate among high Numeracy subjects. 
Michael Tobis, at Planet 3.0 has a different take, calling this Kahan's latest mistake, an example of the Juggler's Paradox because "Kahan is not measuring what he claims he is measuring. Not at all."
Consider the comparable experiment with people who can juggle on one side and people who can’t juggle on the other. Set up a pair of juggling tests, one under ordinary conditions and the other in the presence of sudden, random, loud noises. The preformance of the adept will decline. The performance of those who cannot do the task under the best of circumstances will stay the same.  
Can we therefore conclude that “highly dextrous people are more subject to distraction than clumsy ones”? Well, sort of, but it doesn’t really tell us very much of interest.  
Can we conclude that “they applied their dexterity to the task of dropping the ball”? In this case that doesn’t even make any sense. Why should the analogous reason be relevant in Kahan’s?
In short, MT is pointing out that the numerate always do better than the innumerate, although there is certainly an ICT effect and but SCT also plays a role and one would expect this to be stronger among the less politically committed.

Eli, being a dumb bunny, would like to point out the interesting Baskerville hound in the data which Kahan et al do not hear. Specifically the results in all cases for the dumb liberals stayed about the same. In fact, if there is any significant change for the dumb liberals it is a move against ideology (they did better on the crime increases data than on the rash increases).  In other words when faced with data that contradicted their ideology, they gave the problem more consideration.

The numerate and innumerate conservatives went with their prejudices.  To a much lesser extent the numerate liberals did, but note that their crime decreases answers pretty well matched their rash decreases distribution, e.g. they did not let their prejudices distort their answers in that regard, although they did so to a much lesser extent than the conservatives on the opposite proposition.

What Kahan has really shown is that conservative republicans are barking mad.  Sadly so.

His study certainly "supports the inference that Republicans/conservatives reason in a manner that is different from and less reasoned than Democrats/liberals."



58 comments:

tamino said...

The p-value for the contingency table is 0.064 (chi-square test; Fisher's exact test says 0.057). A Bayesian test makes it about 50/50 between the two choices (does have an effect or doesn't).

So it seems to me that the answer is ambiguous.

Am I being pedantic?

Anonymous said...

The 'concealed handguns'-tables are a bit of problematic, there could be a typo. One thing that might be interesting would be to study if the effects of prohibiting concealed handguns in democratic vs. republican cities is any different.

'shooting rats in cities should be allowed since they spread plague'

mandas said...

No Tamino, you are not being pedantic. You are being a scientist (but then, I was thinking exactly the same thing myself).

Brian said...

I took MT to be saying that the innumerate are so bad at figuring out the correct answer that they can't be affected by the political bias - including them in the study is inappropriate. I assumed Kahan could've fixed this by focusing on a range of numeracy capability that starts with a higher numeracy floor.

The fact that there appears to be some movement of liberal innumerates on guns versus skin rash might contradict MT, if the difference is significant.

Lars Karlsson said...

There ought to be a "did not" alternative in the handgun tables.

Lars Karlsson said...

Yes, there are "did not" alternatives in the paper. Bunny's typo.

Russell Seitz said...

As I am prejudiced by Chris's reluctance to interview republicans anywhere to the right side of the bell curve, I must declare a snark recusal.

EliRabett said...

Copy, then paste. Thank you Lars

Anonymous said...

What about the brian of Democrats who keep supporting and voting for the same Hopey Changey candidates over and over, thinking that "this time the result will be different"?

EliRabett said...

Consider the alternative

SCM said...

Could the difference between lib and repubs on this reflect a difference in how strongly they each feel about this particular issue. Gun rights have become such a defining issue for the right in the US, maybe gun control is important for libs but they aren't quite so obsessed about it.

EliRabett said...

Smart comment, but you have to watch/read this to understand the depths of emotion

These are people prone to conspiratorial thinking that are being pushed to extremes. It is not a bug, it is a feature.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember a similar fall-out when this subject was discussed by Lewandowsky last year (or was it 2011?).

Anyway, I'm waiting for the study where researchers investigate researchers who investigate Science Comprehension Thesis and Identity-protective Cognition Thesis, and find that the said latter group of researchers' interpretations of their work are affected by their political/cultural biases.

Kahan et al 2013 provide some interesting datapoints...


Bernard J.

(Catpcha's telling me "95 nthepos" - is this some arcane statistical observation?)

Anonymous said...

And speaking of Lewandowsky, this subject recalls Stephan's work on conspiracy ideation which inflamed the recursive proclamations of conspiracy.

Truly, conservative ideology is a mother lode of fascinating cognitive scotoma.


Bernard J.

Anonymous said...

How's that "difference" workin for ya, Eli?

It may be fun to compare Naomi Klein to Pol Pot (an analogy which must require a different kind), but at least she doesn't deny the reality.

Michael Tobis said...

"The fact that there appears to be some movement of liberal innumerates on guns versus skin rash might contradict MT, if the difference is significant."

Somewhat; if significant it puts some caveats into my argument, but it doesn't change the point, which is that you are measuring different reasons for getting things right among the various populations.

If significant it completely screws Kahan up, though!

Eli's point, that these data strongly support Mooney, is also obvious from the graph. I noticed this, but I didn't address it because I am a Martian; everything that is not at a planetary scale strikes me as hyperlocal and contingent.

I am more interested in general principles than in what distinguishes the blue tentacled creatures from the red tentacled creatures in a particular social context.

But in fact that's part of my critique. One of the ways Kahan overvalues his own thinking is in failing to argue between specific cultural influences and fundamental human propensities. The striking difference between red and blue in the lower left is indeed the most salient feature of the data, and what it tends to demonstrate is that what Kahan calls "SCT" is culturally contingent.

But I can think of confounds there, too. Suppose the blue population is more divided on the gun control issue than the red one?

Remember what Kahan is forgetting: getting the "right answer" is not the same as getting the problem right. Conceivably some small fraction of the low-numeracy liberals were strongly biased against gun control.

Social science is hard. You can make it look easy by being really talented, but its easier to make it look easy by ignoring the hard parts.

Brian said...

"How's that 'difference' workin for ya, Eli?"

You do realize you're paraphrasing the SnowGrifter, don't you? Are you trying to argue there wouldn't be a "difference" if she were in charge?

It's similar to the argument by people who say Gore would've invaded Iraq if he'd been president, years after he opposed the invasion as a stupid idea. They can't stand the idea that Bush was worse, so they make stuff up.

EliRabett said...

AFAEK MT, you are not Hungarian.

Susan Anderson said...

Russell, if you're around, suggest a look at Mooney's Storm World (IMO, the best of his books). Check out his sympathetic rendering of William Gray. I think he likes people. Otherwise, your point is well taken.

I joint mt in being annoyed with Kahan's delight in himself, but the irritation may also reflect some similarities.

Hank Roberts said...

er

> they did not let their
> prejudices distort their
> answers in that regard,
> although they did so to
> a much lesser extent

Could you try that again?

Russell Seitz said...

Susan, Chris may feel genuine guilt about his suspension of historiographic disbelief, but in y experience it has not stopped him, or Naomi Oreskes for that matter, from dodging primary sources the better to tell just so stories in support of a political agenda.

L Hamilton said...

Last year we published a study in Polar Geography looking at national survey data, and finding that scientific literacy had opposite effects depending on respondent's ideology. Among self-identified liberals and moderates, concern about climate change increased with science literacy. Among the most extreme conservatives, however, concern actually decreased with science literacy. This result, not inconsistent with Mooney's thesis, is graphed in Figure 1 and tested in Table 3 of the authors' draft here (write if you’d like a copy of the published article):
http://pubpages.unh.edu/~lch/Hamilton2012_PolarGeo_authors.pdf

Other studies confirm that education/ideology or education/party show similar interaction effects. Concern, belief in the reality of climate change, and belief that there is a scientific consensus tend to increase with education among liberals and moderates (or Democrats and Independents), but stay flat or even decrease with education among conservatives (or Republicans).

James Wimberley said...

James Wimberley
I suggest there´s an ambiguity in the questions put. ¨The questions were, was the skin cream effective or not, or were concealed carry laws effective or not.¨ The results are analysed as if the data supplied are the only ones there are. But this is only plausible for the skin rash case, not the guns control, on which respondents already have a lot of information (true or false). The question should have been prefaced: ¨Imagine this the only information available on the matter. Then ...¨

Michael Tobis said...

Igaz én beszélek néhány szót magyarul. Miért fontos ez?

Michael Tobis said...

James, a good thought, but no. See Kahan et al.'s figure 2. Subjects were not asked what was true, but "what result does the study support?"

EliRabett said...

Ha tudnám, ha a extraterrestials van, ezek közül minket "- mondta -" de ők nevezik magukat magyaroknak

Anonymous said...

Tamino says: "The p-value for the contingency table is 0.064 (chi-square test; Fisher's exact test says 0.057). A Bayesian test makes it about 50/50 between the two choices (does have an effect or doesn't).

So it seems to me that the answer is ambiguous.

Am I being pedantic?"

No, but the thing you have to keep in mind is that this blog is not about statistics, just "motivated reasoning".

Statisticss don't enter into it.



.

Anonymous said...

Brian,

You obviously have difficulty distinguishing between "Eli" and "Brian", but since you saw fit to answer for Eli, here's the latest from Jim Hansen on the issue of climate change

"strong evidence about the dangers of human-made climate change have so far had little effect. Whether governments continue to be so foolhardy as to allow or encourage development of all fossil fuels may determine the fate of humanity.”

If you think Hansen (who has been critical of Democrats and Obama in the past) is simply referring to "Republicans" in our own government, there is simply no hope for you.


Anonymous said...

In the vein of motivated reasoning, readers who missed it might be interested in a thread on The Conversation:

https://theconversation.com/weighing-the-toll-of-our-angry-summer-against-climate-change-12793

where the authors obviously put impartial and logical thinking to the side in order to erect a straw man stuffed with their own ideological re-interpretation of the damage arising from climate change.

Although one has to drill somewhat, there are some especially perspicacious comments that challenge and effectively destroy the thesis of the article. Watching the authors defend themselves is quite interesting...


Bernard J.

Anonymous said...

Now Rib Smokin' Bunny ain't no psychologist, or statistician even. What he see in the gun control question is that for both Liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans, correcting a knowledge deficit (in this expt via numeracy-based self discovery) helps only if the conclusion from correct reasoning is actually consistent with their prior belief (which I will assume follows the innumerate groups represent). It looks more dramatic for Conservative Republican, but the amount iof movement really is quite similar to Libruls. Motivated reasoning is strong human trait. The trick is to have your prior beliefs correct, then reality reinforces them. Prior beliefs correct, knowledge is just plain rejected (denial ain't just a river in Egypt).

Anonymous said...

Last sentence typo, should be Prior beliefs incorrect, knowledge is just plain rejected (denial ain't just a river in Egypt).

Rib Smokin' Bunny

Anonymous said...

it appears normal republican attitude continues, this time in Chicago: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-20/11-people-shot-at-chicago-basketball-court-reports-say/4971734

Susan Anderson said...

Thanks Russell. I don't think I mentioned guilt. While I appreciate the point you are making (on which we will have to agree to disagree though I will keep your assertion in mind - in support of which I know he misrepresented you), mine was a little different. Storm World is his most readable and least political book, and a good resource on history as well. I was surprised by his openness and came to the conclusion stated that he likes people. While his more political material is a logical progression for him, I don't like it as much, though I regard The Republican War on Science is a valuable and largely reliable resource. Your less than close relative gets short shrift there.

Anonymous said...

"it appears normal republican attitude continues, this time in Chicago:"

I would say the shooters were more than likely Democrats and Pro-Obama. And Democrats in general will not publicize this event like they did with Zimmerman case as it does not fit the narrative they want for pushing gun control.

Liberals are selfish when it comes to money or power, the one thing the studies cited here fail to account for. They are certainly more likely to eat a their dead dog for money than their fellow conservatives.

Anyone here eat a dog lately?

1

Michael Tobis said...

The evolution of this thread shows why I moderate comments.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

The way I interpret the results is that liberals value being right. Conservatives value social harmony within their peer group more than being right.

Correctness is a good.

Social cohesion is a good (especially for social mammals).

Being right won't help you if you are exiled to a wilderness. Being in a harmonious group won't help you if your group is headed off a cliff. Perhaps the way to reach the conservatives is to show they they are hurting their own?

EliRabett said...

Evolution is not all it is cracked up to be.

Mal Adapted said...

And for that I am grateful, MT, as a frequent visitor to P3. OTOH, as long as there's at least one reality-based blogs where the likes of Anonymous Troll #1 aren't moderated off, the deniers can't say they're always being censored.

Besides, AT1 nicely represents the denier mindset, for the world to see. With enemies like him/her/it, who needs friends?

Mal Adapted said...

Eli: "Evolution is not all it is cracked up to be."

AFAICT, Evolution is a game, in which the only reward for winning is to stay in the game.

Anonymous said...

Examples abound of the smarter more caring Democrat.

"Allan Brauer, the communications chair for the Democratic Party of Sacramento, Calif., told an aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Tex.) on Friday that he hoped her children “die from debilitating, painful and incurable diseases.”

Brian,

Have you had interactions with Allan? Being a Democrat yourself I am sure you will ask him to resign, right?

1

Anonymous said...

Kansas University Professor? I'd bet he is one of those smart caring Democrats as well.

"The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you."

David Guth's response to the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard.

You guys are on to something, Democrats, especially recently, are very deliberate smart and caring people.

1

Kevin O'Neill said...

@Anonymous regarding Allan Brauer:

"Hi @amandacarpenter I am truly sorry for my tweet. I was very upset and lashed out. Your kids are not fair game either. My apologies."

So, a Democrat with no power, holding a meaningless position, making a personal statement affecting one person, for which he then apologizes, is the equivalent of a national party that is trying to damage the lives of millions not just without apology, but refusing to even be honest about it.

Have you ever heard of the phrase 'false equivalency'?

Go buy a clue, a brain, or a book on logic. Better yet, go troll someone else.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is normal behavior for a person to wish horrible death upon children simply to offer an apology later (after much pressure and initially refusing to do so).

Twisted.

"So, a Democrat with no power..."
We could only get so lucky in the near future.

Anyone else wish horrible death upon children when they get upset? Anyone?

Thought so.

1

Anonymous said...

Allan is a classy guy, he has resigned, but his classy examples of being smarter and more charitable (you know a Democrat) are recorded.

http://twitchy.com/2013/09/20/exposed-death-wish-democrat-official-allan-brauers-long-history-of-online-hate-misogyny-gop-kid-bashing/

I'd say he is a pretty typical Democrat.

1

Hank Roberts said...

"... His study certainly "supports the inference that Republicans/conservatives reason ..."

I Told You So: Congressman Parrots Climate Change Denial Errors
-- By Phil Plait


See also

Reasoning by Inference: Further Studies on Exclusion in Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus).
IM Pepperberg, A Koepke, P Livingston, M Girard

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Yes it is normal behavior for a person to wish horrible death upon children

Oh yeah, like wishing just as praying is so fucking real and effective action. I say fuck em, if their parents want to continue to live the way they do, let them die.

You'll have to fire me because I won't resign. (snicker).

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

And guess what o'anonymous fascist boi, I can save you some time because I don't need a bunch of paid government thugs protecting my freedom of speech in places like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, especially when they have bankrupted the nation not doing it. So I have no problem with the paid thugs dying horrible painful deaths on congress's behalf. (snicker) And they do, by the thousands. So it must be all my fault, no?

Anonymous said...

I see we have another smart and caring Democrat gracing Rabett Run putting to words how all the rabbets actual feel.

Nicely done. Brian should be by to show his support for your words.

1

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Anonymous American cowards can't stand freedom of speech from fearless American patriots.

Anonymous cowards think wishing and praying are real whereas fearless American patriots embrace the truth, no matter how harsh it may seem.

You richly deserve the world you have created for yourselves. Enjoy!

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Brian should be by to show his support for your words.

Anonymous American cowards can't let other Americans speak for themselves. They already have all the answers it seems. They wished them and prayed them into existence!

So why should I lift a finger to save Anonymous Coward's children with science, after anonymous coward bankrupted the nation. I look forward to anonymous coward's government shutdown. At least then the anonymous cowards won't be committing thuggery on ferner's children for the sole reason there will no longer be any government tit to suck on. No paycheck, no government funded planes, guns and bombs, what a deal I say.

Anonymous said...

Eli,

did you say something about barking mad?

lol

Own him, love him, support him, but please more than with your silence.

1

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Anonymous American cowards do not respect freedom of speech, they demand that you speak, especially in support of the paid government thugs killing children. It's their way. Paid government thugs don't merely wish and pray ill will on people, they actually deliver it! In spades. And all it costs is your solvency.

Anonymous said...

Well Thomas, looks like Eli and Brian agree with you and let you have the final words, good job.

Btw, whether you are allowed to post on a blog or not has nothing to do with free speech.

1

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Do I hear an illiterate and innumerate fly buzzing here?

You are very afraid. You should try to let individual speak for themselves once and a while. It's the law of the land. But I know how busy you are collecting that government paycheck and wreaking havoc on the world and the financial system for who knows what nonsense. I'm glad you are running out of money and time.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Wow! Trooollll Fiiiight!!!

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

I think that rather well describes the United States congress, no?

Well never mind, it's your money lol.

EliRabett said...

Hey, this is Rabett Run, where great Trolls have little Trolls upon their butts to fight 'em, and tiny Trolls have lesser Trolls, and so ad infinitum,

Brian(not brain) Dodge said...

"What about the brian of Democrats who keep supporting and voting for the same Hopey Changey candidates over and over, thinking that 'this time the result will be different'?"

I voted for Obama once.

I voted for Romney since I figured a pragmatic Republican who invented Obamaromneycare would be more effective at getting some semblance of a jobs program out of a Republican controlled House whose only focus has been trying to insure Obama is a one term President - even into his second term - in between forty two votes to end Obamaromneycare, somehow expecting a different outcome each time. (plus I was looking forward to the entertainment provided by Ryan's Rules of Order for a Democratic Senate, and I remember something about giving fools enough rope…)

Yeah, I know you meant to type brain, not brian, but I couldn't resist the pun; I'm not the one who's insane.