How Cultural Values Influence What & Whom We Believe

Sorry for the late night post. Here are two very important articles which I highly recommend.

The first piece comes via superstar researcher Mary Douglas. Professor Douglas developed the “Grid Group” (see image below). The reason the Grid Group is important (for the purpose of our conversation) is it’s application to risk tolerances and decision making. There is research (using grid groups)  indicating that where you (and your culture) place on the grid correlates with your risk tolerances, decision making, and beliefs. The second piece provides some interesting research on polarization.

Image (via Emerald Research)

Research Paper 1: A History Of Grid And Group Cultural Theory (click  to read the paper)

Important Excerpts

The group dimension measures how much of people’s lives is controlled by the group they live in. An individual needs to accept constraints on his/her behaviour by the mere fact of belonging to a group. For a group to continue to exist at all there will be some collective pressure to signal loyalty. Obviously it varies in strength. At one end of the scale you are a member of a religious group though you only turn up on Sundays, or perhaps annually. At the other end there are groups such as convents and monasteries which demand full-time, life-time, commitment.

Apart from the external boundary and the requirement to be present, the other important difference between groups is the amount of control their members accept. This is supplied on the other dimension: grid gives a measure of structure. Some peoples live in a social environment where they are equally free of group pressure and of structural constraints. This is the zero start where everything has to be negotiated ad hoc. Moving along from zero to more comprehensive regulation the groups are likely to be more hierarchica.

Research Paper 2: Fixing the communications failure

People’s grasp of scientific debates can improve if communicators build on the fact that cultural values influence what and whom we believe, says Dan Kahan.

In a famous 1950s psychology experiment, researchers showed students from two Ivy League colleges a film of an American football game between their schools in which officials made a series of controversial decisions against one side. Asked to make their own assessments, students who attended the offending team’s college reported seeing half as many illegal plays as did students from the opposing institution.

About Miguel Barbosa

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29. March 2011 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Wisdom Seeking | Leave a comment

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