Daniel Kahan writes that one should view culturally motivated reasoning (CMR)
as a form of reasoning suited to promoting the stake individuals have in protecting their connection to, and status within, important affinity groups. Enjoyment of the sense of partisan identification that belonging to such groups supplies can be viewed as an end to which individuals attach value for its own stake. But a person’s membership and good standing in such a group also confers numerous other valued benefits, including access to materially rewarding forms of social exchange (Akerlof & Kranton 2000). Thus, under conditions in which positions on societal risks and other disputed facts become commonly identified with membership in and loyalty to such groups, it will promote individuals’ ends to credibly convey (by accurately conveying (Frank 1988)) to others that they hold the beliefs associated with their identity-defining affinity groups. CMR is a form of information processing suited to attaining that purpose.
That sounds right to me. I wonder if Kahan would consider the possibility that this description applies as much to climate-change activists as it does to their opponents.
Related and recommended: Scott Sumner’s post on intellectual decay.