Yale professor Kahan to lecture on science, political polarization

September 11, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Americans are politically polarized over risks — from the dangers of global warming to the safety of nuclear waste disposal, from the effect of mandating the human papillomavirus vaccination for girls entering middle school to the impact of permitting citizens to carry concealed handguns in public — despite compelling and widely disseminated scientific evidence about the nature and extent of these risks. Indeed, studies show that the most science literate members of the public are the ones most intensely divided on such matters. Why? And what can be done to dispel such conflict?

Yale professor Dan Kahan will speak on Thursday, Oct. 17, at Penn State's University Park campus.

These are questions that will be addressed by Yale University professor Dan Kahan, who will speak on Thursday, Oct. 17, at Penn State's University Park campus. His talk, titled "Tragedy of the Science Communications Commons," will take place take place at 11 a.m. in the Heritage Hall of the HUB-Robeson Center. The event will be free and open to the public.

Kahan is the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School. He is a member of the Cultural Cognition Project, an interdisciplinary team of scholars who use empirical methods to examine the impact of group values on perceptions of risk and science communication. In studies funded by the National Science Foundation, Kahan and his collaborators have investigated public disagreement over climate change, public reactions to emerging technologies and conflicting public impressions of scientific consensus. Articles featuring the project’s studies have appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed scholarly journals including the Journal of Risk Research, Judgment and Decision Making, the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Nature Climate Change and Nature.

After seeing him speak, Matthew D. Hurteau, Penn State assistant professor of forest resources, noted that "Dan Kahan is the most engaging speaker I have seen. Understanding his research on how people perceive risk is critical for effective science communication and advancing societal understanding of complex issues."

Kahan will speak in a smaller colloquium setting at Penn State Law from 9:45 to 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18, in Room 112 of the Lewis Katz Building in University Park; the event will be simulcast to Room 114 of Lewis Katz Hall, Carlisle, Pa.

These events are co-sponsored by the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment and Penn State Law.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 22, 2015