This article from today’s Talking Points Memo, on “hurricane truthers,” seems to offer credence to what researchers have termed “The White Male Effect.” Here is a passage from the original paper by Dan Kahan and others: “The cultural theory of risk posits that individuals selectively credit and dismiss asserted dangers in a manner supportive of their preferred form of social organization. This dynamic, it is hypothesized, drives the white male effect, which reflects the risk skepticism that hierarchical and individualistic white males display when activities integral to their status are challenged as harmful.”
As an educator, this paper has given me pause to think about how all sorts of topics might meet similar resistance with members of groups challenged by a given set of facts or theories. If I want to “convert” a climate denier, for example, it may be their “preferred form of social organization” I need to influence and not their knowledge of climate science. This might also help teach some white students and white privilege and many male students about feminism. At the very least, it has helped me consider the role of culture and identity formation in the process of student creation of narratives and the reception of facts around difficult issues.
Here is the article: