VIEE Post Doc Article Attracts National Media Attention
Kaitlin Toner, a VIEE postdoctoral fellow specializing in psychology research, recently had an article she co-authored published online in Psychological Science , a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The research determined that ideologues on both ends of the political spectrum are equally likely to believe their opinions are superior to others’, but their feelings of superiority emerge for distinct political issues.
Furthermore, these findings suggest that, while people with moderate attitudes tend to be more evenhanded, those on the extreme ends of the political spectrum seem especially convinced that their viewpoints are the only “correct” ones.
Because the timing of the article’s publication just happened to coincide with the federal government shutdown impasse, her research has attracted interest from some major media outlets, such as CNN, Time magazine and National Public Radio, to name a few.
“Given the stalemate in Washington, understanding why people become so entrenched in their views — even when there is not an objectively correct answer — is more important than ever,” says Toner, who conducted the research as a doctoral student at Duke University.
Toner and her colleagues at Duke were struck by the blatant biases they saw in media coverage of the 2012 presidential election:
“Pundits, politicians, and even commentators on online news articles seemed so confident that their own views were better than everyone else’s,” says Toner. “Logic would argue that they couldn’t all be right 100% of the time, so we wondered what was making them so sure of the superiority of their opinions.”
The researchers had over 500 participants complete several questionnaires addressing their viewpoints on nine controversial political issues: health care, illegal immigration, abortion, government aid to the needy, voter ID laws, income tax rates, torture tactics, affirmative action, and the role of religion in policymaking.
Participants then indicated how correct their opinions were relative to other people’s beliefs on each issue, ranging from “no more correct than other viewpoints” to “totally correct — mine is the only correct view.”
Overall, participants who were more conservative politically showed higher levels of dogmatism, a personality trait that describes people who are inflexible in their ideological beliefs. This finding replicates prior research and supports what scientists call the “rigidity-of-the-right” hypothesis.
But the data on belief superiority revealed a more nuanced picture.
Conservatives and liberals reported that their view was the only correct view on the same number of issues, though the issues they felt most superior about differed between the two groups. Conservatives felt most superior about voter ID laws, tax rates, and affirmative action, whereas liberals were most convinced of the superiority of their views on government welfare programs, the use of torture on terrorists, and the role of religion in policymaking.
“We assumed that there would probably be some issues for which liberals felt more superior than conservatives and vice versa, but we didn’t anticipate that the numbers of these issues would be so evenly distributed,” says Toner.
VIEE Post Doc Receives PJSA Grad Student Thesis Award
Joshua Bazuin, a VIEE postdoctoral fellow, was recently selected as a PJSA (Peace & Justice Studies Association) Graduate Student Thesis Award winner for 2013 for his PhD thesis entitled “Religion in the Remaking of Rwanda after Genocide”.
Joshua’s research explored how religion played an important role in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, and how it is also playing a significant role in Rwanda’s recovery. Using a mixed methods approach, his dissertation inquired about the role of religious beliefs, religious social contacts, and religious organizations in promoting reconciliation after the genocide.
The PJSA is a non-profit organization that was formed in 2001 as a result of a merger of the Consortium on Peace research, Education and Development (COPRED) and the Peace Studies Association.
Joshua received his PhD from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College Department of Human and Organizational Development. His advisor was Assoc Prof James Fraser.
Two VIEE Graduate Students Receive NSF Awardsposted 9 April 2013 Thushara Gunda: NSF GRF
Debra Perrone: NSF EAPSI
Collaborative Report on Climate Change and Tennessee Presented at Vanderbiltposted 17 September 2012
Vanderbilt University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, University of Memphis and the Tennessee Department of Health all contributed to a new report focused on the challenges and opportunities that face Tennessee under a changing climate. The results of the report, Sustaining Tennessee in the Face of Climate Change: Grand Challenges and Great Opportunities, were presented 11 September at Vanderbilt University. Read more.
New College of Arts and Science Program in Environmental and Sustainability Studiesposted 14 September 2012
The College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University has just launched a new program. Undergraduates can now minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies.
VIEE Awarded NSF Grantposted 10 September 2012
Interdisciplinary study of agricultural adaptation to water scarcity in Sri Lanka’s Mahaweli River Watershed
Principal investigators include George Hornberger, director of VIEE; James Fraser, Human and Organizational Development; Jonathan Gilligan, Earth and Environmental Sciences; Amanda Carrico, VIEE and the Vanderbilt Climate Change Research Network; Lanka Thabrew, VIEE; and Heather Truelove, assistant professor at the University of North Florida. Full list of team members.
VIEE to Lead AGU Session on Water Securityposted 15 June 2012
Session focused on bridging the gap between science and policy
Debra Perrone and Leslie Lyons Duncan, VIEE PhD Candidates, and Antonia Rosati, NARCCAP Community Liaison, will be convening a Public Affairs session at the Fall 2012 American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting. The meeting will be held in San Francisco from 3-7 December. The AGU meeting is an international conference, bringing together nearly 20,000 scientists and environmental science policy advocates. The session focuses on water security.
Session Abstract: Population 7 billion and growing-Water Security in a Changing Climate . With predictions of Earth's climate suggesting non-stationarity, water supply becomes less predictable. Water demands are multifaceted and multidimensional; competition is influenced by population, culture, technology and economics, and changes over space and time. These inherent complexities, combined with broad and often conflicting stakeholder interests, create challenges for decision makers. To complicate matters, water boundaries rarely align with political boundaries and, consequentially, local decisions can affect other regions or countries (e.g., Ganges-Brahmaputra and Colorado River Basins). This session intends to bring together physical, social and political scientists to discuss a sustainable path forward. Submit Abstract to Session PA012.
VIEE Director George Hornberger and wife Joan attend Summer Lawn Event at the White House
posted 7 June 2012
President Obama and the First Lady invited all Presidential appointees to a summer event on the South Lawn of the White House on 5 June 2012 in appreciation for service to the Nation. George and Joan Hornberger attended the event.
George has been a member of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, a Presidential appointment, since 2004. The U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board was established in the 1987 amendments to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA). The Board evaluates the technical validity of Department of Energy activities related to implementing the NWPA and provides objective expert advice on nuclear waste management to Congress and the Secretary of Energy. The Board is composed of 11 members who serve on a part-time basis. Board members are appointed by the President from a list of candidates submitted by the National Academy of Sciences. By law, nominees to the Board are selected solely on the basis of distinguished professional service and are eminent in a field of science or engineering, including environmental sciences.
VIEE Makes "Top 25 Hottest Articles" -- Twice!
posted 27 March 2012
Amanda Carrico, a research assistant professor affiliated with VIEE and CCRN, and Heather Truelove, a postdoctoral fellow with VIEE, CCRN, and CRESP, made the "Top 25 Hottest Articles" of 2011 for the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Dr. Carrico's paper, which made #19 on the list, focuses on energy conservation in the work place. Dr. Truelove's publication discusses how outdoor temperatures can impact views on climate change, ranking #24 on the list.
VIEE in VIEnna!
posted 19 March 2012
Debra Perrone, a VIEE graduate student, was selected to participate in the Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) affiliated with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, Austria. The YSSP is a three month appointment that offers interdisciplinary and collaborative research opportunities for young scientists whose interests are focused on global environmental, economic, and social change. Debra will be joining 53 other graduate students, representing a total of 29 countries. Read more.
National Academies Report Published on Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences
posted 15 February 2012
George Hornberger, the director of VIEE, served as the chair of the National Research Council's Committee on Challenges and Opportunities in the Hydrologic Sciences. The committee published a report that explores emerging issues, identifies current research needs, and highlights opportunities to advance the Hydrologic Sciences. Read the report or watch a video on the report.
VIEE work used in policymaking!
posted 31 January 2012
A paper published in 2009 by Carrico et al., Costly Myths: An analysis of idling beliefs and behavior in personal motor vehicles, has been cited by the Toronto Board of Public Health in a recent report. The report served as the basis for reforming Toronto's anti-idling bylaw in 2010; it sets a limit of one minute of idling per 60 minutes, compared to three minutes of idling per 60 minutes in the 1998 bylaw. This work is just one example of how our research is being used in policymaking! The research was supported by Vanderbilt's Climate Change Research Network (CCRN) and is co-authored by CCRN affiliated researchers Amanda Carrico, Paul Padgett, Michael Vandenbergh, Jonathan Gilligan and Kenneth Wallston.
Two Sessions are Chaired by VIEE at Fall 2011 AGU Conference
posted 13 December 2011
This year's Fall American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting was held in San Francisco from 5-9 December. The AGU meeting is an international conference, bringing together over 18,000 scientists and environmental science policy advocates. Yi Mei convened a Hydrology session with Stephen Sebestyen from the USDA. The Hydrology session focused on coupled hydrological and dissolved organic matter biogeochemical processes at multiple scales. Debra Perrone and George Hornberger convened a Public Affairs session. The session -- Population 7 Billion and Growing: Food, Water, and Energy Security in a Changing Climate -- focused on bridging the gap between science and policy.
Janey Camp Awarded 2011 ASCE Young Engineer Award for Tennessee Section
posted 27 November 2011
The Young Engineer Award was instituted by the Tennessee Section of ASCE in 1988. It is presented annually to a younger member of the Tennessee Section of ASCE who has made definite contributions to the Society at the National, Section, or Branch levels. A Young Engineer is one who is 35 years of age or less on February 1 in the year to the award. (Left photo: Janey Camp.)
VIEE goes to Capitol Hill! EPA STAR Fellowship Conference 2011
posted 1 October 2011
VIEE graduate student, Debra Perrone, attended the 2011 EPA STAR Fellowship Conference in Washington DC on 19-20 September. The conference brought together all current fellows from across the country for two days of professional development and public policy sessions. Fellows also had the opportunity to travel to Capitol Hill and schedule appointments with members of Congress. (Left photo: Debra Perrone (second from left) and friends (fellows from Penn State) on Capitol Hill.)
VIEE brings GIS training to local high schoolsposted 17 August 2011
Research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, Janey Camp, has received funding from Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to implement a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) pilot project. The project will provide GIS training to teachers at Stratford, Glencliff and Hillsboro high schools. Read More.
VIEE hosts two-day summit: “Climate Change and Freight Transportation Infrastructure – When and How to Adapt?"posted 17 August 2011
Summit brings together industry, government, and academic officials
On June 2nd and 3rd, 2011, invited representatives of the freight transportation sector, government leaders, academics, insurers, consultants and climate scientists convened at Vanderbilt University to discuss when and how the freight transportation industry should adapt to climate change. The focus of this summit was on the performance of critical freight transportation infrastructure and operations in the face of a changing climate.
Both informative plenary sessions and small-group breakout sessions were used to facilitate discussions on
- what climate change thresholds will prompt freight transportation adaptation,
- what types of adaptation strategies would be most responsive to societal needs under these circumstances, and
- what must be done now to plan and prepare for the expected changes?
The summit discussions identified several reasons for the current lack of action focused on adaptation as opposed to mitigation including
- uncertainty in the timing and magnitude of climate change;
- insufficient knowledge of how these changes will impact the performance of critical infrastructure systems
- the succession of short-term crises that deflect attention and resources; and
- lack of political leadership.
A white paper summarizing the summit findings will be coming out in the fall of 2011. Video recordings of the opening plenary sessions is provided on the Vanderbilt School of Engineering website. Videos.
Two New Faculty Join VIEEposted 2 August 2011
VIEE is excited to have two new faculty members join the institute this fall.
David Hess, a professor in the Department of Sociology, is joining VIEE from the Science and Technology Studies Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he had taught since 1989. David is interested in the sociology of science, technology, environment, and health; social movements; and public participation and policy. Read Faculty Profile.
J.B. Ruhl is the David Daniels Allen Chair in Law at Vanderbilt's Law School. He is joining VIEE from Florida State University College of Law, where he had taught since 1999. J.B.'s research interests include ecosystem services policy; climate change adaptation; endangered species and wetlands protection; complex adaptive systems theory; and adaptive ecosystem management. Read Faculty Profile.
VIEE to Lead AGU Session on Water-Energy-Food Nexusposted 15 June 2011
Session focused on bridging the gap between science and policy
Debra Perrone and George Hornberger will be convening a Public Affairs session at the Fall 2011 American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting, which will be held in San Francisco from 5-9 December. The AGU meeting is an international conference, bringing together over 18,000 scientists and environmental science policy advocates. The session focuses on the connection between food, water, and energy resources.
Session Abstract: Population 7 billion and growing-Food, water and energy security in a changing climate. The human population of Earth is projected to reach 7 billion within the year and growth is expected to continue. Water, energy and food resources will be stressed increasingly as the climate changes. Population growth and climate change highlight the critical feedbacks among water, energy, and land resource use, especially with regard to food production. Research from many areas must be interpreted, synthesized and extended to bridge the gap between scientists and policy analysts. Forums for initiating interdisciplinary dialog are essential. The proposed session will bring together a variety of researchers to discuss the dimensions of the problems and the policy options for avoiding devastating effects.
R&D Magazine Highlights Work by VIEE Postdoc fellowposted 14 June 2011
Research conducted by Heather Barnes Truelove, a postdoctoral fellow with VIEE, is highlighted in a recent article in R&D Magazine. The article discusses the energy debate and effective tools to communicate energy policies to a range of constituencies. Read the article.
Vanderbilt Yard Studyposted 29 September 2010
Grasses and Gases: Modeling Human Dynamics of Lawn Fertilization and Resultant Nitrous Oxide Emissions
Nitrous oxide emissions arise from household application of nitrogen-containing fertilizer, yet their contributions to US greenhouse gas emissions and the opportunities for low-cost emissions reductions are not well understood. Nitrous oxide is roughly 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide; thus even small quantities of nitrous oxide emissions may constitute a meaningful share of US GHG emissions. Nitrous oxide emissions from this sector have not been the focus of social science research or research into climate change mitigation laws and policies.
This VIEE integrated, interdisciplinary study will examine
- The physical processes that lead to nitrous oxide emissions from household nitrogen-containing fertilizer use
- The types and levels of individual and household activities that affect household nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer use
- The values, beliefs and norms associated with these individual and household activities
- The communities and social networks associated with these activities.
We seek to understand how the combined knowledge of emissions and behavioral characteristics can be used to effect reductions of nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer use in the Richland Creek watershed in Nashville. The research team represents a combination of social scientists, hydrologists, and an environmental lawyer. The project will contribute to the development of research and education capacity of the nonprofits and community-based organizations operating in the Richland Creek watershed area in Nashville (particularly the Richland Creek Watershed Alliance and the Cumberland River Compact), other Nashville watersheds, and other urban regions of the United States. The project aims to assist environmental activist groups, homeowners associations, and other organizations to help homeowners make more environmentally friendly lawn care decisions. More about the Nashville Yard Study.