Saturday, April 13, 2019

Morgan Marietta & David C. Barker's "One Nation, Two Realities"

Morgan Marietta is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he studies the political consequences of belief. He is the author of The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric, A Citizen’s Guide to American Ideology, and A Citizen’s Guide to the Constitution and the Supreme Court. He and Bert Rockman are the co-editors of the Citizen Guides to Politics & Public Affairs from Routledge Press, and with David Klein he is co-editor of the annual SCOTUS series at Palgrave Macmillan on the major decisions of the Supreme Court. He and David Barker write the Inconvenient Facts blog at Psychology Today.

David C. Barker is Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies (CCPS) at American University. He studies political psychology, voting behavior, political communication, legislative behavior, and social welfare policy. He is the author of Rushed to Judgment, Representing Red and Blue, and dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles. His current research seeks to identify the sources of productive political negotiation and compromise.

Marietta applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book with David Barker, One Nation, Two Realities: Dueling Facts in American Democracy, and reported the following:
The page 99 test seems to argue that the quality of a book is revealed in its middle rather than its introduction or conclusion. The exact half-way point of our book is page 148. Or does page 99 have a certain magic?

Page 99 of One Nation, Two Realities is dominated by two figures that illustrate the deep divisions in core values among American citizens. Nestled between the figures is an italicized passage: “values are projected onto fact perceptions, any way you conceptualize them.” The central argument of the book is that ordinary citizens project their preferred values onto their perceived facts. Some scholars argue that dueling fact perceptions are the result of partisan leadership or ideological media, but we think that the psychological mechanisms of ordinary citizens account for the deep divisions in perceived facts. No external forces are necessary if the internal mechanisms are sufficient. This also means that no external reforms are likely to truly lessen dueling facts, which are the product of entrenched and polarized values. So page 99 really does encapsulate the argument of the book.

What about page 148? Again this is a page with a figure, in this case illustrating our argument about intuitive epistemology—that one of the reasons we project our values onto our perceptions is that our values provide us with habitual questions we ask about the world. Values are not only predispositions for what we would like to exist, but also predispositions for how we discern its existence. Again, the psychology of ordinary individuals leads them to dueling fact perceptions because they start from different core beliefs.

Page 99 and page 148 both emphasize empirical data, which is also the point of the book. The preface says that there will be “several discussions of psychological theory and strands of the philosophy of knowledge, but at heart this is an organized presentation of collected data on perceptions of facts” (xv). Our conclusions from the data are that dueling fact perceptions are common, their causes deep, their consequences severe, and their potential correctives ineffective. We are not optimistic about the future of facts. But the Page 99 test seems to have potential.
Learn more about One Nation, Two Realities at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue