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-  2018 

The Cultural

DOI: 10.1177/0003122418773353

Keywords: cultural sociology,cognitive sociology,public perceptions of science,sociology of science

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Even with widespread interest, public perceptions of science remain understudied and poorly theorized by social scientists. A central issue has been the persistent assumption that publics require a base of scientific knowledge for science to have broad cultural meaning. Yet, recent advances in cultural and cognitive sociology point to alternative research programs seeking to identify how publics come to understand complex and uncertain issues, when information is incomplete and asymmetric. We use this approach to analyze data on public perceptions of how scientific different fields are from the 2006 and 2012 National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Survey. Our multivariate analyses allow us to approximate how mass publics map the social space of scientific professions, while accounting for individuals’ social location and cultural identity (e.g., race, class, gender, age, scientific sophistication, and political ideology). We then focus our attention on public perceptions of sociology and economics. Overall, we find that public perceptions, rather than being disorganized, map onto recognizable dimensions indicating how publics distinguish between scientific professions


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