Michael Ranney

Research Expertise and Interest

Problem solving, knowledge representation & reorganization, explanatory coherence & inference, conceptual change, societal implications, science instruction, global climate change psychology, numeracy in journalism, naïve/informal physics, computational models of cognition, perceptual-cognitive interactions, intelligent tutoring systems, understandings of biological evolution, Reasoning, qualitative & quantitative thinking

Research Description

Michael Ranney's research explores the nature of explanation and understanding, in both formal and informal domains. His work is intended to foster the incorporation of challenging information (e.g., on global climate change). Regarding explanatory coherence, he, his students and his collaborators study and model the nature and utility of reasoning involving both supportive and contradictory relations. They also generate curricula, methods, and artificially intelligent software designed to improve rational thinking. Ranney's work on the representation and reorganization of scientific and societal knowledge exhibits the fragmentary nature of most lay people's knowledge--in arenas as diverse as physics, biology, abortion, and immigration. His latest projects study reasoning and policy-making involving socially important rates and statistics. He was a Spencer Fellow of the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation, and he was a University of California Regents' Junior Faculty Fellow. Currently he is head of the Reasoning Research Group, chair of SESAME (the Graduate Group in Science and Mathematics Education), a member of IPSR (the Institute of Personality and Social Research) and is a member of the interdisciplinary Cognitive Science faculty (e.g., ICBS).

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
March 25, 2019
Debra Kahn
Refuting the notion that individuals' perceptions of climate change are tied to cultural and political outlooks and therefore unlikely to be shifted by rhetoric or data, a team of Berkeley researchers has shown that it's easier than previously thought to change people's minds on the issues. This is especially true if they are given data about real estate losses. After offering a diverse group of 384 volunteers a range of data, including projections of sea level rise, maps, and Zillow-based estimates of real estate losses, the researchers found an 8 percent drop in climate change denial. "They decreased their denial that it's caused by humans, they decreased their denial that it exists, and they decreased their disinterest," says education and psychology professor Michael Ranney, one of the study's co-authors. Noting the greater weight of real estate data, compared to mapping data, in convincing some subjects, Professor Ranney says: "Economic data tends to be more compelling for conservatives because there's this correlation between people who are especially free-market adherents and denial of global warming, and you can see the connection." To read the researchers' report, visit Frontiers in Communication. For more information, visit How Global Warming Works.
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