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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1089230
 
 

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The Future of Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions: An Experimental Investigation of Two Hypotheses


Dan M. Kahan


Yale University - Law School; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Donald Braman


George Washington University - Law School; Cultural Cognition Project

Paul Slovic


Decision Research; University of Oregon - Department of Psychology

John Gastil


Pennsylvania State University

Geoffrey L. Cohen


University of Colorado - Department of Psychology

January 31, 2008

Harvard Law School Program on Risk Regulation Research Paper No. 08-24

Abstract:     
This paper reports the results of an experiment designed to test competing conjectures about the evolution of public attitudes toward nanotechnology. The rational enlightenment hypothesis holds that members of the public will become favorably disposed to nanotechnology as balanced and accurate information about it disseminates. The cultural cognition hypothesis, in contrast, holds that members of the public are likely to polarize along cultural lines when exposed to such information. Using a between-subjects design (N = 1,862), the experiment compared the perceptions of subjects exposed to balanced information on the risks and benefits of nanotechnology to the perceptions of subjects exposed to no information. The results strongly confirmed the cultural polarization hypothesis and furnished no support for the rational enlightenment hypothesis. Data obtained in the experiment also suggested that the observed correlation in the general public between familiarity with nanotechnology and a positive view of it is spurious: familiarity does not cause a favorable view; rather other influences, including individualistic cultural values, incline certain individuals both to form a positive view and to learn about nanotechnology. The paper also discusses the implications of these findings for promoting informed public understandings of nanotechnology.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 29

Keywords: nanotechnology, cultural cognition, risk perception

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Date posted: February 6, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Kahan, Dan M. and Braman, Donald and Slovic, Paul and Gastil, John and Cohen, Geoffrey L., The Future of Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions: An Experimental Investigation of Two Hypotheses (January 31, 2008). Harvard Law School Program on Risk Regulation Research Paper No. 08-24. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1089230 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1089230

Contact Information

Dan M. Kahan (Contact Author)
Yale University - Law School ( email )
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/kahan
Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )
124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Donald Braman
George Washington University - Law School ( email )
2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
Cultural Cognition Project ( email )
2000 H St NW
2000 H Street
Washington, DC 20052 20052
United States
202-491-8843 (Phone)
202 491-8843 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/braman
Paul Slovic
Decision Research ( email )
1201 Oak Street, Suite 200
Eugene, OR 97401
United States
541-485-2400 (Phone)
541-485-2403 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.decisionresearch.org
University of Oregon - Department of Psychology ( email )
Eugene, OR 97403
United States
541-485-2400 (Phone)
John Gastil
Pennsylvania State University ( email )
University Park, PA 16802
United States
Geoffrey L. Cohen
University of Colorado - Department of Psychology ( email )
1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
HOME PAGE: http://psych.colorado.edu/~social/faculty.html
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