Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=968652
 
 

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Affect, Values, and Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions: An Experimental Investigation


Dan M. Kahan


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

Paul Slovic


Decision Research; University of Oregon - Department of Psychology

Donald Braman


George Washington University - Law School; Cultural Cognition Project

John Gastil


Pennsylvania State University

Geoffrey L. Cohen


University of Colorado - Department of Psychology

March 7, 2007

GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 261
Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 155
GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 261
2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper

Abstract:     
Despite knowing little about nanotechnology (so to speak), members of the public readily form opinions on whether its potential risks outweigh its potential benefits. On what basis are they forming their judgments? How are their views likely to evolve as they become exposed to more information about this novel science? We conducted a survey experiment (N = 1,850) to answer these questions. We found that public perceptions of nanotechnology risks, like public perceptions of societal risks generally, are largely affect driven: individuals' visceral reactions to nanotechnology (ones likely based on attitudes toward environmental risks generally) explain more of the variance in individuals' perceptions of nanotechnology's risks and benefits than does any other influence. These views are not static: even a small amount of information can generate changes in perceptions. But how those perceptions change depends heavily on individuals' values. Using a between-subjects design, we found that individuals exposed to balanced information polarize along cultural and political lines relative to individuals not exposed to information. We discuss what these findings imply for understanding of risk perceptions generally and for the future of nanotechnology as a subject of political conflict and regulation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 41

Keywords: risk, norms, cultural cognition, emotion, nanotechnology

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Date posted: March 7, 2007 ; Last revised: July 17, 2014

Suggested Citation

Kahan, Dan M. and Slovic, Paul and Braman, Donald and Gastil, John and Cohen, Geoffrey L., Affect, Values, and Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions: An Experimental Investigation (March 7, 2007). GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 261; Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 155; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 261; 2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=968652 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.968652

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

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)
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
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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