Implicit Attitudes Toward Nuclear Power and Mobile Phone Base Stations: Support for the Affect Heuristic

Authors

  • Michael Siegrist,

    Corresponding author
      *Address correspondence to Michael Siegrist, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Platterstrasse 14, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland; tel: +41 44 634 44 71; fax: +41 44 634 49 31; Zurich, Switzerland; michael.siegrist@env.ethz.ch.
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      Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. MUB, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
  • Carmen Keller,

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      Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
  • Marie-Eve Cousin

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      Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

*Address correspondence to Michael Siegrist, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Platterstrasse 14, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland; tel: +41 44 634 44 71; fax: +41 44 634 49 31; Zurich, Switzerland; michael.siegrist@env.ethz.ch.

Abstract

The implicit association test (IAT) measures automatic associations. In the present research, the IAT was adapted to measure implicit attitudes toward technological hazards. In Study 1, implicit and explicit attitudes toward nuclear power were examined. Implicit measures (i.e., the IAT) revealed negative attitudes toward nuclear power that were not detected by explicit measures (i.e., a questionnaire). In Study 2, implicit attitudes toward EMF (electro-magnetic field) hazards were examined. Results showed that cell phone base stations and power lines are judged to be similarly risky and, further, that base stations are more closely related to risk concepts than home appliances are. No differences between experts and lay people were observed. Results of the present studies are in line with the affect heuristic proposed by Slovic and colleagues. Affect seems to be an important factor in risk perception.

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