Disentangling the Influence of Value Predispositions and Risk/Benefit Perceptions on Support for Nanotechnology Among the American Public

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Abstract

Using nanotechnology as a case study, this article explores (1) how people's perceptions of benefits and risks are related to their approval of nanotechnology, (2) which information-processing factors contribute to public risk/benefit perceptions, and (3) whether individuals’ predispositions (i.e., deference to scientific authority and ideology) may moderate the relationship between cognitive processing and risk perceptions of the technology. Results indicate that benefit perceptions positively affect public support for nanotechnology; perceptions of risk tend to be more influenced by systematic processing than by heuristic cues, whereas both heuristic and systematic processing influence benefit perceptions. People who are more liberal-minded tend to be more affected by systematic processing when thinking about the benefits of nanotechnology than those who are more conservative. Compared to less deferent individuals, those who are more deferent to scientific authority tend to be less influenced by systematic processing when making judgments about the benefits and risks of nanotechnology. Implications are discussed.

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