Biased Assimilation, Polarization, and Cultural Credibility: An Experimental Study of Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions

  • February 04, 2008
  • By Dan M. Kahan, Paul Slovic, Donald Braman, John Gastil, Geoffrey Cohen, and Douglas Kysar

This report describes the results of the second in a series of ongoing experimental studies of public perceptions of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology.  The studies are aimed at identifying how public attitudes toward nanotechnology are likely to evolve as the public learns more about this novel science.  They also seek to identify concrete strategies for improving public understanding of scientific information on the risks and benefits of nanotechnology as such information is developed. The fist study in this series found that when individuals who know little about nanotechnology are exposed to information about it, they tend to polarize in their opinions along lines that reflect their cultural predispositions toward technological and environmental risks generally.  This study examined whether and how the perceived cultural outlooks of information sources would affect public reactions to arguments about the risks and benefits of nanotechnology.

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.