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Understanding public attitudes to technology


  • Lynn J Frewer
  • Chaya Howard
  • Richard Shepherd


The social context which surrounds technology is likely to be one of the most important determinants of its future development and application. The application of repertory grid techniques (n = 26) in conjunction with generalized Procrustes analysis identified important psychological constructs which determine attitude. A larger survey study (n = 227) examined the reliability and predictive capacity of these items in quantifying attitudes to technology. Factor analysis identified two sub-scales, which appeared to assess perceptions of technological risk and benefit. Internal reliability of the two sub-scales was high, and had pleasing face validity and predictive capacity. An inverse relationship between perceived risk and benefit was found, consistent with previous research in risk perception. Discussion is made of reducing inappropriately high risk perceptions through effective communication of benefits, and vice versa, with the caveat that such an effect is only likely to be observed for technologies where public opinion is uncrystallized and knowledge is low.

Suggested Citation

  • Lynn J Frewer & Chaya Howard & Richard Shepherd, 1998. "Understanding public attitudes to technology," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(3), pages 221-235, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jriskr:v:1:y:1998:i:3:p:221-235
    DOI: 10.1080/136698798377141

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    Cited by:

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    7. Hengstler, Monika & Enkel, Ellen & Duelli, Selina, 2016. "Applied artificial intelligence and trust—The case of autonomous vehicles and medical assistance devices," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 105-120.
    8. Juliana Martins Ruzante & Valerie J. Davidson & Julie Caswell & Aamir Fazil & John A. L. Cranfield & Spencer J. Henson & Sven M. Anders & Claudia Schmidt & Jeffrey M. Farber, 2010. "A Multifactorial Risk Prioritization Framework for Foodborne Pathogens," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 30(5), pages 724-742, May.
    9. Fatima Zahra Agzit & Hind Moussaid & Mohamed Sidmou & Mohamed Benmoussa, 2017. "Les Determinants De L’Attitude Des Consommateurs Envers Les Nouvelles Strategies Des Distributeurs : Analyse Qualitative Exploratoire Appliquee Au Cas Des Aliments Sante Vendus Sous Mdd," Post-Print hal-01757765, HAL.
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    14. Piers Fleming & Ellen Townsend & Kenneth C. Lowe & Eamonn Ferguson, 2007. "Social Desirability Influences on Judgements of Biotechnology Across the Dimensions of Risk, Ethicality and Naturalness," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(7), pages 989-1003, October.
    15. Ellen Townsend, 2006. "Affective Influences on Risk Perceptions of, and Attitudes Toward, Genetically Modified Food," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2), pages 125-139, March.
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    17. Piers Fleming & Ellen Townsend & Joost A. van Hilten & Alexa Spence & Eamonn Ferguson, 2012. "Expert relevance and the use of context-driven heuristic processes in risk perception," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(7), pages 857-873, August.
    18. Bronfman, Nicolás C. & Jiménez, Raquel B. & Arévalo, Pilar C. & Cifuentes, Luis A., 2012. "Understanding social acceptance of electricity generation sources," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 246-252.
    19. Gough, Clair & O׳Keefe, Laura & Mander, Sarah, 2014. "Public perceptions of CO2 transportation in pipelines," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 106-114.

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