Nanotechnology's future depends on who the public trusts

Feb 11, 2008

When the public considers competing arguments about a new technology’s potential risks and benefits, people will tend to agree with the expert whose values are closest to their own, no matter what position the expert takes. The same will hold true for nanotechnology, a key study has found.

The study results appear in a report issued today by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN). The study was based on experiments involving some 1,600 American adults and was carried out by the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School — an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Yale University, the University of Washington, The George Washington University, Cornell University, and Decision Research in Eugene, Oregon.

As part of the study, participants read opposing arguments that were randomly attributed to fictional policy experts from major universities to form an opinion on nanotechnology — a cutting-edge technology about which little is known by the public.

“Because most people lack the time and expertise necessary to make sense of scientific information on complex and novel risks, they naturally rely on experts whom they trust to determine what information to believe. Individuals are inclined to trust those who share their cultural outlooks,” according to the study’s lead author Yale Law School professor Dan Kahan.

The new results are consistent with those from an earlier study — part of an ongoing series being sponsored by the National Science Foundation, PEN and the Oscar M. Ruebahausen Fund at Yale Law School — in which the same researchers found that individuals’ values influence how they respond to information about nanotechnology risks.

The findings reinforce the fact that the task of engaging the U.S. public about nanotechnology will not be simple or easy, PEN Director David Rejeski says.

“This study identifies some of the hurdles policy experts face in developing a comprehensive strategy for providing citizens with information about nanotechnology,” Rejeski says. “It highlights the urgency of talking with the public about nanotechnology now — at this relatively early stage in its commercialization. It also emphasizes the importance of getting information to people that they can trust and from sources they can rely on.”

In the third and final study in this series of experiments, expected to be completed in spring 2008, the Cultural Cognition Project will explore the persuasiveness of different messages coupled with a variety of trusted messengers on various audience groups.

Source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Explore further: Physicists create new nanoparticle for cancer therapy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Amino acid fingerprints revealed in new study

Apr 06, 2014

Some three billion base pairs make up the human genome—the floor plan of life. In 2003, the Human Genome Project announced the successful decryption of this code, a tour de force that continues to supply ...

Democratizing science with high speed networks

Apr 01, 2014

In the burgeoning world of nanotechnology, researchers see many potentially useful properties at the interfaces of materials called metal oxides—from magnetoresistance (the reason a hard drive can write ...

The promise and peril of nanotechnology

Mar 26, 2014

Scientists at Northwestern University have found a way to detect metastatic breast cancer by arranging strands of DNA into spherical shapes and using them to cover a tiny particle of gold, creating a "nano-flare" ...

Recommended for you

Physicists create new nanoparticle for cancer therapy

20 hours ago

A University of Texas at Arlington physicist working to create a luminescent nanoparticle to use in security-related radiation detection may have instead happened upon an advance in photodynamic cancer therapy.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

COCO
not rated yet Feb 12, 2008
Amerikans think 911 was done by energy weapons from space - good luck with reasoning here.
superhuman
not rated yet Feb 13, 2008
These results are rather obvious.

More news stories

Physicists create new nanoparticle for cancer therapy

A University of Texas at Arlington physicist working to create a luminescent nanoparticle to use in security-related radiation detection may have instead happened upon an advance in photodynamic cancer therapy.

Robotics goes micro-scale

(Phys.org) —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...