On the sustained importance of attitudes toward technological risks and benefits in policy studies

Abstract

This is a summary of the study by Baruch Fischhoff, Paul Slovic, Sarah Lichtenstein, Stephen Read and Barbara Combs, as well as a reflection on why the study has attracted sustained interest since its publication in Policy Sciences in 1978. The article’s contribution to the study of policy approaches to (new) technologies is threefold. First, it drew attention to the importance of public attitudes toward technological risks and benefits. Second, the study has been crucial for the emergence of empirical investigations on decision-making. Third, the types of risks identified by the authors continue to be discussed in contemporary studies. The article demonstrates how issues relating to risk and risky decisions are able to stimulate a truly multi- and even interdisciplinary scientific discourse in which policy sciences play an important role. In terms of policy implications, Fischhoff and his collaborators have compellingly argued that citizens are more likely to accept a technological risk when they realize the benefit of the corresponding technology.

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Acknowledgements

Felix Scholl deserves credit for excellent research assistance and Jennifer Shore for many helpful comments on a previous version of this note.

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Correspondence to Jale Tosun.

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Tosun, J. On the sustained importance of attitudes toward technological risks and benefits in policy studies. Policy Sci 50, 563–572 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-017-9298-9

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Keywords

  • Benefit
  • Decision-making
  • Risk
  • Technology
  • Uncertainty