Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 15–30 | Cite as

The influence of initial attitudes on responses to communication about genetic engineering in food production

  • Lynn J. Frewer
  • Chaya Howard
  • Richard Shepherd


Source credibility has been thought to bean important determinant of peoples‘ reactions toinformation about technology. There has also been muchdebate about the need to communicate effectively withthe public about genetic engineering, particularlywithin the context of food production. Questionnaireswere used to investigate the impact of sourcecredibility, admission of risk uncertainty, andinitial attitude towards genetic engineering onattitudes of respondents after information provision.120 respondents with positive attitudes towardsgenetic engineering in food production were providedwith persuasive information about the technology,where both source attribution and admission of riskuncertainty were systematically varied within theexperimental design. Impact on perceptions of sourcecredibility, informational qualities, and postintervention attitudes were examined, and compared toa second group of respondents who held initiallynegative attitudes towards genetic engineering, andwho had been exposed to similar informationinterventions. As predicted by Social Judgment Theory,initial attitude was found to be an importantdeterminant of post-intervention attitude. However,admission of risk uncertainty was also found to beinfluential in increasing acceptance and reducingrejection of the technology, possibly through thefacilitation of elaborative processing. Contrary toprevious research, prior attitudes had an impact onperceptions of both source credibility andinformational quality. In terms of effectiveinformation provision about genetic engineering, itwas concluded that scientific honesty is the bestpolicy, and that lay understanding of scientificprocess is probably greater than hitherto assumed byexperts.

Genetic engineering Source credibility Prior attitudes Risk perception Trust 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynn J. Frewer
    • 1
  • Chaya Howard
    • 1
  • Richard Shepherd
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Consumer Sciences, Reading LaboratoryInstitute of Food ResearchReadingU.K

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