Social Influence, Risk and Benefit Perceptions, and the Acceptability of Risky Energy Technologies: An Explanatory Model of Nuclear Power Versus Shale Gas

Judith I. M. de Groot*, Elisa Schweiger, Iljana Schubert

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Abstract

    Risky energy technologies are often controversial and debates around them are polarized; in such debates public acceptability is key. Research on public acceptability has emphasized the importance of intrapersonal factors but has largely neglected the influence of interpersonal factors. In an online survey (N = 948) with a representative sample of the United Kingdom, we therefore integrate interpersonal factors (i.e., social influence as measured by social networks) with two risky energy technologies that differ in familiarity (nuclear power vs. shale gas) to examine how these factors explain risk and benefit perceptions and public acceptability. Findings show that benefit perceptions are key in explaining acceptability judgments. However, risk perceptions are more important when people are less familiar with the energy technology. Social network factors affect perceived risks and benefits associated with risky energy technology, hereby indirectly helping to form one's acceptability judgment toward the technology. This effect seems to be present regardless of the perceived familiarity with the energy technology. By integrating interpersonal with intrapersonal factors in an explanatory model, we show how the current "risk-benefit acceptability" model used in risk research can be further developed to advance the current understanding of acceptability formation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1226-1243
    Number of pages18
    JournalRisk Analysis
    Volume40
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun-2020

    Keywords

    • Acceptability
    • energy technologies
    • risks perception
    • social influence
    • social networks
    • PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE
    • PERCEIVED RISKS
    • PERSONAL NORMS
    • CLIMATE-CHANGE
    • NATURAL-GAS
    • FRACKING
    • BELIEFS
    • VALUES
    • NANOTECHNOLOGY
    • INFORMATION

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