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Ethics, Risk and Benefits Associated with Different Applications of Nanotechnology: A Comparison of Expert and Consumer Perceptions of Drivers of Societal Acceptance

Lookup NU author(s): Nidhi Gupta, Dr Arnout Fischer, Professor Lynn FrewerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Examining risk and benefit perceptions utilised in the formation of attitudes and opinions about emerging technologies such as nanotechnology can be useful for both industry and policy makers involved in their development, implementation and regulation. A broad range of different socio-psychological and affective factors may influence consumer responses to different applications of nanotechnology, including ethical concerns. A useful approach to identifying relevant consumer concerns and innovation priorities is to develop predictive constructs which can be used to differentiate applications of nanotechnology in a way which is meaningful to consumers. This requires elicitation of attitudinal constructs from consumers, rather than measuring attitudes assumed to be important by the researcher. Psychological factors influencing societal responses to 15 applications of nanotechnology drawn from different application areas (e.g. medicine, agriculture and environment, food, military, sports, and cosmetics) were identified using repertory grid method in conjunction with generalized Procrustes analysis. The results suggested that people differentiate nanotechnology applications based on the extent to which they perceive them to be beneficial, useful, necessary, and important. The benefits may be offset by perceived risks focusing on fear and ethical concerns. Compared to an earlier study, consumers emphasized ethical issues compared to expert perceptions of consumer concerns, but had less concern regarding potential physical contact with the product and time to market introduction. Consumers appeared less concerned about food related applications than experts perceived that they would be.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gupta N, Fischer ARH, Frewer LJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: NanoEthics: Studies of New and Emerging Technologies

Year: 2015

Volume: 9

Issue: 2

Pages: 93-108

Print publication date: 01/08/2015

Online publication date: 24/04/2015

Acceptance date: 03/02/2015

Date deposited: 26/01/2015

ISSN (print): 1871-4757

ISSN (electronic): 1871-4765

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s11569-015-0222-5


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