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Risk, social trust and knowledge: public perceptions of gene technology in Britain

Allum, Nicholas Charles (2005) Risk, social trust and knowledge: public perceptions of gene technology in Britain. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London).


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This thesis is about the perception of technological risk in modern societies. The investigation focuses on one risk case, gene technology, with special reference to genetically modified (GM) food, and one particular society, modern Britain. I am concerned firstly with the structure and stability of people’s perceptions of risks and, secondly, with some of the factors that underlie these perceptions. After a brief foreword, chapters two and three present reviews of research on risk perception and on public attitudes towards gene technology in Britain. I argue that public perceptions of risk in relation to new and controversial technologies might be characterised more simply as a special case of social attitudes, rather than as psychological phenomena in their own right. Following a short discussion of research methodology, two empirical investigations follow that explore the structure of public views on gene technology risk and on GM food risk in particular. The first is a qualitative analysis of focus group discussions with members of the lay public. The second analyses data from a representative panel survey, using structural equation modelling to explore stability and change in perceptions over time. The second part of the empirical work consists of two studies using data from a newly-designed Internet survey. The first considers the nature and effects of social trust on the perception of GM food risk. The second explores the relationship between scientific and political knowledge, attitudes to science and perception of GM food risk. Both investigations use structural equation modelling to operationalise and test theoretical models. The final chapter contains a summary of the thesis, some conclusions and directions for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2020 14:11
Last Modified: 25 May 2021 21:15

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