Cultural cognition refers to the influence that individuals' values have on their perceptions of technological risk. We conducted a study to assess the cultural cognition of synthetic biology risks. Examining the attitudes of a large and diverse sample of Americans (N = 1,500), we found that hierarchical, conservative, and highly religious individuals - persons who normally are most skeptical of claims of environmental risks (including those relating to nuclear power and global warming) - are the persons most concerned about synthetic biology risks. We attribute this inversion of the normal cultural profile of risk perceptions to the seemingly anti-religious connotations of synthetic biology. We discuss implications of this finding for future study and for risk communication.
Braman, Donald; Kahan, Dan M.; and Mandel, Gregory N., "Risk and Culture: Is Synthetic Biology Different?" (2009). GW Law Faculty Publications & Other Works. 201.