Consumer reactions to unfamiliar technologies: mental and social formation of perceptions and attitudes toward nano and GM products

Peter H. Feindt, P.M. Poortvliet*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Using focus groups, the research analyses the mental and social processes through which consumers form perceptions and opinions about unfamiliar technologies and the derived products, taking the perception of nanotechnology and nano-products, GM and GM products as example. Our findings suggest that limited understanding of the technological principles and lack of (visible) products prevent the formation of experience-based attitudes and behavioral intentions. In this context, consumers interpret and assess cognitive interventions such as product labels or product information, as well as the trustworthiness of unfamiliar information sources, based on heuristic clues, association, mutual reassurance and previous attitudes. The established determinants of technology risk perception (e.g. knowledge, social norms, perceived risks and benefits and controllability) were the subject of constant deliberation and negotiation among participants. Consequently, the perception of risk and technology communication interventions might vary greatly across different locations and segments of the public, complicating risk communication and trust-building.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2019



  • focus groups
  • genetic modification
  • labeling
  • Nanotechnology
  • risk perception
  • trust

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