We investigate how people form attitudes and make decisions without having extensive knowledge about a technology. We argue that it is impossible for people to carefully study all technologies they encounter and that they are forced to use inferences to make decisions. When people are confronted with an intangible abstract technology, the only visible attribute is the name. This name can determine which inferences a person will use. Considering these inferences is important: first, a name will reach consumers before detailed information, if any, will. Second, if detailed information reaches consumers, the hard-to-comprehend information is processed using pre-activated attitudes and beliefs. Using the available literature, we explore the impact a name can have on the interpretation of a technology. We argue that science communication can benefit from trying to develop a name for a technology that activates proper beliefs to guide non-experts to a more meaningful understanding of it.
- Expert–lay communication
- Public understanding
- Science and technology communication