The elephant in the room: How a technology’s name affects its interpretation

Reginald Boersma, P.M. Poortvliet, Bart Gremmen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In this work, using experiments, we investigate the role of the name of a technology on the informed evaluation of that technology. We argue that a name can influence interpretations by activating cognitive structures. Using genomics-accelerated breeding as a case, we show that the name ‘genomics’ makes people evaluate related information as similar to genetic modification. Replacing the name ‘genomics’ with ‘natural crossing’ causes evaluations similar to those for traditional breeding. The results show that a name can have a strong influence on public attitudes, and we call for more consideration in choosing a name for a technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-233
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • attitudes
  • genomics
  • learning
  • nanotechnology
  • public education


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