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Does nuclear energy produce neodymium? Negative perception of nuclear energy drives the assumption that it is polluting


Herrera-Masurel, Alicia; Altay, Sacha; Mercier, Hugo (2023). Does nuclear energy produce neodymium? Negative perception of nuclear energy drives the assumption that it is polluting. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 29(3):572-583.

Abstract

The public tends to exaggerate the dangers of nuclear energy, mistakenly associating it with various environmental problems such as ozone depletion and the production of CO₂. First, we investigate the acquisition of misconceptions about nuclear energy. In Experiments 1 (N = 198, United Kingdom) and 2 (N = 204, France), participants were more likely to develop new negative misconceptions about nuclear energy, compared to renewables or even some fossil fuels. Participants were also more likely to attribute the emission of hazardous substances produced by renewables to nuclear energy than to the energy sources actually emitting it. This suggests that specific misconceptions about nuclear energy are likely the by-products of negative perceptions of nuclear energy. Second, we ask whether correcting specific misconceptions leads to less negative attitudes about nuclear energy. In Experiments 3 (N = 296, United Kingdom.) and 4 (N = 305, France), participants were exposed to pronuclear energy arguments, one of which informed them of its low CO₂ emissions. This argument led to a decrease in the perception that nuclear energy contributes to climate change. Thus, even if specific misconceptions about nuclear energy derive from overall negative perceptions, addressing these misconceptions can still help align public opinion with expert opinion.

Abstract

The public tends to exaggerate the dangers of nuclear energy, mistakenly associating it with various environmental problems such as ozone depletion and the production of CO₂. First, we investigate the acquisition of misconceptions about nuclear energy. In Experiments 1 (N = 198, United Kingdom) and 2 (N = 204, France), participants were more likely to develop new negative misconceptions about nuclear energy, compared to renewables or even some fossil fuels. Participants were also more likely to attribute the emission of hazardous substances produced by renewables to nuclear energy than to the energy sources actually emitting it. This suggests that specific misconceptions about nuclear energy are likely the by-products of negative perceptions of nuclear energy. Second, we ask whether correcting specific misconceptions leads to less negative attitudes about nuclear energy. In Experiments 3 (N = 296, United Kingdom.) and 4 (N = 305, France), participants were exposed to pronuclear energy arguments, one of which informed them of its low CO₂ emissions. This argument led to a decrease in the perception that nuclear energy contributes to climate change. Thus, even if specific misconceptions about nuclear energy derive from overall negative perceptions, addressing these misconceptions can still help align public opinion with expert opinion.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:nuclear energy, correction, climate change, misconceptions, consensus gap
Language:English
Date:1 September 2023
Deposited On:15 Feb 2024 17:20
Last Modified:31 Mar 2024 01:40
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:1076-898X
Additional Information:Supplemental materials: https://doi.org/10.1037/xap0000477.supp
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/xap0000477