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Between fascination and concern: an exploratory study of senior citizens’ attitudes towards synthetic biology and agricultural biotechnology
- Journal Article
The present exploratory study describes senior citizens’ attitudes relating to biotechnologies, which were compared with a younger sample. Using an anonymised voluntary paper-and-pencil survey, data were collected from a total of 86 senior Swiss adults attending the Seniors' University in Zurich, Switzerland. Unlike previous studies, our data suggest that senior citizens value the utility of biotechnologies. In particular, a high level of fascination was directed towards the prospects of medical biotechnological applications. Consistent with prior studies, our data reveal that senior citizens also express reservations in the face of potential risks. Therefore, an often-alleged conservative response behaviour of this group only relates to the supposed harm of these technologies. To explore the response behaviour of this cohort across technologies, we found a lesser degree of differentiation compared to university students. Consistent with this reduced level of differentiation, senior citizens assessed agricultural biotechnology similarly positively compared to nanotechnology and synthetic biology, in contrast to university students who made a clear distinction between positively evaluated emerging technologies and the more sceptically assessed agricultural biotechnology. Differences of gender were revealed to be more pronounced in the case of senior citizens compared to students, indicating that a comparison between different societal subgroups can contribute to a wider understanding of factors influencing public technology assessment without introducing a rigid separation of these groups. We close by discussing consequences for public-policy making and science and technology communication, such as the need to emphasise the characteristics that demarcate technologies against each other in public communication for this and comparable groups. © 2020 Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature Show more
Journal / seriesUniversal Access in the Information Society
SubjectBiotechnologies; Attitude; Age; Senior citizens; Public understanding of science; ELSI
Organisational unit02803 - Collegium Helveticum / Collegium Helveticum
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