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Social Influence, Risk and Benefit Perceptions, and the Acceptability of Risky Energy Technologies: An Explanatory Model of Nuclear Power Versus Shale Gas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Elisa Schweiger, Judith de Groot, Iljana Schubert

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1226-1243
Number of pages18
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number6
Early online date13 Feb 2020
Accepted/In press20 Jan 2020
E-pub ahead of print13 Feb 2020
Published19 Jun 2020


King's Authors


Risky energy technologies are often controversial and debates around them are polarized; in such debates public acceptability is key. Research on public acceptability has emphasized the importance of intrapersonal factors but has largely neglected the influence of interpersonal factors. In an online survey (N = 948) with a representative sample of the United Kingdom, we therefore integrate interpersonal factors (i.e., social influence as measured by social networks) with two risky energy technologies that differ in familiarity (nuclear power vs. shale gas) to examine how these factors explain risk and benefit perceptions and public acceptability. Findings show that benefit perceptions are key in explaining acceptability judgments. However, risk perceptions are more important when people are less familiar with the energy technology. Social network factors affect perceived risks and benefits associated with risky energy technology, hereby indirectly helping to form one's acceptability judgment toward the technology. This effect seems to be present regardless of the perceived familiarity with the energy technology. By integrating interpersonal with intrapersonal factors in an explanatory model, we show how the current “risk–benefit acceptability” model used in risk research can be further developed to advance the current understanding of acceptability formation.

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