An Examination of Attitudes Towards Biotechnology

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Biotechnology has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life for many. However, there are sizeable proportions of the population that oppose its use. If the public are to benefit from the quality-of-life improvements biotechnology provides, we must understand this opposition. The research regarding attitudes towards biotechnology has often investigated demographic predictors of broad attitude trends, with only tentative steps to examine psychological constructs. This thesis takes advantage of this gap in the literature to investigate the role of psychological predictors in biotechnology attitudes, with a special focus on the previously neglected area of gene editing. In Chapter 3, I examined the role of several psychological constructs in attitudes towards a broad range of biotechnologies, but with a focus on gene editing. I found that pathogen disgust sensitivity robustly predicted greater support for gene editing but corresponded with greater opposition to other biotechnology applications. In Chapter 4, I expanded previous research into the role of omission bias in vaccines to two novel areas: gene editing and nanotechnology decision making. I found tentative evidence for the role of this construct in decision making across all three biotechnologies. I also discuss how different paradigms lead to different conclusions about the existence of omission bias. In Chapter 5, I explored the role of socio-political and worldview variables in attitudes towards animal centred gene editing. I found evidence of Social Dominance Orientation (SDO), Chemical Avoidance and Environmental Concern scores predicting attitudes towards the use of gene editing to control pest populations. In Chapter 6, I investigated gene editing attitudes in a deeper and more nuanced way by utilising a Latent Class Analysis (LCA) approach. This method provided novel insights into the way gene editing attitudes cohere within an individual and found evidence for 10 heterogeneous classes of gene editing attitudes and the demographic predictors that play a role in membership of these classes. In Chapter 7, I turned my attention to the COVID-19 pandemic and sought to understand the public’s attitudes towards this biotechnological challenge. This was done by examining attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination. I found evidence for the role of Big 5 personality traits and general intelligence as independent predictors of COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy. In sum, this thesis expands the existing biotechnology attitudes research, while providing novel insights into previously unexplored psychological constructs and under-researched biotechnology applications. These findings build upon the limited previous literature, but also provide a range of new avenues upon which future biotechnology attitude research may be developed.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Award date1 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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