Journal Article

Academic discipline and risk perception of technologies: An empirical study

Research Policy

This article brings together two areas of research: studies on risk perception of technologies and studies on vocational/career choice. This is an important link since decisions concerning technologies are influenced by decision makers’ risk perceptions and these in turn may be related to educational and career paths. We analyze students of different academic disciplines with regard to their risk perception of four technologies. The aim is to find out whether there is a relationship between area of study (as a precursor of vocational and career choice) and risk perception of technologies regarding health, environment and society. The four technologies under study are renewable energies, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and information and communication technologies (ICT). Key results are: irrespective of academic discipline risk of genetic engineering on average is rated highest and renewable energies lowest. This holds for all the risks studied (environmental, health, societal risks). On average, students from different academic disciplines differ in their risk perception. Factor analyses show that common dimensions of risk are the technologies and not the kind of risk. Regression analyses show that the variables influencing perceived risks vary between the technological fields.


Ingrid Ott
Ursula Weisenfeld