Main content area

Addressing Chemophobia: Informational versus affect-based approaches

Saleh, Rita, Bearth, Angela, Siegrist, Michael
Food and chemical toxicology 2020 v.140 pp. 111390
fearfulness, products and commodities, toxicology
This study investigated the effect of two communication strategies (informational and affect-based) in reducing chemophobia, the irrational fear of chemicals. In an online experiment, participants (N = 448) were randomly assigned to one of three groups (“control”, “knowledge”, or “affect” group). The following dependent variables were assessed: chemophobia, knowledge of basic toxicological principles, affect towards chemicals, benefit perception of the use of chemicals, and preference for natural substitutes in consumer products. The results showed that only the informational approach, which conveys knowledge of basic toxicological principles, significantly decreased chemophobia and the preference for natural substitutes in consumer products. The affect-based approach significantly increased positive affect towards chemicals and the benefit perception of their use, but did not decrease chemophobia. This suggested that the provision of relevant information about basic toxicological principles is a more effective strategy than merely addressing laypeople's affect towards chemicals to reduce chemophobia. Relevant knowledge could be taught in schools or disseminated by toxicologists and scientists who are trusted by the public.