Project: The impact of uncertainty communication on emotional arousal and participation intention regarding decommissioning of nuclear installations


  • Ferdiana Hoti (principal researcher)
  • Prof. Peter Thijssen and Dr. Tanja Perko (supervisors)

Period: 2018-2022 (external funding from SCK CEN)

Short description

After their operational time is finished, the nuclear installations must be decommissioned. While to most people, this would be a technical, not a social task, it actually involves many associated risks and public concerns which make decommissioning of nuclear installations a vivid example of social links to a technical task. That is why, in an attempt to address these social aspects of decommissioning, it is recommended by many international authorities as well as scientific arguments that the public should be involved in decision-making related to it.

Despite all the recommendations, however, research shows that a major part of citizens are not motivated or willing to be actively involved in organized decision-making processes. Therefore, in this study we want to test whether communicating uncertainties (i.e. showing that even decommissioning experts and scientists themselves are uncertain) has an impact on increasing public participation intention. The limited research that exists on uncertainty communication consists of contradictory findings and arguments related to it (i.e., either uncertainty should be communicated because it increases trust, makes the scientific process look more realistic, and leads to lower fatalistic feelings; or uncertainty should not be communicated because of increased concern and fear). However, the majority of these arguments remain theoretical in nature, given that very few of them are empirically tested, and even in these cases, emotions are tested with self-reporting questions.

By building on these studies, we intend to contribute to the scientific literature on uncertainty communication by using psychophysiological measurement of emotions. By using psychophysiological devices, we will be able to see whether communicating uncertainty has a direct impact on participation intention (tested with survey) and also whether communicating uncertainties has an impact on negative/positive emotions – making respondents feel more eased or more stressed (tested with the equipment of the social lab).

Key publications