The role of values and moral emotions
People often respond emotionally to proposed sustainable innovations, for example when resisting the siting of windmills. This project develops an approach to take such emotions constructively into account in order to develop responsible innovations.
People often react emotionally – for example angry or fearful - to innovative solutions to societal problems such as climate change, despite their societal benefits. Negative emotions can often lead to fierce resistance, whereas positive emotions can contribute to a successful introduction of an innovation. Such emotions are often seen as irrational and unpredictable, and are therefore not explicitly addressed in decision-making. However, not taking emotions seriously may strengthen public opposition even more. The new approach of this project offers an alternative, by showing that adequately addressing emotions can reveal important values that can contribute to more responsible innovations.
Based on cases of environmentally relevant innovations, the project investigates how emotions can become a starting point for reflection and dialogue, resulting in responsible innovations. This project proposes that emotions are typically not random and irrational, but rooted in people’s values. These emotions in turn strongly influence how people evaluate the costs, risks and benefits of innovations and the public acceptability of these innovations. More specifically, the hypothesis is that emotional responses to innovations depend on how these innovations impact on people’s key values. People may thus feel negatively about and oppose innovations that threaten their important values, whereas they may feel positively about and support innovations that support their important values.
In empirical studies, the researchers will present respondents with real or fictive innovations with both benefits and drawbacks for different values. An example is micro-algae based foods as a meat substitute – while reducing the ecological footprint, they are very expensive due to high production costs. The researchers will map the emotions that such an innovation elicits in people and investigate how these emotions are related to people’s underlying values. Somebody who values cost advantages as very important, might have a more negative view on micro-algae based foods than somebody who is mainly concerned about the environment and future generations.
In a normative-ethical analysis of the empirical results the researchers will reveal how different, possibly conflicting values should be integrated in the development and implementation of innovations, and which possible value trade-offs should or should not be made. A normative analysis means that there is an explicit, critical, ethical reflection on the values underlying people’s emotional responses, and whether these values and emotions can be ethically justified and how they should be balanced.
Development of guidelines
As such, the researchers will not only demonstrate that emotions towards innovations can be predicted, based on underlying values, but also that they can be constructively used as an input for developing socially responsible innovations. Using this novel method in which social-psychological research is combined with ethical reflection, guidelines will be developed for companies, government bodies and other parties involved in the development and implementation of innovations. The guidelines will help companies and government bodies to integrate people’s key values and emotions to develop innovations that are societally acceptable and can be justified on ethical grounds. This is one of the reasons why the research is realised in close collaboration with Dutch public and private parties and partners who are involved in research in low- and middle-income countries.
moral emotions, water , energy, public acceptability, public acceptability, public opposition, rationality, decision making, risk assessment, anger, fearOfficial project title: