Welcome by Dominique Lison, President of the EUROTOX 2018 congress, Belgium
La Framboise frivole – musical entertainment
Opening of the congress by Mumtaz Işcan, President of EUROTOX, Turkey
EUROTOX Merit Award chaired by Mumtaz Işcan, President of EUROTOX, Turkey
Consumer toxicology: Natural is good, synthetic is bad (#120)
1 ETH Zurich, Institute for Environmental Decisions, Zurich, Switzerland
It has been suggested that people rely on two different cognitive systems when making decisions, namely the experiential and the analytic systems. The analytic system is slow and requires elaborated processing of information, whereas the experiential system allows people to make quick decisions. Toxicologists use their analytic system in order to conduct risk assessments. However, as lay toxicologists, consumers instead rely on simple heuristics. In daily life, heuristics often result in good or at least acceptable decisions. Yet, when it comes to toxicological questions, the use of heuristics may lead to biased decisions. One simple heuristic known to cause biased decisions is the naturalness heuristic. Based on this heuristic, people assume that they need to be less concerned about natural hazards than human-made hazards, while natural products are considered to be healthier when compared with synthetic products. Based on various experiments, I will demonstrate how lay toxicologists arrive at incorrect conclusions due to relying on such simple heuristics. I will also show how such heuristics result in different risk perceptions on the part of experts and laypeople. The findings presented in my talk may help to better explain why experts and laypeople often differ in their assessments of food hazards. Finally, I will present the results of an experimental study that showed how the sensory perception of a substance that laypeople rarely perceive to be toxic (i.e., wine) can easily be influenced by the provision of information.
Keywords: Risk perception, Heuristics, Naturalness, Lay people