To ensure power supply security, electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) have to upscale high-voltage overhead power lines. However, upscaling frequently meets opposition. Opposition can be caused by uncertainties about risks and benefits and might lead to costly delays (Linder, 1995; Wiedemann, Boerner,& Claus, 2016). To minimize opposition, TSOs and related public services need to respond to these uncertainties in a credible and convincing (effective) way. Effective risk communication is associated with sharing facts. However, factual responses can be perceived as "cold" and technocratic. To make factual responses warmer, it has been suggested to refer to organisational values or show personal commitment (e.g., De Bruijn, 2011; De Wit, Das, & Vet, 2008). For example, when confronted with uncertainties about the impact of electro-magnetic fields on local residents’ health, a TSO spokesperson can share scientific findings as well as ensure that her organisation will never take any irresponsible risks because safety is a key value for them. Although it is generally assumed that a factual response is more effective when warmth is added, empirical evidence for this assumption is lacking. To fill this scientific gap, we conducted systematic research. The findings contribute to society because they can help improve effective communication and opinion-formation on power lines. The research consisted of three phases. In the first phase, experts identified the most relevant uncertainties about overhead power lines and formulated warm and cold responses to these uncertainties. The effectiveness (credibility and persuasiveness) of these responses was assessed with a large-scale representative survey (N = 881) in Phase 2. Phase 3 consisted of an experimental survey testing the hypothesis that a factual response is more effective when warmth is added with videos that were randomly distributed (N = 412). The most important finding of our research is that—in contrast with what is often suggested—a factual response to uncertainties about high-voltage overhead power lines is not more effective when warmth is added (although warmth increases feelings of sympathy). This paper is relevant to the panel topic because it integrates psychology and public administration in several ways. First, it investigates judgments of citizens in their interactions with public services (TSOs and related services). Second, it showcases the use of experimental methods to test theory. Third, the results can affect decisions of public managers and politicians with regard to risk communication on high-voltage overhead power lines.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 21st International Research Society on Public Management Conference
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2017
Event21th International Research Society on Public Management Conference 2017 - Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 19 Apr 201721 Apr 2017
Conference number: 21


Conference21th International Research Society on Public Management Conference 2017
Abbreviated titleIRSPM 2017

ID: 26286709