Essay Sample on Attitudes Towards Products from the Fukushima region

Published: 2022-11-10
Essay Sample on Attitudes Towards Products from the Fukushima region
Type of paper:  Problem solving
Categories:  Disaster
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1696 words
15 min read

Japanese consumers are still hesitant to purchase products from Fukushima, although 7 years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster and these products are officially considered safe. In this study, we examined whether Japanese consumers have negative implicit attitudes towards agricultural and aquatic products from the Fukushima region and whether these attitudes are independent of their explicit attitudes. Japanese students completed an implicit association test and a questionnaire to assess their implicit and explicit attitudes towards products from Fukushima relative to another region. The results reliably demonstrated that the public has negative implicit attitudes towards Fukushima products, whereas their explicit attitudes are consistently positive. These observations predominantly held for participants living close to Fukushima (Tokyo) as opposed to participants living far away (Hiroshima). Furthermore, individual differences in aversion to germs contributed to the implicit attitudes; the implicit negative attitudes were attenuated amongst the participants with relatively low aversions to germs. These results suggest that the implicit attitudes associated with the behavioral immune system may underlie the hesitation to purchase products from Fukushima.
Keywords: Fukushima nuclear disaster; purchase hesitation; implicit attitude; perceived vulnerability to disease; behavioral immune system

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Although several years have passed since the Tohoku Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, which occurred in 2011, Japanese consumers are still hesitant to purchase agricultural and aquatic products from Fukushima (Fukushima Prefecture, 2016; Hangui, 2014, Consumer Affairs Agency, 2017). It may have been plausible to refrain from consuming Fukushima products immediately after the disaster because of the widespread and unreliable, reputationally damaging information regarding radioactive contamination. However, these products are now officially safe to buy (Fukushima Prefecture, 2013). Hence, consumers no longer have any grounds for avoiding them. Nevertheless, this hesitancy, which is a response to the social stigma against Fukushima products, persists. This is causing serious economic damage (i.e., a collapse in the price, Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives, 2011; Fukushima Minyu Shimbun Sha, 2012; Ichinose, 2012). For example, the market prices of beef, peaches, and rice, which are specialties from the Fukushima region, have continuously decreased (e.g., by 9.3%, 4.9%, and to 23.3% in 2017) with respect to the national average because the disaster (Reconstruction Agency, 2018).

Such hesitancy in purchasing products from Fukushima can be interpreted in the context of error-management theory (Haselton & Buss, 2000). According to this theory, an individual makes two possible errors (type I being false-positive and type II being false-negative errors) when making a decision in an uncertain scenario. Essentially, consumers tend to be afraid of making a type II error judgment, in which they mistake products that are dangerous as being safe. Consequently, type I error judgments, where safe products are mistaken as dangerous, are more likely. In short, this hesitancy is caused by consumers' vigilance about products from Fukushima.

To prevent reputational damage to products from Fukushima and correct consumers' overcautious attitudes towards them, local and national governments have repeatedly released information regarding their safety, evidenced by screening for radioactive contamination (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 2018). Due to such attempts, the latest survey research demonstrates that the number of consumers who care about the production area has drastically decreased, and that nearly 80% of consumers have no concerns about the safety of Fukushima products (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, 2018). Furthermore, consumers do not currently have "explicitly" negative attitudes towards products from Fukushima, at least on paper (Kudo & Nagaya, 2017; Miura, Kusumi, & Ogura, 2015). If this is so, then why do they still hesitate to purchase these products? It appears that another factor, which we consider to be their "implicit" attitudes, underlies this hesitation. It has been suggested that explicit and implicit attitudes differ from one another, particularly with respect to social stigma (Wilson, Lindsey, & Schooler, 2000). Thus, we hypothesized that, rather than explicit attitudes, negative implicit attitudes underlie the hesitancy regarding the purchase of products from Fukushima.

However, before we can resolve this major hypothesis, it is necessary to validate the basic aspects of our hypothesis, namely: whether consumers indeed have negative implicit attitudes towards agricultural and aquatic products from the Fukushima region and whether these attitudes are independent of their explicit attitudes. We used the implicit association test (IAT), which is a well-known method for measuring implicit attitudes related to a target attribute relative to another (Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998). In this study, the participants completed both an IAT and a questionnaire to assess their implicit and explicit attitudes towards products from Fukushima, relative to products from another region.

Note that recent research based on the IAT has already reported that Japanese people show somewhat positive, not negative, implicit attitudes towards products from Fukushima (Kudo & Nagaya, 2017). However, we believe that the interpretation of the data from that is limited for the following two reasons. First, the study focused on the effects of a persuasive message on consumers' attitudes, and thus the implicit attitudes were only measured after manipulating the participants with this message, and the questionnaire measures explicit attitudes. Thus, it was likely that the participants' implicit attitudes had been biased by the exposure to the preceding message and/or the questionnaire. Second, the authors did not provide any information regarding where the participants lived. Because the importance of (or the amount of exposure to) the Fukushima brand increases as the consumers' physical distance from the area where the disaster occurred decreases, it is plausible that consumers' attitudes towards Fukushima depend on where they live. We have not yet determined whether consumers' implicit attitudes are modulated by where they live. In this study, excluding the potential confounding factors mentioned, we investigated whether explicit and implicit attitudes vary as a function of location. This is obviously an important factor to be taken into account when marketing products from Fukushima.

Experiment 1

In the first experiment, we investigated (1) whether consumers have negative implicit attitudes towards products from the Fukushima region, (2) whether these are independent of their explicit attitudes, and (3) whether a consumer's attitude is modulated by where they live. First, the participants completed the IAT. This provided a measure of their implicit attitudes. Then they answered a questionnaire that measured their explicit attitudes. We recruited participants from two geographically distant areas (Hiroshima and Tokyo, which are 811 km and 239 km away from Fukushima as the crow flies). Then we compared the participants' attitudes.


Ethics Statement All of the experiments carried out in this study were reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Boards of Hiroshima University (Hiroshima) and Rissho University (Tokyo), Japan. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants before and after the experiment.

Participants We recruited 20 Japanese participants (12 female, mean age = 20.60 years, SD = 1.43 years) from Hiroshima and 20 Japanese participants (10 female, mean age = 20.00 years, SD = 0.45 years) from Tokyo. We ran the experiments in Hiroshima and Tokyo in parallel, and they took place between November 2017 and April 2018. The participants were blinded to the purpose of the study.

Stimuli We used 12 full-color images as stimuli: four of aquatic products and eight of agricultural products (four flowers and four rice). Two aquatic products, two flowers, and two rice images were randomly selected and labeled with the kanji for "Fukushima product." We labeled the products because the images themselves do not convey information regarding where they were produced. The other six images were labeled with the kanji for "Saga product." The word label was white, and was placed below the image. In addition, we used five positive word labels and five negative word labels (10 words total) as stimuli, based on Ishii and Numazaki (2009). These labels were written in white with kanji or hiragana scripts. Each stimulus was presented twice within a block. The visual angle of each image subtended 11 11 and each character subtended approximately 1.5 1.5. The stimuli were presented at the center of the screen on a black background. The participants' viewing distance was about 57 cm.

We selected Saga prefecture, which is 1,048 km away from Fukushima prefecture, as the reference region. This is because Saga was ranked at a very similar position to Fukushima in the Japanese prefecture attractiveness rankings (Brand Research Institute, 2016) and that, like Fukushima, Saga specializes in agricultural and aquatic products. The participants of our pilot study (n = 8 in Hiroshima, n = 8 in Tokyo) also evaluated Saga neutrally.

Procedure The participants performed the IAT task individually. The IAT was conducted in a laboratory under dimmed lighting conditions. We followed the IAT procedure developed by Greenwald et al. (1998), which consists of seven blocks. In each of the blocks, the participants were required to categorize the presented target stimulus by pressing either the left (F) key or the right (J) key on the keyboard using their two index fingers as quickly and accurately as possible. The word "error" appeared in the center of the screen in red when participants pressed the wrong key.

In Block 1, which consisted of 24 training trials, the participants were trained to discriminate between products labeled from Fukushima and products from Saga: the left key indicated a Fukushima product and the right key indicated a product from Saga. In Block 2 (20 training trials), the participants were trained to determine whether the meaning of the word label was positive or negative: pressing the left key for positive words and the right key for negative words. In Block 3, which consisted of 22 practice trials, and Block 4, which included 44 test trials, we combined Fukushima/Saga and positive/negative discriminations: pressing the left key for Fukushima or positive words and the right key for Saga or negative words. In the following blocks, the participants learned the opposite category-key mapping to that of Blocks 1, 3, and 4. In Block 5 (24 training trials), they were trained to indicate whether the product image was labeled as being from Saga or Fukushima: pressing the left key for Saga and the right key for Fukushima. Then we combined these blocks in Block 6 (22 practice trials) and Block 7 (44 test trials): the participants pressed the left key when the presented stimulus was labeled as being from Saga or with a positive word, whereas they pressed the right key when the stimulus was labeled with Fukushima or a negative word. The order of the combinations was counterbalanced between the participants; blocks 1, 3, and 4 were switched with blocks 5, 6, and 7 for half of the participants.

Before each block, the participants were fully informed of the next task. The instructions were made particularly clear prior to the category-key mapping task.

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Essay Sample on Attitudes Towards Products from the Fukushima region. (2022, Nov 10). Retrieved from

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