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Perspectives on Risk Perception. Kathleen Tierney Natural Hazards Center University of Colorado at Boulder Was*IS Workshop July 18, 2007. Topics for Discussion. Myths and misconceptions about risk perception and assessment Factors affecting perceptions of risk

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perspectives on risk perception

Perspectives on Risk Perception

Kathleen Tierney

Natural Hazards Center

University of Colorado at Boulder

Was*IS Workshop

July 18, 2007

topics for discussion
Topics for Discussion
  • Myths and misconceptions about risk perception and assessment
  • Factors affecting perceptions of risk

During “normal,” non-crisis times

During emergencies

www.colorado.edu/hazards

myths and misconceptions regarding risk perception and assessment
Myths and Misconceptions Regarding Risk Perception and Assessment
  • Scientists and experts really understand risk better than laypeople
  • Lay perceptions of risk are erroneous and irrational
  • Risk is a property inherent in things and processes (nuclear power, weather events, etc.)

www.colorado.edu/hazards

myths and misconceptions
Myths and Misconceptions
  • Since risks can be compared in terms of their likelihood, members of the public are misguided, irrational, and worried about the wrong things, AKA,

“Your chances of being struck by lightning are 5,000 times more likely than _____________ “

www.colorado.edu/hazards

alternative ways of viewing the issue
Alternative Ways of Viewing the Issue
  • Risk is a social construct; both experts and the public act on the basis of socially-constructed claims, perceptions and assessments of risk
  • Rather than being inherent in things and processes; risk is ultimately the consequence of societal and institutional dynamics. Thus risk is socially created (for more, see Tierney, “Toward a critical sociology of risk,” “From the margins to the mainstream? Disaster research at the crossroads”)

www.colorado.edu/hazards

alternative ways of viewing the issue1
Alternative Ways of Viewing the Issue
  • Because risks are socially constructed—that is, produced through social behavior, activities, and processes—risk comparisons are inherently invalid

www.colorado.edu/hazards

topics in the study of risk perception perceptions as affected by
Topics in the Study of Risk Perception:Perceptions as Affected by
  • Perceived properties of different risks (Slovic et al., “Rating the risks”)
  • Mental models of risk and danger: How and why do we think we are we at risk? (Fischhoff, Morgan, and others)
  • Cognitive heuristics: availability, anchoring, etc. (Slovic, Kunreuther, etc.)

www.colorado.edu/hazards

topics in the study of risk perception perceptions as affected by1
Topics in the Study of Risk Perception:Perceptions as Affected by
  • Personality characteristics and world views:

Fatalism

Locus of control

Religiosity

Risk avoidance, aversion

Invincibility: “It won’t happen to me”

www.colorado.edu/hazards

topics in the study of risk perception perceptions as affected by2
Topics in the Study of Risk Perception:Perceptions as Affected by
  • Social relationships and network ties
  • Information-seeking and information sources
  • Socioeconomic characteristics of individuals and groups

Gender

Race and ethnicity

Social class

www.colorado.edu/hazards

topics in the study of risk perception perceptions as affected by3
Topics in the Study of Risk Perception:Perceptions as Affected by
  • Attitudes regarding the institutions that manage risk (Freudenburg and “recreancy”; “the white male effect”)
  • Emotions (recent work by Slovic)

www.colorado.edu/hazards

topics in the study of risk perception perceptions as affected by4
Topics in the Study of Risk Perception:Perceptions as Affected by
  • Broader social processes:

Claimsmaking and social problem construction: interest groups, social movements, opinion leaders, lawmakers

Issue attention cycles (Downs, “Up and down with ecology”)

Media coverage and agenda-setting: the “rhetoric of risk”

www.colorado.edu/hazards

factors affecting risk perception in crisis contexts
Factors Affecting Risk Perception in Crisis Contexts
  • Factors discussed earlier remain in play, influence both perceptions and behaviors during crisis events
  • Additional factors come into play in crisis-specific contexts

www.colorado.edu/hazards

crisis specific factors
Crisis-Specific Factors
  • Normalcy bias
  • Prior experiences—or lack thereof
  • Environmental cues—or lack thereof
  • Milling and information-seeking
  • Properties of crisis-related messages:

clarity, specificity, consistency, certainty/uncertainty

  • Properties of crisis-related message sources: trust vs. mistrust, credibility, believability, etc.
  • Organizational, institutional responses

www.colorado.edu/hazards

exercise let s discuss
Exercise: Let’s discuss
  • Avian flu
  • Climate change
  • Hurricane Katrina warning, evacuation
  • Color-coded terrorism warnings
  • Nuclear-related risks

www.colorado.edu/hazards

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