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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 Assessment

  • 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 Assessment

  • 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 Assessment

  • 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: AssessmentPerceptions 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: AssessmentPerceptions 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: AssessmentPerceptions 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: AssessmentPerceptions 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: AssessmentPerceptions 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 Assessmentin 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 Assessment

  • 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 Assessment

  • Avian flu

  • Climate change

  • Hurricane Katrina warning, evacuation

  • Color-coded terrorism warnings

  • Nuclear-related risks

www.colorado.edu/hazards


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