3.1 Risk Perception


hi in this video we will take a closer

look at risk perception and the factors

that influence how we experience risk in

modern society whether we realize it or

not many of our day-to-day decisions are

based on our idea of how much we expose

ourselves to certain risks think of

wearing a seatbelt lowering the risk of

a fatal car accident or making sure that

chicken is fully cooked

to avoid a salmonella infection or

changing the password for your email

account to avoid being hacked in the

previous module we have seen how risk

management is a commonly used strategy

to make such decisions at a societal

level using various statistical and

mathematical models experts assess

various types of risks and then propose

strategies to deal with them however

unlike experts most people's sense of

risk does not generally come from

sophisticated risk assessments or

mathematical models we do not go about

our day constantly calculating whether

or if something bad might happen to us

instead we tend to rely on more

intuitive judgments about risk

these intuitive judgments are typically

called risk perceptions they are shaped

for example by what we see in the news

or from certain experiences in our past

they are the subjective judgments that

people make about the characteristics

severity and likelihood of risk some

risks do not bring about a great sense

of fear we take these risks deliberately

on a day-to-day basis for example

driving too fast other risks instill

great fear such as a terrorist attack

however there is a higher likelihood

that you will be the victim of a traffic

accident compared to a terrorist attack

so how can we explain this discrepancy

and what factors influence our risk

perception the scientific study into

risk perception seeks to answer some of

these questions

this topic has gained increasing

attention since the 1960s and stars from

the observation that experts and the

general public often fundamentally

disagree about how risky new

technologies are experts are often

baffled because they do not understand

why despite scientific evidence the

public is still very concerned about the

potential risks of nuclear power for

example as a consequence much of the

early research on risk perception

centered on the idea of a knowledge gap

between experts and the public it was

assumed that if the public could access

and understand all scientific facts

their ideas about a certain risk would

match those of experts however over the

course of many years research has

revealed that knowledge is not the only

factor that determines how we perceive

risk so what are these other factors

first we generally perceive risks that

we are familiar with as less dangerous

than those we know very little about

for example we are less afraid of risks

associated with getting an x-ray in the

hospital then risks associated with

living close to a nuclear power plant

second we tend to view certain

activities as being more risky when we

have a very low degree of personal

control over them to give an example we

are much more in control when driving

our car then when we fly in a plane as a

result we generally view flying as more

risky than driving even though

sadistically speaking flying actually

has a lower probability of accidents a

third factor that influences our risk

perception is whether we are exposed to

a risk on a voluntary or involuntary

basis for example people who choose to

live near a chemical factory are

generally less afraid of chemical spills

than people who are suddenly faced with

a chemical factory being built close to

their home the fourth factor that

influences our perception of risk is

whether or not a risk has a so-called

dreaded outcome for you

we are less afraid of household

incidents such as tripping on a toy or

from from the stairs then a dreaded

outcome such as becoming the victim of a

terrorist attack

finally we tend to view certain

activities or issues as being much less

risky when they are associated with

benefits think of risk seeking

activities such as skydiving backcountry

skiing or scuba diving

while these activities pose a certain

risk of bodily harm we accept them

because we derive pleasure from them

so to summarize while experts typically

rely on risk management techniques to

make judgments about risk the public in

general relies on more intuitive

judgments or risk perceptions these risk

perceptions are influenced by a number

of factors including how familiar we are

with a particular risk how much control

we have whether we are exposed to risk

on a voluntary or involuntary basis

whether the risk has dreaded or non

dreaded outcomes and the degree to which

the risk is associated with benefits in

the next videos we will look at several

types of risks in which risk perception

plays an important role