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Risk perception


Risk is not a physical thing: is it really possibly to perceive it? Engineering approaches to estimating risk are based on historical observation of frequencies and consequences. Subjective risk, as analyzed by social scientists, concerns people’s thoughts, beliefs and constructs. The level of perceived risk is a subjective judgment about the state of the world, and is affected by several factors including

  • catastrophic potential
  • equity (do those receiving benefits bear their share of risks?)
  • effects on future generations
  • controllability and involuntariness

This slideset presents three approaches to understanding risk perception:

  1. the psychometric paradigm, which argues that risk can be understood as a function of general properties of the risk object

  2. cultural theory, under which risk is seen as the joint product of knowledge of the future and consent about the most desired prospects

  3. the social amplification of risk framework, which analyzes how concerns about hazards are amplified or attenuated by social, institutional, and cultural processes

This submodule is a part of the risk management module.

Course material

Risk perception

Lecture slides (PDF)

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