During one of my Risk Perception and Communication classes, we discussed how different people see risks. One of the most interesting things I learned was that white men tend to see less risk in the world than white women or minority men and women. This is obviously relevant to risk communication because it’s necessary to know who your audience is in order to get them to understand a risk. I think it’s also pretty relevant to our projects – not everyone is going to be moved or called to action by the same story or statistics.
Here’s an interesting article published right after the tragedy in Newtown, CT, from PBS about perceptions of risk: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/risk-perception.html
A lot of people (non-experts) tend to think of large-scale catastrophes when they think about risk. This is why we only really ever see a lot of debate on gun control in America right after one of these unfortunate incidents. People don’t really think about day-to-day, isolated incidents – like unintentional shootings at homes among children – as extremely risky events. Instead these incidents are thought of as accidents that are unpredictable, but as mentioned in class, they are statistically predictable and preventable.
Through that article from PBS I found the website for The Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University (http://www.culturalcognition.net/), which studies how cultural values plays a role in shaping our public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. It’s a huge resource hub full of studies, academic papers and a blog. It might be useful to check out, especially since I know some people are very interested in the relationship that American culture has with guns.