Tag Archives: risk perception

Individual Project Brief: Risk Perception, Statistics & Advocacy

One of the things that stuck out to me from the beginning of our research around this issue is the amount of statistics that were introduced to us. With my background in social science I’m fairly comfortable with numbers and statistics, but I wonder if the way they’re currently presented is the best to communicate the risks surrounding gun control.

My goal for this project is to use the risk perception and communication literature from the social sciences to support design explorations around statistics and factual information that can be persuasive around the gun safety issue. An important part of this will be making scientific data more accessible to certain audiences. I’d also like to draw inspiration from other successful advocacy campaigns that have used persuasive statistics.

The output for this project will most likely a research report that discusses all the different elements and how they relate to each other in terms of people understanding statistics. An important component of the project will be synthesizing all this information to make it understandable and simple in the report and also in our class’ publication.

The Role of Behavioral Experience in Judging Risks

Here’s another research paper from my Risk Perception and Communication class. I think it confirms a little of the anecdotal and statistical evidence we’ve been hearing. The main finding of this by Halpern-Felsher et al. is that people who have experience with some sort of risk area (for example, having been in a lightning storm) are less likely to believe that they will experience a negative outcome as a result of that experience (less likely to believe that they will die in a lightning storm that someone who has never been in a lightning storm). They tested this on a number of experiences and outcomes, including natural disasters, alcohol-related and sexual experiences.

This article is really interesting because one of the findings that really stuck out in my mind from Private Guns, Public Health was that people who went through gun safety training (which included safe storage practices) were more likely to store their gun in an unsafe way (unlocked, loaded, in a spot where a child could easily get to it). The results of this study go along with this result – perhaps people who have spent more time getting to know the ins and outs of a gun are less scared of it, and thus perhaps they don’t think it’s as dangerous anymore.

Gender, Race, and Perception of Environmental Health Risks

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.

Risk Perception and Psychology

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.