Risk society The world of manufactured uncertainty, the society where in the first place we become more and more aware of the technological and scientific risks and hazards we are surrounded with and, in the second place, the society where such risks are rapidly increasing We live in a society which is no longer turned towards the past, but towards the future, in which individuals have acquired considerable autonomy and are encouraged to take their lives in their own hands - we must constantly think ahead and remain alert to both risks and opportunities. In such society it is no wonder that the psychology and perception of risk comes into focus of the research.
Risk - definitions There are many definitions of risk that vary by specific application and situational context. The widely inconsistent and ambiguous use of the word is one of several current criticisms of the methods to manage risk. One is that risk is an issue, which can be avoided or mitigated (wherein an issue is a potential problem that has to be fixed now.) Risk is described both qualitatively and quantitatively. In some texts risk is described as a situation which would lead to negative consequences. Quantitatively, risk is proportional to both the expected losses which may be caused by an event and to the probability of this event. Greater loss and greater event likelihood result in a greater overall risk.
Risk - definitions In engineering the definition risk often simply is: R = probability of an accident X losses per accident or in more general terms: R = probability of event occuring X impact of event occuring
Risk - definitions Financial risk is often defined as the unexpected variability or volatlity of returns and thus includes both potential worse-than-expected as well as better-than-expected returns. In statistics, risk is often mapped to the probability of some event which is seen as undesirable. Usually, the probability of that event and some assessment of its expected harm must be combined into a believable scenario (an outcome), which combines the set of risk, regret and reward probabilities into an expected value for that outcome. In information security a risk = an asset, the threats to the asset and the vulnerability that can be exploited by the threats to impact the asset – The risk is then assessed as a function of three variables: 1.the probability that there is a threat 2.the probability that there are any vulnerabilities 3.the potential impact to the business. If any of these variables approaches zero, the overall risk approaches zero. likelihood
Threats, weaknesses, vulnerabilities Fundamental threat to the protected values. State of the system created by the negative conditions of an environment that can lead to incident or accident.
1. Increased understanding of human influence on hazards 2. Worsening worst cases. 3. Unintended side effects. 4. Changing of portfolio of hazards
In psychology, risk has largely been studied within the context of a cognitive research paradigm. For psychological theorists, risk is defined as a real and objective entity, and hence amenable to quantitative analysis. Psychologists have traditionally tried to understand risks by either isolating some aspect of the phenomenon (a variable), and then simulating this either in a laboratory as an experiment, or through the collection and analysis of data through social surveys = risk perception The psychology approach began with research in trying to understand how people process information. These early works maintain that people use cognitive heuristics in sorting and simplifying information which lead to biases in comprehension. Several theories have been proposed to explain why different people make different estimates of the dangerousness of risks. Besides early theories, three major families of theory have been developed: psychology approaches (heuristics and cognitive), anthropology/sociology approaches (cultural theory) and interdisciplinary approaches (social amplification of risk framework).
Early theories – A key early paper was written in 1969 by Chauncey Starr.Chauncey Starr His major finding was that people will accept risks 1,000 greater if they are voluntary (e.g.driving a car) than if they are involuntary (nuclear disaster). This early approach assumed that individuals behave in a rational manner, weighing information before making a decision. Individuals have exaggerated fears due to inadequate or incorrect information.
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky performed a series of gambling experiments to see how people evaluated probabilities. Daniel KahnemanAmos Tversky Major finding -people use a number of heuristics (shortcuts for thinking) to valuate information that are usually useful, but they may lead to inaccurate judgments in some situations – becoming cognitive biases.heuristicsognitive biases
Lisa Lopes – motivations influencing choice Risky choice Risk averse “pessimists” vs Risk seeking “optimists” Problem – we cannot compare behavior and response of a subject in a laboratory and its naturalistic response outside of it
A psychometric study is one where the psychological variables in relation to a phenomenon are collected and measured from individuals in a sample population This approach has attempted to consider the qualitative characteristics of hazards. A survey performed in late 70’s found that subjects had a tendency to overestimate the death rates from low frequency hazards such as smallpox vaccinations and floods, while underestimating the death rates for high frequency hazards such as strokes and heart diseases.
Psychometric studies began to demonstrate the complexity of factors mediating the understanding of risk among the general population. Perceptions of risk could be measured and the results were replicable. However, there were methodological problems with this type of approach. The respondents are restricted to giving their views only on the basis of hazards mentioned. Other risks which respondents might also consider to be real would not necessarily be considered.
The anthropology/sociology approach posits risk perceptions as produced by social institutions. Cultural values, and ways of life. Cultural Theory of risk is based on the work of anthropologist Mary DouglasMary Douglas and political scientist Aaron Wildavsky first published in 1982 [.Aaron Wildavsky Four “ways of life” - grid/group arrangement. Each way of life corresponds to a specific social structure and a particular outlook on risk. Grid categorizes the degree to which people are constrained and circumscribed in their social role. The tighter binding of social constraints limits individual negotiation. Group refers to the extent to which individuals are bounded by feelings of belonging or solidarity. The greater the bonds, the less individual choice are subject to personal control. Four ways of life include: Hierarchical, Individualist, Egalitarian, and Fatalist. Risk perception researchers have not widely accepted Cultural theory. Even Douglas says that the theory is controversial; it poses a danger of moving out of the favored paradigm of individual rational choice of which many researchers are comfortable
The Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF), combines research in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and communications theory. SARF outlines how communications of risk events pass from the sender through intermediate stations to a receiver and in the process serve to amplify or attenuate perceptions of risk. All links in the communication chain, individuals, groups, media, etc., contain filters through which information is sorted and understood. The theory attempts to explain the process by which risks are amplified, receiving public attention, or attuned, receiving less public attention. The main thesis of SARF states that risk events interact with individual psychological, social and other cultural factors in ways that either increase or decrease public perceptions of risk. Behaviors of individuals and groups then generate secondary social or economic impacts while also increasing or decreasing the physical risk itself. These ripple effects caused by the amplification of risk include enduring mental perceptions, impacts on business sales, and change in residential property values, changes in training and education, or social disorder. Public distortion of risk signals provides a corrective mechanism by which society assesses a fuller determination of the risk and its impacts to such things not traditionally factored into a risk analysis
Amplification - a process during which “events pertaining to hazards interact with psychological, social, institutional and cultural processes in ways that can heighten or attenuate public perceptions of risk and shape risk behavior.
Pidgeon et al. “Royal Society Report”, 1992. Involuntary exposure to risk Lack of personal control Uncertainty Lack of personal experience Difficulty in imagining risk exposure Delayed effects Genetic aspects of exposure Catastrophic potential Benefits not highly visible Benefits go to others Human failure
Covello and Sandman added nine more factors: Victim identity Trust Personal stake Ethical/moral nature Effects on children Dread Media attention Accident history Reversibility
References Douglas, Mary. Risk Acceptability According to the Social Sciences. Russell Sage Foundation, 1985. "Social Benefits versus Technological Risks" in Science Vol. 165, No. 3899. (Sep. 19, 1969), pp. 1232–1238 Freudenburg, William R., “Risk and Recreancy: Weber, the Division of Labor, and the Rationality of Risk Perceptions.” Social Forces 71(4), (June 1993): 909–932. Tversky, Amos and Daniel Kahneman. “Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases.” Science 185(4157) (September 1974): 1124–1131. Slovic, Paul, Baruch Fischhoff, Sarah Lichtenstein. “Why Study Risk Perception?” Risk Analysis 2(2) (1982): 83–93. Slovic, Paul, ed. The Perception of Risk. Earthscan, Virginia. 2000. Gregory, Robin & Robert Mendelsohn. “Perceived Risk, Dread, and Benefits.” Risk Analysis 13(3) (1993): 259–264 Wildavsky, Aaron and Karl Dake. “Theories of Risk Perception: Who Fears What and Why?” American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Daedalus) 119(4) (1990): 41–60. Douglas, Mary and Aaron Wildavsky. Risk and Culture. University of California Press, 1982. Thompson, Michael, Richard Ellis, Aaron Wildavsky. Cultural theory. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1990. Douglas, Mary. Risk and Blame: Essays in Cultural theory. New York: Routledge, 1992.