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Risk Perception

When people gauge a situation’s risk, they draw upon what they know about the hazard: the evidence, data, and facts about the likelihood of a threat and its possible damage. But their perceptions of risk also depend on how that threat makes them feel, or what risk communication experts call “outrage.”

Hazard + Outrage = Perceived Risk

As public health professionals, we have access to data such as mortality and morbidity statistics, so we tend to weigh risks according to the evidence for the hazard. Many members of the public, however, respond more strongly to how they feel. People react according to the strength of their outrage or dread. This can lead to a fundamental disconnect between experts and the general public. To communicate successfully about the hazard, we must be sure to address how people feel.

Citation Peter Sandman.