How We Perceive Risk

“It’s Important To Know How Your Emotions Influence Risk Perception,” By Henry I. Miller.Untitled-1
Science applied to risks–of products, processes or activities–can be baffling to non-experts. Because people want certainty in their lives, the provisional nature of the scientific method–what we “know” only applies until disproven by new data–can be worrying. The public want simple black-or-white answers, rather than nuanced, qualified advice about relative risk, and they may become frustrated when they get the latter. That is where the “emotional dimension” of concerns about the potential risks of a new technology or activity comes in: Emotions are important because they can have a profound impact on acceptance by consumers. Menninger Foundation psychiatrist Glenn Swogger wrote that as people make decisions about consumer products, fear and intimidation may distort the accurate assessment of risks, benefits and possible alternatives. That can lead to “regrettable substitutions”–replacement with inferior or actually harmful ingredients or processes, because of the blandishments of activists. And that in turn can result in unfortunate consequences from both an economic and humanitarian perspective. Read more.

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