Overhyped and Underresearched: What Explains Risk Perception of Malicious Hazards?
Secher, Jo Nathan
A hazard is a source of risk that can pose a threat to life. Across most cultures, human life is valued very highly, and societies are willing to pay a large amount to prevent people dying prematurely. There are some hazards, though, that societies seem to regard as particularly important to prevent to the extent that they are not only willing to pay considerably more to avert deaths caused by them but they are also willing to cede rights and liberties previously enjoyed in exchange for protection from them. My research found that these hazards, which are characterised by violent acts committed by people against each other, constitute their own subset of hazards which I refer to as ‘malicious’ hazards. It further revealed that malicious hazards are characterised by high moral significance and low controllability. In addition, risk from this subset of hazards is overestimated, whereas risk from hazards in other categories is either underestimated or correctly estimated. Considering the aspects of malicious hazards that separate them from other hazards, I observed that they are the only type of hazard involving a consciously acting agent deliberately harming others, and that they are more angering than other types of hazards. I then independently manipulated the factors of agency belief and anger. My results showed that anger increased risk perception relative to control participants, but that there was no effect of agency belief on risk perception. In the General Discussion I emphasise the need to identify a valid agency belief manipulation and I conclude that because of anger’s role in creating demand for often harmful risk mitigation measures, risk communication about malicious hazards should be tailored so as to minimise its potential to elicit anger.
Advisor: Halberstadt, Jamin Brett
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Anger; Risk; Perception; Agency; Priming; Sadness; Sad; Velten; Terrorism; Crime; Malicious; Hazards; Agent; Scenarios; Violent; Violence; Intent; Taxonomy; Emotion
Research Type: Thesis