The Cultural Theory Of Risk Perceptions and The Psychometric Paradigm

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Introduction Over the years, theorists have tried to articulate how and why people perceive risk differently and how risk can be managed in organisations (Sjoberg, 1979). Risk perception can be defined as the “judgments people make when asked to evaluate hazardous activities and technologies” (Slovic, 1987). Marris et al (1998) examined the risk perceptions of people in Norwich using two trenchant approaches; the psychometric paradigm and cultural theory. This report aims to critically analyse the comparison between the two theories as covered by the article, and conclusions drawn. The psychometric paradigm The psychometric paradigm, propounded by cognitive psychologists describes risk perception based on experts and lay people with its basis being qualitative risk characteristics (Schmidt, 2004). Fischhoff et al. (1978) itemized the qualitative risk characteristics under two principal components being the dread risk factor and unknown risk factor. Nine qualitative risk characteristics were used to examine risk perceptions in this article, namely, dread, catastrophic potential, involuntariness, lack of knowledge to scientists, lack of knowledge to those exposed, harm to future generations, delayed effects, unfairness and severity. The theory was criticised by authors cited in the paper for not considering the social and cultural aspects of the risk. The cultural theory Cultural theory propounded by anthropologists and sociologists, made their assertion that the social relationships of people determine how they perceive risk, and is based on the cultural biases developed on the grid-group typology (Thomas et al, 1990). This view was also supported by Sigve et al (2004). The four cultural biases identified in the article are the ... ... middle of paper ... ...y, Risk decision and policy. Sjoberg, L. (2003), Distal factors in risk perception. Risk Research 6, pp. 187-210. Tansey, J, and O’Riordan, T. (1999), Cultural risk and theory; a review. Available through google (Accessed 18 November 2013) Thomas et al (1990), Cultural theory. Colorado: West view Press. Thomas et al (1999), Cultural theory as Political science. Available through (Accessed 20 11 2013) Walker et al (1998), Public perception of risks associated with major accident hazards. Wildavsky, A., and Dake, K., (1990), Theories of risk perception: Who fears what and why? Pp. 41-60.

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