Modeling of Public Risk Perception and Risk Communication Research: In A Social-Cognitive Direction

  • Published : 2014.05.31


This study begins with a review of commonly discussed dimensions of public risk perception that may influence public opinion toward risks. Factors that have been revealed by the literature to have substantial impact on risk perception, such as demographic background, trust, and media environment, are also discussed. Meanwhile, we evaluate two well-known research models in the realm of risk analysis: 1) the psychometric paradigm, and 2) the social amplification of risk framework (SARF). Based on a literature review, this study suggests that, besides the psychological and social approach, models of risk perception and risk communication research should shift to a more comprehensive one by considering the interrelations between laypeople and the environment. This study proposes a research model from the perspective of social cognitive theory (SCT) as a potential framework for future studies: 1) in the societal environment, individuals' risk perception and information seeking behavior, which is determined by risk perception will be influenced by trust in regulators and interpersonal trust; 2) in the media environment, individuals' risk perception and information seeking behavior will be influenced by individuals' perceived information characteristics. Knowledge about risk accumulated through information seeking will change risk perception in a longitudinal process.


  1. Bandura, A. (1986) Social cognitive theory, Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
  2. Bandura, A. (1989) Social cognitive theory, in R. Vasta (Ed.), Annals of Child Development (Vol. 6. Six theories of child development, pp. 1-60), JAI Press, Greenwich, CT.
  3. Bandura, A. (1995) Exercise of personal and collective efficacy, in A. Bandura (Ed.), Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies (pp. 1-45), Cambridge University Press, New York, NY.
  4. Bandura, A. (2001) Social cognitive theory of mass communication, MediaPsychology, 3, 265-299.
  5. Barnett, J., and Breakwell, G. M. (2001) Risk Perception and Experience: Hazard Personality Profiles and Individual Differences, Risk Analysis, 21, 1, 171-177.
  6. Binder, A. R., Scheufele, D. A., Brossard, D., and Gunther, A. C. (2011) Interpersonal amplification of risk? Citizen discussions and their impact on perceptions of risks and benefits of a biological research facility, Risk Analysis, 31, 2, 324-334.
  7. Bubeck, P., Botzen, W. J. W., and Aerts, J. C. J. H. (2012) A review of risk perceptions and other factors that influence flood mitigation behavior, Risk Analysis, 32, 9, 1481-1495.
  8. Chung, I. J. (2011) Social amplification of risk in the Internet environment, Risk Analysis, 31, 12, 1883-1896.
  9. Coles, R., and Hodgkinson, G. P. (2008) A psychometric study of information technology risks in the workplace, Risk Analysis, 28, 1, 81-93.
  10. Covello, V., and Sandman, P. M. (2001) Risk communication: Evolution and revolution, in A. Wolbarst (Ed.), Solutions to an Environment in Peril (pp. 164-178), John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  11. Dahlstrom, M. F., Dudo, A., and Brossard, D. (2012) Precision of Information, Sensational Information, and Self-Efficacy Information as Message-Level Variables Affecting Risk Perceptions, Risk Analysis, 32, 1, 155-166.
  12. Finucane, M. L., Alhakami, A., Slovic, P., and Johnson, S. M. (2000) The Affect Heuristic in Judgments of Risks and Benefits, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 13, 1-17.<1::AID-BDM333>3.0.CO;2-S
  13. Fischhoff, B. (1995) Risk perception and communication unplugged: Twenty years of process, Risk Analysis, 15, 2, 137-145.
  14. Fischhoff, B., Slovic, P., Lichtenstein, S., Read, S., and Combs, B. (1978) How Safe is Safe Enough? A Psychometric Study of Attitudes Towards Technological Risks and Benefits, Policy Sciences, 9, 127-152.
  15. Frewer, L. (2004) The public and effective risk communication, Toxicology Letters, 149, 391-397.
  16. Gierlach, E., Belsher, B. E., and Beutler, L. E. (2010) Cross-Cultural Differences in Risk Perceptions of Disasters, Risk Analysis, 30, 10, 1539-1549.
  17. Ho, M.-C., Shaw, D., Lin, S., and Chiu, Y.-C. (2008) How do disaster characteristics influence risk perception?, Risk Analysis, 28, 3, 635-643.
  18. Hung, H.-C., and Wang, T.-W. (2011) Determinants and Mapping of Collective Perceptions of Technological Risk: The Case of the Second Nuclear Power Plant in Taiwan, Risk Analysis, 31, 4, 668-683.
  19. Kasperson, R. E., Renn, O., Slovic, P., Brown, H. S., Emel, J., Goble, R., Kasperson, J. X., and Ratick, S. (1988) The Social Amplification of Risk: A Conceptual Framework, Risk Analysis, 8, 2, 177-187.
  20. Kellens, W., Zaalberg, R., Neutens, T., Vanneuville, W., and De Maeyer, P. (2011) An Analysis of the Public Perception of Flood Risk on the Belgian Coast, Risk Analysis, 31, 7, 1055-1068.
  21. Kitzinger, J. (1999) Researching Risk and The Media, Health, Risk & Society, 1, 1, 55-69.
  22. Kung, Y.-W., and Chen, S.-H. (2012) Perception of Earthquake Risk in Taiwan: Effects of Gender and Past Earthquake Experience, Risk Analysis, 32, 9, 1535-1546.
  23. Lai, J. C.-l., and Tao, J. (2003) Perceptions of Environmental Hazards in Hong Kong Chinese, Risk Analysis, 23, 4, 669-684.
  24. Lang, A. (2013) Discipline in crisis? The shifting paradigm of mass communication research, Communication Theory, 23, 10-14.
  25. Lazo, J. K., Kinnell, J. C., and Fisher, A. (2000) Expert and layperson perceptions of ecosystem risk, Risk Analysis, 20, 2, 179-193.
  26. Leiss, W. (1996) Three phases in the evolution of risk communication practice, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 545, May, 85-94.
  27. Li, Y., and Ito, N. (2012) Mainland Chinese people's risk perceptions and impressions of Japan in the Great East Japan Earthquake, Beijing, China.
  28. Miles, B., and Morse, S. (2007) The role of news media in natural disaster risk and recovery, Ecological Economics, 63, 2-3, 365-373.
  29. Prati, G., Pietrantoni, L., and Zani, B. (2011) A Social-Cognitive Model of Pandemic Influenza H1N1 Risk Perception and Recommended Behaviors in Italy, Risk Analysis, 31, 4, 645-656.
  30. Renn, O., and Levine, D. (1991) Credibility and trust in risk communication, in R. E. Kasperson & P. J. M. Stallen (Eds.), Communicating Risks to the Public (pp. 175-218), Kluwer Academic Publishers, Netherlands.
  31. Schwarzer, R., and Fuchs, R. (1995) Changing risk behaviors and adopting health behaviors: The role of self-efficacy beliefs, in A. Bandura (Ed.), Self-efficacy in Changing Societies (pp. 259-288), Cambridge University Press, New York, NY.
  32. Shi, K., Fan, H., Jia, J., Li, W., Song, Z., Gao, J., Chen, X., Lu, J., and Hu, W. (2003) The risk perceptions of SARS and socio-psychological behaviors of urban people in China, Acta Psychologica Sinica, 35, 4, 546-554.
  33. Siegrist, M., and Cvetkovich, G. (2000) Perception of hazards The role of social trust and knowledge, Risk Analysis, 20, 5, 713-719.
  34. Slovic, P. (1987) Perception of Risk, Science, New Series, 236, 4799, 280-285.
  35. Slovic, P., Finucane, M. L., Peters, E., and MacGregor, D. G. (2004) Risk as Analysis and Risk as Feelings: Some Thoughts about Affect, Reason, Risk, and Rationality, Risk Analysis, 24, 2, 311-322.
  36. Slovic, P., Finucane, M. L., Peters, E., and MacGregor, D. G. (2010) Risk as analysis and risk as feelings: some thoughts about affect, reason, risk and rationality, in P. Slovic (Ed.), The Feeling of Risk: New Perspectives on Risk Perception (pp. 21-36), Taylor & Francis, New York, NY.
  37. Stern, Z. (2007) What is environmental risk?, East Austin Environmental Justice Project, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.
  38. Terpstra, T. (2011) Emotions, Trust, and Perceived Risk: Affective and Cognitive Routes to Flood Preparedness Behavior, Risk Analysis, 31, 10, 1658-1675.
  39. Turner, M. M., Rimal, R. N., Morrison, D., and Kim, H. (2006) The role of anxiety in seeking and retaining risk information: Testing the risk perception attitude framework in two studies, Human Communication Research, 32, 2, 130-156.
  40. Verroen, S., Gutteling, J. M., and Vries, P. W. D. (2013) Enhancing self-protective behavior: Efficacy beliefs and peer feedback in risk communication, Risk Analysis, 33, 7, 1252-1264.
  41. Viklund, M. J. (2003) Trust and Risk Perception in Western Europe: A Cross-National Study, Risk Analysis, 23, 4, 727-738.
  42. Wachinger, G., Renn, O., Begg, C., and Kuhlicke, C. (2013) The risk perception paradox-Implications for governance and communication of natural hazards, Risk Analysis, 33, 6, 1049-1065.
  43. Wahlberg, A. A., and Sjoberg, L. (2000) Risk Perception and the Media, Journal of Risk Research, 3, 1, 31-50.
  44. Welch, M. R., Rivera, R. E. N., Conway, B. P., Yonkoski, J., Lupton, P. M., and Giancola, R. (2005) Determinants and onsequences of Social Trust, Sociological Inquiry, 75, 4, 453-473.
  45. White, M. P., and Johnson, B. B. (2010) The Intuitive Detection Theorist (IDT) Model of Trust in Hazard Managers, Risk Analysis, 30, 8, 1196-1209.
  46. Wood, R., and Bandura, A. (1989) Social cognitive theory of organizational management, Academy of Management Review, 14, 3, 361-384.
  47. Zhang, J. (1993) Environmental Hazrds in the Chinese Public's Eyes, Risk Analysis, 13, 5, 509-513.