Jumping Without a Net

Posted on July 30, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |



Risk, risk taking, risky business, none of these terms have a soothing sound about them. Risk can be defined as the amount of perceived uncontrollability. We deal with risk daily, but it is how we formulate ways of dealing with it is the most crucial part of the decision making process.

Assessing risk can be stressful; this is most likely because it is a multidimensional decision. In Wibecke Brun’s article: “Risk Perception: Main Issues, Approaches, and Findings” she rationalizes that risk assessment forces the decider to take into account their own involvement in the decision, the cause, their behavior, and the consequences, among dozens of other factors. Because of this involved process, deciders implement their own styles of assessing risk. In Brun’s article, she emphasizes rule based assessment and intuitive strategies. She states that these different tools vary due to the decider’s perception of the risk, also how they define blame.

Blame is known as the person who is at fault or someone to point the finger at, if the risk is man-made versus natural (tornado, hurricane) the blame is traced back to the decider, this is one of the ways risk levels increase. Brun stresses blame as “disaster potential” (p.309) meaning, how bad are the consequences, how many people would be effected, and how is the decider involved. Another factor of assessing uncertainty is the decider’s orientation toward risk. Is he or she individualistic or family/community based? This may also sway their assessment of risky decision.

Definitions of risk vary by a person’s feelings towards the consequences. For example, Drottz-Sjoberg (1991) discovered that 45.8% of participants in his study agreed that “risk is mainly a question of the probability of an event and its effects” (p.298). Where as in a small Norwegian based study (Brun, unpublished data) participants agreed that “risk has to do with the severity of an event and the uncertainty associated with it.” (p. 298). The second definition has less to do with the blame factor, and therefore risk will be assessed differently.

Decisions become increasingly difficult when uncertainty or risk is involved. Research surrounding this topic should focus on what is instinctual to the decider versus what probabilists believe to be the most effective or frequent assessments. This could help the lay public better assess risk.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gurbej/507464249/

Text Credit: Wright, George and Ayton, Peter, Subjective Probability, “Risk Management: Main Issues, Approaches, and Findings”, West Sussex, England. 1994


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