Communication between experts and the public has turned out to be unusually difficult in the field of risk research. These difficulties are closely connected to a series of recalcitrant misconceptions of risk and its social preconditions. In this paper, seven of the most pernicious myths of risk are exposed, namely: first, that ‘risk’ must have a single, well-defined meaning; second, that the severity of risks should be judged according to probability-weighted averages of the severity of their outcomes; third, that decisions on risk should be made by weighing total risks against total benefits; fourth, that decisions on risk should be taken by experts rather than by laymen; fifth, that risk-reducing measures in all sectors of society should be decided according to the same standards; sixth, that risk assessments should be based only on well-established scientific facts; and seventh, that if there is a serious risk, then scientists will find it if they look for it.
KeywordsRisk risk communication risk analysis cost-benefit analysis sound science
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