Categories of Success: How Do We Make Who Listen?

  • Rachel Dowty Beech
  • William WallaceEmail author
Part of the Environmental Hazards book series (ENHA)


Definitions of risk vary widely from person to person and from group to group. How then can disaster researchers prescribe effective actions and relevant information sources for all who seek to avert risk and disaster? Traditional strategies for matching particular “types of people” and/or “types of groups” to information they might find relevant to themselves have included, but are not limited to age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status. This chapter challenges the traditional group categories used to assess who will find what information relevant, the manner in which information is presented, and the places the information can be found by those seeking it. We propose that the four cultures presented by social anthropologist Mary Douglas can not only shed light on the failures to deliver salient information on averting risk and disaster to those who seek such information, but also help shape (1) which information is pertinent to whom, (2) how the information can be shaped to prompt action, and (3) where to post such information so that it reaches those who are interested. These four cultures are described as “Hierarchist,” “Individualist,” “Fatalist,” and “Egalitarian.”


Risk perception Risk communication Warning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fire ScienceUniversity of New HavenWest HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Industrial and Systems EngineeringRensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroyUSA

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