Communicating Scientific Information About Health and Environmental Risks: Problems and Opportunities from a Social and Behavioral Perspective

  • Vincent T. Covello
  • Detlof von Winterfeldt
  • Paul Slovic
Part of the Advances in Risk Analysis book series (AIRA, volume 4)


Risk communication takes place in a variety of forms, ranging from product warning labels on cigarette packages and saccharin bottles to interactions between officials and members of the public on such highly charged issues as Love Canal, AIDS, and the accident at Three Mile Island. Recent experience has shown that communicating scientific information about health and environmental risks can be exceedingly difficult and is often frustrating to those involved. Government officials, industry executives, and scientific experts often complain that laypeople do not understand technical risk information and that individual and media biases and limitations lead to distorted and inaccurate perceptions of many risk problems. Individual citizens and representatives of public groups are often equally frustrated, perceiving government and industry officials to be uninterested in their concerns, unwilling to take immediate and direct actions to solve seemingly simple and obvious health and environmental problems, and reluctant or unwilling to allow them to participate in decisions that intimately affect their lives. In this context, the media often play the role of transmitter and translator of information about health and environmental risks, but have been criticized for exaggerating risks and emphasizing drama over scientific facts.


Conflict Resolution Risk Communication Seat Belt Public Involvement Joint Problem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vincent T. Covello
    • 1
  • Detlof von Winterfeldt
    • 2
  • Paul Slovic
    • 3
  1. 1.National Science FoundationUSA
  2. 2.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Decision ResearchEugeneUSA

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