Risk Perception

  • Paul Slovic
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Risk Analysis book series (CIRA, volume 3)


In industrialized societies, the question “How safe is safe enough?” has emerged as one of the major policy issues of the 1980s. The frequent discovery of new hazards and the widespread publicity they receive is causing more and more individuals to see themselves as the victims, rather than as the beneficiaries, of technology. These fears and the opposition to technology that they produce have puzzled and frustrated industrialists and regulators and have led numerous observers to argue that the public’s apparent pursuit of a “zero-risk society” threatens the nation’s political and economic stability. Political Sci entist Aaron Wildavsky commented on this state of affairs (Wildavsky, 1979):

How extraordinary! The richest, longest-lived, best-protected, most resourceful civilization, with the highest degree of insight into its own technology, is on its way to becoming the most frightened.

Is it our environment or ourselves that have changed? Would people like us have had this sort of concern in the past? … today, there are risks from numerous small dams far exceeding those from nuclear reactors. Why is the one feared and not the other? Is it just that we are used to the old or are some of us looking differently at essentially the same sorts of experience?


Risk Perception Unfortunate Event Technological Risk Benefit Perception Ethylene Dibromide 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Slovic
    • 1
  1. 1.Decision ResearchEugeneUSA

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