Risk Communication

  • Vincent T. Covello
  • Detlof von Winterfeldt
  • Paul Slovic
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Risk Analysis book series (CIRA, volume 3)


Risk communication takes place in a variety of forms, ranging from warning labels on consumer products to interactions among governmental officials, industry representatives, the media, and members of the public on such highly charged situations as Love Canal, ethylene dibromide (EDB) contamination of food, Three Mile Island, cigarette smoking, asbestos in school buildings, and Chernobyl. Experience has shown that risk communication efforts are a source of frustration for both risk communicators and for the intended recipients of the information. Government officials, industry representatives, and scientists note that laypeople frequently do not understand highly technical risk information and that individual biases and limitations may lead to distorted and inaccurate perceptions of many risk problems. Representatives of citizen groups and individual citizens are often equally frustrated, perceiving risk communicators and risk assessment experts to be uninterested in their concerns and unwilling to take immediate and direct actions to solve seemingly straightforward health, safety, and environmental problems. In this context, the media often plays the role of transmitter and translator of information between risk communicators and the public. But the media has been criticized for exaggerating risks and for emphasizing drama over scientific facts.


Conflict Resolution Risk Communication Seat Belt Joint Problem Individual Citizen 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vincent T. Covello
    • 1
  • Detlof von Winterfeldt
    • 2
  • Paul Slovic
    • 3
  1. 1.Risk Assessment ProgramNational Science FoundationUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Safety and System ManagementUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Decision ResearchEugeneUSA

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