Residential Proximity, Perceived and Acceptable Risk

  • George O. Rogers
Part of the Advances in Risk Analysis book series (AIRA, volume 2)

Abstract

The perception of risk and the acceptance of it are partially a product of life experiences. This occurs because “ordinary-knowledge” is principally comprised of experiences, and the perception and acceptability of risk rests firmly upon that “data bank” of knowledge. Hence, life-experience is inherently related to perceived and acceptable risk. This paper focuses on the relationship between the life experiences associated with residential proximity, and the perception and acceptability of the risks associated with generating electricity in nuclear power plants. Perceived risk is operationally defined in t erms of estimated likelihood of occurrence, while acceptability of nuclear power is defined in terms of people’s favorable or unfavorable opinions regarding nuclear power plants. In the context of a simple social-structural model of perceived and acceptable risk, four potential explanations for enhanced acceptability among those residentially proximate with nuclear facilities are examined: 1) Residents, through the experience of living with hazard, are reinforced toward assigning lower probabilities to the potential risks associated with nuclear facilities. 2) The cognitive dissonance created by the acceptance of the risks associated with nuclear power is decreased by reducing perceived risk. 3) Nuclear neighbors are predisposed toward, educated about, and/or economically dependent upon nuclear power hence the more favorable attitudes toward it. 4) Nearby residents are systematically more altruistic — other oriented — than the general population and thus more willing to bear the risks associated with nuclear power. Low-probability/high-consequence risks are sometimes assessed in terms of revealed societal preferences. However, assessing risk in this manner without careful consideration of social processes involved is somewhat superficial and misleading. In this sense, a more complete understanding of the social processes involved in the perception and acceptability of risk is essential. The examination of these four hypotheses provides a foundation on which such an understanding may be established.

Key Words

Perceived Risk Acceptable Risk Life-experience Residential Proximity Lay-estimation Lay-evaluation 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
    Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases, Science, 185:1124–1131 (September 1974).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Louis Harris and Associates, Inc., A Survey of Public and Leadership Attitudes Toward Nuclear Power Development in the United States, EBASCO Services, Inc., New York (1975).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Louis Harris and Associates, Inc., Survey II of Public and Leadership Attitudes Toward Nuclear Power Development in the United States, EBASCO Services, Inc., New York (1976).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Barbara D. Melber, et al., Nuclear Power and the Public: Analysis of Collected Survey Research, Battelle Human Affairs Research Centers, Seattle (November 1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Jiri Nehnevajsa, Issues of Civil Defense: Vintage 1978-Summary Results of the 1978 National Survey, University Center for Social and Urban Research, University of Pittsburgh (February 1979).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    H. J. Otway, Risk Estimations and Evaluation, Proc. of II ASA Planning Conference on Energy Systems, International Inst. for Applied Systems Analysis, Schloss Laxenburg, Austria (1973).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Robert W. Kates, Risk Assessment of Environmental Hazard: Scope 8, John Wiley & Sons, New York (1978).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    William D. Rowe, An Anatomy of Risk, John Wiley & Sons, New York (1977).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jiri Nehnevajsa, Personal communication with the author (1982).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    P. Slovic, B. Fischhoff, and S. Lichtenstein, Facts and Fears: Understanding Perceived Risk, Societal Risk Assessment (R. C. Schwing and W. A. Albers, Jr., eds.), 181–216, Plenum Press, New York (1980).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    H. J. Otway, Risk Assessment and Social Choices, II ASA Research Memorandum RM-75-2, International Inst. for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria (February 1975).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Dennis Mileti, Thomas E. Drabek, and J. Eugene Haas, Human Systems in Extreme Environments: A Sociological Perspective, Inst. of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado (1975).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Gilbert F. White and J. Eugene Haas, Assessment of Research on Natural Hazards, M.I.T. Press, Cambridge (1975).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    E. L. Quarantelli and Russel R. Dynes, When Disaster Strikes (It Isn’t Much Like What You’ve Heard or Read About), Psychology Today, 5:66–70 (February 1972).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    E. L. Quarantelli, The Nature and Conditions of Panic, American J. of Sociology, 60:267–275 (1954).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Chauncey Starr, Social Benefits Versus Technological Risks, Science, 165:1232–1238 (1969).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    William W. Lowrance, Of Acceptable Risk-Science and the Determination of Safety, William Kaufmann, Inc., Los Altos, California (1976).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    William W. Lowrance, The Nature of Risk, Societal Risk Assessment (R. C. Schwing and W. A. Albers, Jr., eds.), 5–17, Plenum Press, New York (1980).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    P. Slovic, B. Fischhoff, and S. Lichtenstein, Accident Probabilities and Seat Belt Usage: A Psychological Perspective, Accid. Anal. and Prev., 10:281–285 (1978).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    J. Menkes, Risk or Angst, unpublished paper (1981).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Jiri Nehnevajsa, Radiation Hazards: Current Public Opinion in the United States, Symposium on the Control of Exposure from Ionizing Radiation in the Event of Accident or Attack (April 27-29, 1981).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    William L. Rankin and Stanley M. Nealey, The Relationship of Human Values and Energy Beliefs to Nuclear Power Attitudes, Battelle Human Affairs Research Centers, Seattle (November 1978).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    L. Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Row, Peterson, Evanston, Illinois (1957).Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ivan P. Pavlov, Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex, Dover Press, New York (1927).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    B. F. Skinner, Science and Human Behavior, McMillian, New York (1953).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Thomas Nagel, The Possibility of Altruism, London: Oxford University Press (1970).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Peter M. Blau, Inequality and Heterogeneity, The Free Press, New York (1977).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Gerhard E. Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York (1966).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ralph Linton, Age and Sex Categories, American Sociological Review 7, 5:589–603 (1942).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Talcott Parsons, Age and Sex in the Social Structure of the United States, American Sociological Review 7, 604–616 (1942).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Charles J. Brody, Nuclear Power: Sex Differences in Public Opinion, Dissertation submitted to the Department of Sociology, University of Arizona, University Microfilms International (1981).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Louis Harris and Associates, Inc., Risk in a Complex Society: A Marsh & McLennan Public Opinion Survey, Marsh & McLennan, New York (1980b).Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    George O. Rogers, Social Status and Perceived Risk: Some Social Processes and Risk Perception, X World Congress of Sociology, Mexico City (August 1982).Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, Demographic Statistics Pertaining to Nuclear Reactor Regulation, Washington, D.C., NUREG-0348 (October 1979).Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    TR-82 High Risk Areas: For Civil Preparedness Nuclear Defense Planning Purposes, Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, Washington, D.C. (April 1975).Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    S. E. Fienberg, The Analysis of Cross-Classified Data, M.I.T. Press, Cambridge (1977).Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    L. A. Goodman, Analyzing Qualitative/Categorical Data, Abt Books, Cambridge (1978).Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    David Knoke and Peter J. Burke, Log-Linear Models, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, California (1980).Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    L. A. Goodman, A General Model for the analysis of Surveys, American J. of Sociology, 77:1035–1086 (1972).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    BMDP, Biomédical Computer Programs: Series P, University of California Press, Los Angeles, California (1979).Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Stanley M. Nealy and William L. Rankin, Nuclear Knowledge and Nuclear Attitudes: Is Ignorance Bliss? Battelle Human Affairs Research Centers, Seattle (October 1978).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • George O. Rogers
    • 1
  1. 1.University Center for Social and Urban ResearchUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations