Dawson, Ian, Johnson, J.E.V. and Luke, M.A.
When things just don't add up: assessing the influence of concept plausibility in subjective understandings of synergistic risks
At 19th Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) Europe Conference: Risk, Governance and Accountability, United Kingdom.
21 - 23 Jun 2010.
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Previous research suggests that synergistic risks are perceived as additive or sub-additive by lay individuals. However, the metrics employed in these studies to measure the perceived risk attributable to combined hazards suffer from a number of limitations. Consequently, the veridicality of lay assessments of synergistic risks remains unclear. More specifically, there is an absence of empirical data indicating the extent to which non-experts are aware, tacitly or explicitly, of the concept of synergistic risk. We present the results of an experimental study aimed at addressing this issue. Participants (N = 110) examined additive and synergistic risk scenarios and judged whether or not they regarded these as plausible.
The results indicate that lay people are more aware of the concept of synergistic risk than previous findings suggest. However, we found additive (cf. synergistic) risks were regarded as more plausible, and people are less aware of higher synergistic risk magnitudes. Additionally, lay awareness of different synergistic risk magnitudes varied between health and social domains. Implications of the findings for future research and risk communications are discussed.
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