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Type: Conference paper
Title: A tale of two disasters: biases in risk communication
Author: Welsh, M.
Steacy, S.
Begg, S.
Navarro, D.
Citation: Proceedings of the 38th Annual Cognitive Science Society Meeting, 2016 / Papafragou, A., Grodner, D., Mirman, D., Trueswell, J. (ed./s), pp.544-549
Publisher: CSS
Publisher Place: Online
Issue Date: 2016
ISBN: 9780991196739
Conference Name: The 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (COGSCI) (10 Aug 2016 - 13 Aug 2016 : Philadelphia, USA)
Editor: Papafragou, A.
Grodner, D.
Mirman, D.
Trueswell, J.
Statement of
Matthew B. Welsh, Sandy Steacy, Steve H. Begg, Daniel J. Navarro
Abstract: Risk communication, where scientists inform policy-makers or the populace of the probability and magnitude of possible disasters, is essential to disaster management – enabling people to make better decisions regarding preventative steps, evacuations, etc. Psychological research, however, has identified multiple biases that can affect people’s interpretation of probabilities and thus risk. For example, availability (Tversky & Kahneman, 1973) is known to confound probability estimates while the descriptionexperience gap (D-E Gap) (Hertwig & Erev, 2009) shows low probability events being over-weighted when described and under-weighted when learnt from laboratory tasks. This paper examines how probability descriptions interact with real world experience of events. Responses from 294 participants across 8 conditions showed that people’s responses, given the same described probabilities and consequences, were altered by their familiarity with the disaster (bushfire vs earthquake) and its salience to them personally. The implications of this for risk communication are discussed.
Keywords: Description-experience gap; risk communication; decision making; availability; bias.
Description: Theme for 2016: Recognizing and representing events
Rights: © the authors
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Appears in Collections:Aurora harvest 7
Australian School of Petroleum publications

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