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Risk Communication - #SciCommLSU

Risk Communication - #SciCommLSU

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Risk Communication - #SciCommLSU

  1. 1. RISK COMMUNICATION #SciCommLSU Lecture by Paige Brown Jarreau
  2. 2. Brossard, D., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2009). A Critical Appraisal of Models of Public Understanding of Science: Using Practice to Inform Theory. In L. Kahlor & P. Stout (Eds.), Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication(pp. 11-39). New York: Routledge.
  3. 3. WHAT WE’VE LEARNED SO FAR  What scientific research looks like  How to tell STORIES about science  What environmental issues (and solutions) look like on an local level  How we can communicate complex environmental issues in ways people can relate to  But how do people perceive environmental RISKS?  People’s perception of any given environmental risk and their vulnerability to it will influence their attitudes and behaviors. http://www.youtube.com/user/storytellingscience http://www.eyeonfda.com/eye_on_fda/2012/01/personalized-risk-communication.html
  4. 4. RISK PERCEPTION
  5. 5.  Communication of risks is not as straight-forward as scientists may like to think  Emotions and affect color perceived risk  People often perceive greater risk from low probability events with severe outcomes (like being infected with Ebola) than they do for higher probability events with less severe or delayed outcomes  Negative outcomes “spring more readily to mind” than neutral outcomes, thus increasing their perceived likelihood (Risen and Gilovich, 2007) RISK PERCEPTION
  6. 6.  “A major challenge facing climate scientists is explaining to non-specialists the risks and uncertainties surrounding potential changes over the coming years, decades and centuries.” http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n1/full/nclimate1080.html#a uth-2 RISK COMMUNICATION
  7. 7.  Diverse policymakers and the public should understand the climate change risks and uncertainties relevant to the decisions that each faces.  However, promoting such understanding is unlikely to be a sufficient condition for individuals or societies to respond effectively to the risks posed by climate change. Political, psychological and physical barriers to action also need to be addressed.  However, understanding of risk IS a necessary condition for action. IMPORTANCE OF RISK COMMUNICATION
  8. 8.  In other words, me communicating to you your risk of flooding in your current home does not necessarily mean you will take action. You may not have the financial resources, or you may not see any of your neighbors doing anything, so you are reluctant to act. BUT if you don’t know your risks, you definitely won’t act. IMPORTANCE OF RISK COMMUNICATION
  9. 9.  Global  Distant (for example, melting ice-caps)  Long time scales  Averages and probabilities  Inherent uncertainty, especially in terms of local impacts  “Whatever their beliefs, most people find climate change psychologically distant, as something that will affect other people in other places and times” http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n1/full/nclimate1080.html#auth-2 WHY CLIMATE CHANGE IS A ‘WICKED PROBLEM’ IN TERMS OF RISK COMMUNICATION
  10. 10. http://www.slideshare.net/matthewnisbet/risk-communication-28002869
  11. 11. People often believe their own senses and experiences more than ‘what scientists say’… “Science and expertise are under attack. We have to show the public that the very iPhone or GPS that they are using has come from sound science and technology. Science is not about an agenda or politics, it is about questions, discovery, and advancement.” - Marshall Shepherd, 2013 President of American Meteorological Society, 12 years NASA research meteorologist SO PUBLIC TRUST IN SCIENCE IS ALSO AN ISSUE
  12. 12. “Consensus is tricky. Disagreement has always been a part of science. However, I find now that in the era of ‘arm-chair’ science – many people just don’t understand the scientific process, the peer-review process, etc. They see things more like a legal system and reasonable doubt. If there is reasonable doubt or slight uncertainty, they think the basic scientific premise is flawed. Science doesn’t work that way. There is uncertainty in an 80% chance of rain, but you will probably grab an umbrella. There is uncertainty in many medical doctors' diagnoses, but we consume the information.” - Marshall Shepherd, 2013 President of American Meteorological Society, 12 years NASA research meteorologist
  13. 13.  “Scientists do not normally repeat facts that are widely accepted among them, focusing instead on the uncertainties that pose the most challenging problems. As a result, lay observers can get an exaggerated sense of scientific uncertainty and controversy, unless a special effort is made to remind them of the broad areas of scientific agreement.” http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n1/full/nclimate1080.html#auth-2 UNCERTAINTY https://royalsociety.org/further/uncertainty-in-science/
  14. 14. IPCC LANGUAGE HTTP://WWW.UCL.AC.UK/LAGNADO-LAB/ PUBLICATIONS/HARRIS/HARRISCORNERJEPLMC.PDF
  15. 15.  Saying something is "unlikely" or that it "probably will happen" is an indication of the probability that this particular thing will occur.  When it comes to the environment, the chance of something harmful happening is called risk.  Risks are typically dependent on many factors, and so determining risks can be complex. RISKS
  16. 16. What factors might determine your risk for flooding?  Distance from the coast? From the river? Flood plain? Changing weather/hurricane conditions? Storm surge? Health of the wetlands in your area? Structure of your house? Levee conditions? Surrounding city structures? Sea level rise? Erosion?
  17. 17.  Different people understand risks in different ways  How people perceive risks can depend upon how their values  For example, some people care primarily about threats to human life. Others care about the economy or the environment as well, and need different risk estimates.  Proponents of environmental justice want to know which groups of people will bear the risks and which get the benefits of proposed policies.  Some people need to know the extent to which risks are voluntary, controllable, uncertain, irreversible, etc. UNDERSTANDING RISK http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n1/full/nclimate1080.html#auth-2
  18. 18.  People’s perceptions and interpretations of risks can also depend on how you frame the issue and the language that you use… UNDERSTANDING RISK
  19. 19.  Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual disease, which is expected to kill 600 people if you do nothing. You have to choose between two treatments for 600 people affected by a deadly disease.  Treatment A: 200 people will be saved  Treatment B: A 33% chance of saving all 600 people, 66% possibility of saving no one. Which do you choose? PROBABILITY EXERCISE
  20. 20.  Imagine that the U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual disease, which is expected to kill 600 people if you do nothing. You have to choose between two treatments for 600 people affected by a deadly disease.  Treatment C: 400 people will die  Treatment D: A 33% chance that no one will die, 66% possibility that 600 people will die. Which do you choose? PROBABILITY EXERCISE
  21. 21.  Typically, choices involving gains are more risk-adverse, while choices involving losses are more risk-taking.  For example, “the negative feelings associated with losing $100 outweigh the positive feelings associated with gaining $100. Thus people have a natural tendency to avoid losses rather than to seek gains.”  If we want people to take actions that might involve short-term risks for themselves, should we communicate the issue in terms of potential gains? Or potential losses?  What if you want people to avoid risks? RESULTS http://guide.cred.columbia.edu/guide/sec2.html
  22. 22. For example:  “People may be more likely to adopt environmentally responsible behavior and support costly emissions reduction efforts related to climate change if they believe their way of life is threatened and that inaction will result in even greater loss. They are less likely to adopt these measures if they focus on the current situation which they see as acceptable and discount future improvement of it.” http://guide.cred.columbia.edu/guide/sec2.html GAIN VS. LOSS FRAMING
  23. 23.  Understanding risk requires knowing risk estimates AND having accurate mental models of the processes that create and control those risks.  For example, people may need to know HOW warmer oceans lead to stronger hurricanes, or how rising CO2 in the atmosphere causes ocean acidification, in order to follow public debates and grasp the rationale for policies.  Knowledge of risk processes protects people from being “blind-sided” by misinformation.  Knowledge of risk processes can help people feel empowered to DO something about their risks. UNDERSTANDING RISK Ian Webster http://guide.cred.columbia.edu/guide/sec1.html
  24. 24.  A mental model represents a person’s thought process for how something works (i.e., a person’s understanding of the surrounding world).  “Mental models, which are based on often-incomplete facts, past experiences, and even intuitive perceptions, help shape actions and behavior, influence what people pay attention to in complicated situations, and define how people approach and solve problems.”  “When hearing about risk, people often refer to known related phenomena and associations from their past to decide if they find the risk threatening or manageable.”  “But sometimes a mental model serves as a filter, resulting in selective knowledge ‘uptake,’ i.e., people seek out or absorb only the information that matches their mental model, confirming what they already believe about an issue. This poses a potential stumbling block for climate change communicators.” MENTAL MODELS http://guide.cred.columbia.edu/guide/sec1.html
  25. 25.  What mental models can you think of that people might have to understand their risk of flooding? How could these mental models be wrong? MENTAL MODELS
  26. 26.  So how do we communicate environmental risks in ways that people can understand?  Risk communication based on facts alone is inadequate.  “Risk is subjective. It’s not just a matter of the facts, but how those facts feel. Climate change is a perfect example. The same facts lead to widely different interpretations and opinions.” http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/the-importance-of-risk-perception-for-effective-climate-change RISK COMMUNICATION
  27. 27.  We worry less about risks that we don’t think can really happen to us.  Can you name one way that climate change will seriously negatively impact you in the next 10 years? Most people, even ardent believers, can’t.  We worry less about risks the further off in the future they are.  We worry less about abstract risks, risks that are presented as ideas and “science,” hard-to-get-our-heads-around risks of global scale and centuries-long time spans, and risks depicted impersonally with facts and figures, rather than real human victims.  We worry less about risks caused by choices that also produce benefits (like the reliance on oil and gas industry in Louisiana).  We worry less about risks over which we have some control. RISK PERCEPTION http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/the-importance-of-risk-perception-for-effective-climate-change Ebola! vs. Climate change
  28. 28. “Climate change is unlikely to become a high-priority national issue until Americans consider themselves personally at risk.” Climate change is not often perceived as a significant local concern among the American public. http://www.glennumc.org/clientimages/41359/etf_risk_perception.pdf
  29. 29.  MAKE IT LOCAL, AND PERSONAL.  MAKE IT CONCRETE, NOT ABSTRACT. Focus on specifics, not generalities. Not sea level rise in general, depicted on a map from outer space, but where various predictions would put the ocean on local streets.  MAKE IT NOW, NOT LATER. People are more likely to support adaptation to what is already occurring, or may happen soon, than what lies years down the road.  POINT OUT THE TRADE-OFFS BETWEEN RISKS AND BENEFITS. Adaptation now is cheaper and easier to do than adapting after more severe changes and damage are underway.  POINT OUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF DELAY. LESSONS FOR RISK COMMUNICATION http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/the-importance-of-risk-perception-for-effective-climate-change
  30. 30.  Everyone evaluates risks differently.  Risk perception is also colored by emotion and affect, as opposed to just cognitive understanding.  Fear appeals are “designed to arose fear in order to promote precautionary motivation and self-protective action.” http://scx.sagepub.com/content/early/2009/01/07/1075547008 329201.abstract  However, while fear appeals can capture attention, they often are ineffective in motivating genuine personal engagement. Fear can result in paralysis instead of action. RISK PERCEPTION AND AFFECT
  31. 31. Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM)  “individuals will respond to a threat by either engaging in danger control, in which action is taken to reduce the threat, or fear control, in which the actual threat is not addressed and individuals instead avoid, or become skeptical of the issue.”  “The response that an individual takes is guided by whether or not they feel that there is an effective action they can engage that might address the threat - when individuals do not perceive that they have efficacy to address the threat they are more likely to engage in fear control.”  Fear control responses are more likely for risks that are complex, require multiple stakeholders for action, and have no clear path forward on action that can be taken. RESPONDING TO RISK http://bigthink.com/age-of-engagement/communicating-about-climate-risks-while-avoiding-dire-messaging
  32. 32.  Risks are an essential part of discussions about climate change impacts  Dialogue about risks should include risk estimates, but also information about underlying processes (like HOW wetland degradation leads to increased flooding risk)  However, overplaying risks or using fear appeals can paralyze people and prevent action  SO dialogue with your audience should be relevant and relatable to immediate, local risks and impacts  Dialogue should include manageable solutions, where positive benefits can also be seen TAKEAWAYS
  33. 33.  Break up into 2 groups; One group is the audience, the other is the risk communicators.  A long-time coastal Louisiana community is faced with changing risk conditions. The community did not flood during hurricane Katrina. However, since that time, loss of wetland marsh and rising sea levels have made the community more vulnerable to flooding. Stronger hurricanes are also becoming more frequent. What should the community do? How should they understand their risks?  Risk Communicators: Take 15 minutes, as a group, to discuss your communication plan. What will you recommend be done? How will you communicate the risks? With statistics? With stories about impacts on neighboring communities? Visually? In terms of losses or gains?  Audience: Take 15 minutes, as a group, to discuss your risk perceptions. What is your mental model for understanding your risks? Put yourself in the shoes of this community. What are your concerns? How will you respond to the risk communicators?  20 Minute Debate: Take turns  Risk Communicators: Communicate the risks to this community, and suggest a plan to them.  Audience: Respond to the risk communicators. Do you trust them? Do you agree with their suggestions? Are you persuaded?  Risk Communicators: Respond to your audience’s concerns. Would you change your communication strategy? ROLE-PLAYING DEBATE

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