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Module II Risk = Hazard and Components of Outrage

by: Alanna Wight

Module II Risk = Hazard and Components of Outrage COM 105

Marketplace > Washington State University > Communication Studies > COM 105 > Module II Risk Hazard and Components of Outrage
Alanna Wight

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Lecture Notes
Com 105- Communication in Global Context
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Alanna Wight on Friday December 11, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to COM 105 at Washington State University taught by Gallagher in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 8 views. For similar materials see Com 105- Communication in Global Context in Communication Studies at Washington State University.


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Date Created: 12/11/15
Module II Risk = Hazard + Outrage and Components of Outrage (Sandman) The Public vs. The Experts Why are people often frightened by risks the experts consider tiny? Are experts invariably mistaken or bought off? No. Is public too stupid or too incompetent to figure out the data? No. Are journalists poisoning the data? No. Then, why? Technical vs. Cultural Model of Risk Technical: to experts, risk is “magnitude” x “probability” Objective hazard analysis Cultural: to publics, risk is driven by perceptions of occurrence, exposure, and consequence what we believe to be true or significant. Risk = Outrage (Concern) Risk communication goal The goal of risk communication is often to ‘close the gap’ between objective hazard analysis (technical model) and human perceptions of risk (cultural model). Hence, Risk = Hazard + Outrage (Concern) Should you be more concerned about your furniture than Ebola? (YES) Should you be concerned about a Flu pandemic? (YES!!) Hazard vs. Outrage Perception problems The public is not good at calculating hazard. The experts are not good at calculating outrage (concern). Experts’ tasks in risk controversy Communicate better to help the public accurately understand the hazard including likelihood of occurrence, exposure, and consequence. Listen better to hear whether the outrage is high and take action to reduce it Two types of ‘talking better’ Two goals of risk communication: To understand human perceptions of risk and respond based on the probability Alarm people “Look here, this is dangerous, this could kill you. Do something!” Chronic Examples: Smoking, heart disease, diabetes. Acute Examples: Tornado, Hurricane, Land Slide, Volcano Calm people “We understand people are concerned. But we also want to reassure the public that there is no evidence to support the belief that we are experiencing the zombie apocalypse.” Crisis Communication A hazard is present and concerned. You have the public’s attention and they are likely looking to you (or someone) for expertise on the hazard, empathy for situation, and advice about how to respond. Risk Communication- Alarm A hazard is present with high likelihood, and/or exposure, and/or consequences but people are not adequately concerned. Hence, communication is focused on alarming people. Example Video, Oso Slide Warnings date back decades: Risk Communication- calm A hazard is present but with low or very low likelihood, and/or exposure, and/or consequences but people are very concerned. Hence, communication is focused on calming people. Example Video, The US is NOT experiencing an Ebola outbreak: Components of Outrage 1. Voluntary or coerced? The right to say “no” makes saying “maybe” a much smaller risk To reduce community outrage, make the risk more voluntary Ex) Two ski trips example (p.14) “Skiing is voluntary. Because it is voluntary, it generates NO OUTRAGE.” This does NOT mean that skiers do not know the hazard data. 2. Natural or industrial? A natural hazard Is perceived less negatively than an industrial hazard Concern over natural risks are generally between a voluntary risk and a coerced risk (more acceptable than a coerced risk, less acceptable than a voluntary one) Government & industry are more easily considered as villains than Mother Nature Ex) A radon problem in New Jersey (p.17) 3. Familiar or exotic? Familiar risks are usually underestimated Which one do you think is more risky? Driving a car VS. Getting on the back of an elephant (if you have never been around elephants) It can be hard to get people to take a risk seriously (alarm people) when it is familiar Radon in a house basement & threats of lung cancer. It can be hard reduce people’s fears when the hazard is unfamiliar Consider Ebola versus Influenza 4. Memorable or not memorable? Memorability – How easy it is for you to envision something going wrong? Memorability increases perception of hazard. The source of memorability Personal experience (living through a flood). Media images of patients suffering through infectious disease. The symbol of chemical risks, nuclear risks versus chronic pollution 5. Dreaded or not dreaded? Motor vehicle accident versus Falling from a ladder The SAME amount of mortality from a non-dreaded source will generate less concern than mortality from a dreaded source. The vector by which the hazard is transmitted matters (air versus bodily fluids; air versus waterborne). Things we view as disgusting are probably viewed more negatively than some hazards A glass of water with sulfur is not dangerous but smells disgusting whereas some chemicals are imperceptible but very dangerous. Misconceptions about risks 6. Chronic or catastrophic? The public is more concerned about catastrophic than chronic risk 7. Knowable or not? Many times, we fear less what we can know. But knowability is impacted by a number of issues. Detectability: When a risk becomes more detectable, then it becomes more knowable, then it becomes less a source of outrage. Expert Disagreement – leads to undertainty Uncertainty – lack of complete understanding about a hazard or consensus about a hazard – e.g., are heart and diabetes driven by fatty or high carbohydrate foods? Uncertainty can be preferred Uncertainty can be an excuse for NOT acting – e.g., when a risk is individually controlled. E.g., A home-owner might use “uncertainty about radon risks” as a delaying tactic – “When the experts are sure about it, I’ll test, then.” 8. Controlled by me or others? How is “control” differentiated from “voluntariness”? Control is about “who implements” the hazard Typical two messages that agencies & companies have for the public in risk controversy: “We are in charge here, we’ve got the expertise, we’ve got the mandate. Butt out.” “Don’t worry.” Share control to help the public feel better about the situation. 9. Fair or unfair? Distribution of hazard & distribution of benefits Even if benefits outweigh risks, we are averse to situations where benefits and risks are realized by different groups. The risk is NOT distributed fairly Find a way to share benefits 10. Morally relevant or irrelevant? Tradeoffs of risk against benefit often put things in terms of ‘cost.’ Moral dimensions are as or maybe and risk against cost are unacceptable, callous way to talk about outrage. Think about a hazard that to you would be simply unacceptable under any circumstances– e.g., child pornography, child or elder abuse, murder, et cetera. What makes that hazard simply untenable? Are there any circumstances which would make these hazards acceptable? If like most people in our society, we would say NO. But we also face a complex situation when thinking about public funding (taxes) for public safety. Magnifiers of Moral Disapproval. 11. Can I trust you or not? The importance of trust suggests two important implications: The long-term one: Companies and agencies need to work to build trust. The short-term one: they need to replace the expectation of trust with accountability instead. 12. Is the process responsive? Components of a responsive process: Openness vs. Secrecy Apology vs. Stonewalling Courtesy vs. Discourtesy Sharing vs. Confronting Community Values Compassion vs. Dispassion


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