Whose reality counts? Factors affecting the perception of volcanic risk

Katharine Haynes*, Jenni Barclay, Nick Pidgeon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Understanding how people perceive risk has become increasingly important for improving risk communication and reducing risk associated conflicts. This paper builds upon findings, methodologies and lessons learned from other fields to help understand differences between scientists, authorities and the public. Qualitative and quantitative methods were used to analyse underlying attitudes and judgements during an ongoing volcanic crisis on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat. Specific differences between the public, authorities and scientists were found to have been responsible for misunderstandings and misinterpretations of information and roles, resulting in differing perceptions of acceptable risk. Difficulties in the articulation and understanding of uncertainties pertaining to the volcanic risk led to a situation in which the roles of hazard monitoring, risk communication and public protection became confused. In addition, social, economic and political forces were found to have distorted risk messages, leading to a public reliance upon informal information networks. The implications of these findings for volcanic risk management and communication are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-272
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Volume172
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2008

Keywords

  • Montserrat
  • risk tolerability
  • unofficial communications
  • volcanic risk communication
  • volcanic risk management

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