Type: Argumentative Essays
Sample donated: Loren Fox
Last updated: December 20, 2019
(Eaves D, 2008)The grid represents the extent to which social contextlimits or regulates the conduct of an individual towards nature.
This gridconsists of the Hierarchist, the Individualist, the Egalitarian and theFatalist as the main characters. The Individualist have very firm views about nature. They feel nature resemblesnature as strong, but harmless. They feel nature is at its original state evenwith changes in the surroundings.The Hierarchist views nature as trustworthy but feels that nature has its ownlimits to which it can be trusted.The Egalitarian views nature as fragile and feels threatened if one goesagainst nature or its limits.The Fatalist thinks that nature is extremely unpredictable and untrustworthy.
(Adams, 2003).When a person has limited behavioural options,individuals are likely to act more freely and negotiate their personal andsocial reactions. When changes in the interactions between groups and gridstake place, the individual’s social participation is affected. Different modesof social interaction are described by the above grid group analysis.
(Sigve,et. al., 2004).Data on Risk Perception is collected because it isbelieved that risk perception influences and is important to policy makers.Risk and Risk Mitigation are directly proportional to each other. However trueit might be, many studies have shown that more than the perception bit, it isthe consequences of that hazard which influences the individual’s feeling ofrisk mitigation.
(Sjöberg, 2003).This essay will critically evaluate 3 theories namely,the Cultural Heuristic Theory, the Psychometric Paradigm and the CulturalTheory.· CulturalHeuristic Theory –Psychologists in the 20th century found there is arational process for decision making which involves logic, reasoning andthought of all the probabilities of risk involved in a decision. However, it isa time-consuming process if applied to every decision. It was found that anindividual uses ‘heuristic’ or a ‘mental short cut’ to solve a problem bymaking a decision based on previous experiences. This theory is known as’Cognitive Heuristic Theory’. Every person has different attitudes towardsperceiving risk depending on cultures, values, beliefs, attitudes and pastexperiences.
(Walls et. al, 2010)Applying this theory to floods, someone who has losthis / her family member or home previously due to floods, will evacuateimmediately as soon as they sense the area will be flooded due to heavy rainand will take all the necessary precautions to secure the home and family.Whereas, a person who has never been exposed to floods before, will not be ableto act quickly.
This is because the logic and reasoning power of the individualwill be at stake because he / she will have to follow multiple instructions andmulti – task which was never done before.People perceive that a low socioeconomic class is themain population affected maximum by floods. Families who are dependent onagriculture for their livelihood, will find it difficult to leave their farms,cattle and homes and migrate to a new place as they have been living in thatplace for many years and it is against their values and beliefs to leave thecattle and land on which their livelihood depends. Also, it is not affordableto buy new land, cattle and settle elsewhere and start anew. (Walls et. al,2010).A literature review was performed in November 2013whose main focus was empirical studies which described social vulnerabilityprocess and outcomes during floods.
It was found that elderly people, pregnantladies, single parents, disabled people, etc. would be more vulnerable tofloods in certain situations. (Rufat et. al, 2010).· PsychometricParadigm–The psychological aspect of risk perception hasattracted many researchers, especially during the 1980’s when the importance ofvalues and beliefs of an individual emerged. The most useful theory forpsychological research is the psychometric paradigm since then. However, fewconclusions are not well researched and are not based on empirical data andproper analysis is not done. In a study conducted by Fischhoff et al.
, peoplewere asked to rate risk of each activity depending on the dimensions such asvoluntariness. The means were calculated and then intercalated. It was foundthat two factors namely Dread and Novelty explained variance. When a regressionwas run on perceived risk, the level of explained variance was about 20%.The basic work of the psychometric paradigm has beenreplicated many times and the factor structure is undeviating and the riskperception is well explained by the factors. This is why the psychometricparadigm is hugely successful. The validity of the Psychometric Paradigm ishowever unknown and has been taken for granted as it has been cited by manyresearchers and in many books.
A study conducted was by Slovic, et.al., (1991). Thestudy interviewed the participants on how their trust would be affected byvarious events.
The study concluded that it was easy to trust. If the trust wasbroken, it was very hard to re – build that trust. However true it might be, itdoes not provide a concrete basis on psychological indicators, instead it justreflects the beliefs of people regarding trust. Media has a very stronginfluence on people’s risk perception. A study conducted by Wåhlberg &Sjöberg, 2000 showed that media are irresponsible and only want to broadcastnegative information targeting high consequence risk.
(Sjöberg,2003).In spite of all the positives there are faults withthe psychometric paradigm. The data, if analysed properly only accounts for 20%– 25% of the variance for perceived risk and tolerance.
Misleading data andanalysis has been used which is why the theory has a high explanatory power.Trust is a weak explanatory variable in regards of risk perception. The abovementioned statement is supported by results which is suggestive thatmeasurement of trust should be specific and not generalized. (Sjöberg, 2003).· CulturalTheory –Social and Cultural perspectives which influenced riskbecame important in the 1980’s.
According to Douglas and Wildavsky (1982),started to conduct a study on perception of risks of individuals depending ontheir cultural beliefs and values. They thought that the environment and socialsettings play a major role in the decision of taking risks of an individual.They also highlighted that the society and the society’s values and beliefs,plays an important role in the development of perceptions of an individual.
Thesocial cognition patterns work as filters in an individual’s mind andinfluences the decision of whether or not a particular risk is supposed to betaken or not. (Marris, 1998).According to the social cognition perspective, one does not decide what he /she fears or doesn’t fear based on individual cognition but it is highlyinfluenced by the society’s views and beliefs.
This is how every individualdevelops world – views.An international study conducted by Wildavsky in 1993showed that there is a negligible link between knowledge and risk perception ofan individual. The cultural theory states that the individuals choose what theyfear depending on the cultures they are born and brought up in. The grid –group typology (mentioned above) divides all individuals in 4 groups, namely,the Individualist, the Egalitarian, the Hierarchist and the Fatalist and helpsstudies the attitudes and behaviours of individuals in those groups. (Marris, 1998).
The Cultural Theory clearly hypothesizes the modes ofrisk perception. People which are classified as the Hierarchist, are willing totake risks until the risks are justified by experts or government authorities.However, they fear risks which are exposed to social order.The Egalitarians are unwilling to take risks which are known to causeirreversible damage to them and the future generations.
They doubt thedecisions of the experts and government authorities if risks are imposed overthem.The Fatalists do not worry about the things they cannot do anything about. Theytend to follow mob – psychology but without knowing what is good and bad forthem.Every risk is a new opportunity for an Individualist. (Marris, 1998).Literature has found an argumentative discussion onmeasurement of culture with individual level data.
The past literature suggeststhat culture is not just a phenomenon but plays a very important role in therisk perception process of an individual. Hence it is not possible to measureculture with individual level data.Hofstede (1980) or Schwartz and Ros (1995), the individuals prioritize theirvalues depending on their personal experiences and on cultures. Critics have said that the cultural theory has a verylow explanatory power. (Boholm, 1996; Sjober, 1995).
However, Tansey (2004)states that the theory has been taken out of its original context and itsembedded into social theory which is misunderstood due to its depth. Accordingto Sigve et al (2004), the initial study by Douglas (1978) was conducted in anenvironment where the society’s restrictions and rules of life put members ofthe society in their place. The society has changed these days since theinitial theory was hypothesised.
Therefore, the cultural theory was useful inthe past but is irrelevant now because the society has changed. · Conclusion –The Psychometric Paradigm would be a useful theorysince it is simple to understand. It could be better explained if the measuresfor the analysis were reliable, specific and not generalized. However, thistheory is useful with risk perception research at the population level ratherthan individual level.The Cultural Theory is not useful to understand therisk perception of modern times as the society has changed over time but thetools used for measurement of risk are still the same.