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Perception of technological risk: insights from research and lessons for risk communication and management


  • Ortwin Renn
  • Christina Benighaus


Technology has become a familiar companion in all areas of life. Production consumption, administration, education, communication, and leisure activities are all shaped by the use of technologies. However, people often associate with the term 'technology' attributes, such as catastrophic and potentially dangerous, and tend to take the benefits of technological products for granted. This asymmetry in risk--benefit perception is one of the main reasons why many consumers are concerned about 'hidden' risks of technologies and why they demand stringent regulatory actions when they feel unduly exposed to potential emissions or waste products associated with the lifecycle of technologies. This situation is often aggravated by social amplification processes, by which even small risks receive high media attention and are blown out of proportion in the public arena. At the same time, however, one needs to acknowledge that many technologies have the potential to harm the human health and the environment. The purpose of this article is to review our knowledge about risk perception with respect to technologies, in particular emerging technologies, and to suggest possible strategies to use this knowledge for improving our risk management practice. Technological risk perception is defined in this article as the processing of physical signals and/or information about a potentially harmful impact of using technology and the formation of a judgment about seriousness, likelihood, and acceptability of the respective technology. Based on the review of psychological, social, and cultural factors that shape individual and social risk perceptions, we have attempted to develop a structured framework that provides an integrative and systematic perspective on technological risk perception and that may assist risk management and regulation in taking perceptions into account.

Suggested Citation

  • Ortwin Renn & Christina Benighaus, 2013. "Perception of technological risk: insights from research and lessons for risk communication and management," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(3-4), pages 293-313, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jriskr:v:16:y:2013:i:3-4:p:293-313
    DOI: 10.1080/13669877.2012.729522

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    Cited by:

    1. Munan Li & Alan L. Porter, 2018. "Facilitating the discovery of relevant studies on risk analysis for three-dimensional printing based on an integrated framework," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 114(1), pages 277-300, January.
    2. Teresa Brell & Ralf Philipsen & Martina Ziefle, 2019. "sCARy! Risk Perceptions in Autonomous Driving: The Influence of Experience on Perceived Benefits and Barriers," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 39(2), pages 342-357, February.
    3. Hoi Yan Cheung & Joseph Wu & Jun Tao, 2016. "Predicting domain-specific risk-taking attitudes of mainland China university students: a hyper core self-evaluation approach," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(1), pages 79-100, January.
    4. Katherine Mintz, 2017. "Arguments and actors in recent debates over US genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer;Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 7(1), pages 1-9, March.
    5. Yanwei Li & Araz Taeihagh & Martin De Jong, 2018. "The Governance of Risks in Ridesharing: A Revelatory Case from Singapore," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(5), pages 1-21, May.
    6. T. H. Tengku Ismail & H. Juahir & A. Z. Aris & Sharifuddin M. Zain & Armi Abu Samah, 2016. "Local community acceptance of the rare earth industry: the case of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Malaysia," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 739-762, June.
    7. Michael Greenberg & Karen Lowrie, 2019. "Ortwin Renn: Risk Governance Maven," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 39(7), pages 1435-1440, July.
    8. Loredana Ivan & Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, 2017. "Older People, Mobile Communication and Risks," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(2), pages 1-16, April.
    9. Adele Caldarelli & Luca Ferri & Marco Maffei, 2016. "I rischi derivanti dall’implementazione del cloud computing: un’indagine empirica nelle PMI Italiane," MANAGEMENT CONTROL, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2016(3), pages 27-48.

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