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Can public information programs affect risk perceptions?

Author

Listed:
  • V. Kerry Smith

    (University Distinguished Professor at North Carolina State University and a Resource for the Future University Fellow)

  • William H. Desvousges

    (Senior Economist at Research Triangle Institute)

  • F. Reed Johnson

    (Professor of Economics at the U.S. Naval Academy)

  • Ann Fisher

    (Economist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Abstract

This article provides the first controlled evaluation of how different information materials explaining the risks from radon influenced people's perceptions of these risks. Using a panel study, it was possible to observe how stated risk perceptions responded to information about indoor radon concentrations and brochures explaining the radon readings. The findings indicate that risk communication policies can be effective in modifying risk perceptions. Moreover, they have three specific implications for radon policy: (1) Public officials should not adopt strategies that provide minimal risk information to the public as a means of avoiding undue alarm, for this can have the reverse effect; (2) measures of the effectiveness of risk communication will depend on how education and behavior change are defined; (3) categorical guidelines about risk without quantitative information can lead people to treat the levels as thresholds, creating an artificial discontinuity in their responses to small changes in risk perceptions.

Suggested Citation

  • V. Kerry Smith & William H. Desvousges & F. Reed Johnson & Ann Fisher, 1990. "Can public information programs affect risk perceptions?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(1), pages 41-59.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:9:y:1990:i:1:p:41-59
    DOI: 10.2307/3325112
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jerry A. Hausman & David A. Wise, 1985. "Technical Problems in Social Experimentation: Cost versus Ease of Analysis," NBER Chapters, in: Social Experimentation, pages 187-220, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Rosett, Richard N & Nelson, Forrest D, 1975. "Estimation of the Two-Limit Probit Regression Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(1), pages 141-146, January.
    3. Viscusi, W Kip & O'Connor, Charles J, 1984. "Adaptive Responses to Chemical Labeling: Are Workers Bayesian Decision Makers?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 942-956, December.
    4. Smith, V Kerry & Johnson, F Reed, 1988. "How Do Risk Perceptions Respond to Information? The Case of Radon," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(1), pages 1-8, February.
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