Risk Analysis

Priorities in Information Desire about Unknown Risks

Journal Article

Research on risk perception aims to explain how people perceive risks in order to better communicate about them. Most of this research has tended to view people as passive risk perceivers. However, if confronted with an unknown risk, people can also actively seek information. The main purpose of this study was to investigate what kind of risk information people desire when confronted with an unknown risk and how this desire for information relates to the main dimensions underlying risk perception. Nine focus‐group interviews were conducted. The main results of the focus groups were backed up by a paper‐and‐pencil questionnaire that was distributed among a random sample of 500 households in the Netherlands. Overall, people desire information with which they can determine the personal relevance of the risk confronting them. This pattern is similar to appraisal steps described by health behavior models. The focus‐group results provide a dynamic picture of the way risk aspects might interact to create a final risk judgment.

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