Risk Perception and Acceptability


Social, psychological and political factors have considerable influence on the impact of risk judgments. These factors are unique to various societies and cultures and understanding these factors and how they impact risk perception and acceptability improves the ability to implement risk management strategies in public policy. 

The McLaughlin Centre is an active participant in the Public Perception and Acceptable Levels of Health Risk among Canadians research program. This program investigates these social,
psychological and political factors shaping public perceptions of risk and risk acceptability, specifically the factors influencing attitudes and opinions about risk. 

Public and expert perceptions of risks to health will be evaluated through representative national surveys.  A predictive model of risk perception and risk acceptability will also be developed.  The results of the research conducted in this program will be used to explore new options in national policies for health risk management. The objectives are: (I) to document the conceptualization of risk and of risk acceptability from both the public and regulatory perspectives; (II) to describe profiles of risk perception and risk acceptability according to types of risk (known, voluntary, involuntary, theoretical), expert status (toxicologist, physician, public), and sociodemographics (gender, age, ethnolinguistic identity, and region); to track the evolution of such profiles over the last decade; to reveal the role of risk characteristics (e.g., familiarity, controllability, severity) with respect to perception and acceptability; and (III) to model the role of risk perception and acceptability in decisions about risks, such as judgments and evaluations of risk that have implications for risk management and policy-making.