Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Don't rely on cold reason - trust your intuition as well

04.09.2006
Risk and uncertainty are part of modern life, but why does the possibility of terrorist bombs on aeroplanes, a new generation of nuclear power stations and a flu pandemic trigger public distrust in the powers-that-be? What can the government do to re-build trust in politicians and scientists?

Risk researchers say the answer lies in emotions, not reason, especially when the perceived risk is related to health, the environment, new technologies and energy. ‘There is a lot of evidence that concern about risk is directly related to lack of knowledge and the extent to which the event is dreaded,’ says Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby, Director of the Economic and Social Research Council Social Context and Responses to Risk Network (SCARR) at the University of Kent. ‘And trust always involves emotion as well as reason.’

‘The way that information about a particular risk is transmitted and interpreted by various audiences is also important in determining how people respond,’ Peter Taylor-Gooby explains. ‘Government should be certainly thinking about building trust, but it is very difficult to do. People need to feel they are being taken seriously and it would help if there was more reporting back after public consultations. Transparency is the key, particularly when mistakes have been made.’

How people handle uncertainties – in relation to topics including unemployment, pensions, GM foods, health care and nuclear power – is the subject of an event to be held at the University of East Anglia on September 7th. Researchers from a number of social science disciplines will present their latest findings at the Coping with Uncertainty event in Norwich during the British Academy Festival of Science.

‘Every day we probably take some routine risks without thinking – like driving to work or taking an escalator – but we also have to take serious decisions about jobs, marriage or buying a car without enough information and certainty to make a rational choice,’ says Dr Jens Zinn, from University of Kent, who has been studying the way in which people draw on emotion, intuition, trust or rules of thumb when making decisions. ‘Strategies in between pure rationality and blind faith or hope become more and more important in a world with growing uncertainties,’ he says.

Media scare stories about all kinds of threats, from the Millennium bug and bird flu, to the dangers to health of mobile phones and GM foods, have been blamed for making people more fearful of technological innovations and less trusting of scientists and government. Researchers Jenny Kitzinger and Emma Hughes, University of Cardiff, have analysed British media coverage of ‘risk’ in relation to the debates on genetically modified crops and human genetic research. They will tell the meeting that journalists did not cover the stories as a purely scientific issue, but drew on a plethora of social and cultural factors, such as concepts of nationality, nature and purity, to describe potential risks.

In his presentation, Professor Nick Pidgeon, Cardiff University, will describe how people deal with the risks associated with living close to a nuclear power station. The findings are based on ‘personal risk biographies’ covering people’s feelings about nuclear risks, the trade-offs between risks and various monetary and non-monetary benefits and the way in which the perception of risk changes as it becomes a familiar part of daily life.

Annika Howard | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esrc.ac.uk

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction

26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Getting closer to porous, light-responsive materials

26.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

Large, distant comets more common than previously thought

26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>