Risk Perception and Communication Theory - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-10-26
Risk Perception and Communication Theory - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Risk Population Public health Covid 19
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1437 words
12 min read

With the continued rise of contemporary issues in the 21st century, it is imperative to reconsider some essential metrics and techniques that would be used to revert the modern normalcies, and probably the rates of effects posed by these issues whenever they occur. Emergency response is an important topic, and when given a comprehensive evaluation, then appropriate, emergency management mechanisms could be arrived at to help in controlling the harmful and hazardous issues. In this discussion, the two contemporary prioritized problems are (1) the effects of the rising number of infectious diseases; and (2) the consequences of the increasing use of social media as a tool for emergency response. To effectively understand and explore these elements, risk perception, and risk communication theory would be utilized as a form of emergency management theory or approach. Risk perception is defined as the ability of an individual to accept, or discern a specific degree of risk, or rather risk tolerance; whereas, risk communication refers to the methodologies and pedagogies used to inform people about risk preparedness, risk response, and risk recovery respectively. Although the theory is divided into two elements, both concepts intend to explain how and why people usually respond to different disasters. The purpose of this essay is to accurately use the theory mentioned above to explain better the two identified contemporary issues concerning what often occurs in a practical setting or environment.

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Risk of Infectious Diseases

According to Inouye (2014), there is no effective underlying constant determinant to predict how individuals in a particular locality, society, country, or state may tolerate risks. However, he postulated that one's ability to accept risk changes from case to case and with various existing situations. In the recent past, the world has experienced an outbreak of a deadly virus called coronavirus, and most medical practitioners and researchers have compared its impacts to a 1918 flu-like influenza pandemic that merely claimed about 50 million of the world's population across various countries. That being the case, risk perception theory can coherently be used to explain the different response scenarios for multiple disasters, and why other pandemics such as coronavirus appear to be more stressful in their management, than other past infectious diseases such as Ebola, which was equally harmful. A report by Korstanje (2009) outlined that an incidence of lower risk perception would eventually lead to higher risk tolerance and finally, a higher-risk behavior. In related research, Inouye (2014) improved Korstanje’s (2009) findings by outlining that people with high-risk perception tend to have a lower risk-tolerance, and finally, lower-risk behavior. So, people's opinions before and after the outbreak of coronavirus influenced the responses and impacts.

Two different parameters affect people's risk perception. According to Barnett (2005), these factors are broadly categorized into Macro and Micro-level factors. An example of a micro-level factor is the culture of safety and form of leadership within a country, community, or society. Perhaps, countries who have a profound history of positive safety leadership, that emphasizes on the issues that relate to emergency preparedness, are likely to have its citizens with higher risk perception, lower-risk tolerance, and lower-risk behaviors. In contrast, Nations whose leaders do not put much emphasis on creating a culture of safety is likely to have its members taking many risks from an outbreak of emergency, such as coronavirus pandemic. The two statements offer a perfect explanation to the ongoing rising number of deaths and a declining economy in the United States, compared to a slowly stabilizing Republic of China. In the U.S, the President perceived the risk to have originated from China, and that it did not have severe impacts as postulated; whereas, in China, the leaders imposed the measures such as lockdown and wearing of masks, which significantly reduced the spread and effects of COVID-19.

An example of a micro-level factor that determines risk perception and tolerance is the level of knowledge or enlightenment. In convention, Inouye (2014) found that more informed people had a higher risk perception, while the less informed ones possessed lower-risk judgment. It, therefore, means those who are knowledgeable about the origin, causes, and impacts of risk have a different risk perception with those who lack the same information. While the response to the threat might vary between the two categories, one precise observation from the research posited that an individual might decide to ignore the safety measures due to the wrong information he/she has about the disaster. In contrast, the same person may choose to maintain the safety measures after having understood the impacts and all-related information concerning the disaster. In either way, both macro and micro-level factors have affected people's behaviors to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Risk of Social Media

In today's urbanized and industrialized world, social media is one of the important inventions that characterizes the 21st-century era. Most social medial platforms are used during emergencies or contemporary issues such as the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. However, when communication is not made effective and practical, then the impacts of such problems are likely to flood and overwhelm the communities. Shephard et al. (2012) said that for a better risk communication protocol, the process should be simulated into three fundamental phases. These include preparedness, response, and recovery. The risk communication theory attempts to explain the most substantial methodology for use in communicating matters that relate to emergencies in a manner that positively impacts people's behaviors or responses to the issues. In one way or another, the mode of communication used to have a direct proportionality on the people's perception of risk, or emergency.

The preparedness phase is aimed at sharing information with the public concerning the pre-event risk guidelines and policies. Again, this can be related to the factor of cultural safety and the effectiveness of leadership in a state. When the leaders appropriately put its citizens in preparedness for a pandemic, then people are more likely to gain an in-depth understanding of that disaster, hence take relevant measures to prevent the impacts (Renn & Levine, 1991). However, countries who fail to educate their citizens about a potential arise of emergencies are at a considerable risk of suffering from severe impacts, when such issues arrive. Moreover, the response phase equally plays an essential role during communication. While responding to emergencies, governments and individuals should warn one another on the potential hazards of the risk, in the most convenient manner than builds trust among the receivers of the information. For instance, national or federal governments can decide to put strict restrictions against any media groups, or individuals who attempt to spread false information concerning the pandemic. It is because a majority usually use whatever information they receive to create various perceptions during the emergency. Probably, perceptions influence behaviors and overall response to issues. The risk communication theory also includes the recovery phase, which defines how information is propagated to individuals after an emergency (Morgan et al., 2002). Such communications are crucial because they can impact future perceptions of the arising issues. Therefore, media and federal authorities should continuously impose laws and restrictions to provide specific validations for the sources of trusted information concerning contemporary issues.

In conclusion, risk perception and communication theory can coherently be implemented as an emergency management theory to combat risks or emergencies that arise in day-day lives. The outbreak of infectious diseases like COVID-19, and increasing use of social medial to propagate information in response to emergencies are contemporary issues which can ideally be explained, addressed using the theory in this discussion. Notably, it has been found that risk perception theory through its micro, and macro-level factors, and risk communication theory through its preparedness, response, and recovery phases, offers an excellent understanding of people’s behaviors during the occurrence of these issues, and how various societies, communities usually respond to them.


Barnett, D. J., Balicer, R. D., Blodgett, D. W., Everly Jr, G. S., Omer, S. B., Parker, C. L., & Links, J. M. (2005). Applying risk perception theory to public health workforce preparedness training. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 11(6), S33-S37. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/jphmp/fulltext/2005/11001/applying_risk_perception_theory_to_public_health.6.aspx

Inouye, J. (2014). Risk perception: Theories, strategies, and next steps. Itasca, IL: Campbell Institute National Safety Council.

Korstanje, M. (2009). RE-VISITING RISK PERCEPTION THEORY IN THE CONTEXT OF TRAVEL. E-Review of Tourism Research, 7(4). Retrieved from http://3ws1wk1wkqsk36zmd6ocne81.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2012/09/109_a-7-4-1.pdf

Morgan, M. G., Fischhoff, B., Bostrom, A., & Atman, C. J. (2002). Risk communication: A mental model’s approach. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ieXbkmYf3mAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR1&dq=risk+communication+theory&ots=xNB9e34BVf&sig=ECfBm3oNKluthx7YuS58ou5gyak

Renn, O., & Levine, D. (1991). Credibility and trust in risk communication. In Communicating risks to the public (pp. 175-217). Springer, Dordrecht. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-009-1952-5_10

Sheppard, B., Janoske, M., & Liu, B. (2012). Understanding risk communication theory: a guide for emergency managers and communicators.

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