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Explicating Communication in Risk Communication



Explicating Communication in Risk Communication
Premises and Goals
The essential role of communication in under-
standing and managing risk has been inherent in
various intellectual perspectives. Claude Shannon,
the developer of the earliest theory of communi-
cation (1948), thought the goal of communication
was to reduce uncertainty (McGrayne, 2011).
Symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969) may
assign a role greater than uncertainty reduction
to communication: By connecting two or more
entities with shared meanings, communication
can create, as well as change, perceptions of
uncertainty or certainty, of insecurity or security,
and of danger or safety. Danger is the transgres-
sion from culturally established classifications,
asserted Douglas (1966); purity protects cultural
orders. Innate in the social process of establishing
and protecting such categorizations and orders is
The utility of communication in managing
and reducing risk may not have gone unnoticed.
Enter the term risk communication in Google
Books Ngram Viewer: It yields a steep slope of
increase in the occurrence of the term since the
1980s. Industrialization may have brought “risk
society” the inhabitants and hierarchies of which
have to wrestle with the unforeseen concerns and
consequences it engendered (Beck, 1986/1992).
Explicating Communication in Risk Communication
Hyunyi Cho, Torsten Reimer, and Katherine A. McComas
And, individuals, groups, and institutions may
have increasingly looked on communication as a
desirable feature and important element deter-
mining the efficacy of risk decision-making pro-
cesses (National Research Council, 1989).
Despite the growth, however, communication
in risk communication remains rather amor-
phous. A salient conflation in the current litera-
ture is about risk perception and risk
communication. Unlike perceptions, communi-
cation frequently involves materiality such as
rhetoric, numbers, stories, images, the media,
informed consent documents, protests on streets,
and town hall meetings. Messages contained and
permeated through these forms and venues
influence perceptions about risk and energize
and orient actions concerning risk issues.
This book aims to emphasize and articulate
communication in risk communication, which is
defined as interactions and exchanges among
individuals, groups, and institutions in the pro-
cesses of determining, analyzing, and managing
risk (National Research Council, 1989). In
seeking to lay a conceptual foundation for expli-
cating the nature and role of communication in
risk communication, this book integrates devel-
opments in theory and research in a range of
disciplines, including decision science, psychol-
ogy, and sociology, as well as communication. By
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2—— The SAGE Handbook of Risk Communication
bringing together perspectives that may have
traditionally been distinct but which nonetheless
serve to articulate the role of communication in
risk communication, this book bridges historical
disciplinary divides that impede rather than
strengthen collective scientific progress.
Improved knowledge about communication in
risk communication can in turn enhance the
efforts to understand, manage, and reduce risk in
diverse applied domains, including health, envi-
ronment, science, technology, and crisis. If risk
are the things, forces, or circumstances that pose
danger to people or to that which they value
(National Research Council, 1989), risk concep-
tually and practically pertains to multiple contexts
ranging from public health to environmental and
even financial well-being. The author and topic
list of this book reflects a commitment to placing
into conversation with one another studies that
have ranged in focus from medical contexts to
municipal boardrooms to social media websites.
With these premises and approaches, this
book pushes the boundaries of communication
research with the aim to advancing risk commu-
nication theory and practice. Furthermore, the
multidisciplinary theories that this book pulls
together under the rubric of risk lay a productive
ground for developing new perspectives on com-
munication theory and offers new directions for
communication research. These goals are
reflected in the organization of the book.
Structure and Contents
Providing a foundational understanding of risk
perception necessary to engaging in effective risk
communication is the aim of Part 1, Foundations
of Risk Communication. The two keystones of this
foundation are the psychology of risk perception
and the sociology of risk construction. Based on
this foundation, Part 2, Components of Risk
Communication, aims to explicate effective risk
communication, which requires an integrative
knowledge about the models, audiences, messages,
and the media of risk communication. Part 3,
Contexts of Risk Communication, describes the
divergence in participants, goals, and processes of
risk communication situated in interpersonal and
organizational contexts and the public sphere.
Part I: Foundations of Risk
Part I, Foundations of Risk Communication,
consists of two sections: (1) Risk Perceptions of
Individuals and (2) Risk as Social Construction.
The Risk Perceptions of Individuals section
focuses on psychological frameworks explaining
risk-related cognitions, affect, and judgments.
Chapter 1 by Bodemer and Gaissmaier offers an
overview of concepts and conceptual frameworks
fundamental to understanding risk perceptions.
Bodemer and Gaissmaier start with the psycho-
metric paradigm that was fundamental for many
models of risk perception and describe major
factors, moderators, and mediators that have
been shown to systematically influence our per-
ception of risks. In Chapter 2, Hertwig and Frey
focus on the description–experience gap in risk
perception, showing that risk decisions that are
based on personal experience and risk decisions
that are based on description often systematically
differ from each other. The description–
experience gap can help understand why expert
and lay perceptions of risk are often at odds with
each other and offers novel insight about the per-
ception and communication of risk. In Chapter 3,
Dickert and colleagues present research that
looks at the feelings of risk and demonstrate how
emotions influence the perception of risk. Dickert
et al. argue and illustrate that risks are naturally
intertwined with emotional reactions, and proffer
communication strategies that take into account
the important ways in which risk information
triggers feelings and emotions.
Whereas the preceding section focuses on
intraindividual processes, the Risk as Social
Construction section is devoted to a discussion
about how social exchanges shape and alter risk
perceptions. Burgess opens this section with a
The SAGE Handbook of Risk Communication, edited by Hyunyi Cho, et al., SAGE Publications, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central,
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Introduction—— 3
rich analysis and synthesis of extant perspectives
on the social and cultural processes in which the
problems and solutions of risk issues are con-
structed (Chapter 4). Binder and colleagues offer
a communication-focused account of the social
amplification of the risk framework in Chapter 5.
In particular, Binder et al. focus on explicating
the role of news media in the amplification or
attenuation of risk perception among the general
public. In Chapter 6, Jensen describes the rela-
tionship between rhetoric and social construc-
tion of risk and extant convergence and
divergence in theoretical perspectives on this
matter and delineates considerations for engag-
ing in discursive construction of risk.
Part II: Components of Risk
Part II, Components of Risk Communication,
includes four sections: (3) Models of Risk Com-
munication, (4) Audiences of Risk Communication,
(5) Risk Communication Messages, and (6) Risk
Communication and the Media.
In the section on Models of Risk Com-
munication, the contributors describe two
theoretical frameworks explaining and predict-
ing risk-germane communication processes.
Dunwoody and Griffin (Chapter 7) discuss the
risk information seeking and processing model.
After describing the model’s predictions about
the information behaviors leading to risk deci-
sion making, they offer new evidence demon-
strating the model’s consistency across different
risk issues over time. Cho and Kuang (Chapter 8)
introduce the societal risk reduction motivation
model. Integrating theories of media effects, social
processes, and collective behaviors, this new risk
communication model describes the predictors
and processes of the path between societal risk
perception and societal risk reduction action.
The Audiences of Risk Communication section
explicates two primary audience factors to con-
sider in developing and evaluating risk communi-
cation: edgework and numeracy. In Chapter 9,
Brust-Renck and colleagues focus on numeracy.
Following a critical review of research and evi-
dence on how people comprehend numerically
presented risk information, the authors describe
fuzzy-trace theory, a new framework that inte-
grates analysis and intuition for explaining numer-
acy. Guided by fuzzy-trace theory, they offer
recommendations for enhancing numeracy and
for facilitating the comprehension of numeric risk
information. Lyng and colleagues discuss edge-
work, a social psychological theory of voluntary
risk taking, in Chapter 10. Deviating from preva-
lent risk communication premises, the theory of
edgework posits that the dangers associated with
activities only enhance their appeal for edgework-
ers. Lyng et al. in this chapter examine the ramifi-
cations of these paradoxes for risk communication
research and practice.
The section on Risk Communication Messages
spans numeric, narrative, and visual messages.
Reimer and colleagues, in Chapter 11, describe
four major hurdles in the communication of
numeric risk information and offer tools for the
presentation of common quantitative informa-
tion. The tools are evidence based and have been
shown to effectively alleviate the described prob-
lems. In Chapter 12, Cho and Friley delineate the
roles of narratives in risk communication. The
authors distinguish accuracy and acceptance
goals of risk communication and posit that nar-
ratives may be less able to achieve the accuracy
goal than the acceptance goal. In Chapter 13,
King describes and critiques conceptual and
theoretical bases of understanding the role of
visual messages in risk communication, with an
eye on advancing theory of visual communication
of risk. Furthermore, on the basis of an extensive
review of available evidence, King offers cautious
guidance for developing and evaluating visual
messages in risk communication.
The Risk Communication and the Media sec-
tion examines the content and effects of the media
in influencing risk perceptions, behaviors, and poli-
cies. Priest describes the forces that shape risk-
related media content. Risk news is the product of
interplay of factors operating at organizational,
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4—— The SAGE Handbook of Risk Communication
institutional, and societal levels, all of which are
vulnerable to cultural, economic, and political
constraints and conventions, discusses Priest
(Chapter 14). In Chapter 15, Nisbet presents the
role of the media in risk communication from the
standpoint of framing. Conceptualizing media
framing as cognitive and social process, Nisbet dis-
cusses the central role that it plays in policy debates
about risk issues. Rains and colleagues review avail-
able research on the uses and effects of social media
for risk communication and explore its ramifica-
tions for developing a theory that inform future risk
communication practice using social media
(Chapter 16).
Part III: Contexts of Risk
Part III, Contexts of Risk Communication, spans
three sections, including (7) Interpersonal Contexts
of Risk Communication, (8) Organizational
Contexts of Risk Communication, and (9) Risk
Communication in the Public Sphere. A prominent
interpersonal context in which risk communication
is engaged in may be medical encounters. In Chapter
17, Bylund and colleagues discuss health care pro-
vider–patient communication. After offering an
overview of theoretical bases of research in this area
and its extant findings showing how providers and
patients mutually influence each other during their
interactions, the authors point to gaps in the current
knowledge and suggest directions to address the
gaps. In Chapter 18, Yang focuses on informed con-
sent and its indivisible relationship with risk com-
munication. Yang elucidates the communication
challenges for protecting participants in informed
consent, on the basis of a review of research on vari-
ables influencing informed consent and a historical
overview of research on informed consent.
Organizational contexts may foster unique
communication and decision-making processes
about risk, which is the focus of the Organizational
Contexts of Risk Communication section. Russell
and Reimer, in Chapter 19, offer an information-
processing framework to conceptualize research on
risk communication in groups and teams. The
review draws on classic studies and paradigms on
risk perception in groups as well as studies in judg-
ment and decision making that are highly relevant
for our understanding of risk communication in
groups. Sellnow in Chapter 20 offers a state of the
art analysis of the literature on crisis communica-
tion—organizational response to disasters. After
examining the interface between risk and crisis
communication, Sellnow explicates three primary
phases of crisis communication and their theoreti-
cal underpinnings and practical implications.
The Risk Communication in the Public Sphere
section explores the communicative actions that are
intended to influence societal perceptions and deci-
sions about risk issues. In Chapter 21 on social
movements, Boudet and Bell illuminate the precur-
sors and dynamics of social mobilization for contro-
versial risk issues. Based on the survey of extant
approaches from sociology and communication
disciplines, Boudet and Bell provide readers with a
set of rich research questions that can strengthen the
cross-disciplinary basis of the scholarship on social
movements. Besley in Chapter 22 draws from broad
areas of social sciences to offer a review of intellec-
tual roots of public engagement and empirical find-
ings about the effect of public engagement in risk
decision processes gathered in diverse settings rang-
ing from face-to-face to new media platforms. On
the basis of this review, Besley calls risk communica-
tion scholars to engage with broad social sciences
and social problems to harness the theory and
practice of public engagement for risk decision
Across these parts, sections, and chapters,
this book emphasizes theory and research to
guide practice. Each chapter includes the
Reflections for Theory and Research section to
set agenda for risk communication scholarship.
Each chapter offers the Recommendations for
Practice section to illustrate the pathways from
theory and research to practice and to provide
specific pragmatic guidance for risk communi-
cators. Suggested Additional Readings at the
end of each chapter directs readers to resources
for expanding knowledge about a subset
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Introduction—— 5
of concepts covered in each chapter, and a
Glossary at the end of the book provides an easy
access to definitions of key concepts covered in
this book.
Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new moder-
nity . London: Sage. (Original work published
Blumer, H. G. (1969). Symbolic interactionism:
Perspective and method . Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice Hall.
Douglas, M. (1966). Purity and danger: An analysis of
the concepts of pollution and taboo . London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul.
McGrayne, S. B. (2011). The theory that would not die:
How Bayes rule cracked the enigma code, hunted
down Russian submarines, and emerged trium-
phant from two centuries of controversy . New
Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
National Research Council. (1989). Improving risk
communication . Washington, DC: National
Academy Press.
Shannon, C. E. (1948). A mathematical theory of com-
munication. Bell System Technical Journal, 27,
379–423, 623–656.
The SAGE Handbook of Risk Communication, edited by Hyunyi Cho, et al., SAGE Publications, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central,
Created from ohiostate-ebooks on 2021-01-10 10:25:35.
Copyright © 2014. SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.
The SAGE Handbook of Risk Communication, edited by Hyunyi Cho, et al., SAGE Publications, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central,
Created from ohiostate-ebooks on 2021-01-10 10:25:35.
Copyright © 2014. SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.
... Etkili risk iletişimi süreci ve içeriğinin nasıl yapılandırılabileceği literatürde kapsamlı olarak incelenmiştir (Cho, Reimer, & McComas, 2015;Heath, Palenchar, & O'Hair, 2009;Lundgren & McMakin, 2013). Geliştirilen önerilerde risk iletişimini kamuları gözeterek ve kamuların perspektifi temel alınarak yapılandırmanın önemi vurgulanmaktadır. ...
Full-text available
During the Covid-19 pandemic, individuals age 65 and over defined the high-risk group due to the high probability of experiencing the negative consequences in this cohort. As a result, this group had increased risk perceptions and the need for communication and information during the crisis. Individuals aged 65 and over were subject to specific restrictions and risk precautions. Their limited access to information compared to other age cohorts differentiated their communication expectations. Since risk communication studies are based on attributes, needs, and expectations of the recipients of the risk messages, these groups must partner in the risk communication process by understanding the communication channels they access and how to use the risk information. According to population projections, the proportion of people age 65 and over in Turkey in 2025 will be 11% (TÜİK, 2021). Therefore, this age cohort will continue to be an important target group for future risk communication studies. This study examines the communicative needs, expectations, and experiences of high-risk individuals aged 65 and over with a high probability of experiencing negative consequences of Covid-19. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 47 people aged 65 and over residing in Ankara. The study’s research design is structured on the qualitative method. Research questions guiding the study were: 1. What are the communicative needs and expectations of individuals age 65 and over in the Covid-19 pandemic? 2. Which communication channels and resources do individuals age 65 and over obtain information about risks during the Covid-19 pandemic? 3. What are the main categories used by individuals aged 65 and over to assess risk information during the COVID-19 pandemic? Study participants mentioned television as their primary source of information during the pandemic. Newspapers, radio, social media platforms, and other interpersonal communication channels were additional sources of information for the participants. The need for information stands out as the most critical communicative need during the pandemic experience. Individuals age 65 and over met their information needs primarily through traditional media, such as television, and began to use digital media more than in the days preceding the pandemic. An essential result is that the participants acted selectively while watching television and watched the channels they trusted. Participants stated that they primarily relied on medical doctors and non-governmental organizations in the medical field while obtaining information from various mass media, especially television, during the pandemic. Participants deprived of the ability to communicate face-to-face due to imposed restrictions during the pandemic used the phone and internet to maintain social relations. Facebook and WhatsApp were the most popular digital platforms for individuals age 65 and over during the pandemic. How information gets shared among people in risk communication can affect both risk perception and the relationship with risk. Study participants communicated about the epidemic with their families and friends mainly via telephone. The use of smartphones for video calls or group calls is growing among individuals age 65 and over. In this context, the pandemic pressured individuals in this age cohort to develop specific digital competencies. Notably, the children of the participants who do not have access to current information about the pandemic through digital channels contribute significantly to the information flow regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. Individuals with low digital capital and a lack of family support become dependent on conventional media for information. During the pandemic, the information required by individuals aged 65 and over about Covid-19 changed over time. Initially, information was needed on the virus, how it spread, and how to protect against it. As the pandemic lingered on, interest shifted toward vaccine-related developments. The fact that some information about the epidemic, which was initially accepted as correct and later revealed to be incorrect, caused participants the need to confirm the information they obtained from time to time. On the other hand, the absence of a reliable mechanism to verify information led to increased anxiety in the high-risk cohort.
Full-text available
Coronary heart disease (CHD) has no cure, and patients with myocardial infarction are at high risk for further cardiac events. Health education is a key driver for patients’ understanding and motivation for lifestyle change, but little is known about patients’ experience of such education. In this review, we aimed to explore how patients with CHD experience health education and in particular risk communication. A total of 2,221 articles were identified through a systematic search in five databases. 40 articles were included and synthesized using thematic analysis. Findings show that both “what” was communicated, and “the way” it was communicated, had the potential to influence patients’ engagement with lifestyle changes. Communication about the potential of lifestyle change to reduce future risk was largely missing causing uncertainty, anxiety, and, for some, disengagement with lifestyle change. Recommendations for ways to improve health education and risk communication are discussed to inform international practice.