How I Feel About Risk

How I Feel About Risk

“The earliest studies of risk perception also found that, where as risk and benefit tend to be positively correlated in the world, they are negatively correlated in people’s minds.”

“If their feelings toward an activity are favorable, they are moved toward judging the risks as low and the benefits as high; if their feelings towards it are unfavorable, they tend to judge the opposite – high risk and low benefit.”

Slovic (2010, p.26)

These are the thoughts of Paul Slovic from his 2010 book,The Feeling of Risk.

Readers of this site will be familiar with the proposition that risk is subjective. This of course does not mean that everyone accepts this notion, as I know that there are many in risk and safety that continue to argue that risk is objective. However, there is certainly more discussion about the subjective nature of risk than when I started in the industry over 20 years ago.

When we accept that risk is subjective, that it is connected to feelings and emotions, and that many of our decisions and judgments about risk are not always made in a rational, analytical and logical way, we may be better able to understand and support people to deal with risk.

An experience that I shared with a good friend last week is a good example of ‘how I feel about risk’ can impact on the decisions that I make about it.

To begin this story, I should point out that I’m a car fan; this dates back to my childhood. I love to drive in, and experience, different cars; I find them fun and enjoyable. In particular, I like fast cars. My wife De knows this, so of course a perfect Christmas present for me was a voucher for a one-hour drive in a Lamborghini.

I was on a high leading up to last weekend when I would use the voucher and share the drive with my great mate Macca. We’ve been talking for months now about how fun the drive would be. One might say we were pumped and feeling favorable about the activity.


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