Risk Perception, Experience, and Objective Risk: A Cross-National Study with European Emergency Survivors

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Understanding public risk perceptions and their underlying processes is important in order to learn more about the way people interpret and respond to hazardous emergency events. Direct experience with an involuntary hazard has been found to heighten the perceived risk of experiencing the same hazard and its consequences in the future, but it remains unclear if cross-over effects are possible (i.e., experience with one hazard influencing perceived risk for other hazards also). Furthermore, the impact of objective risk and country of residence on perceived risk is not well understood. As part of the BeSeCu (Behavior, Security, and Culture) Project, a sample of 1,045 survivors of emergencies from seven European countries (i.e., Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Turkey, and Italy) was drawn. Results revealed heightened perceived risk for emergency events (i.e., domestic and public fires, earthquakes, floods, and terrorist attacks) when the event had been experienced previously plus some evidence of cross-over effects, although these effects were not so strong. The largest country differences in perceived risk were observed for earthquakes, but this effect was significantly reduced by taking into account the objective earthquake risk. For fires, floods, terrorist attacks, and traffic accidents, only small country differences in perceived risk were found. Further studies including a larger number of countries are welcomed.

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