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Risk communication can be defined as a process that increases the selectivity of the perception and communication of decision consequences. It is used by a variety of professionals, including public relations involved in purposive communications in government and the private sector. These consequences experienced by the decision-maker often are based on calculated uncertainty under conditions of incomplete information (Luhmann 2005).
Risk communication is contingent upon the actual issue that is assessed and perceived as being risky (Althaus 2005). A ‘risk’ (R) is the product of the probability (P) of damage and the seriousness of this damage (S), that is R = P Ч S. The audience may pay attention to the news, may understand it, and may accept it Selective Exposure; Selective Perception and Selective Retention). Risk perception is influenced considerably by attitudes about science, technology, and culture.
Conflicts can be seen as a cause and a consequence of risk communication. On a factual level, arguments about the accuracy of statements and facts are relevant. On the social level, conflicts become apparent when ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ are identified and the actions and decisions of both groups become based on this construct.
More research is called for in some areas. The basic conditions under which journalists and editors work still need to be analyzed in detail. Adequate methods are necessary to measure cognitive and affective reception modalities of the audience. Such analyses are most successful if they employ multi-methods.
- Althaus, C. (2005). A disciplinary perspective on the epistemological status of risk. Risk Analysis, 27, 567–588.
- Luhmann, N. (2005). Risk: A sociological theory. Piscataway, NJ: Aldine/Transaction.
- Lundgren, R. A. & A. H. McMakin (2013). Risk communication. A handbook for communicating environmental, safety, and health risks. New York: John Wiley.