Info - Project RAP

Risk attitudes of polar researchers

B. ROHRMANN (Melbourne) & P. SUEDFELD (Vancouver)

= Project outline =

The understanding of how humans think about risks is still incomplete. While a large number of "risk perception" studies exist (usually a series of hazards are to be judged according to a set of risk attributes), far less research was done regarding people's attitudes towards risk-taking (propensity versus aversion). Shortcomings include: most studies use students or samples from the general public whereas investigations with actual risk-takers are rare; the conceptualization of risk attitudes seems narrow (predominantly utilizing abstract choice problems such as gambles); and the psychological links between risk perception, risk attitudes and risk behavior need to be looked at more systematically.

In which way do people who are familiar with a particular type of hazard differ from others in how they think about risk-taking (attitude), how they judge risk magnitude & utility of risky activities (risk perception) and how far they accept hazard exposure? Propositions to be examined include: People involved in risky work tend to be risk-aversive, produce lower risk magnitude ratings and express higher acceptance; the attitude-behavior link is stronger.

Type of study: Non-experimental field study.
Respondents: People involved in polar research (i.e., dealing with an extreme & potentially hazardous natural environment).
Variables: Risk attitude (as measured by respective scales), appraisal of hazards (modified version of BR's Hazard Evaluation Quest.), sensation seeking (sensu Zuckerman), efficacy beliefs, personal experiences.
Hazards: Three types: those related to own work; not-pursued high-risk activities; general 'reference' risks.
Data collection: Self-administered mail survey; questionnaire booklet has been pretested.

The study should enhance our understanding of how people evaluate hazards and decide about risky situations. Novel results can be expected as the issue is not (yet) well-researched.

Conducting an experiment with people working in an Antarctic station has not yet been feasible. Future plans are under consideration.

= Contact address =

A/Prof. Bernd ROHRMANN
Dept. of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, AUSTRALIA
E-Mail mail {at}

Prof. Peter SUEDFELD
Dept. of Psychology, University of B.C., Vancouver, CANADA
Phone +1 604 8825713 Fax 8226923 E-Mail

BR 31-12-01