Course in the University of Melbourne Summer Program
Socio-psychological aspects of informing about hazards and risks 
A/Prof. Bernd ROHRMANN

On hold; under consideration for re-introduction in 2005; below is the description for the 2002 course.

Course topic

Information about hazards people are exposed to (at the workplace, in residential areas, during various private activities) and communication between involved parties about the cognition, evaluation and mitigation of pertinent risks are vital tasks. In order to design and conduct effective risk information & communication (RI/RC) campaigns, it is essential to understand the psychology of hazard perception and risk behavior. This course will cover relevant social-scientific research findings and their application to risk management and disaster preparedness.

Relevance of risk issues

The topic of "risk" is a prominent issue of political/societal discourse as well as of social-scientific research. At work or in their private lives humans seem to be exposed to different, to more, and to greater risks than in earlier times, and the assessment of these risks has become very complex. Individuals, as well as society at large, have to deal with manifold risks: car accidents, smoking, drugs, AIDS, asbestos, nuclear energy, soil degradation and climatic changes are just a few examples.

Risk is also a controversial issue. In many societies, severe conflicts about the evaluation of risks have emerged. This is particularly true for the use of large-scale technologies and their impacts on both human health and safety and the state of the environment. Furthermore, there is a considerable gap between how experts and how non-professional people think about risks. Hence it seemed relevant to complement 'technical' risk research (as done in natural sciences or economics) with social-scientific approaches in order to expand the risk concept and to understand the "psychology of risk".

Research findings reveal the strong influence of social-psychological aspects on judging risks and the significance of the cultural context of risk evaluations, which applies to public decision making about risk issues as well. Also, the analysis of risk conflicts has elucidated the specific roles of stakeholders such as industry, government, exposed residents and the general public, as well as scientists and the media.

Another important issue is hazard preparedness. Research topics include: Do people understand the hazards they are exposed to? How do people behave before, during and after disasters? Which inter-individual differences in risk propensity exist? Why are most people insufficiently prepared for future risks? How can hazard mitigation disaster preparedness be improved?

Structure of the course:

The course combines a lecture and a seminar format and will cover the following topics:

Discussion of significant risk issues among the participants is encouraged in this course. For selected risk communication problems, videos and computer simulations will be presented. Examples from the extensive research and consultancy experience of the convenor will enrich the course content and outcomes. A comprehensive list of readings will also be provided.

About the course presenter

Dr. Bernd ROHRMANN is Associate Professor at the Dept. of Psychology, School of Behavioral Sciences, University of Melbourne, and Adjunct Professor at the University of Mannheim/Germany, Social Science Faculty. He is also director of a social-scientific consultancy team. Main areas of interest are applied social psychology, environmental issues, planning & participation, and methodology. This includes several cross-cultural studies on risk perception, communication and management. There is a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches and applicability of findings.

Venue & schedule

Room 822 in the Redmond-Barry-Building (near University Gate #1, from Swanston Street). Two days, Wednesday February 20 & Thursday February 21 2002, 5:45 - 9:30 p.m.

Fees -  Enrolment

Participation fee: $ 170 (concession fee: $ 99). Please confirm your participation (preferably by E-mail, and send a cheque to: Dept. of Psychology, Univ. of Melbourne, Vic 3010, c/o Malini Chandrakumar.

= Contact address =

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

BR 06-07-04