The Secondary Risk Society: Risk & Decision-Making in the 21st Century

Fri. 14 August 2020 – Fri. 14 August 2020

In the 21st century, scientific uncertainty and divisive communication plague traditional risk-response formats of communication where experts identify best options for mitigating risks and recommend behaviors to diminish people’s risk to hazards. Today, engaging in most any risk reducing behavior may create a new set of problems related to real or perceived risks. This creates new communication challenges when public discourse increasingly focuses on these “secondary” risks.

While risk perception theories have celebrated many decades of use, they do not account for individuals’ perceptions of potential harms posed by the recommended response itself. That it, current theories fail to answer the question, “What happens when the cure itself may be perceived of as a risk?”

This presentation reports on the new theoretical developments that founded Secondary Risk Theory which explains and predicts how risks are perceived today and provides contemporary examples and new data regarding COVID-19 vaccine responses and anticipated responses for solar radiation management technologies. 

Speaker: Christopher L. Cummings, Ph.D., senior research fellow, Genetic Engineering and Society Center, North Carolina State University

Presented by the Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) Center at NC State University, the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA), and RTI International.