Risk Communication “Traps” <ul><li>The application of inappropriate techniques leading to the development of misinformation and consequently poor decision making </li></ul><ul><li>Incorrect information leading to direct decision making mistakes </li></ul><ul><li>Poor content sending wrong messages and dispersing effort </li></ul><ul><li>Slow communication of identified problems causing delays and indicating poor management commitment, understanding and leadership </li></ul>
Elements of Communications Guidance <ul><li>Perspective of the media: how they think and work </li></ul><ul><li>The public as the end-recipient of information </li></ul><ul><li>Concise presentations </li></ul><ul><li>Techniques for responding to and cooperating with the media in conveying information and delivering messages, before, during, and after a crisis </li></ul><ul><li>Practical guide to the tools of the trade of media relations and public communications </li></ul><ul><li>Strategies and tactics for addressing the probable opportunities and the possible challenges likely from communications initiatives </li></ul>
Failed Communications Can : <ul><li>Waste recipients time </li></ul><ul><li>Waste resources dedicated to risk communication </li></ul><ul><li>Deny people empowerment for dealing with the risk </li></ul><ul><li>Cause resentment towards the communicator(s) if people feel that they are being denied an opportunity to understand </li></ul><ul><li>Cause people to doubt themselves if the experience leaves them feeling incapable of understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Contribute inadvertently to controversy and conflict </li></ul><ul><li>Create threats larger than those posed by the risks that they describe </li></ul>
What People Want from Risk Communications <ul><li>Advice and Answers </li></ul><ul><li>Numbers </li></ul><ul><li>Process and Framing </li></ul>
Extreme Criticisms <ul><li>Lay public as a whole is “technically illiterate and ruled by emotion rather than by substance.” </li></ul><ul><li>Education is pointless, even if it is possible, because “important decisions about risk are made by special interests and power.” </li></ul><ul><li>Risk communication is typically manipulative, designed to sell unsuspecting recipients on the communicator’s political agenda. </li></ul>
Milder Criticisms <ul><li>Because people’s time is short, they can’t learn about, much les influence, all risks. As a result, people often want specialists to make sure that life doesn’t get too hazardous. </li></ul><ul><li>Without trust in the official performing the actual communication, the learning process is very complicated. </li></ul><ul><li>Risk specialists may not like to acknowledge their own emotional involvement nor to deal with that of the public. </li></ul>
Poor Risk Communication Can Undermine effective decision making Create feelings of helplessness Erode public faith in authorities Erode authorities’ faith in public Erode social coordination produced by sharing information sources
A Simple Communication Strategy 1. Analytically identify the most critical information for decisions facing audience 2. Empirically determine current beliefs 3. Close most critical gaps, recognizing audience’s information-processing limits 4. Evaluate; repeat as needed
A (Complex) Working Hypothesis <ul><li>People will do sensible things if: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They get relevant information in a concise, credible form with adequate context, and without needless distractions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They have control over their environment and are judged by their own goals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So, if citizens don’t understand, assume a communication failure </li></ul></ul>
Decision-focused SARS Reporting (a possible formulation)
Decision-focused SARS Reporting What are my chances of exposure? What are my chances of getting sick? What are my chances of being untreatable?
For Each Element, Audience Needs Useful numbers -- give order-of-magnitude feeling -- clarify verbal quantifiers (rare, likely) -- allow rudimentary calculations Useful theory -- give numbers credibility -- allow updating numbers -- provide increasing competence
What are my chances of exposure? Useful numbers -- total cases -- total population Useful theory -- where are they concentrated? -- how long are they contagious? -- how well do we know?
What are my chances of getting sick? Useful numbers -- disease multiplier -- effectiveness of exposure routes -- effectiveness of protection strategies Useful theory -- how does transmission work? -- what’s this about [sewers, feces, cockroaches, masks…]? -- how well do we know?
What are my chances of being untreatable? Useful numbers -- survival rates -- recurrence rates Useful theory -- why do treatments vary? -- why are healthy people dying? -- how well do we know?
<ul><li>Very low probabilities </li></ul><ul><li>Cumulative risk (from repeated exposure) </li></ul><ul><li>Anchored judgments </li></ul><ul><li>Unfamiliar units, terms (e.g., risk, reactor-year) </li></ul><ul><li>Unfamiliar states </li></ul><ul><li>Incommensurable comparisons </li></ul>Difficult Kinds of Information (with partial solutions)
Some Suggestions Authoritative summaries of cognitive research Worked examples (vs. principles) Standard reporting formats Professional translators (to decision-relevant form) Consulting behavioral decision researchers Institutional analysis of failures
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