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Psychology of Risk Perception

  1. Katherine V. Kortenkamp1,
  2. Colleen F. Moore2

Published Online: 14 JAN 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470400531.eorms0689

Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science

Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science

How to Cite

Kortenkamp, K. V. and Moore, C. F. 2011. Psychology of Risk Perception. Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Department of Psychology, La Crosse, Wisconsin

  2. 2

    University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Psychology, Madison, Wisconsin

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 14 JAN 2011


Risk perceptions refer to subjective judgments of risk and are often found to deviate from numerical risk estimates. Although the probability and severity of risks do influence risk perceptions, risk perceptions are also influenced by many psychological factors. According to the psychometric model of risk, risk perceptions are characterized by two main dimensions: the degree to which a risk is dreaded and unknown. Dread risks are uncontrollable, catastrophic, involuntary, inequitable, fatal, new, global, and not easily reduced. Unknown risks are not understood by science, unobservable, new, and delayed in their effects. The psychometric model provides a framework for thinking about individual differences in risk perceptions, such as differences by gender, race, and level of expertise. Differences in risk perception can also be influenced by the degree to which people trust various sources of risk information, including the government, industry, and scientists. Finally, factors like uncertainty, fairness of risk distribution in society, and emotional reactions to risks also contribute to risk perceptions. Many of the psychological factors that influence risk perceptions cannot be easily quantified in numerical risk assessments; therefore, risk perceptions can be regarded as providing information that supplements numerical risk assessments in policy decisions.


  • optimism bias;
  • dread risk;
  • white male effect;
  • psychometric model;
  • affect heuristic;
  • fairness;
  • trust