Differences in Expert and Lay Judgments of Risk: Myth or Reality?


Gene Rowe Institute of Food Research, Norwich, United Kingdom.


This article evaluates the nine empirical studies that have been conducted on expert versus lay judgments of risk. Contrary to received wisdom, this study finds that there is little empirical evidence for the propositions (1) that experts judge risk differently from members of the public or (2) that experts are more veridical in their risk assessments. Methodological weaknesses in the early research are documented, and it is shown that the results of more recent studies are confounded by social and demographic factors that have been found to correlate with judgments of risk. Using a task-analysis taxonomy, a template is provided for the documentation of future studies of expert–lay differences/similarities that will facilitate analytic comparison.