Risk Perception and Communication Unplugged: Twenty Years of Process


  • Baruch Fischhoff

    1. Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
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  • Prepared for Addressing Agencies' Risk Communication Needs: A Symposium to Discuss Next Steps, Annapolis, MD, June 6–8, 1994


Over the past twenty years, risk communication researchers and practitioners have learned some lessons, often at considerable personal price. For the most part, the mistakes that they have made have been natural, even intelligent ones. As a result, the same pitfalls may tempt newcomers to the field. This essay offers a personal (even confessional) history of the field over this period. It identifies a series of developmental stages. Progress through the stages involves consolidating the skills needed to execute it and learning its limitations. Knowing about their existence might speed the learning process and alert one to how much there still is to learn.