KARL DAKE is Assistant Research Psychologist and Bradley Foundation Fellow at the University of California's Survey Research Center, in Berkeley. He has served as Adjunct Professor at the California School of Professional Psychology, as an advisory board member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and as a founding board member of the Northern California Chapter of the Society for Risk Analysis. His current research activities include the study of personality, social, and cultural influences on the perception of environmental and health-related hazards.
Myths of Nature: Culture and the Social Construction of Risk
Version of Record online: 14 APR 2010
1992 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Journal of Social Issues
Volume 48, Issue 4, pages 21–37, Winter 1992
How to Cite
Dake, K. (1992), Myths of Nature: Culture and the Social Construction of Risk. Journal of Social Issues, 48: 21–37. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1992.tb01943.x
- Issue online: 14 APR 2010
- Version of Record online: 14 APR 2010
Western cultures are engaged in a highly contentious debate involving the identification, assessment, and management of risks to the environment and to public health and safety. Daily claims of new dangers in the food, air, and water we consume, the chemicals, energy, and substances we use, and the products, processes, and artifacts that support us are exacerbating public fears regarding environmental and health hazards. Most research on the perception and communication of risk has focused on possible harms, largely ignoring the cultural contexts in which hazards are framed and debated, and in which risk taking and risk perception occur. This article argues that, while individuals perceive risks and have concerns, it is culture that provides socially constructed myths about nature—systems of belief that are reshaped and internalized by persons, becoming part of their worldview and influencing their interpretation of natural phenomena.