Investigating Heterogeneity in the Characterization of Risks Using Best Worst Scaling


  • [Table III has been edited since first publication online January 22, 2013.]

Address correspondence to Seda Erdem, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, Alcuin C Block, Heslington, York YO10 5DD; tel: (44) 0 1904 32 1630;


This research proposes and implements a new approach to the elicitation and analysis of perceptions of risk. We use best worst scaling (BWS) to elicit the levels of control respondents believe they have over risks and the level of concern those risks prompt. The approach seeks perceptions of control and concern over a large risk set and the elicitation method is structured so as to reduce the cognitive burden typically associated with ranking over large sets. The BWS approach is designed to yield strong discrimination over items. Further, the approach permits derivation of individual-level values, in this case of perceptions of control and worry, and analysis of how these vary over observable characteristics, through estimation of random parameter logit models. The approach is implemented for a set of 20 food and nonfood risks. The results show considerable heterogeneity in perceptions of control and worry, that the degree of heterogeneity varies across the risks, and that women systematically consider themselves to have less control over the risks than men.