Cultural Evolution of Risk Perceptions

A collaboration with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Office for Product Safety and Standards.

The prevalence, use and benefits of vast multiple consumer products in our daily lives means they are typically not perceived as particularly hazardous, except at the time of product recalls or safety incidents. However, unsafe consumer products are associated with millions of injuries and thousands of fatalities globally each year. Understanding precisely how the public perceive risks associated with consumer products is a key part of effective risk management and regulation effects.

Rob and Sarah are currently working on the project, which involves an investigation of perceptions of risk for a variety of different consumer products, examining the influence of both product level characteristics (e.g. main purpose, power source, age, place of purchase) and individual level characteristics (e.g., age, gender, risk propensity) on risk perceptions. Combining both cognitive and cultural evolution perspectives, we aim to model how individual risk perceptions spread within a population, and how societal attitudes towards risk might change over time and in response to factors such as direct experience, product recalls and media exposure.