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Cultural Theory's Contributions to Risk Analysis: A Thematic Review with Directions and Resources for Further Research

Branden B Johnson, Brendon Swedlow
Risk Analysis: An Official Publication of the Society for Risk Analysis 2019 April 10
Cultural theory (CT) developed from grid/group analysis, which posits that different patterns of social relations-hierarchist, individualist, egalitarian, and fatalist-produce compatible cultural biases influencing assessment of which hazards pose high or low risk and how to manage them. Introduced to risk analysis (RA) in 1982 by Douglas and Wildavsky's Risk and Culture, this institutional approach to social construction of risk surprised a field hitherto focused on psychological influences on risk perceptions and behavior. We explain what CT is and how it developed; describe and evaluate its contributions to the study of risk perception and management, and its prescriptions for risk assessment and management; and identify opportunities and resources to develop its contributions to RA. We suggest how the diverse, fruitful, but scattered efforts to develop CT both inside and outside the formal discipline of RA (as exemplified by the Society for Risk Analysis) might be leveraged for greater theoretical, methodological, and applied progress in the field.


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