Whether judging the risks of a chemical, a financial product, or a looming pandemic, when people lack facts, they must rely on their perceptions. As scientists, we addressed the big question of how those perceptions arise by employing the small-question tools of our field—studies designed to disentangle the complex processes shaping all behavior. Building on basic research into how people think, feel, and interact, our work revealed general patterns.
Although the piece–and Fischhoff’s research–is geared toward how the general public might perceive risks raised by the chemical industry, it sounds like some of the work could be applied to improve communication of safety concerns to laboratory or manufacturing workers. Fischhoff includes some resources in the perspective.