How risk perceptions, not evidence, have driven harmful policies on COVID-19

COVID-19 hits all of the cognitive triggers for how the lay public misjudges risk. Robust findings from the field of risk perception have identified unique characteristics of a risk that allow for greater attribution of frequency and probability than is likely to be aligned with the base-rate statistics of the risk. COVID-19 embodies these features. It is unfamiliar, invisible, dreaded, potentially endemic, involuntary, disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations such as the elderly and has the potential for widespread catastrophe. When risks with such characteristics emerge, it is imperative for there to be trust between those in governance and communication and the lay public in order to quell public fears. This is not the environment in which COVID-19 has emerged, potentially resulting in even greater perceptions of risk.


Read the full paper.


August 24, 2020