Risk Perception

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This section contains definitions of Risk Perception and the notion of Subjective Risk. The concepts of Risk Perception and Risk Tolerance, while unique, are very much linked. [1]

Other relevant terms of note are Optimism Bias and Illusion of Control.


European Definitions


Risk perception si the way in which a stakeholder [G.50] views a risk [G.27], based on a set of values or concerns. (ISO/IEC Guide 73) [2]

Risk perception depends on the stakeholder’s needs, issues and knowledge. Risk perception can differ from objective data.

Other International Definitions

National Definitions


Percepción del riesgo: Construcción social que está relacionada con la interacción de diversos factores: económicos, políticos, culturales, institucionales, subjetivos y del ecosistema. Estos factores influyen y condicionan la forma en que las personas valoran los efectos que producen los riesgos, haciendo que cada individuo perciba, interprete y valore de manera diferente los riesgos y sus consecuencias. [3]


Percepção do risco:
1. Impressão ou juízo intuitivo sobre a natureza e a magnitude de um determinado risco.
2. Percepção sobre a importância ou gravidade de um determinado risco, com base no repertório de conhecimento que o indivíduo acumulou, durante o seu desenvolvimento cultural, e sobre o juízo político e moral de sua significação. [4]

Perception of risk:
1. Impression or intuitive judgment about the nature and magnitude of a given risk.
2. Perception about the importance or severity of a given risk, based on the repertoire of knowledge that the individual accumulated during his / her cultural development, and on the political and moral judgment of its significance.


Risk Perception is a stakeholder's view on a risk. [5]

Note: Risk perception reflects the stakeholder's needs, issues, knowledge, beliefs and values.

United States

Risk perception is a subjective judgment about the characteristics and/or severity of risk. [6]

Standard Definition

ISO Guide 73:2009(en)

Stakeholder's view on a risk. [7]

Note: Risk perception reflects the stakeholder's needs, issues, knowledge, belief and values.

Academic Definitions

Subjective Risk/ Risk perception is the estimated probability people have that a specific type of negative event could happen and how affected they are by the consequences. [8] [9]

An individual perception of risk includes a subjective risk estimate [10] which is heavily influenced (and not limited to) the following factors [11][12]: type of risk (e.g. nature and features of the disaster), individual characteristics (e.g. personality, personal experience with a similar disaster, training and education), social context (e.g. publicity and communication), and cultural values (e.g. trust in authorities).

Risk perception is the ability of an individual to discern a certain amount of risk. [1]


Subjective risk is a social construct and is defined in opposition with the “objective risk” or “real risk”. [13] It usually refers to the judgment of non-experts (lay people, members of the general public, civil population) since their perception of risk is likely to be different compared to experts. [14] Risk perception by experts is usually labeled “Risk Assessment”. Experts tend to estimate risk in a more objective analytic and rational way based on scientific and technological knowledge [15] However, there are studies showing that even experts can commit estimation errors when they cannot rely on consistent data. [16] However, average citizens are more likely to have more distorted perceptions and to be under a higher influence of cognitive biases and heuristics.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Campbell Institute (2014). Risk perception: Theories, strategies and next steps.
  2. ENISA Risk Glossary
  5. All Hazards Risk Assessment Methodology Guidelines 2012-2013, Public Safety Canada
  6. DHS Risk Lexicon 2010 Edition, September 2010
  7. ISO Guide 73:2009 Risk management -- Vocabulary
  8. Sjöberg, L. (2000). Factors in risk perception. Risk Analysis, 20, 1-11.
  9. Sjöberg, L. (2003). Risk perception is not what it seems: The psychometric paradigm revisited. In K. Andersson (Ed.), VALDOR Conference 2003 (pp. 14-29). Stockholm: VALDOR.
  10. Yates, J.F. (1992). Risk-taking behavior. London: John Wiley & Sons
  11. Cooper, D. (2003). Psychology, risk & safety: Understanding how personality & perception can influence risk taking. Professional Safety, 39-46.
  12. Hofer, J. (2016). Report on risk perception. Deliverable D32.1 for Driver Project (http://driver-project.eu/content/report-risk-perception)
  13. Slovic, P. (1992). Perception of risk: reflections on the psychometric paradigm, in Krimsky, S., & Golding, D. (Eds.), Social Theories of Risk, Praeger, Westport, 117-152.
  14. Bostrom, A. (1997). Risk perceptions: ‘Experts’ vs. ‘Lay people,’ Duke Environmental Law Policy Forum, 8(101), 101-113.
  15. Sjöberg, L. (1999). Risk Perception by the Public and by Experts: A Dilemma in Risk Management, Human Ecology Revenue, 6(2), 1-9.
  16. van der Pligt, J. (1996). Judgement and Decision Making. In R. G. Semin & K. Fiedler, Applied Social Psychology (pp 30-64).