Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting 2017

Session Schedule & Abstracts

* Disclaimer: All presentations represent the views of the authors, and not the organizations that support their research. Please apply the standard disclaimer that any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in abstracts, posters, and presentations at the meeting are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other organization or agency. Meeting attendees and authors should be aware that this disclaimer is intended to apply to all abstracts contained in this document. Authors who wish to emphasize this disclaimer should do so in their presentation or poster. In an effort to make the abstracts as concise as possible and easy for meeting participants to read, the abstracts have been formatted such that they exclude references to papers, affiliations, and/or funding sources. Authors who wish to provide attendees with this information should do so in their presentation or poster.

Common abbreviations

Poster Platform: Interdisciplinary Risk Communication about Food and the Environment

Room: Salon 1   10:30 am–12:00 pm

Chair(s): William Hallman

Sponsored by Risk Communication Specialty Group

M2-J.1  10:30 am  Who is Afraid of Tampering with Nature? Individual Differences in (Dis)comfort with Altering the Natural World. Raimi KT, Wolske KS, Hart PS, Campbell-Arvai V*; University of Michigan and University of Chicago

Abstract: People differ in their comfort with tampering with the natural world. While some see alterations to the natural environment as a sign of human ingenuity and progress, others see them as dangerous and even a sign of hubris. This can sometimes lead to puzzling situations in which people who are concerned about environmental risks (such as those caused by climate change) are also resistant to approaches that might ameliorate those risks (such as carbon dioxide removal technologies). To explore this phenomenon, we developed the Tampering with Nature (TWN) Scale to measure individual differences in people’s discomfort with tampering with nature. Across four samples of American adults, we demonstrate that fear about tampering with nature is a distinct construct, but one that is related to moral and religious values, environmental concern, and trust in technology and science. Unlike most measures of environmental concern, the TWN is only weakly related (if at all) to political ideology. Furthermore, the TWN predicts opposition to a wide range of nature-altering activities in the environmental and medical domains—from GMOs to gene therapy—including actual donations to anti-tampering causes. By shedding light on who is afraid of tampering with nature and the beliefs that correspond with this discomfort, the TWN provides opportunities for researchers and practitioners to better understand public opposition to technological innovations, predict consumer preferences for “natural” products, and refine strategies for science communication.

M2-J.2  10:30 am  Overcoming Local Resistance to Proposed US Government Projects: A case study in dredging harbors. Poinsatte-Jones K*, Trump B; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Risk and Decision Sciences Focus Area

Abstract: Industrial and government projects often generate negative feedback and potential resistance from local communities due to perceptions that such communities will experience negative side effects and externalities from the development and implementation of a proposed project. One example of this includes dredging and sediment management and disposal in US waterways for the benefit of shipping and water-based travel. However, such actions increase the potential for risk to affect humans and the local environment – something that many local communities perceive as an unnecessary and unacceptable risk that could be distributed elsewhere. In his plenary talk at the Society for Risk Analysis World Congress, Dr. José Palma-Oliveira attributed such public resistance to project development, and the potential for projects to slow in development and potentially even halt altogether, to failures in risk communication. This talk adapts Palma-Oliveira’s perspective to the case of dredging and sediment management in the United States, and provides insight regarding (a) why failures in risk communication contribute to public distrust and resistance to sediment disposal on local lands, and (b) an understanding of how such risk communication efforts may be improved through direct engagement with local publics.

M2-J.3  10:30 am  Examining Cognitive and Affective Factors Associated with Support for Pollution Policies in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed: Identifying Promising Messaging Strategies. Lu H*, Schuldt JP, Niederdeppe J; Cornell University

Abstract: Over the past few decades, scientists have documented the changing chemistry (eutrophication) of the Chesapeake Bay in response to increased input of nitrogen and phosphorus from human sources. In particular, attention has focused on the negative environmental impacts of agricultural runoff from production facilities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Amid ongoing policy discussions, environmental NGOs and advocacy groups have expressed a need for public opinion data that speak to the links between sustainability, agricultural practices, and support for pollution policies in the state of Maryland. We conducted a survey of a representative sample of 1,230 adult Maryland residents to better understand cognitive and emotional factors that shape public opinion toward agricultural pollution and sustainability issues and to offer evidence-based suggestions about ways that environmental advocates could improve their messaging efforts to build support for policies that aim to improve the environmental quality of the Chesapeake Bay. Our results show that several factors including beliefs about causes, attribution of responsibility, concerns about consequences and emotional responses are significantly associated with support for pollution mitigation policies. Promising message targets to promote various policy solutions to address pollution in the Bay include (1) emphasizing that manure runoff from large poultry companies on the Eastern Shore is a major cause of increased pollution in the Bay, (2) emphasizing that pesticide is a major cause of increased pollution in the Bay, (3) deemphasizing that too many boats and ships in the water are a major cause of increased pollution in the Bay, (4) communicating that failed oversight by local government is to blame for increased pollution, (5) increasing concern about damaging the natural beauty of the Bay, (6) increasing concern about death of fish and other aquatic species, (7) reducing guilt, and (8) increasing sadness.

M2-J.4  10:30 am  The role of trust and perceived similarity in psychological reactance against regulatory wildlife policy. Song H*, McComas KA, Schuler KL; Cornell Uniiversity

Abstract: Policymakers often choose to introduce enforceable regulations to achieve tighter control on human behavior for important risk-related issues. However, according to research on psychological reactance, regulations threatening people with punishments can cause unintended adverse effects because people tend to react against controlling stimuli perceived as threatening their sense of freedom or choice. The current study investigated how trust in and perceived similarity to a message source could help mitigate such reactance effects in the context of preventing the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer. In particular, this study examined how risk messages intended to decrease the use of an item that could potentially spread CWD might interact with the sources and influence the messages’ effectiveness. Members of a national deer hunting organization participated in an online survey experiment where they read a press release describing a new ban on natural scent-based attractants. They were randomly assigned to one of three conditions where the source of the press release was indicated as the state government, state wildlife agency, or their own deer hunting organization. Measurements included responses related to reactance processes such as source derogation, message derogation, anger, and counterarguing, as well as various individual differences. Results show that the deer hunting organization was the most trusted source of information followed by the state wildlife agency, and state government. Similarity accounted for these differences in trust, but only to a limited extent. Confirming their reactance-mitigating effects, trust and similarity played unique parallel mediating roles in the effect of source types on reactance variables. Discussion covers theoretical implications for trust in risk communication literature, as well as practical implications for the communication of regulatory policies.

M2-J.5  10:30 am  Frankenfood or farm fresh? Measuring support for aquaculture among U.S. consumers. Rickard LN*, Noblet CL; University of Maine

Abstract: More than 50% of seafood produced globally for human consumption comes from aquaculture – the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of animals or plants in water environments – and this percentage is rising. Aquaculture supporters point to many potential benefits of this production technology, including reducing pressure on wild fisheries, enabling more efficient production, and creating jobs. In the U.S., advocates promote aquaculture expansion as a way to reduce the seafood trade deficit. Yet, in recent years, aquaculture has lacked widespread support, and even generated amplified risk perceptions in some U.S. communities for various reasons, which might include:(1) highly publicized environmental and human-health related risk events, such as contaminated products; (2) generally low levels of knowledge about products or processes; (3) uncertainty about regulation and lack of trust in officials; and (4) the use of “dreaded” technologies, such as genetic modification (GM). In this study – the first of our knowledge to examine a representative U.S. sample on this issue – we explore the factors leading individuals to view aquaculture as “frankenfood” or “farm fresh” – that is, what predicts acceptance of aquaculture, and how might these variables differ from those previously shown to influence acceptance of other “novel” food technologies, such as GM food? We report on the results of an online survey administered by GfK in January 2017 (N = 1210). Using hierarchical regression, we explore the relative contribution of variables previously shown in the risk perception and communication literatures to predict support for food technologies, including: perceived risk and benefit; source credibility; awareness and knowledge; attributes of the technology (e.g., perceived controllability); trust in science; and demographic and sociocultural variables (e.g., age, sex, U.S. region, environmental values). Implications for risk communication theory and practice – specifically, with respect to the U.S. aquaculture industry – will be presented.

M2-J.6  10:30 am  Information asymmetry: The heuristic function of nano-food labels . Cummings CL*; Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Abstract: In most communication environments, at least one party holds less pertinent information than others, which may leave that party susceptible to making judgments without adequate resources to consider all relevant information. Information asymmetry may be exacerbated for potential nano-food product consumers who hold little information when exposed to products and messages and must attempt to comprehend and make decisions about products under uncertainty. Many consumers use product labels when forming perceptions or making purchasing decisions. Product labels are symbolic risk messages aimed to distinguish one product from another while conveying salient concepts from which consumers can derive greater comprehension of the what the product is, what it means to the consumer, and its value. Labelling of food products and other consumer goods serve a heuristic function that influences consumers’ comprehension under low information contexts. Proposals for “nano-lables” have been petitioned of certification organizations and governmental agencies, and proposals for nano-food labels note that they would likely incur extra costs to the producer, which in turn may be passed on to consumers at higher market pricing. However, like all information, comprehending labels can be challenging for many consumers and labels are often miscomprehended, or go unnoticed or unused by consumers as they process information. This presentation discusses how nano-labels are a politicized locus where motivations of audiences are inscribed onto sense-making and decision-making processes regarding nano-foods. Informed by Protection Motivation Theory, this presentation reports recent representative survey data regarding the attitudes and use of food labels for nano-food products and uncovers dual functions of labels as being used from either a “right to be informed” premise or as “do not buy” cautionary marker. Such data is of use to improve risk communication initiatives and inform future governance of this burgeoning market.

M2-J.7  10:30 am  Framing, Social Stigma and Scientific Controversy: Exploring Effect and Mechanism of Question Wording about Genetically Modified Food. Jia H*, Schuldt J, Zhou S, Deng L; Cornell University

Abstract: Although the US Congress has eventually passed the law to label foods with genetically modified (GM) ingredients, few have investigated the term’s framing effect on the public attitude to the technology. In this paper, we investigated the framing effect of the word choice of the alternative names “biotechnology food” and “genetically modified food.” An analysis of websites of anti-agribiotech activist groups and industrial organizations suggested that activists preferred the term ‘‘genetically modified food’’ whereas industrial organizations preferred ‘‘biotechnology food.’’ A question wording experiment illustrated participants had more negative responses when the question referred to “genetically modified food” than “biotechnology food,” but there was no statistical difference among participants’ support for labeling such foods. People’s deference to scientific authority, naturalness and genetics knowledge seemed to moderate the framing effect of “biotechnology/genetically modified food,” but the moderation took place in different conditions. The deference to scientific authority strongly negated the framing effect of the alternative word choice on people’s harm perception of transgenic foods while genetics knowledge mildly negatively moderated the framing effect on the benefit perception. On the other hand, naturalness tended to moderately enhance the framing effect both on people’s harm perceptions. The study indicates that with intensified debates on GM food labeling, there is a polarizing attitude to the food. The deference to scientific authority may be motivated when pro-GM food people encounter negative information of the food. For practical purpose, the study suggests that when labelling GM food, using different wording plus cues priming either the deference to scientific authority, naturalness or other sociopsychological constructs may lead to people’s changing acceptance.

M2-J.8  10:30 am  Responsibility, Recalls, and Reputations of Organizations: Theory-Based Experimental Studies to Improve Food Safety Crisis Communication. Wu F*, Hallman WK; Rutgers University

Abstract: This study tests the applicability of Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) to the unique circumstances posed by food safety crises. The study uses a factorial experimental design with a representative sample of 1510 online participants. The study investigates the effects of different types of food safety crises, initial crisis communication strategies, and follow-up communication strategies on public responses as the crisis unfolds. The types of food safety crises include: accidental and omission preventable. The initial crisis communication strategies include: deny responsibility with a recall of the affected food and accept responsibility with recall. The follow-up strategies include: deny responsibility with scapegoating, diminish, rebuild with responsibility and apology, and rebuild without responsibility or apology. The unfolding of the crisis was designed to reflect: T1-breakout of crisis, T2-confirmation of the company’s involvement, T3-identification of crisis cause, and T4-follow-up communication. The results confirm that the public makes a distinction between accidental and preventable crises, with an omission preventable crisis generating more negative public responses (e.g. less favorable attitudes and behavioral intentions). While our previous research showed the importance of having a recall at the early stage of a crisis, the results of this study show that “accept responsibility with recall” initial strategy generates better public responses than “deny responsibility with recall”. Furthermore, the results indicate that “rebuild with responsibility and apology” follow-up strategy generates the most favorable public responses. This study extends the SCCT and highlights a crisis as an ongoing process and that companies should issue communications appropriate to each stage. This study also underlines the advantage of taking responsibility and offering an apology in restoring organizational reputation and consumers’ behavioral intentions.

[back to schedule]