An associative approach to risk perception: measuring the effects of risk communications directly and indirectly

V.H.M. Visschers, R.M. Meertens*, W.F. Passchier, N.K. de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Risk perception is often measured by a direct method, e. g., a questionnaire. This mainly reveals the deliberate evaluation of a risk (a so-called secondary evaluative process), whereas risk perception can also be based on a first, spontaneous reaction (a primary evaluative process). An indirect test such as the Extrinsic Affective Simon Task (EAST, De Houwer, 2003) may be needed to reveal this first, spontaneous reaction. In this study, a questionnaire and an EAST measured the effects of varying risk communications (high risk, low risk or control article), about high-voltage power lines. The results of the EAST showed that the respondents associated power lines stronger with unhealthy than with healthy. However, the questionnaire results did not seem to indicate that the respondents considered power lines as risky. The EAST did not reveal an effect of article variation on the associations of power lines with (un) healthy. Conversely, the questionnaire results showed that article variation influenced the secondary evaluative process. Further, our findings demonstrated that the direct and indirect measures were unrelated. An indirect test may complement a direct test to get an overall picture of how people evaluate risks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-383
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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