Consequences, morality, and time in environmental risk evaluation

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Environmental risks pose a serious problem to individual and societal decision-making, and the public debate is often characterized by a conflict between morally-principled and technically oriented points of view. Drawing on previous work of Böhm and Pfister (2000), we propose a model on how environmental risks are cognitively represented and how risks are evaluated. The model suggests two evaluative pathways, evaluations of consequences and evaluation of moral considerations, each leading to a distinct set of emotions and action tendencies. Either one of these pathways may become dominant depending on the evaluative focus of the person, which, in turn, depends on the causal structure of the risk. An experimental study yields confirming evidence for this model. Furthermore, the influence of time perspective, that is, the delay of negative consequences caused by an environmental risk, is investigated. Contrary to the common assumption, only weak evidence for temporal discounting effects is found. It is concluded that environmental risks, due to their strong moral component, are partly immune to time perspective.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)461-479
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 01.09.2005

    Research areas

  • Business psychology - risk perception, environmental risk, temporal discounting, Emotional responses