University of Vermont

Office of Health Promotion Research

OHPR Abstract 94

Abstract 1990-1999

Trumbo CW. Examining psychometrics and polarization in a single-risk case study. Risk Anal. 1996 Jun;16(3):429-438.

Examined the field validity of a psychometric model of risk perception using survey data from a case study involving a Midwestern community in which a controversy exists over the possibility of the existence of a cancer cluster caused by the operation of a small reactor. Results show that the psychometric model of risk perception, while failing to be reproduced precisely, does have utility under the field conditions in this study. Use of the psychometric model to classify individuals as risk amplifiers or risk attenuators produces a useful dichotomy that reveals differences between the 2 polar groups in terms of demographics, satisfaction with institutional response to the risk, concern over individual and social levels of risk, and the evaluation of various communication channels as having been useful in coming to a judgment about the risk. A final model comparing the 2 groups suggests that, in this case, evaluation of personal risk and satisfaction with institutional response are important determinants of individual's risk reactions. Subordinate to these forces are the demographic variables of education, gender, and years of residence in the community. The model also illustrates that aggregate level observations may not be representative of subgroups.

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