Dr. Weber works at the intersection of psychology and economics. She is an expert on behavioral models of judgment and decision making u . [It was like that in the email] Recently she has been investigating psychologically appropriate ways to measure and model individual and cultural differences in risk taking, specifically in risky financial situations and environmental decision making and policy. Weber is past president of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, coeditor of Risk Decision & Policy and associate editor of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. She serves on the editorial boards of two other journals, on the executive councils of INFORMS's Decision Analysis Society and the Society for Mathematical Psychology and on an advisory committee of the National Academy of Sciences on Human Dimensions in Global Change.
So I went over to UAA this past Friday to hear Dr. Elke Weber of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University.
How do I even write a post about this? I have to say, though, that I found it all very exciting. These are all topics I've studied and taught and had, informally, pulled together into my own sort of model which turned out to be very consistent to what Dr. Weber has come up with using more formal research. So it was gratifying to have these loose understandings confirmed. But I certainly don't have enough notes - I did start taking photos of the slides though - to be sure I understood it as she intended, though it did all make sense, except for some of the statistical calculations. She did talk very fast and following the slides and listening to her at the same time was tricky. But she had a lot to cover.
Anyway, the talk was totally related to the main theme of this blog - What Do I Know and How Do I Know It?
I'll try to pull together a few of the points.
- how to understand how different people faced with/dealing with the same situation 'know' the situation - that is,
- what narratives do they have to explain the situation
- how do they perceive where the situation is should be placed on a continuum from
Terrible Danger____________________________________Great Opportunity;
- Then, how can local knowledge and scientific knowledge be combined to communicate back and forth to find mutually satisfactory strategies for policies?
Interesting findings were that people were not very consistent in the risk aversion from domain to domain.
Then she went into explanations of the differences of risk taking between people. For instance:
Greater familiarity leads to reduced perceptions of riskiness. (So the first day you work at a nuclear power plant, your sense of risk is relatively high. But after working there for 20 years - without experiencing an accident or other hazard - your sense of risk is much lower.)
Emotional and psychological reactions play an important role. And Weber had on one slide: "Technical experts and public differ in degree they rely on cognitive vs. emotional assessment of risk."
Citing Douglas and Wildavsky, Weber listed other culturally related factors that influence people's perception of risk:
- structures of social organization as source of perceptions that reinforce those structures in competition against alternative ones
- technologies or events that threaten desired social order and ways of life are seen as risky
- Egalitarian/collectivists perceive different risks than do hierarchical/individualists
Another interesting part of the discussion was about human limits. She started with Human Cognition and Motivation. People have a limited attention and processing capability - so if they are focused on one task, they may miss completely other things that are going on. You can test yourself on this watching this YouTube experiment. I think I even linked to this on here once before, but maybe I just saw it but didn't link to it. Go ahead, try it.
Then there was limited emotional capacity, and automatic versus analytic ways of knowing about probabilities.
I won't go on and on. Must readers will have disappeared long ago. Those of you who are still here might understand my interest in all this.
Really, this is the kind of thing this blog is about as I try to understand why some people are going to vote for Miller, others for Murkowski, and others for McAdams. And why some Democrats are going to vote for McAdams and why some who profer McAdams are going to vote for Murkowski. It goes back to the level or risk taking they are comfortable with. Whether they will vote for their values or against their fears.
Eventually, this talk may be up as a podcast. They are only up to the end of September so far. But you can go look at what else is available, including Chancellor Fran Ulmer on the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill.