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Risk Communication: Social Construction Perspective

  • By: Kimberly Field-Springer & Katie Margavio Striley
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Discourse often presents risk as reality, not as a construction. From realist perspectives, risks are external and unrelated to social processes. Once “discovered,” risks become part of objective reality. Traditionally, social cognitive and biomedical realist approaches conceptualize risks as identifiable, measurable, and controllable objects. The risk itself is a discovered danger, hazard, or threat in society and remains constant. Realists value avoiding risks, and therefore conceive of risk perceptions as motivating forces individuals act upon to avoid risks. These perceptions become measurable ways to explain or predict behavior. Realist perspectives often assume individuals choose whether to engage in risky behavior.

Ultimately, realist perspectives present three limitations. First, the relationships between risk and risk perceptions are taken for granted. Second, realists uncritically value risk avoidance, often without ...

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