Risk tolerance as a complementary concept to risk perception of natural hazards: A conceptual review and application

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There is a longstanding assumption that if people perceive a risk as high, they will act to reduce it. In fact, research has shown a lack of consistently strong causal relations between risk perception (RP) and mitigative behavior—the so-called “risk perception paradox.” Despite a recent increase in research on RP, individuals’ risk tolerance (RT; or demand for risk reduction) only rarely appears as a consideration for explaining behavioral response to natural hazards. To address this research gap, we first systematically review relevant literature and find that RT has been directly assessed or operationalized using perceived thresholds related to costs and benefits of risk reduction measures, risk consequences, hazard characteristics, behavioral responses, or affective reactions. It is either considered a component or a result of RP. We then use survey data of individuals’ RP, RT, and behavioral intention to assess relations among these variables. Comparing across three European study sites, “behavioral intention” is assessed as the public’s willingness to actively support the implementation of nature- based solutions to reduce disaster risk. A series of tests using regression models shows RT significantly explains variance in behavioral intention and significantly contributes additional explanatory power beyond RP in all three sites. In two sites, RT is also a significant partial mediator of the relation between RP and behavior. Taken together, our findings demand further conceptual and empirical research on individuals’ RT and its systematic consideration as a determinant for (in)action in response to natural hazards.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRisk Analysis
Volume44
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)304-321
ISSN0272-4332
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

ID: 348204115