Cross-Cultural Risk Communication

Researcher(s): Goldi Tewari
Promotors: Verolien Cauberghe , Liselot Hudders
Duration: from 15/07/2014 to 14/07/2017


This cross-cultural research project will investigate differences in risk perception between India and Belgium. Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions theory exemplifies cultural differences between both countries on all five dimensions. In particular, Belgium outscores India on the dimensions of uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism, pragmatic/normative and indulgence/restraint which implies that Belgium is a structured, individualistic society that is more practical and optimistic as compared to India. India, being an under scorer on a majority of dimensions may also suffer more strongly from negativity biases compared to Belgium. As a consequence, the severity of risk might be perceived higher in India when compared to Belgium. India, on the other hand, outscores Belgium on Power Distance, which implies that India is a country with an unequal distribution of power with more acceptance of inequality and trust in their government institutions as compared to Belgium.This may further have an important impact on the countries’ risk perception.

Owing to these cross-cultural differences there is a significant variation in the way the people perceive various kinds of risks. The first objective of this PhD is to find out how these countries and cultures differ in their risk perception for different types of risks and what their risk communication strategies are. In particular, it will investigate the antecedents of risk perception by using the psychometric approach of Slovic et al. (1986).This approach assumes that perceived risk is quantifiable and predictable based on two dimensions, the level of dread and the level of knowledge of the risk. In addition, other theoretical frameworks, such as the social amplification framework of Kasperson et al. (1988) and the basic risk perception model of Sjoberg (1993) will be used to construct a conceptual model to map the antecedents of risk perception and to compare the cultures on this risk perception. This PhD will focus on two types of risks. First, it will investigate cross-cultural differences in risk perception in relation to environmental risks in which the theoretical model used by Hongsia and Rosanne (2010) will be used. Next, food safety risks will be investigated on the basis of food safety risk parameters used by Zhang and Zhao (2009). The second objective is to examine if and how risk communication works in both cultures, keeping the cultural differences in mind. Both experimental and survey studies will be conducted in this PhD and appropriate statistical software (e.g., AMOS, SPSS) will be used for analysis. This PhD project adds value both to practitioners on a national and international level and to the academic field.

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