Monday, April 11, 2011

Emotions, reactions and type of hazard

A paper in the last issue of Risk Analysis was remarkably timely. A team of Chinese researchers did a study comparing how people react (emotionally and behaviorally) to technological (manmade) hazards versus natural (Act of G-d) hazards. What they found is that technology hazards elicit stronger emotions, are more directed (anger and blame at SOMEONE), and lead to more aggressive and disruptive behaviors. Natural hazards elicit less strong emotions, are more loss-based (avoidance or helping), and more productive behaviors.

They didn’t know about the recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor problem in Japan at the time. But it applies perfectly. If you look at how people are reacting to the simultaneous events, it follows the paper pretty closely. People are mad at Tokyo Power and want to blame them and penalize them. Their reaction to the earthquake/tsunami victims is sympathy and a desire to help. We want to send TEPCO execs to jail but send money to the earthquake victims.

In Haiti's earthquake last year, a lot of the death and damage was because of contractors who took short cuts on building codes. But it was a natural disaster so the second tendency won out in general.

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