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Many Theories and Ideas surrounding Risk and Risk Perception

Discuss about The consequence of perceived discrimination.

Confined space is  any place that includes any kind of vessel, container, tank, chamber, pit or any other similar kind of spaces that, by subject of its open nature, results in conditions that gives rise to accidents, injury or  any other kind of harmful activities that requires emergency actions. Manuele (2013), have stated that exposure takes place more regularly when the safety procedures that are required are not cohered sufficiently. Still, they did not disagree with the fact that no matter how much careful an employee is in his workplace, he or she cannot avoid all the exposures. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has declared that the low levels of oxygen due to the confined spaces i.e. less than 19.6 percent may cause various symptoms like rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, clumsiness, suffocation, fatigue and emotional upset. In fact, due to less oxygen collapse, coma and even death may also occur. The other factors are the type and extent of injuries/exposure or injury and whether or not the individual is previously known as infected. 

There are various theories and ideas on the subject of risk and risk perception. Understanding the risk and the way it is perceived is a very crucial step towards developing various programs or campaigns in order to build awareness and make the workplace or communities safer. According to Wilson et al. (2012), the National Safety Council has stated term ‘risk’ is defined as the measure of severity and probability of unfavorable effects. In other words, the term ‘risk’ is concerned with the calculation of how many times an incident is likely to take place and given its happening and how terrible  the outcomes would be. Lundgren and McMakin (2013), has discussed that the risk perception is concerned with the ability to perceive risk and it is also linked with risk tolerance as well. With the same, it is tied to a person’s capacity to tackle certain quantity of risk. Though these concepts are unique, they are linked as well. His research has suggested that in order to discourage the risk-taking behavior, there is a high need for programs to label both the above concept. Various research have also been done in order to explain the different factors that has an impact on a person’s judgment making process for informing his succeeding actions and interactions. Wachinger et al. (2013), has elaborated his discussion on the factors affecting the risk perception and tolerance. He has categorized the factors as three levels- macro, meso and micro. Macro level refers to those factors that are institutional or structural in nature, the meso level refers to the factors that are at the community or peer level and the micro level refers to  the factors that are at a person’s individual level.

Psychological and Sociological Theoretical Models in relation to Risk Perception Known as the 'Psychometric Paradigm' and 'Cultural Theory'

Theories such as the Protection Motivation Theory is one of the most popular theory on the subject of risk perception. According to this theory, an individual is more likely to shield himself when he foresees negative outcomes or consequences. He then develops a desire to avoid them. It postulates that there is core relation in between the risk perception and the injuries and incidents. It also posits that people seek protective action at the time they are motivated to do so. For example, Becker, Aerts and Huitema (2014) have found that magnifying the elements of the risk appraisals, i.e. risk perception and risk perceived severity, have a collaborative positive impact on the constant changing behavior and intentions towards safety. 

There are two main psychological and sociological theoretical models in relation to the risk perception known as the “Psychometric Paradigm” and “Cultural Theory” as discussed by Breakwell (2014). He has identified that the Psychometric Paradigm is related to the concept that the risk perception is not an objective aspect. In fact, it is a subjective determination that is affected by a person’s political, cultural, sociological and psychological backgrounds and related experiences. Psychometric paradigm works generally performs with the not differentiated perception of risk by keeping aside the specific target. According to Eriksson (2017), the non-specific ratings of risk closely resembles the general risk ratings, this, making the non-specific risk ratings more applicable for the lifestyle policy of risk than for the technology and environment policy attitudes.

According to Wahlberg and Sjoberg (2012), there is a different thesis of psychometric paradigm, which states that media has a strong influence on the people’s risk perception.  It has provided a justly balanced picture of the various accidents by reporting many traffic accident that quite common and they do not have disastrous consequences.

Psychometric paradigm is also related to the chances of the fact that the cultural theory inhibits vital explanatory power related to the perceived risk (Glendon, Clarke and McKenna 2016). He claimed that the dimension of the cultural theory were strong determinants of the perceived risk. He investigated the relation in between the Cultural theory and the different risk judgments. Hence, they found that the there is a significant relation inn between the two. McDaniels et al. (2012), found the psychometric paradigm as a resemblance for identifying the various characteristics that influences the risk of perception among the people.

Cash (2012), has suggested that the risk perception is processed from the individual’s Perspective and the influence of their broader Social Culture. Kahan (2012), has stated that the cultural theory is a method to describe how a person perceive the rest of the world and its successive reactions. He has proposed that the people has lack of strong social association with culture that they belong to does not feel that pressurized in order to conform. The social or peer pressures may lead to person to adopt either riskier or safer behaviors to maintain the traction within the group. Johnson, Branden and Vincent (2012), have further argued that the term ‘risk’ is related to both the cultural impact on an individual and the specific context at which it is recognized. They reckon being a part of that cultural group and this is an important factor in the risk perception as well as the risk communication, which can influence the later responses. Furthermore, according to the Schmitt (2014), ‘perception’ could be applied to the groups and the individuals as well. This also suggests that the people could form various opinions regarding the perceived risk depending on the thing that they are told by the others. In case a respected member of the society or a group is perceived for having more knowledge and experiences of risks and if he considers it as safe, it is more certain that it will be believed by the other members. For example, in a workplace when a manger informs his entire employee that a particular process is safe, it is likely to be accepted by every employees and no one will question to it. Hence, it can be said that the social framing of the risk is considered to be connected to the culture, background and the training. 

Risk Perception is processed from the individual’s Perspective and the influence of their broader Social Culture

Swartz (2012), have discussed that the cultural theory has its origin in sociology. They have analyzed and concluded that people never remain constant within any one culture throughout their life. They keep on moving in between various existing cultures based on what characteristic of their life it is concerning to. For example, work, peer, groups or religions are the main aspects of an individual’s life. With the same, they have suggested that the cultural theory is linked with different influences based on the risk perception with both “social learning” and conforming to the social rules or norms.  Along with that Cherry (2012) have explored that the social learning theory has its foundations in the ideology of traditional learning. Shapiro and Stefkovich (2016) have also ground their concept of ethical leadership in the Social Learning Theory. The theory suggests that individuals could learn the quality of proper behavior by seeing and their role model. They have further analyzed that the social learning theory is dependent on the concept that a person notices what others are doing and they copy them. This can also be concerned to as observation and imitation. They have used this to describe how the changes in the society are influenced. He have further elaborated their studies on the original theory by outlining the various roles of the models existing the society where the individuals get to learn secondary from other’s experiences. The ‘informational social learning’ is referred to where an individual copy others when they are unsure about how to answer in a particular situation. There are various factors, which could lead an individual to obey and they are reliability of the role models, perceived relevance and perceived reward for a specific behavior.

Deaths and occupational illness due to chemical tank cleaners’, open sewage and dirty bathrooms are widely unknown because of lack of sufficient monitoring in the workplace. Rowlinson and Jia (2015), have explored that the risk perception of workers to exposure to confined space activity and the factors that have influenced whether or not they have reported the matter or incident. They have further proposed that the fear of constricting blood borne viruses are not always directly correlated with which the virus is considered as the one that is most infectious. It is further postulated that the virus that causes the major damage and greatest concern is the virus that is least known to the people.

Cultural Theory as having its origins in Sociology

According to Bubeck (2012), one of the most influencing factors concerning the risk perception is the fear of dread. They have discussed the various reasons behind why certain risk causes heightened reactions and further describes the effect of the involuntary injuries or exposures as one among them. They have also discussed the effects of both voluntary and involuntary injuries to the risk. The literature further suggests that they depends on whether or not a person has perceived mastery over risk and its possible consequences. People who get engaged in some risky behaviors must not be seen as an exceptional risk takers in case that activity is viewed as a daily routine within any particular social group. However, those people who takes risk of standing against the norms of the society (social norms) are considered as ineffective decision makers and insensible. Bubeck has identified the individual risk taking behaviors as positive if he or she is engaged in some kind of thrill seeking actions.

Burlet-Vienney et al., (2015), have stated that the confined spaces are challenged with various eventuality hazardous conditions. Exposure to confined space can have serious implications on a person’s health, his family and ultimately his career may too get effected. Such dangers arise in the workplace due to lack of oxygen, dust, left out residues that has the potential to give off fume, gas or vapor, poisonous gases or fumes, fire and explosions etc. The primary symptoms of deficiency of oxygen are increase in breathing rat and acceleration in heartbeat. The NIOSH or National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has declared that when the level of oxygen in the air decreased more than 6 percent, death will occur within a minute. It is safe if the oxygen level is in the range between 19 to 21 percent. The confined space activities also involves the use of isocyanides that are present in the telecommunication splicing/plugging components. The most commonly used compounds are that of isocyanides like methylene bisphenyl diisocyanate and toluene diisocyanate. Inhalation to such products results in abdominal pain, nausea, breathing problems and vomiting. In addition, it may also cause serious allergic reactions, which could result in death as well.

The Cognitive Dissonance Theory was developed by Festinger (Perlovsky 2013). According to this theory, an individual’s behavior could have a carriage on their beliefs and attitudes. Festinger has described that cognitive dissonance takes place during the time when an individual indentifies an internal conflict or issues in between the way they act and their attitudes and beliefs. There are various impact of cognitive dissonance. They are based on the different values, which a person place on his attitudes and beliefs, as well as his thought that whether or not he is powerful enough, or has the potential to cause discomfort, in order to bring a change in their behavior so that they can help in balancing the inconsistencies that they have experienced.

Tones, Robinson and Tilford (2013), have identified that the comprehended risk and effectiveness of not following the treatment and the involvement that influences the health disorders in an individual and their outcomes as well.

According to Montano and Kasprzyk (2015), there are several behavioral theories that are often applied when looking at the behaviors or risks in the risk perception and that includes the theory or concept of reasoned action as well as that of planned behavior. Earlier, the theory of reasoned action was depending on the intended voluntary behavior that was based on the person’s beliefs, attitudes and control. With the passage of tie, this has progressed towards the theory of planned behavior, which is related to the predicted behaviors that proposes- greater the discern control and positive beliefs or beliefs, greater are the possibility of carrying out behavior. Furthermore, he has suggested that the theory of planned behavior is referred to the beliefs of an individual are due to a wide range of likelihood determinants, like, their age, sex, financial and educational status as well as media influence.

In current days, with the development of technologies, maximum information, ideas and knowledge that we gain is mainly through the media and risk perception may become distorted as a result of certain issues being highlighted. Kasperson has discussed the fact that how random broadcasting of news stories and images regarding an event may affect the risk and the manner it is perceived. Kasperson (2012) was the first to develop the ideas about the social increase of the risk. The framework that he has described is been used to determine the ways in which communication of risk could be increased as well as how to decrease the information that is received. This as a result influences the outcomes of risk perceptions. However, the social increase of risk perception should not be regarded as static. In order to describe how its consequences ad effects has the potential to reach beyond the former event, the term ‘ripple effect’ must be used.

It has been examined by Begg (2013), that the management health beliefs plays an integral part in the risk perception. It has been found that the senior authorities in the work place, who experienced such occupational health risk, are more likely to notify the other members than the junior staffs. He has described that people tends to discuss openly about their health issues that are related to their occupational activities. The history of earlier injuries or exposures are one of the vital factors while determining about the main motivation behind reporting the same to the management team in the workplace. There are times when employees seek vacations and they tend to neglect their official works. They simply present health excuses in order to get leaves. If the management did not agree with their reason behind their requirement of leaves, they generally do not provide any of it. In this case, if the management team too believes the fact that exposure to confined spaces do harm the employee, they cooperates with them and with the same, take proper measures to decrease the risk levels to a high extent.


Hence, from the above discussion it is clear that there are various risks concerning the confined spaces in the workplace about which an individual must be well aware. The above report is widely elaborated on the risks factors, theories on risk and risk perceptions, the psychological and sociological theoretical models related to risk perception and social culture, and the famous cultural theory and is origin. It has helped reduce the frequency of accidental exposures due to confined space in the workplace that are though often predictable but are highly avoided by many. It will motivate the people to adopt more healthy behaviors to minimize the risk of exposure due to confined space and increase the concession in seeking intervention during the occurrence of exposures. 


Becker, G., Aerts, J.C.J.H. and Huitema, D., 2014. Influence of flood risk perception and other factors on risk?reducing behaviour: a survey of municipalities along the Rhine. Journal of Flood Risk Management, 7(1), pp.16-30.

Begg, C., 2013. The risk perception paradox—implications for governance and communication of natural hazards. Risk analysis, 33(6), pp.1049-1065.

Breakwell, G.M., 2014. The psychology of risk. Cambridge University Press.

Bubeck, P., Botzen, W.J. and Aerts, J.C., 2012. A review of risk perceptions and other factors that influence flood mitigation behavior. Risk analysis, 32(9), pp.1481-1495.

Burlet-Vienney, D., Chinniah, Y., Bahloul, A. and Roberge, B., 2015. Occupational safety during interventions in confined spaces. Safety science, 79, pp.19-28.

Cash, T.F., 2012. Cognitive-behavioral perspectives on body image. In Encyclopedia of body image and human appearance(pp. 334-342).

Cherry, K., 2012. Social learning theory. Retrieved July, 2, p.2012.

Eriksson, J. ed., 2017. Threat Politics: New Perspectives on Security, Risk and Crisis Management: New Perspectives on Security, Risk and Crisis Management. Routledge.

Glendon, A.I., Clarke, S. and McKenna, E., 2016. Human safety and risk management. Crc Press.

Johnson, B.B. and Covello, V.T. eds., 2012. The social and cultural construction of risk: Essays on risk selection and perception (Vol. 3). Springer Science & Business Media.

Kahan, D.M., 2012. Cultural cognition as a conception of the cultural theory of risk. In Handbook of risk theory (pp. 725-759). Springer Netherlands.

Kasperson, R., Renn, O., Slavic, P., Brown, H., Emel, J., Goble, R., Kasperson, J. and Ratick. S. (1984 The social amplification of risk: a conceptual framework. Risk Analysis 8,177-87.

Lundgren, R.E. and McMakin, A.H., 2013. Risk communication: A handbook for communicating environmental, safety, and health risks. John Wiley & Sons.

Manuele, F.A., 2013. On the practice of safety. John Wiley & Sons.

McDaniels, T. L., Axelrod, L. J., Cavanagh, N. S., and Slovic, P. (2012). Perception of ecological risk to water environments. Risk Analysis, 17, 341-352.

Montano, D.E. and Kasprzyk, D., 2015. Theory of reasoned action, theory of planned behavior, and the integrated behavioral model. Health behavior: Theory, research and practice (.

Perlovsky, L., 2013. A challenge to human evolution—cognitive dissonance. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.

Rowlinson, S. and Jia, Y.A., 2015. Construction accident causality: An institutional analysis of heat illness incidents on site. Safety Science, 78, pp.179-189.

Schmitt, M.T., 2014. The consequences of perceived discrimination for psychological well-being: a meta-analytic review. Psychological bulletin, 140(4), p.921.

Swartz, D., 2012. Culture and power: The sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. University of Chicago Press.

Tones, K., Robinson, Y.K. and Tilford, S., 2013. Health education: effectiveness and efficiency. Springer.

Wachinger, G., Renn, O., Begg, C. and Kuhlicke, C., 2013. The risk perception paradox—implications for governance and communication of natural hazards. Risk analysis, 33(6), pp.1049-1065.

Wahlberg and Sjöberg, L. (2012). Consequences matter, "risk" is marginal. Journal of Risk Research, 3, 287-295.

Wilson, M.P., Madison, H.N. and Healy, S.B., 2012. Confined space emergency response: Assessing employer and fire department practices. Journal of occupational and environmental hygiene, 9(2), pp.120-128.

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