Two Conceptions of Emotion in Risk Regulation
Dan M. Kahan
Yale University - Law School
University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 156, 2008
Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 346
Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 141
Recent work in cognitive and social psychology makes it clear that emotion plays a critical role in public perceptions of risk, but doesn't make clear exactly what that role is or why it matters. This paper examines two competing theories of risk perception, which generate two corresponding understandings of emotion and its significance for risk regulation. The irrational weigher theory asserts that lay persons' emotional apprehensions of risk are heuristic substitutes for more reflective judgments, and as such lead to systematic errors. It therefore counsels that risk regulation be assigned to politically insulated experts whose judgments are free of emotion's distorting impact. The cultural evaluator theory, in contrast asserts that emotional apprehensions of risk reflect persons' expressive appraisals of putatively dangerous activities. It implies that emotional apprehensions of risk should at least sometimes be afforded normative weight in law, and also generates distinctive strategies for reconciling sound risk regulation with genuinely participatory, democratic policymaking.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: risk, norms, cultural, cognition, emotion
Date posted: February 12, 2007 ; Last revised: April 16, 2013
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