The effectiveness of risk assessments in risk workshops: the role of calculative cultures

Published: Tuesday, 16 August 2022 08:46

A new open access paper by authors from the University of Groningen and the Hamburg University of Technology looks at how pre-existing attitudes of participants in risk workshops affects the outcomes of risk assessments.

Abstract (verbatim)

This paper investigates drivers of the effectiveness of risk assessments in risk workshops dominated by ‘quantitative skepticism’. Moreover, it contrasts our findings with those of previous research that assumed the dominance of ‘quantitative enthusiasm’. Quantitative skepticism is a calculative culture characterized by an attitude that regards risk assessments as learning tools supporting the holistic formation of judgments incorporating difficult-to-quantify information. It contrasts with quantitative enthusiasm, which is a calculative culture that considers risk assessments as fully descriptive of reality. Prior research primarily focused on understanding the effectiveness of risk assessments under a calculative culture of quantitative enthusiasm. To understand what drives the correctness of risk assessment and the time needed to assess risks in workshops under a calculative culture of quantitative skepticism, we use an agent-based model that simulates risk assessment with risk workshops and that models agents’ cognitive processes using ECHO, a constraint satisfaction network (CSN). Our simulations show that, compared to risk workshops under conditions of quantitative enthusiasm, there are often lengthy periods of stagnation in individual and collective risk assessments and a strong path dependency on discussions. Prioritizing concerned participants improves the correct assessment of high risks at the expense of the correct assessment of low risks. Notwithstanding similarities in the drivers of the effectiveness of risk assessment across different calculative cultures, our results show that the predominant calculative culture matters when— to enhance their effectiveness—designing and implementing risk workshops.

The authors

Lucia Bellora-Bienengräber, Clemens Harten, and Matthias Meyer

Read the paper (Journal of Risk Research).