Edexcel International A Level Biology

Revision Notes

1.17 Perception of Risk vs Actual Risk

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Perceived vs Actual Risk

  • Risk is defined as the chance or probability that a harmful event will occur
  • The statistical chance of a harmful event occurring needs to be supported by scientific evidence gained from research 
  • An individual's perception of risk may be different to the actual risk of something occurring
    • Risk can be overestimated because of factors such as
      • Misleading information in the media
      • Overexposure to information
      • Personal experience of the associated risk
      • Unfamiliarity with the event
      • The event causing severe harm
      • Lack of enjoyment of an activity
    • Risk can be underestimated because of factors such as
      • Lack of information 
      • Misunderstanding of factors that increase the risk
      • A lack of personal experience of the associated risk
      • Unfamiliarity with the event
      • The harm being non-immediate
      • Enjoyment of an activity
  • The statistical chance of an event occurring often bears little resemblance to someone's perception of the risk
    • E.g. the global annual risk of being killed in a road accident is 1 in 1 547, and the global annual risk of death due to crashing during a flight is 1 in 4.5-5.5 million; despite this people are far more likely to have a fear of flying than a fear of driving

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Author: Naomi H

Naomi graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in Biological Sciences. She has 8 years of classroom experience teaching Key Stage 3 up to A-Level biology, and is currently a tutor and A-Level examiner. Naomi especially enjoys creating resources that enable students to build a solid understanding of subject content, while also connecting their knowledge with biology’s exciting, real-world applications.