Situated Food Safety Risk and the Influence of Social Norms
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionRisk Analysis. 2020, 40 (5), 1092-1110. 10.1111/risa.13449
Previous studies of risk behaviour observed weak or inconsistent relationships between risk perception and risk-taking. One aspect that has often been neglected in such studies is the situational context in which risk behaviour is embedded: even though a person may perceive a behaviour as risky, the social norms governing the situation may work as a counteracting force, overriding the influence of risk perception. Three food context studies are reported. In Study 1 (N = 200), we assess how norm strength varies across different social situations, relate the variation in norm strength to the social characteristics of the situation, and identify situations with consistently low and high levels of pressure to comply with the social norm. In Study 2 (N = 502), we investigate how willingness to accept 15 different foods that vary in terms of objective risk relates to perceived risk in situations with low and high pressure to comply with a social norm. In Study 3 (N = 1200), we test how risk-taking is jointly influenced by the perceived risk associated with the products and the social norms governing the situations in which the products are served. The results indicate that the effects of risk perception and social norm are additive, influencing risk-taking simultaneously but as counteracting forces. Social norm had a slightly stronger absolute effect, leading to a net effect of increased risk-taking. The relationships were stable over different social situations and food safety risks and did not disappear when detailed risk information was presented.