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January 2022

In science we trust? On the relation between scientific knowledge, risk consciousness and public trust

Journal/Book: Acta Sociol. 1996; 39: PO Box 2959 Toyen, Journal Division, Customer Service, N-0608 Oslo, Norway. Scandinavian University Press. 31-56.

Abstract: Characteristic of present-day risks is their increasing remoteness from lay people's perception and that scientific knowledge is required to gain knowledge of them. Science can thus be seen as the primary institution entrusted with knowledge claims about risks. However, contrary to this, people in many cases seem to ignore certain environmental risks despite the existence of scientific evidence that an activity or event constitutes a risk to human health. This article critically discusses the role of scientific knowledge and experts in trust-building, and investigates factors of importance for the creation of risk consciousness as well as trust. Attitudes of trust are usually incorporated in day-to-day activities, and in many cases trust is not caused by a conscious act of commitment. Thus when experts call for drastic changes in everyday life to avoid risk exposure, people may choose to ignore the recommendations to the advantage of their routine organizing and monitoring of everyday life.

Note: Article R Lidskog, Univ Orebro, Dept Social Sci, S-70182 Orebro, Sweden


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