- Academic Registry
Programme & Unit Catalogues

PS30110: Psychology of risk

[Page last updated: 02 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Psychology
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Semester 2
Assessment Summary: ES 80%, OR 20%
Assessment Detail:
  • ESSAY (ES 80%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Requisites: Before taking this module you must take PS20167 AND take PS20107 AND ( take PS20109 OR take PS20168 ) AND take PS20124 AND take PS20125
Learning Outcomes: On completion of this unit the students will have gained:
* A critical appreciation of the historical development of the psychology of (health, safety and well-being) risk and the key contributions of the principal perspectives - cognitive, cultural and socio-cultural.
* A critical appreciation of the interplay of cognitive and socio-cultural influences on how risk is perceived and reacted to, including the influence of context and social processes.
* A critical appreciation of points of contrast and agreement between the frequently competing perspectives - including their respective strengths and limitations, when applied to a range of real world contexts, referenced to public health policy; risks to employees and issues of societal concern.

Aims: This aim of this unit is to provide students with an overview of principal insights into how individuals and groups perceive and react to risks to health, safety and well-being. Key objectives are:
* To examine the principal contributions from cognitive, cultural and socio-cultural perspectives to understandings of risk perception, decision-making and behaviour.
* To examine the relationship between risk perception, risk decision-making / risk taking behaviour - focusing on the influence of social processes and context - referenced to the wider insights on attitude - behaviour relationships.
* To engender a critical approach to considering the contributions of the principal perspectives and their applicability to a range real world contexts.

Skills: The student can demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the topics focused on in this unit, in particular of the attitude construct, attitude change, decision making, attitude-behaviour relationships and the influence of social processes and context. (T/F A)
The student has detailed knowledge of some specialised areas and/or applications, some of which are at the cutting edge of research in the discipline. (T/F A)
The student is able to select relevant paradigms and research methods for answering particular research questions. (T/F A)
The student is able to read and understand empirical journal articles and relate these to existing bodies of knowledge. (T/F A)
The student is able to apply theoretical notions to practical problems and phenomena. (T/F A)
The student can reason scientifically and take a critical view on arguments and research outcomes. (T/F A)
The student is computer literate and is able to retrieve scientific articles from the available databases. (T/F A)
The student can solve problems by clarifying questions, considering alternative solutions and evaluating outcomes. (T/F A)
The student is able to plan and organise the study activities that are required in this unit, take charge of his or her own learning, and can reflect and evaluate personal strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of future learning. (T/F A)

Content: The unit will be organised as eleven 2-hour lecture seminars. The following is a brief outline of the topics that will be covered:
1. The emergence of the psychology of risk, its historical underpinnings and development - Definitions of risk and the objective versus subjective risk debate.
2. Risk perception - Behavioural decision theory insights.
3. Risk perception - The psychometric approach.
4. Risk perception - Value expectancy approaches.
5. Risk perception - Cultural theory.
6. Risk perception - Social influences.
7. Risk communication - overview - influence on attitude and behavioural change - focusing on barriers to change.
8. Risk communication - micro level - risk message content - including framing effects; use of fear messages; and probabilistic representations
9. Risk communication - process level - who? what? 'how?' and 'how many?' - focusing on insights from mental models work and alternative approaches to message dissemination.
10. Risk communication - macro level - communication is more than content and dissemination - the importance of trust and credibility of source.
11. Applications - examples of applying insights from risk perception and risk communication research to real world contexts.

Programme availability:

PS30110 is available for Auditing on the following programmes:

Department of Psychology

PS30110 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Psychology


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.