Risk perception expert to present Indiana University Patten Lectures

  • Oct. 12, 2016


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Paul Slovic, an expert on human judgment, decision-making and the psychology of risk, will present two Patten Lectures the week of Oct. 24 at Indiana University Bloomington.

Slovic is a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and the founder and president of Decision Research. His research focuses on the psychological and cognitive process of decision-making on a range of issues, including the environment, earthquakes, smoking and terrorism.

His Patten Lectures will be:

A core finding of Slovic's research is that people react not so much to the probability and magnitude of a hazard as to qualitative factors that trigger concern. Those factors include whether the hazard is voluntary or imposed without consent; whether it is unfamiliar and uncertain; whether it threatens the future as well as the present; and whether it has catastrophic potential.

The resulting psychometric paradigm of risk perception helps explain why technologies such as nuclear power and genetically modified foods generate more opposition than their actuarial risk would explain and why routine but deadly risks like traffic accidents and HIV infection tend to be overlooked. Slovic shows that people rely on intuition and guesswork to navigate through uncertainty about risk.

Slovic publishes extensively and serves as a consultant in industry and government. In 1976, he founded Decision Research to help individuals and organizations understand and cope with the complex and often risky decisions of modern life.

He is the author of "The Perception of Risk," "The Construction of Preferences," "The Feeling of Risk" and "Numbers and Nerves: Information, Emotion and Meaning in a World of Data." In recent work, he has examined the phenomenon of psychic numbing, the failure to respond to mass human tragedies. He is past president of the Society for Risk Analysis and received its 1991 Distinguished Contribution Award along with awards from the American Psychological Association and other organizations.

In addition to giving the Patten Lectures, Slovic will participate in two other public events while at IU Bloomington. All the events are free and open to the public:

  • A roundtable discussion on "Public Perceptions of Risk and Climate Change" from 9:45 to 11:15 a.m. Oct. 26 in the Bridgwaters Lounge of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. Additional panelists will include John S. Applegate, IU executive vice president for university academic affairs and the Walter W. Foskett Professor of Law; John D. Graham, dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and Shahzeen Attari, assistant professor in SPEA.
  • A Reddit-style Ask Me Anything event from 3 to 4 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Indiana Memorial Union Georgian Room.

The William T. Patten Foundation

The William T. Patten Foundation, endowed by a student of the Indiana University class of 1893, provides generous funds to bring to the Bloomington campus for a week people of extraordinary national and international distinction in the sciences, humanities and arts. Past lecturers have included Oscar Arias, Jorge Luis Borges, Wendell Berry, Noam Chomsky, Natalie Zemon Davis, Umberto Eco, Werner Herzog, Julian S. Huxley, Evelyn Fox Keller, Toni Morrison, Martha Nussbaum and Amos Oz.

Inquiries about the Patten Foundation, the Patten Lecture Series and future nominations may be directed to vpfaa@indiana.edu.

Media Contacts

Indermohan Virk

Executive director

  • William T. Patten Foundation
  • Office 812-855-5788
  • ivirk@indiana.edu