A risk perception analysis: Toxicology education, its effect on quantitative judgments of risk, and the influence of demographic variables

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Title: A risk perception analysis: Toxicology education, its effect on quantitative judgments of risk, and the influence of demographic variables
Author: Carlson, Daneil
Abstract: Carlson, Daniel. A Risk Perception Analysis: Toxicology Education, its Effect on Quantitative Judgements of Risk, and the Influence of Demographic Variables. In order to study the influence of education on risk perception, particularly in toxicology with a focus on risk assessment, a survey was administered to 14 classes of undergraduate students at North Carolina State University before and after completing an undergraduate general education requirement course, Toxicology 201: Poisons, People, and the Environment. The multi-year surveys asked registered students to rank 10 activities, on a scale of 1-10, on their perception of the risk associated with them. Analysis of those survey results determined students’ relative changes in risk perception across each activity as a result of having taken the course, the influence of demographic characteristics (e.g., education and gender) on their overall risk perception, and the magnitude of the changes and inherent differences in risk perception. Statistical significance of changes in risk perception was determined by utilizing sign tests on pre- and post-survey data while statistical significance of differences in risk perception between demographic variables (e.g., males vs. females) was determined by utilizing Mann-Whitney U tests on pre-survey data. Results found a combined statistical and practical significance in the change in risk perception for all students with two of the activities - smoking tobacco products and living within 5 miles of a nuclear power plant; after completing the course, the former was ranked as more risky and the latter was ranked as less risky. Demographic variables were weak influencers of changes in risk perception, as risk ranking changes amongst the demographic variables studied were very similar to the overall risk ranking changes amongst the entire group of students. There was generally little variability in differences in risk perception between demographic variables and Mann-Whitney U tests were unable to establish statistically significant differences between risk rankings; despite this, certain differences were large enough to suggest a real affect, particularly when they were aligned with hypotheses supported by previous studies in risk perception, such as with the apparent difference in risk perception between men and women for the living within 5 miles of a nuclear power plant activity. Overall, the educational treatment was indicated as effective for changing risk perception for select activities related to toxicological hazards, and while demographic variables were weak influencers of changes in risk perception following the treatment, they suggested at inherent differences in risk perception that may be more apparent with additional study.
Date: 2015-05
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.4/8628


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